WHEN GEORGE WALLACE ran against Albert Brewer for governor of Alabama in 1970, no one expected he'd have to use a meat cleaver to win. But there is no Marquis of Queensbury in Southern politics, Brewer got a little too close for comfort, and pretty soon Alabama voters were being handed pamphlets with doctored photographs of Brewer in between Elijah Muhammad and Muhammad Ali. Pretty soon word went around that Albert Brewer's two daughters were pregnant with black babies. Pretty soon Albert Brewer was back practicing law in Montogomery.
Southern politics is tough stuff. The only surprises come from men who turn out to be less evil than you expected. Down in Florida, where even now in the fading calendar days of winter it is so hot it will turn your mind to mush, political reporters are tramping through the condos, seaquariums, alligator farms, flamingo parks, houseboat harbors, trailer parks and drive-in churches looking for clues to George's appeal in the South. Who understands it best?
John L. Rawbon of Panama City, Florida, has one answer. A longtime admirer of Governor Wallace, he wrote the governor last month:
"The sickness that grips the northern United States has destroyed the image and ideals of our founding fathers. Regrettably the country is being directed by money mad introverts...
"The media and religious groups are controlled by a rich minority that forces their biased views on the majority who are the back bone of this country.
"Fortunately the real Americans still live and exist south of the Mason-Dixon line...
"...the Confederacy still lives. I do not advocate Civil War but legal separatism so the South can survive the International Rot that corrupts the world and especially the Northern states.
"Carter has betrayed you and acts like Benedict Arnold. With friends like Carter the South has no need of enemies. He gives every indication of supporting the religious minority moral values that will ultimately tear this country apart similar to Lebanon.
"It is my honest opinion that George Wallace can and will be the Saviour of these United States. We can, with your leadership, stem the flow of rot that is beginning to seep into the South from the North. It has already reached Nashville and is oozing like cancer through the Southern States.
"I nominate George Wallace, Governor of Alabama as first President of the Southern United States
WHENEVER WALLACE wants to send another Albert Brewer to the showers, he wheels himself out and goes straight to the John Rawbons, spread over the dark inner continent of Florida. Some people who venture into that dark interior which begins at the Everglades and runs up the center of the Thumb past Tallahassee and Chatahoochee find the Rawbons. These are the Wallace people, who would vote for Wallace even if he were dead because of what he represented to the spreading rot of the North. Last week Wallace said that he would consider a black man for vice president: It doesn't matter. It is as if there has been a secret pact in the Wallace campaign between the candidate and his electorate. No matter what he says to the national media about winning scads of black votes in Alabama or accepting the law of the land, the implied message is in Wallace's wink--there is nothing to fear from the fighting judge, the Snopesian Benito Cereno who would take over the ship by crafty obeisance.
Benito Cereno Wallace. The wiliest slave on the slaveship gets a letter from a fellow passenger. It is signed:
"Sincerely--J.H. Bigham (A cripple like yourself)"