Alabama House speaker owes state the truth about Milligan court defeat

By Kyle Whitmire 

Alabama House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter

Alabama House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter must think Alabamians are stupid.

On Tuesday, a panel of three federal judges ruled against the state’s Congressional districting map — again. The judges excoriated the Alabama Legislature and accused it of defying the court.

Following the decision, the Alabama House speaker took to Twitter to share a little home cooking from Yellowhammer News and retreated to a familiar foxhole — blaming activist judges.

“The legislature worked together to meet the court’s vague requirements, so today’s ruling is disappointing,” the speaker said. “Above all, it’s frustrating that the court chooses to legislate when the Alabama Legislature knows our citizens, hometowns, and communities better than any federal judge.”

Ledbetter Tweet
(Screenshot: Twitter)

Let’s put that statement under our microscope and consider its pieces, one at a time.

The legislature worked together to meet the court’s vague requirements …

There’s video you can go back and watch. The Legislature did not work together. Heck, for much of the special session, it was an open question whether the Legislature would manage to pass a new map at all.

In the end, they did what they often do — the Republican supermajority disregarded the concerns of Black lawmakers and passed what they wanted over their objections.

Togetherness, that ain’t.

But let’s turn the knob on our microscope and zoom in a little further.

The legislature worked …

The plaintiffs in this case deposed the co-chairs of the Legislature’s joint reapportionment committee. Under oath, Rep. Chris Pringle and Sen. Steve Livingston said something that should be remarkable if it weren’t absolutely expected — they didn’t know who drew the map they passed.

In its ruling, the court noted this peculiarity.

“The availability of the 2023 Plan is noteworthy not only because of its late timing, but also because of its apparently mysterious provenance: its original source and cartographer were unknown to one of the Committee chairs, Senator Livingston, when he voted on it,” the judges wrote. “To this day, the record before us does not make clear who prepared the 2023 Plan.”

Ledbetter wants you to believe the legislature worked when really it signed its name to someone else’s homework, apparently without knowing who that someone else was.

Either that or somebody’s committing perjury.

Ledbetter says the legislature knows our citizens, hometowns, and communities,  but it doesn’t know who drew the map it passed?

Moving on …

… the court’s vague requirements …

There wasn’t anything vague here. The courts have said, “any remedial plan will need to include two districts in which Black voters either comprise a voting-age majority or something quite close.”

What’s vague about that?

They knew what the courts wanted, and they refused to abide. That’s it. That is old Alabama politics, but at least George Wallace wasn’t squirrelly about it when he thumbed his nose at the courts.

But we have one more sentence to consider.

Above all, it’s frustrating that the court chooses to legislate …

Ah, the old “activist judiciary” routine.

Here’s the thing — two of those three judges are Trump appointees. Two of the five Supreme Court justices who ruled against the state were Republican appointees.

This isn’t an activist judiciary. It’s a panel of judges who now have to do what the Alabama Legislature should have done to start with.

Alabama’s House Speaker needs to be honest about what happened here.

The court didn’t choose to legislate.

It now must do the job because the Alabama Legislature chose not to.

All this carrying on isn’t free. It will cost Alabama — money, time and reputation.

And when the bill comes due, guess who gets to pay? It will be money out of taxpayers’ pockets or cut from our classrooms.

Alabama’s House Speaker owes Alabamians the truth.

What Ledbetter should have said was, “The Republican supermajority disregarded the concerns of Black lawmakers by signing our names to someone else’s work in an effort to defy a federal court order. We didn’t do our jobs so now the courts have to do it for us.”

That’s the truth.

And if he won’t give us that, then he should at least pick up the tab.