For too long this website has avoided talking about the most talked about political race in the country. With the contest culminating tomorrow, however, it’s time. In 24 hours, voting will open in Alabama’s Senate election, pitting Democratic nominee Doug Jones against Republican nominee Roy Moore.
- A Democrat hasn’t been competitive in a statewide Alabama election since the state’s loyalty to the old conservative Democratic Party finally wore off toward the end of the last century. It’s among the darkest red states in the country, evidence by being one of only six states to vote for Donald Trump with at least 62 percent of its vote. And yet, here Democrat Doug Jones is, within the margin of error.
- As for Moore, no candidate for a statewide office this century has been embroiled in as much controversy or faced such serious and corroborated allegations, including sexual assault against teenagers. And yet, in a time where sexual misconduct allegations derail a new high profile career every other day, here Roy Moore is, leading a race for the United States Senate.
It has become a proxy election in so many ways. Most directly, it helps determine the fate of the Senate. Republicans currently hold 52 seats to the Democrats’ 48, but that includes this contested Alabama seat. In 2018, Democrats will target two very realistic Republican-held Senate seats (Jeff Flake’s seat in Arizona and Dean Heller’s in Nevada), but a 50-50 Senate would still give Republicans the advantage thanks to Vice President Pence’s tie-breaking vote. Win Alabama, however, and the Democrats would be in substantially better position to wrest control of the body. If the Democrats win the Senate, they can control President Trump’s major appointments, including a potential Supreme Court vacancy, and totally stall his legislative agenda. To get anything done in his first term’s final two years, the President would need to compromise. Thus, both sides desperately want this seat.
But this race, of course, represents so much more. For example, do we believe the women in these cases or don’t we? In many cases, charges are not pressed or cannot be — thank the statute of limitations — so there will not be a trial, official evidence presented, and a jury in whom we can invest the sober responsibility of hashing this all out for us. We cannot “wait until all the facts are in” and hope the problem goes away in the meantime. Instead, we ask ourselves who we believe: Roy Moore’s half-dozen accusers on one side, or Moore himself on the other? Alabama gets its say tomorrow, and thought it might not be representative of the nation, it could well be representative of the Republican Party.
Meanwhile, this election serves as an ad hoc referendum on some core tenants of Trumpism. Say what you want about Moore (like he was probably a sexual assaulter, molester, and pedophile), but he seems to understand the President’s politics. Those charged with sexual misconduct have seen their careers quickly ripped into tatters, particularly if those charges are followed by admissions of guilt. But when Donald Trump faced a concert of women speaking up about his sexual conduct — which backed up a pitch perfect aria sung by Trump himself in the infamous Access Hollywood tape — he was elected President of the United States. How was this possible? By doing his thing:
- When news is bad, deny everything and blame the liberal media and the establishment.
- When news is bad, bring up analogous examples from Democrats and ask where the outcry is there. (See: whataboutism. The Romans called this the tu quoque logical fallacy, which translates to “you also.” If that doesn’t sum up the President’s political strategy, I don’t know what does. Is he perhaps well-versed in the study of Roman logic?)
- Despite a Republican’s personal demerits, under no circumstances should Democrats be given political power, even if that means supporting someone with Roy Moore’s past because he has an R next to his name.
Moore’s playbook when under fire has mirrored Trump’s. Will these tactics succeed again? It’s been pretty effective, and Moore knows it. So far, in fact, a recent poll found that over 70 percent of Alabama Republicans have chosen to believe him, with only 14 siding with the women. Of those who side with Moore, 92 percent think Democrats conjured the conspiracy, with almost all of them dubbing the media as co-conspirators, assumptions that fit into the President’s counternarrative. Because Moore knew how to appropriate Trump’s political approach, an approach to which Alabamians are particularly susceptible, he is now on the cusp of getting elected to the most powerful and prestigious political body in the country.
Meanwhile, the President himself has aligned with Moore. This should be no surprise, as Moore’s situation parallels our commander-in-chief’s. If Trump had believed Moore’s accusers, why shouldn’t we believe Trump’s? Whereas most Americans feel empathy toward the victims in these and other sexual misconduct cases, and whereas most Americans trust the veracity of multiple heartfelt accounts, and whereas it makes sense that women are starting to have the courage to finally speak up about these traumatic experiences all at once thanks to a rising tide of bravery and acceptance, Trump says trust the man. Why? Because he was once the man.
Trump’s calculus is not only personal but political as well. Just like Democrats see a path to 51 Senators if they win in Alabama (of all places!), Trump needs to protect the Senate for the Republican Party if he wants to move the ball on new issues now that he’s finally on the cusp of his first legislative victory. That means backing Doug Jones’s opponent.
Many Alabama Republicans — and, indeed, Republicans across the country — see it the same way. Jones is a card-carrying Democrat, while Moore is merely an alleged sexual assaulter and pedophile. If voting for Jones’s opponent means voting for Moore, then so be it. Because of that logic, PPFA expects Roy Moore to win tomorrow’s election and Democrats to again come up empty in a post-Trump special Congressional race.
We remain pawns in the game of the President’s politics. Especially in Alabama.
The social consequences, if Moore successfully parries the accusations and arrives in Washington, are troubling. While many of the accused have fessed up and showed some measure of contrition, they still have lost their jobs, whether in news, entertainment, or politics. Moore’s success would be a lesson: deny, deny, deny, and perhaps you can be elected to the U.S. Senate (and maybe even the presidency!). The momentum from #MeToo, which has surely curbed sexual misconduct from terrified would-be predators, would soon peter.