21st Century Massive Resistance

It’s Throwback Thursday. The featured image is of George Wallace’s stand in the schoolhouse door to block the integration of the University Of Alabama in 1963. They called it Massive Resistance. Like modern right-wing populists, Wallace was putting on a show for his base. When push came to shove, he gave in, then heckled the Kennedy Administration. It’s called peckerwood heckling, which is the name of my new country combo…

There’s a subtler but equally pernicious form of Massive Resistance happening at the state lege in Montgomery, Alabama. In Allen vs. Milligan, SCOTUS threw out Alabama’s Congressional redistricting plan as violative of the Voting Rights Act.

The Supremes ordered Alabama to draw a map with two black majority districts. As far as the Alabama lege was concerned that was tantamount to giving Democrats a second seat. The redrawn map does not comply with the court’s ruling. In effect, the Bama lege flipped the bird at their fellow GOPers John Roberts and Brett Kavanaugh who wrote for the majority.

Was it one of these birds?

That’s the Alabama state coat of arms, which still contains the Confederate battle flag despite efforts to strip it. The state motto strikes a defiant note in Latin:  “Audemus Jura Nostra Defendere.” That translates as “We dare defend our rights” or “We dare maintain our rights.”

The first translation sounds like Latin for Massive Resistance. The phrase was coined in 1956 by Virginia Senator Harry Byrd who was the political boss of the commonwealth for decades. The idea spread across the South like burning kudzu.

The peckerwoods who ruled Alabama enthusiastically embraced Massive Resistance. Alabama was one of the main battlegrounds of the Civil Rights Movement. And the state’s political class resisted it, massively then violently in Birmingham and Selma.

Massive Resistance didn’t always involve violence or even the threat of it. Procrastination was a tool used by segregationists after the Brown ruling by a unanimous court in 1954. The 2023 ruling was 5-4 but it’s still the law of the land.  But Alabama is a lawless land and massive resistance is back with a vengeance.

As a Louisianan, I’m concerned that our idiot lege will do the same thing as their colleagues in Bama. We, too, should have two minority districts. Massive Resistance should be less effective in the Gret Stet because we have a Democratic governor until January 8, 2024. John Bel Edwards’ motto should be: Have veto pen, will use it. Unfortunately, a Republican is likely to replace him next year. That’s why our lege will try to slow walk any changes. Holy passive-aggressive resistance, Batman.

Let’s circle back to George Wallace. He repented his segregationist sins in 1982. John Lewis and Ted Kennedy believed he was sincere. I do too. But Wallace did a lot of damage in his days as the country’s leading demagogue. He established the template for future right-wing populist politicians like those who plague us today. Despite his regrets, that’s the former Alabama Governor’s real legacy.

The last word goes to the good old Grateful Dead:




One thought on “21st Century Massive Resistance

  1. Listening to a compilation CD that had a little ditty from 1974 with this lyric in it:
    “In Birmingham they love the governor, now we all did what we can do,
    Now Watergate does not bother me, does your conscience bother you?”

    Celebrating blocking civil rights, condoning criminal attacks on political enemies, projection–has anything changed in 50 years?

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