It is hard to imagine it now, but in 1972, before he was shot and nearly killed, Alabama Governor George C. Wallace, who had pledged “Segregation, today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!” and physically blocked federal troops from escorting black students into colleges, was winning primaries even in northern states, and had a serious shot at the Democratic nomination.
John Frankenheimer’s “George Wallace” stars Gary Sinise as Wallace and a young Angelina Jolie as his second wife. What’s interesting about the movie is how it portrays Wallace as a man who started his political career as quite liberal and tolerant, but saw huge opportunities in playing the race card. The fact is, in Alabama in the 1960s, 70s and indeed afterwards racism was the popular will of the majority of the white people in the state. Wallace railed against a liberal “elite” coming down and undemocratically forcing racial equality on the majority. Sometimes, the elite is right.
Interesting aside: In the 2008 presidential election, Barack Obama got less than 10% of the white vote in Alabama. Some things don’t change.