December 12, 2019

#154 The Real Enemy, Part 3

by Reply All

Background show artwork for Reply All

The conclusion of our story — Emmanuel and Sruthi go down to Alabama as tensions in the party reach a boiling point.


PJ VOGT: And this is part 3, the conclusion of our story “The Real Enemy.” If you haven’t heard parts 1 and 2 you should go back. Otherwise what follows is not gonna make a ton of sense. 

So here’s where we are. At the same time that Republicans are beginning to campaign for the 2020 elections, Democrats in Alabama are fighting each other. They are in an internal battle for control of the party. 

On one side, Senator Doug Jones, who believes that the only way the Democrats can beat the Republicans is with new leadership. 

On the other, Joe Reed, who believes that if Doug Jones gets his way, it’ll mean a future for Alabama that looks like the past. A Democratic party where black people are taking marching orders from white people. 

So, as we pick our story back up, Emmanuel has gone to Alabama to see who’ll win this fight.

Emmanuel will take it from here. 


EMMANUEL: I arrive in Alabama, in early October. I’m with my producer Sruthi.

SRUTHI: Hello hello hello. We are rolling. 

EMMANUEL: And we drive down the hour and a half from Birmingham to Montgomery where basically this whole story has taken place.  

SRUTHI: Um, we’re pulling into Montgomery right now…


EMMANUEL: This is the home of the Alabama Democratic Party. And it’s been Joe Reed’s home since the 1960s...

And whenever I talk to Joe Reed on the phone he would do this thing where we’d be talking about something very rooted in the present and immediately he’d take that thing and start talking about something in the past. And I’m ashamed to say that my reaction to this was just sort of like, “ok I know I get it, like I know my history.” But it’s one thing to hear an old man talk about Dixiecrats hiding behind every corner. And it’s something completely different to be driving down I-65 on your way to Montgomery and see a giant confederate flag. Like, I'm talking one of the biggest flags I've ever seen for anything anywhere.

SRUTHI: Dixie South man, we’re in it.


EMMANUEL: In Montgomery the past never went anywhere. Like, Rosa Parks’ bus stop is just a stones throw away from our hotel. 

As we drive, we see the church where Dr. King once preached

MLK JR: And we are in Montgomery...

SRUTHI: These look like old state buildings.

EMMANUEL: There it is. That is the State Capitol.

EMMANUEL: We see the very same capitol building where George Wallace declared segregation forever.

GEORGE WALLACE: And I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever...

GPS VOICE: Then turn right on to North Decatur Street.

EMMANUEL: We decided to visit the Alabama Democratic party headquarters. 

Because for weeks, I’ve been trying to get in touch with Nancy Worley. I sent her emails. They’d bounce back. So I tried calling her, again and again.

NANCY VOICEMAIL: Nancy Worley is not available. The mailbox is full and cannot accept any messages at this time...

EMMANUEL: So I was just like, Okay let’s just go to her office.

SRUTHI: To the left, here?

EMMANUEL: That was, that was it. Sorry.

SRUTHI: Oh that was it?


SRUTHI: So we’re gonna turn around… 

[car honks]




SRUTHI: You’re okay. He was just grumpy. Don’t worry. You’re good. We could park here.

EMMANUEL: By permit only.

SRUTHI: Oh come on now, nobody’s gonna check. 

EMMANUEL: Alright, um.

SRUTHI: Live a little.



EMMANUEL: We pull up to the party building. And it just looks completely out of place. Like there's this beautiful building that looks a lot like the White House, which is next to another building that looks like the Capitol. And then there’s like this tiny sad little brown box and the only reason we even know we’re in the right place is the chipped white wood in the sign out front. 

[Ambi outside building, sound of knocking on the door…]

EMMANUEL: It’s 2 PM in the afternoon on a workday and nobody is here. The blinds are drawn, the lights are off, and there’s a sign in the window.

SRUTHI: We are temporarily out of the office. You may leave a message and somebody will return your call. Why don’t we call this number.

EMMANUEL: And naturally...

EMMANUEL: I’ve reached Nancy Worley’s mailbox. The mailbox is full and cannot accept any messages at this time. 

EMMANUEL: So I couldn't find Nancy, but I knew what she had to be doing at this moment.


Which is that somewhere, her, Joe and their allies were putting together a battle plan. 

Because we were just 2 days away from the SDEC meeting Doug Jones had called. Just 2 days away from the meeting where Doug Jones and his allies hoped to change the Joe Reed Rule, the part of the bylaws that give Joe his source of his power, his majority. 

And so, two days later, I went to that meeting wondering if Nancy and Joe might show up in person.


SRUTHI: Hello, hello?

EMMANUEL: The meeting takes place in a big, drab hotel ballroom. We get there early, and there are dozens of people milling about just talking. 

And as I’m standing there waiting for the meeting to start, I start to do this thing that I do often as a black man in a lot of majority white spaces, like farmers markets, Chance the Rapper concerts, the Brooklyn-based podcast company where I work, which is that when I walk into a room, I’m always counting. I’m trying to see how many other black people are there. 

I do that in this room.

EMMANUEL: It’s mostly, it’s mostly kind of like middle aged like white people, uh, it kind of looks like, like an old Presyberterian church like 10 minutes before service

EMMANUEL: The fact that I see so few black faces in this room means that Joe Reed and his allies have decided to skip it. Doug Jones has not been able to gain many converts

But one black Democrat I do see is Chris England. He’s an ally of Doug Jones, and while I don’t know it yet -- Chris will be the new Peck Fox … the new nominee for party chair. 

EMMANUEL: Hi Chris, how are you?

CHRIS: Good.

I ask him how he feels about how white this meeting is. 

EMMANUEL: I talked to like Joe Reed and co. And the way they were framing it, they were like, Oh well what’s happening tomorrow is like a white meeting and what’s happening next week is a black meeting.

CHRIS: Heh heh!

EMMANUEL: (laughs) I don’t know. I’m–I guess I’m looking around, like, I see some black people. I don’t see a ton but I mean, when you look at this room what do you see? 

CHRIS: Democrats. And what the party’s supposed to look like. Black and white and young and old. And I mean, that’s–this is how it’s supposed to work. 

EMMANUEL: Unsurprisingly, Chris England, long serving black member in the Alabama Statehouse, is very good at diplomacy.

And today, with Nancy absent, Chris has taken her place. He is temporary chair for the day. He’s the one running the meeting. 

CHRIS: Good Morning. 

EVERYONE: Good morning! 

CHRIS: This is a long time coming. Y’all should be a little bit more excited. (cheers)

EMMANUEL: And watching him up on the podium, I think to myself, if this is an audition to prove that he’s better at the job than Nancy, Chris is acing it onstage. Plus, he’s qualified, he’s well-liked, and hey it doesn’t hurt that he’s black either.

A few weeks from now, when Chris officially announces his candidacy he’ll immediately erode Tabitha Isner’s support. Remember, she was running for party chair as well. Today, Tabitha’s supporters are in the room, but she’s actually absent, which is probably for the best. Because the way Chris is running this meeting is the opposite of her “every country heard from, Democracy by Skype” vision. He’s practically sprinting through the agenda.  

NOT CHRIS: I move to adopt the post bylaws as approved by the rules and bylaws committee of the DNC. 

EMMANUEL: Chris is acting as if nothing weird is happening, as if Nancy and Joe don’t exist. He presents the bylaws that will strip Joe Reed of much of his power and, without discussion or debate, rushes them to a vote. 

CHRIS: All in favor?


CHRIS: Any opposed? [silence] good deal...Alright. 

(clapping, cheers)

SRUTHI: That’s it?


CHRIS: It’s been a long time coming um… 

EMMANUEL: Sruthi and I are looking at each other confused, like wait, the meeting is over? It’s been eight minutes. 

I think that if Joe’s first big mistake, right? was giving the DNC a reason to come to Alabama, the second one just happened here in this room. He could’ve sent his allies to vote Chris down, but he told them to stay away from the meeting, that it was a fake.

Chris England, he moves to adjourn the meeting, but as soon as he does, somebody makes a dramatic entrance. 

CHRIS: Now we have a motion to adjourn? [MAN: Second] 

DEMETRIA: No I have a–

CHRIS: Yes ma’am.

EMMANUEL: A tall black woman wearing big hoop earrings, a floral dress and wedge heels strides up to the mic. She’s late ‘cause she’s always late. It’s Demetria. 

And Demetria, points out the obvious. Like, Chris England is up there just pretending that Joe and Nancy like aren’t having a meeting in just one week’s time. Like, is the vote they did today even gonna count?  

DEMETRIA: And please understand I do know that we need new leadership. I am not opposed to that. I’m not opposed to that. But let’s do things as- as the–as the word of God says, decent, in an order. Okay? So I just wanna know, I’m going next to–next Saturday. But does that mean what we’ve done here today is null and void or is it moot? Or?

CHRIS: The rules authorise us to be here today–

DEMETRIA: I read the rules. 

CHRIS: Yes, so they authorize us–

DEMETRIA: I read well.

CHRIS: Yes ma’am. And I’m trying to answer your question.

DEMETRIA: Okay, go ahead.

CHRIS: The rules authorize what we’re doing here today.


CHRIS: So everything that we’ve done here is valid.

DEMETRIA: And I did sign the petition...

EMMANUEL: Chris, ever the consummate politician, is dodging the heart of Demetria’s question here. 


And it’s a question that pretty much everyone in the room has. One week from now, Nancy and Joe are going to have their own meeting. Aren’t they just going to undo all of this? It’s a tough question, and a few minutes later, 

CHRIS: We have a motion to adjourn. All in favor? 



EMMANUEL: Chris ends the meeting without really having answered it. 

CHRIS: This meeting is adjourned. Thank you.

(clapping, cheering)

EMMANUEL: Did you know Alabama technically has two separate time zones? I actually found this out when I showed up half an hour late, when I thought I was half an hour early, to like a really important interview with Randy Kelley, a staunch Joe Reed man, also the vice chair to Nancy Worley.

[ambi of room sound]

EMMANUEL: Thank you so much.

RANDY: Alright. I appreciate y’all coming by.

EMMANUEL: I wanted to know about Randy’s anxieties going into this battle, like what it was Joe’s troops were thinking about it.  

EMMANUEL: So what? This may be an obvious question but what is this place? 

RANDY: This is a church. Here, actually I’m a pastor.

EMMANUEL: Oh cool!

EMMANUEL: Randy gives me a tour of his office. And as part of the tour, he shows me his wall. You know, the sort of wall of photos you only ever see in a pizza parlor or like a politician’s office.

RANDY: That’s me and Coretta Scott King here. (EMMANUEL: Wow.) I’m organizing students for Ms. King. Of course, that’s Andre 3000 very socially conscious rapper.

EMMANUEL: (laughs) You know everybody.

RANDY: (laughs) That’s Jesse Jackson. Jesse Jackson was one who influenced me to get involved in politics along with Dr. Reed.

EMMANUEL: Dr. Joe Reed ranks highly on Randy’s wall of heroes. They go back more than 30 years. 

RANDY: He’s always been just a calm, self-differentiated leader. He’s a person who’s very professional, very skilled. He knows who he is. And the man is a political genius. He’s really, uh, they can’t outsmart him.

EMMANUEL: And when you say like, “they can’t outsmart him,” what do you mean?

RANDY: Well, they’re used to black folks they can control. The white folks are used to scrapping up some black person that they can control. They don’t mind having diversity as long as they can be in charge.

EMMANUEL: As far as Randy’s concerned. Joe Reed is the one who’s been protecting black Democrats from being turned into waterboys and watergirls for Doug Jones and all the Doug Joneses before him. 

And the Joe Reed Rule is his main line of defense. So these new bylaws Doug Jones is pushing, the ones that would dilute the Joe Reed Rule, Randy is extremely suspicious of them. Even the parts that on their face, seem completely inoffensive. 

EMMANUEL: What’s the thing you have circled here. They’re saying there should be new diversity goals. What’s the, what’s the problem with that?  

RANDY: Well I think the party need to be working towards diversity goals and- and–


RANDY: And in fact I’m all for diversity.

EMMANUEL: Why not just take Doug Jones’ plan then? Like is–like you don’t have a problem with those changes.

RANDY: I don’t want anything that Doug Jones got to offer.

EMMANUEL: I guess what he’s offering doesn’t seem to be–like it doesn’t seem like it would dilute black power, so I just wanna understand.

RANDY: Well I don’t know the devil could be in the details but I’m not voting on anything that Doug Jones and Tom Perez have come up with. 

EMMANUEL: Even if those bylaws were–did the same things that your bylaws did.

RANDY: If there’s bylaws to get me into heaven. (laughs)

EMMANUEL: You wouldn’t vote for it?

RANDY: I wouldn't vote for it if they came up with it. 

EMMANUEL: I pointed out to Randy, you know, it’s not just white people who signed onto these bylaws. There’s black people too. Black people actually helped write these. And Randy was just like, “Well those black people are just doing the bidding of white people like Doug Jones.” White people, Randy says, who want to take the party back to the days of the Old South. 

RANDY: They got the Confederate mentality.  

EMMANUEL: Democrats?

RANDY: I have seen how they operated, and if you look at their Facebook posts, they got some in the group–you will see all this hostility that they have on these posts. 

EMMANUEL: The Facebook posts. 


While I was reporting this story, over and over again, I had conversations where white people would tell me, Joe Reed and Randy, they’re making this fight about race and this is not about race.  

Someone close to Doug Jones asked me, “Have you talked to black people on our side?” And, you know, I did talk to black people on their side. 

And even black people who are staunch Doug Jones supporters, who want to change the Joe Reed Rule, they told me that in the Alabama Democratic Party, there are places where they don’t feel welcome. 


And one of those places is a closed Facebook group for SDEC members.

I talked to a woman named Monica Riley, who’s in the group. Monica’s young, she’s black, and she’s a Doug Jones supporter. She said she’s seen white people in that group wonder how it is Joe Reed gets so many black people to meetings. Seen them ask questions like “What the hell did y’all do? Send cabs to the projects to pick up anyone with a pulse?”

One time, she saw a white Democrat asking a black Democrat what it would take for Tabitha Isner to get the black vote. Monica hopped on simply to say, “You now, black people are not a monolith.” And this woman just went off on her.

MONICA: She went from, “how does the black community feel I don’t want anybody to feel like they aren’t being heard” to saying that, and I quote, “Well, I heard that the reason minority caucus sticks with Dr. Reed is because he pays their bills, and takes them to their doctor’s appointments.” That we’re the reason that Alabama politics are down the drain. That we’re pretty much the reasons for the problems in the state.

Now you have those same people who were one second trying to pretend like they’re concerned with how you feel and then as soon as they get upset their true colors pop out and show.

EMMANUEL: “Ladies and gentlemen,” Monica wrote, ”this is literally the definition of a dixiecrat.”


EMMANUEL: So, yeah. The reality is when Randy talks about there being white people in his own party who are only interested in black people they can control. He’s not wrong. Like, those white people do exist, and some of them are Doug Jones supporters. 

And Randy believes that for those people, getting rid of Nancy, Joe, and him, that’s just the beginning.

RANDY: We’re just the tip of the iceberg. They want the majority of blacks they see on the State Democratic Executive Committee gone. And as far as I’m concerned, I’m gonna fight to make sure that blacks still have their representation. Because if we don’t fight to keep black representation, all those black folks that fought, bled and died for our right to vote would be turning over in their graves.

EMMANUEL: Why would they be turning over in their graves? 

RANDY: Because they died for it! I told you Dr. Abernathy said we–if we walk as smooth as we do, it’s because we walk across a carpet paved with blood. We’ve had to fight for everything we’ve got as black folk and we’re still in a fight right now.

EMMANUEL: Does that give you like hope that you’ll win? 

RANDY: Well actually, I don’t look at winning all the time. You're not gonna win every fight. But the main thing is fighting. Fighting for right, fighting the good fight.

EMMANUEL: But like what if you could win without fighting? 

RANDY: Well actually it’s no win without fighting. 

EMMANUEL: Randy’s a fighter, the movement is in his blood. So he's not worried about the fight between Doug Jones and Joe Reed destroying the Democratic Party. To Randy his side is the Democratic Party and if they lose, the Democratic Party will cease to exist. 

[ambi of meeting]

So, October 12th. The day of Nancy and Joe’s SDEC meeting.

The meeting takes place in a shriner’s hall and I have no idea what a shriner’s hall is but there were giant gold statues of sphinxes outside. Inside, there are way more black people than the last meeting. The room is packed.

NANCY: This meeting of the second [inaudible] the meeting will now come to order. Thank you so much for being here today. We welcome you...

EMMANUEL: Sitting there. I see Nancy in the flesh for the first time. She’s at the podium, gavel in hand, reading glasses on. 

NANCY: I’m sure some of you would love to be at a football game...

EMMANUEL: And just a little bit aways from her, sitting down nearby is Joe Reed. Joe Reed’s short, maybe 5’8”, bald and he has like this semi-permanent skeptical expression on his face.

Doug Jones isn’t there, but his allies are. Because what they know is that if Nancy passes these new by-laws, there will basically be two different democratic parties in Alabama. And if that happens the decision over which party is the real one, that decision could be made by Alabama’s Secretary of State: a Republican. 

So Nancy starts to move through the agenda.

NANCY: Okay we are now going to do our provincial chair.

EMMANUEL: Nancy’s strategy seems to be straightforward enough: pretend the other meeting didn’t happen. And right off the bat, the meeting is a brawl. Doug Jones’ allies are yelling at her, she’s ignoring them.

WOMAN 2: Point of order! (shouting)

MAN 1: Madam Chair. Madam Chair, if you would.

NANCY: Because we are in the ceremonial portion of the agenda, a point of order will not be recognized.

CROWD: Come on!

CROWD: (cheers)

EMMANUEL: The meeting takes three hours. 


And Nancy, she’s on her feet at the podium nearly the entire time. She’s relentless, passes her own set of bylaws, ones that don’t touch the Joe Reed Rule, with the backing of Joe Reed’s allies. And then just ends the meeting even as people are screaming bloody murder at her.

WOMAN: Right now! (crowd screaming)

NANCY: Okay you have voted to close debate with a lot of yelling.

WOMAN: Madam! Madam!


EMMANUEL: And just like that, the meeting is over. The thing that Tabitha was so afraid of has come to pass. There are 2 sets of bylaws, two parties essentially. 

And the feeling in the room, it’s like the moment after somebody drops something very old and expensive on the floor. And it shatters. 

[MUSIC ends]

People filter out, and then I see Nancy, pretty much alone for the first time all day. She finally sits down, and aside from a couple other people, she and I are the only people left in the room. 

When I first started working on this story, the biggest question I’d had was: why Nancy? Like of all the people in the world Joe Reed could have chosen to be friends with and to go to war for, why her? I’d wanted to know, but despite dozens of emails, constant phone calls, I’d had no luck getting ahold of her. And now, here she was. The person over whom all of this fighting had started. Right in front of me. So I go up and introduce myself. 

EMMANUEL: Emmanuel Dzotsi. Reply All.

NANCY: Oh yes. Good to see you.

EMMANUEL: Pleasure to meet you.

NANCY: Have a seat.

EMMANUEL: Thank you. Thank you. Do you have time–?

NANCY: Thank you Lula.

EMMANUEL: Do you have like a requisite hour or two to chat with me about all of this? I know you’ve had a long day.

NANCY: The longer you talk to me the longer I can sit and rest my knees.

EMMANUEL: I’m just going to grab a new set of batteries for this because it’s been going all day. 

NANCY: Alright, good.

EMMANUEL: In my scramble to get my batteries out, I drop one. And as I pick it off the ground, I see Nancy’s feet. They're super swollen and bruised and she’s resting her weight on a sort of multi-pronged cane. And as grateful as I am to the journalism gods that I’ve finally gotten Nancy Worley for an interview, I don’t feel good about the fact that the only reason I’ve gotten Nancy Worley is that she literally can’t move away from me. So I ask her, “Hey listen. How about we just meet tomorrow?”

NANCY: Woo ok. 


NANCY: Made it, made it.

EMMANUEL: We did. 

NANCY: Yeah.

EMMANUEL: Okay. So this is- this is the- the–this is the Democratic Party office?

NANCY: Yes, it is.

EMMANUEL: Headquarters. Nice.

NANCY: It is.

EMMANUEL: The inside of the party office is pretty messy. Like, there’s stacks of what look to be pretty important papers, just on every possible surface. So Nancy and I carve out a little space, sit down and start talking and then her phone rings.

[ring tone]

NANCY: Now that’s my cellphone.

EMMANUEL: Oh that’s okay.

NANCY: Sorry about that. My voicemail is full so that’s good. Okay.

EMMANUEL: I noticed when I called you, I was like “Oh her voicemail is full.”

NANCY: Yeah I always say now, understand that is done intentionally because– (laughs)

EMMANUEL: Oh it’s intentional? 

NANCY: Well then you don’t have to get any new messages with people telling you to do one more thing, right? I go “my calendar is full, I can’t do one more thing. So we’ll just let it stay full.”

EMMANUEL: I’ve interviewed a lot of public officials. And many of them have ignored my calls, but Nancy’s the first one to ever just like come right out and admit it to me. But in some ways she’s an open book. 

Nancy tells me about her life, how in the ‘80s she got involved in the teacher’s union, where she made one of her most important friendships.

NANCY: I was very young in ‘83-84, and I ran for the presidency of AEA and won. And Dr. Reed was always very helpful. He’d come in and sit down and he’d talk to me and we’d have a great conversation. And I felt like I got to know him really well. And I found him to be just one of the most gracious, generous, kind people I’ve ever met. 

EMMANUEL: Before we talked, I’d juggled all kinds of theories for why Joe had picked Nancy. Like, maybe Joe had thought she was easy to control. Or that some time long ago, they’d made a pact to unite and take power for themselves. 

But for Nancy, the foundation of her friendship with Joe wasn't political. Her friendship with Joe was a real one. A friendship that started the way so many friendships do, as small inexplicable acts of kindness. Acts of kindness that still make Nancy really emotional.

NANCY: I remember an incident. I was actually coming to an AEA board meeting. Now this was before I was president in ‘83-84. I was driving down the interstate. I had a flat tire. Um, I had no earthly idea how to fix that flat tire. I finally got out of my car, and started waving at people passing down the interstate so they’d know that I needed some help. And after I had stood out there for what seemed like eternity, a vehicle pulled over. And it was Dr. Reed. And, and he wanted to know how he could help me. And he didn’t even realize who I was until he got out of the car and walked back to it. 

EMMANUEL: Oh he just pulled over because he saw someone–

NANCY: Right. He pulled over because he saw somebody in need of help, and he’s that kind of person is he always comes to your rescue when he can.   

EMMANUEL: Nancy and Joe remained friends and years later,, Joe asked her to run for vice chair . She held the job for awhile, until one day her phone rang. It was the party. 

NANCY: I got a call on a Friday afternoon. I was driving south to the beach and the executive director said, “Mark is going to resign as of Monday. And it’s all yours.” 


NANCY: And I didn’t even have a key to the building. I mean, you know, I was like shocked beyond words.

EMMANUEL: Were you- did–was that something you’d ever wanted? Did you want to be party chair?  

NANCY: I had never even thought of it. I- that had- I guess–

EMMANUEL: Really? Even though you were vice chair? 

NANCY: I guess because this party was so entrenched in long term male chairs that I had never considered the possibility of being chair. You know, it just–I didn’t think it would happen, maybe in my lifetime. 

Nancy says when she took the job, she found out that the party was hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. And she decided to spend the next 6 years trying to pay it down. she did it the only way she could think of, which was to dramatically cut down services. Like the little the Alabama Democrats used to do, all of that went away. 

Nancy got flak for that. But she thought most people understood that she was doing what she had to do. Which is why, in 2018, when newly elected Doug Jones comes to see her to essentially ask for her resignation, Nancy just thinks he’s there for a social visit. 

NANCY: I really thought he'd come by just as almost a courtesy call. Like, "Well, I'm in Montgomery, so I probably should stop by the party office, right?” So he starts his conversation about, you know, how great–great and wonderful I am. And, and then he wanders off into how he knows my health is very bad. 

And I listen to this for a while and I'm thinking, "I wonder where he got that information from?" And I finally said, "Doug. I don't know who's told you that I'm ill, but unless you know something that my doctor has not told me, I don't think I'm ill." 

EMMANUEL: Nancy looks at Doug Jones and sees someone who thinks he knows how to do her job better than she does. And she doesn’t believe he even understands what it is she does all day. 

NANCY: Men in particular, because through the years, you've been the bosses, you've been the leaders in every institution. As a result of that, you tend to believe that your role should be a big title, high salary, authority and power, but not so much the grunt and groan work.

I mean, there have been times here at this party office that I've had to scrub the toilets. You know, because we don't have a custodian who comes in once a week. But I don't think Doug would be at all interested in doing any of that.

And he goes, "Don't you think it's probably time that you would like to wash your hands of this job while you're ahead? You know, I've won, and, and you're ahead now? But you need to think seriously about leaving." And little does Doug Jones know, but when you say something to Nancy Worley like, "You better leave or else,"      


hell would freeze over before I would walk out on something. 

EMMANUEL: Hell would freeze over?

NANCY: Yes. Hell could freeze over before I would leave.  

EMMANUEL: After I spoke to Nancy I talked to Doug Jones. Cause I wanted to give him a chance to respond.

And, I read Nancy’s comments to him.

EMMANUEL: “There have been times here at this party office that I've had to scrub the toilets. We don't have a custodian who comes in once a week but I don't think Doug would be at all interested in doing any of that.”

DOUG: No, she's right. She's right but here's the difference. 


DOUG: I've scrubbed toilets before. Okay? (EMMANUEL laughs) I've done it. The difference is she's had to do that because she couldn't raise any damn money to hire somebody to do it. We had no functioning party. Emmanuel, I don't know if you ever went over to that office, but if you looked around that office, there were stacks of papers just papers and papers. You go through, there were things on her desk that were certified mailings to her that were unopened that were dated in 2013. 

EMMANUEL: Wait–2013?

DOUG: Yeah. I mean it was absurd the condition of that office. And it was because we couldn't raise money to man the offices and do the things and to bring that office into the twentieth century, much less the twenty-first century. 

EMMANUEL: When Nancy said that hell would freeze over before she stopped fighting Doug Jones, she meant it. In the weeks that follow, she and Joe fight with everything they’ve got. 


While everybody waits for the Republican Secretary of State to weigh in on which Democratic party in Alabama is the real one, Nancy and Joe file a lawsuit. They sue Doug Jones’ side, try to prevent them from holding an election. Nancy scrambles to pay her attorney’s fees before Chris England has a chance to get ahold of the party’s bank account. Unfortunately, Nancy tells Joe about this plan... 

NANCY PHONE RECORDING: We’re going to have to do it fast Dr. Reed cause Monday. They gonna put a hold on all the funds period. 

...whilst butt dialing a young Democrat – a Doug Jones ally. 

EMMANUEL: Doug Jones goes ahead with the election for a new chair. 

NEWSCASTER: In political news the Alabama Democratic Party has chosen new leadership. Today Democrats voted State Representative Chris England to replace Nancy Worley as party chair.

EMMANUEL: Chris England, the black guy who’d been temporary chair for the Doug Jones meeting. He becomes the new chair. Nancy loses her position. Randy does too. 

Despite this, even as Chris’s team moves into the Democratic Party office, Nancy continues to show up for work. 

They’re all just crammed into the same space, until one day Nancy gets frustrated. She tells everyone in the room that they have to leave or she’ll get her gun. She later claims she was half-joking. Chris changes the locks anyway. 

And to make things worse for Nancy... the Republican Secretary of State publicly acknowledges Chris England as the new leader of the Democratic Party. Joe Reed and Nancy Worley’s reign is effectively over. 

So what does this brave new world look like? 


Well, for starters, it’s nothing like the Dixiecrat nightmare that Joe Reed envisioned. Right, like a bunch of people join the party the day that chris England is elected. This group of people is genuinely diverse. Like There are white people, there are LGBTQ people, there are Latinos and most importantly, there are tons of young black people.

And in the months ahead, they will turn their attention to the real enemy: you know... The Republicans.

The big challenge -- like the real obstacle to remaking Alabama is gerry-mandering. And it’s actually a fight that Democrats have won once before. But this’s looks like they’ll go into battle without the people who know the WAR the best. Joe Reed...the fighter….has been sidelined. 

After Chris England won party chair, he held a press conference, and he was asked in it, whether he had anything to say to Nancy Worley. The answer that Chris gave, I think, sums up the party's message to Joe Reed, and the new Democrats’ message to the old. Just five words: thank you for your service.”


PJ: Emmanuel Dzotsi, he’s a producer for our show. 

Reply All is hosted by me PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman. We’re produced by Sruthi Pinnamaneni, Phia Bennin, Damiano Marchetti, Anna Foley, Jessica Yung, and Emmanuel Dzotsi. Our executive producer is Tim Howard. We’re mixed this week by Rick Kwan and Catherine Anderson. Fact-checking by Michelle Harris. Our intern is Rachel Cohn. Our theme music is by the Mysterious Breakmaster Cylinder. Music in this episode by Breakmaster Cylinder, Luke Williams and Mariana Romano.

Special thanks this week to Caitlyn Homol, Cara McClure, Bradley Davidson, Brian Lyman, Emily Rostek, Janae Pierre, and Jon O’Leary.

Matt Lieber is a holiday party where no one says anything weird. 

You can find our show on Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

Thanks for listening. We’ll see you in January.