This is an opinion column.
I’m not sure where Kay Ivey stands in the polls, but she’s sure as heck acting like she’s losing. Just look at her ads.
Two years ago, after Ivey got caught lying about having worn blackface once, she promised to do better. And now? She claims to have “banned” CRT when she’s done no such thing, she signs bathroom bans and “don’t say gay” bills into law, and her latest ad targeting immigrants, called “No Way, Jose,” is so awful it’s cartoonish.
If Ivey gets any more racist than her latest ad, she’s going to need another can of shoe polish.
But then there’s “Stole.”
Racist, reactionary fear-mongering is old Alabama politics, but “Stole” is something different.
Ivey’s campaign calls the ad “Stole” instead of “Stolen,” which is fine. If you spent the last six years as president of the Alabama State Board of Education and had so little to show for it, you wouldn’t be picky about your grammar, either.
Instead, Ivey is on TV throughout Alabama accusing Joe Biden and others of having committed the greatest election fraud in American history.
“The fake news, big tech and blue-state liberals stole the election from President Trump, but here in Alabama, we are making sure that never happens,” Ivey says in her ad.
The timing says a lot. Until now, Ivey hasn’t had much to say on the 2020 election, but with weeks left before the GOP primary, the governor suddenly has a take on it.
Unfortunately, it’s the wrong one. And it’s dangerous.
Some will disagree with what I’m about to say, but I believe that, if a presidential election were truly stolen, and if illegitimate officials were in charge of the government, a revolt against such a thing should not be off the table. There are times when it’s OK to overthrow a corrupt, politically intractable government.
But if you’re going to go down that road, you’d better be armed with the truth first, and not fantasies. A belief is not sufficient evidence. Bitterness isn’t, either. A lot of folks at the Capitol last January — including a couple from Alabama — will now have felony records because they couldn’t tell the difference between feelings and facts.
After a year and a half of searching, no evidence exists that voter fraud tipped the 2020 presidential election. Even partisan “audits” of swing state elections have disproven such claims.
Despite all this, Ivey is on TV saying the election was stolen, and by doing so, she lends legitimacy to those storming the Capitol last year.
Why not go the whole way, Kay, and say 9/11 was an inside job?
Unfortunately, someone somewhere is going to take this woman seriously.
It’s one thing for nuts to get their news from Q-anon message boards. But if you’re sitting at home watching Wheel of Fortune and the governor of Alabama comes on the TV and tells you that our government has been stolen from the people, people should be able to take that seriously.
This sort of thing costs us. It costs confidence in our institutions. In our elections. In our courts. In the office she holds.
But why is she saying this now?
Ivey isn’t trying to convince Alabamians to believe the Big Lie. She’s trying to convince Republican primary voters that she believes the Big Lie.
And that’s the scariest thing.
During her time in office, multiple polls have shown Ivey to be among the most popular governors in the country. More recent polling shows her with a strong lead in the GOP primary — but not all show her winning outright.
But Ivey’s acting like her record isn’t enough, and she might be right. The Big Lie is becoming a litmus test in GOP primaries. And if Kay Ivey has to say she believes the Big Lie to get reelected, then every GOP candidate has to believe the Big Lie to get reelected.
As new as this feels, it’s an old story in Alabama politics. Call it the Wallace conundrum: Did he really mean all those things he said? Or was he just doing it for the votes?
If you listen to the Drive-By Truckers as much as I do, you know how the next line of that song goes.
Ivey isn’t the only one facing the Wallace conundrum or the Big Lie litmus test. Katie Britt and Mike Durant and Mo Brooks are doing the same thing in the U.S. Senate race, and one line of questioning before the U.S. Senate turned Attorney General Steve Marshall into a blithering embarrassment.
And for what?
What shall it profit a person, the Bible asks, to gain the whole world but lose one’s soul?
Now imagine how sad it must be to make the same bargain with the devil, but only get Alabama, instead.
Kay Ivey is losing, no matter the outcome of this election.
Kyle Whitmire is the state political columnist for the Alabama Media Group, 2020 winner of the Walker Stone Award, winner of the 2021 SPJ award for opinion writing, and 2021 winner of the Molly Ivins prize for political commentary. You can follow his work on his Facebook page, The War on Dumb. And on Twitter. And on Instagram.