Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:
The Montgomery Advertiser on Alabama's U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions possibly joining the Trump administration:
Speculation goes on about the possibility of Alabama's U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions filling a high-level position, including a potential appointment to the Cabinet, in the Trump administration.
It seems likely Trump will offer the GOP senator a choice spot because Sessions faithfully carried water for the president-elect during the campaign. Sessions was the first senator to endorse Trump, chaired his national security advisory committee and served as his surrogate on the campaign trail. He's already been tapped to help Vice President-elect Mike Pence lead Trump's transition team.
First elected to Congress in 1996, Sessions wields considerable power as a senior member of the Senate Judiciary and Budget committees, also serving on the Committee on Armed Services, overseeing the military.
Potential roles discussed for Sessions include secretary of state, defense secretary, Department of Homeland Security chief, director of the FBI and U.S. attorney general.
Those are positions of enormous responsibility, and we hope Trump makes sound choices for them all. As for Alabama, Sessions' ascension in the national spotlight would come with both pros and cons. It's always good to have a home-state leader sitting on the Cabinet with the president's ear. As defense secretary, Sessions might be useful in protection and support for the state's military bases.
If he chooses to leave the Senate, however, and depending on who is appointed to replace him, Alabama could see its influence in critical matters such as judicial appointments diminished.
When it comes to the best interests of the nation, we would be very hesitant to see Sessions take over the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees issues such as immigration and border security. His ultraconservative views led him to oppose sensible bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform advanced under President George W. Bush, and he supports the shallow idea that building a wall along the Mexican border is a solution for the nation's immigration problems.
Whatever mantle of office he may assume, we urge Sessions to remember that caution, humility, a willingness to listen to other views and seek reasonable compromise are the true hallmarks of leadership and what all Americans should demand of seasoned politicians.
The power gap created by Sessions' potential exit from the Senate would give Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley a dramatic opportunity, as he would appoint an interim successor until a special election in two years.
Names already floated by media sources include Alabama Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, state Attorney General Luther Strange and state Supreme Court Associate Justice Allen Main, who previously served as the state's director of finance.
Each of those choices, all from the GOP-side, would have its own drawbacks, including the fact Strange's office is investigating Bentley for possible misuse of his position in various scandals.
We hope Bentley will look outside the good-old-boy Republican echo chamber for potential replacements for Sessions, should he resign to serve Trump. As Trump's win in the presidential election shows, people want change, and that should give Bentley the impetus to look for an outsider, perhaps a woman or minority, as he compiles a list of possible names.
Alabama's current congressional delegation consists of seven white, Republican men, one white, GOP woman, U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, R-Montgomery, and one black, Democratic woman, Terri Sewell, of Birmingham.
Underrepresentation of women and minorities in politics is also evident in the state Legislature, where white males hold the preponderance of seats, and elsewhere in government.
Roby, a strong supporter of Alabama's veterans, might have made a good short-list Senate candidate for Bentley's consideration, but she probably doomed that possibility by rightly rescinding her endorsement of Trump in October.
Nonetheless, we urge Bentley, deeply compromised in his powers as his second term plays out, to seize the moment to repair his legacy by considering more diverse leaders for Sessions' seat.
He has only to follow his own lead when, in 2015, he called upon female lawmakers in the Legislature to form an official women's caucus to better make their voices heard. If he now has the chance to increase the influence of women and minorities in national politics, he should take it.
The Gadsden Times on keeping the electoral college in place:
When the final numbers for the 2016 presidential election are posted, Donald Trump will have 306 electoral votes to Hillary Clinton's 232. (We're giving Trump Michigan, although that race hadn't been officially called as we write, even though he led the final unofficial vote tally).
That's a clear victory.
Those numbers also will show that more Americans voted for Clinton than Trump. (The margin was about 390,000 as we write.)
That's irrelevant according to the U.S. Constitution; every Government 101 textbook makes clear that the president technically isn't elected by a direct vote of the people.
However, the fact that for only the fifth time in this nation's history, the electoral college and popular vote results don't jibe has produced aggrieved cries that the system is unfair and new calls for it to be changed.
We hope that doesn't happen, and we'd say the same thing if the situation were reversed and Clinton had more electoral votes and Trump more popular votes.
First, the electoral college fits into the federal system envisioned by the founders, with divisions of authority between the central and state governments. We think elections are best left to individual states.
Some analysts criticize the founders as anti-democratic and the electoral college as violating the credo of "one man/one vote." We're not going to get into the democracy vs. republic debate, because no minds will be changed. However, with Congress (House seats determined by population, each state gets two Senate seats) as an example, the Constitution cherry picks a bit from each ideal to form a system with protections from massive and potentially destructive swings in public sentiment.
Giving him Michigan, Trump won 29 states, Clinton 21 and the District of Columbia, and the map of how counties across the U.S. voted kind of shows that despite the raw vote totals, this result generally reflects the will of the country.
Second, the electoral college protects smaller and mid-size states from being dominated by larger states or metropolises. Opponents say that isn't true, that having a direct election would force candidates out of swing states and major population centers. We think such talk defies reality. Politicians always are going to play to their strengths.
For Democrats, that's places like California and New York, who between them cast roughly 10 percent of Tuesday's popular votes and control more than a third of the electoral votes needed to win. (Numbers game time: Take California alone out of the totals and Trump leads the popular vote by 2 percent; such skewing can't be dismissed.) For Republicans, it's the South and Southwest. Those places are locked down solid, which means candidates still are going to focus on the swing states.
Third, the electoral college produces a winner. Say there's a close presidential election like this one, or Kennedy vs. Nixon in 1960 (decided by 112,827 votes out of more than 68 million cast) or Bush vs. Gore in 2000. As polarized as things are politically in the U.S. right now, lawyers would be fanned out across the country seeking recounts — it would be the 2000 "hanging chad" circus, a trillion times worse — and it might be June before things are decided.
There's been talk of intrastate compacts to ensure the popular vote winner also will carry the electoral college, but they've gone nowhere and aren't likely to, and there's zero chance of a constitutional revision to get rid of the electoral college. This will remain the system by which we choose a president.
The tradition in this country is a peaceful transfer of power between administrations. Trump and President Barack Obama are following that path.
Others aren't, we think out of anger and disgust and a refusal to accept as legitimate a victory by someone they revile, who they think is uniquely unqualified and unfit to be president. (We wonder if they would be pressing this if, as we posed above, the situation was reversed.)
Trump won fairly and squarely by the rules in place. It's time to move forward, and ripping up the Constitution shouldn't be on the agenda.
The Tuscaloosa News on the Republican Party:
In 2010, the Republican Party took complete control of Alabama government. Republican Gov. Bob Riley was replaced by Tuscaloosa's own Robert Bentley, a Republican House member who emerged from a crowded field of hopefuls. At the same time, the GOP gained majorities in both the state House and Senate for the first time since Reconstruction.
There was great optimism and big ideas among conservatives about how the GOP could reshape Alabama's government. But it hasn't quite worked out as well as planned. House Speaker and the leader of the state GOP Mike Hubbard has since been convicted in a dramatic criminal trial and is headed to prison. Bentley is embroiled in controversy and facing an effort to impeach him. And one of the state GOP's most recognizable figures, Roy Moore, has been removed from the office of Alabama chief justice -- again.
After promising to be different, the state GOP has proved to be no better at solving Alabama's perpetual issues -- or avoiding corruption -- than when the state was under the one-party rule of the Democrats. While this does not mean the GOP is in danger of losing its grip on state government, there certainly is disappointment among the electorate at the lack of progress - in any direction.
With Trump's election, voters handed the GOP the same control at the national level as the party has in Alabama. When Trump takes office, Republicans will hold the presidency and both chambers of Congress for the first time since 2007.
GOP control of the federal executive and legislative branches has been a rarity, although that was the case for about half of George W. Bush's two-term tenure. But the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001 and the nation's response dramatically reshaped and redirected priorities. Without those developments, who knows where one-party rule might have taken us? In the end, though, the GOP fell out of favor, giving rise to a Democratic resurgence.
The Democrats themselves briefly gained full control under President Barack Obama, just long enough to push through the Affordable Care Act and other controversial initiatives. That they did so without any Republican support might come back to haunt them, given that the pendulum has swung again.
Republicans, whether they want to involve Democrats or not, now have an incredible opportunity to enact their agenda. About half the nation is happy with that prospect -- the other half, not so much.
Regardless, we are hopeful that the GOP can do on the national stage what it has so far failed to do in Alabama with full control, and that is to solve problems. If Republicans can do that, if they can reduce the national debt, improve the economy so that everyone has an opportunity to prosper, and provide a safety net to those who truly need it, then few will take issue with how they went about it.
It won't be easy, of course, but the onus is on them to get results.