Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey was one of about 20 Republican governors to attack President Joe Biden’s new rules on vaccines last week, but she stood apart in the historical context framing her anger.
Ivey, 76, channeled a hero of her youth, former Gov. George Wallace, famously standing in the schoolhouse doors in 1962 to block federal marshals from mandating the integration of Alabama schools.
Nearly half a century later, Ivey assumed a similar stance toward Washington D.C. But in this case, it was to resist the federal government imposing public-health measures on her sovereign state.
Ivey took to Twitter to invoke Wallace’s imagery, this time to oppose Biden’s OSHA-grounded requirement that employees be vaccinated or tested weekly for COVID-19 before coming to work in companies employing 100 or more. Here’s her Tweet:
“You bet I’m standing in the way. And if he thinks he’s going to move me out of the way, he’s got another thing coming. I’m standing as strong as a bull for Alabama against this outrageous Washington overreach. Bring it on,” Ivey said.”
And there was this: “I encourage Alabamians to take the vaccine – have been since the beginning, but we’re never going to mandate it. And we certainly aren’t going to allow Washington, D.C. & this president to tell Alabama what to do. Here in AL, we don’t put up with that nonsense.”
That was precisely Alabama’s position when Wallace was standing in those doors. Was the reference to standing in the way coincidental? The similarity wasn’t lost on the Alabama Democratic Party, the website AL.com reported Sunday:
“Governor, quit playing your political games and work with Washington to find solutions to get folks to take the shot. Lives are on the line. It’s time to be a leader, not a Wallace wannabe,” said Wade Perry, executive director of the party.
Alabama ranks eighth in the nation in COVID-19 deaths and ninth in total cases since the beginning of the pandemic, according to statistics from the New York Times coronavirus tracker. It’s death rate of 259 per 100,000 is 30 percent higher than the national average.
Perry called out Ivey for having failed to control the pandemic in Alabama:
“”Now is not the time for feigned outrage or political rhetoric,” Perry said. “Getting mad and throwing a tantrum is not what leaders do. We’ve needed real leadership throughout this pandemic and Kay Ivey has failed us. 12,552 Alabamians have died from COVID-19. For these neighbors, there will be no more birthdays, weddings, graduations, and holidays celebrated – only an empty seat at the family table for a generation.”
Perry also noted the hypocrisy of Alabama’s governor invoking state sovereignty while relying upon federal programs and assistance, Al.com reported.
Ivey, who is running for re-election in 2022, had made national headlines in late July by attacking Alabamans who refused to get vaccinated.
“Folks are supposed to have common sense. But it’s time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks. It’s the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down,” Ivey told reporters in Birmingham. “The unvaccinated are choosing a horrible lifestyle of self-inflicted pain. “We’ve got to get folks to take the shot.”
Ivey ducked reporters’ questions about imposing state mask or vaccine mandates, CNN reported. But now she has gone full Wallace in attacking Biden for attempting to force what she called “the greatest weapon we have to fight Covid” upon the states.
Then again, that’s not all that surprising, given Ivey’s history. Ivey had campaigned in 1966 for Wallace’s wife Lurleen — who had been placed on the ballot by her husband as “Mrs. George Wallace” in an unabashed effort to circumvent state term limits at the time.
Ivey’s bona fides as a disciple of Wallace were validated by none other than Wallace’s daughter — Peggy Kennedy Wallace — shortly after her election as governor in 2018. Here’s how the Montgomery Advertiser reported it:
“Peggy Wallace Kennedy spoke on a week that started with former Gov. Robert Bentley resigning amid a scandal that has dominated national headlines and Kay Ivey being sworn in as Alabama’s second female governor. The state’s first female governor was Kennedy’s mother, Lurleen B. Wallace.
Kennedy said Ivey campaigned for her mother and that she’s been a friend for years.
“I know that she’ll put the past behind (her) and move the state forward,” Kennedy said. “I think that Gov. Ivey will move us in the right direction. “(Lurleen Wallace) knew Gov. Ivey, of course, so I think she would be really proud of Gov. Ivey. I really, really do.”
And certainly, George Wallace would be just as proud today of Ivey for standing in the way of Washington D.C.