A Crisis of Morality in Alabama
The special election for Attorney General Jeff Sessions' old senate seat showcases the base nature of our politics these days.
If you were to display the credentials of the two candidates, sans party affiliation, the conclusion would (hopefully) be foregone. Doug Jones, the Democrat, prosecuted two of the Klansmen involved with the Birmingham Baptist Church bombing, finally bringing the men to justice almost thirty years after their crime took place.
The Republican, Roy Moore, has been a lifelong firebrand in the state. His politics lean more toward populism than the typical Republican line. The former Alabama Supreme Court judge has often bucked rulings from higher courts that conflicted with his personal feelings. Moore was suspended from his position for a second time after refusing to enforce the federal ruling on same-sex marriage.
Beyond simply disagreeing with people who have different opinions, Moore clings to fringe positions on many subjects. He believes that Muslims should not serve in the United States Congress, and was a proponent of the "birther" conspiracy, claiming President Obama was not an American.
That slim glimpse into the controversial positions he holds should suffice in barring him from office. In fact, a few principled conservatives did not advocate for him in the Republican Primary. Even President Trump endorsed his opponent, Luther Strange, whom the "establishment" favored. But all of these issues with Moore existed before the most astounding revelations: his alleged relationships with teenage girls when he was a thirty-year old District Attorney.
The Washington Post published a groundbreaking story on four separate women who accused Moore of having untoward relationships with them while he was DA. Plenty of conservative talking heads and twitter philosophers circled the wagons, and many Republicans who had offered tepid support reversed course and called for him to step down, qualifying that with "if the allegations are true."
But soon thereafter, a fifth accuser stepped forward, with tangible evidence of their relationship. That woman, Beverly Nelson, had her high school yearbook with Moore's signature in it, following the type of sentence you would not want a grown man to write to your daughter: "To a sweeter more beautiful girl I could not say 'Merry Christmas.' By his name, he signed D.A. She was about 16 at the time.
The most troubling aspect about these allegations is not just that they likely occurred, but that it does not seem to move the voters of Alabama. Honestly, what could he have done to lose this election? Another story quoted a man in Alabama saying he could have killed Obama and he still would win. It isn't that hard to fathom, at this point.
The last thing we need in politics is another witch hunt. Moore may deserve the benefit of the doubt, but he has done little to warrant it. He has offered remorse and says that dating girls that young would not have “generally” been his behavor. Give me a break. The court of public opinion does not demand irrefutable evidence, but he hasn’t offered any at all.
But these voters in Alabama, the ones many reporters have contacted and who have spoken on television, do not seem to care. It isn't that they necessarily doubt the veracity of the claims. They just don't care.
Representative Mo Brooks, a congressman from Alabama, says that he still supports Roy Moore, regardless of the claims. At the end of the day, the only thing he worries about is making sure that someone on the floor of the Senate votes the way he wants them to. Character be damned, as long as the body is breathing, it doesn't matter who it is.
That is a dangerous way to run a party. Many national Republicans are calling for a write-in campaign, to try and subvert Moore from winning the election and hopefully garnering enough votes for a more palatable candidate. Unfortunately for them, absentee voting has already begun and Alabama law prevents Moore from coming off the ballot. They've made their bed, and now they must sleep in it.
And at the end of the day, that really is what must happen. A fair primary occurred weeks ago, where Alabamians had the choice between Roy Moore and the Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange. The Bannonites cheered and rallied for Moore, and the establishment poured bags of money in for Big Luther. Moore won, convincingly.
Some of the more respected conservative pundits have gamed out various scenarios where Moore could be prevented from winning, through some sort of machinations that would create a new vacancy and start the process over. This cannot happen, though. The people of Alabama have made their mind, and this is what they've chosen: a man who many people knew preyed on young girls, and was even rumored to be barred from going to the local mall because of his antics. They knew who he was in the primary, and they know who he is now.
Some have said that, even if the allegations are true, they would have taken place over thirty years ago. While it is correct that the window to prosecute those crimes has gone, the man who committed them is not. For those in Alabama struggling over the decision they face in less than a month, maybe they should consider this: when Doug Jones put those Klansmen in prison, justice came thirty years later. Those men were as guilty then as they were in 1963. Time may heal wounds, but it doesn't absolve a criminal.