An Election in Alabama

So Roy Moore lost the Alabama Senator’s race by a whisker, with Democrat Doug Jones winning 49.9% of the vote against Moore’s 48.4% (1.7% of the voters opted for a write-in, which in the context is quite important).

I already wrote about Roy Moore here, and since then the allegations against him are looking ever-more fabricated. Firstly there was the timing, the Washington Post running the story at a crucial point after the nominations were closed and when Moore was polling a 10-point lead over his rival. Secondly, it now appears the owner of the yearbook Moore allegedly signed when she was 14 added some text to it later. Might have been worth mentioning that at the beginning, eh? But the signature is real, oh yes.

Nobody should be surprised at this, least of all Republicans, but the reason Moore lost was probably less to do with the allegations as his response to them. I fully agree he should not have apologised, but he should have looked the camera in the eye and called his accuser a bare-faced liar whose parents ought to have raised her better. Instead he did an interview with Sean Hannity – hardly the person to shore up anyone’s reputation – which made him look extremely shifty, and the comments emerging from those around him right up until the vote didn’t help him one jot. He didn’t come across as anyone you’d much want to vote for, even if you didn’t believe the allegations against him.

What surprises me a little is the naivety of the Republicans. Actually, no it doesn’t: most of them come across as spectacularly dim. The Democrat-supporting media releasing allegations of sexual misconduct against a Republican politician with exquisite timing is nothing new, and is now standard practice: the release of Trump’s decade-old Access Hollywood interview was timed precisely to lose him the election, and had he been running against anyone other than Hillary Clinton the plan would have succeeded. Any Republican running for office should expect a media storm alleging sexual misconduct and/or tax evasion on his part at a crucial point in the election and prepare for it. If the Republicans haven’t figured out how things work by now, then they’re simply too dim for office.

Of course, the media refrain from sand-bagging Democrats in the same way because they are almost unanimous in wanting Democrats to rule in perpetuity, and the few that don’t are rabid anti-Trumpers who think Jeb Bush would have made a good president. The allegations against Al Franken gained some traction, but this was mostly to make Republicans look like hypocrites in backing Moore. He gave a speech last week implying he was going to resign, but he’s still there. I think the intention was for him to hold on until Moore got elected and then say “Why should I resign when the Republicans have elected Moore?” Now that they haven’t, it puts him in a rather tight spot. Good.

The only way Moore lost that election is by GOP voters staying at home or plumping for Jones. I think this confirms what we already knew from the Trump election, which is that American voters fall into four distinct categories:

Group 1. Hardcore Democrats. This lot think Hillary was amazing and wouldn’t give a damn if someone on their side, i.e. Hillary’s husband, had serious sexual allegations leveled at him. For them, winning is everything.

Group 2. Moderate Democrats. They want to vote for a decent candidate and didn’t like Hillary much, but they still see any Republican as being worse than Hitler so if Jeffrey Dahmer ran against Mitt Romney, the brain-eating serial killer gets their vote.

Group 3. Moderate Republicans. These are split further in two. The aforementioned anti-Trumpers who think the neo-cons had it right and Reagan-style leadership was just around the corner were it not for that blasted Trump; and those who realise something has shifted quite severely in the political landscape but aren’t willing to jump on the alt-right bandwagon just yet. Both of these are the people who stayed at home in Alabama last night, or voted for Jones.

Group 4. Hardcore Republicans. These guys will vote Republican no matter what, and a lot of them will be delighted with Trump. These could also be broken into sub-groups, but doing so wouldn’t add much to my post.

What is clear from this is that any switching between Groups 1 and 2 doesn’t matter. Democrats will vote Democrat regardless of the state of the candidate. One major feature of the 2016 presidential election was the number of Republicans who reluctantly voted for Trump versus the number of Democrats who enthusiastically voted for Hillary. Whereas the Democrats can count on Democrat voters voting Democrat (or in the worst case, staying at home), the Republicans have no such advantage: half the time supposedly Republican voters are cheering for the other side and even if they don’t, the candidate they support might as well be a Democrat. So it is Group 3 which is swinging politics one way or another in the US right now: “conservatives” who voted for Obama returned to voting Republican in November 2016, and wavering Republicans choosing not to back Moore last night.

What I think will happen, and probably already is happening, is that Group 4 will grow at the expense of Group 3 as the moderate Republicans get fed up with playing nice and start to take lessons from the Democrat playbook. In other words, they won’t care if the Republican candidate is an accused child-molester, he’s a Republican and that’s all that matters. Oh, and fuck the media. I am sure these people had a role in making the race so tight last night: a decade ago, Moore might not have even made it to polling day and Jones would have run unopposed. Had anyone else but Trump been president, that’s probably what would have happened.

Demographics aren’t going to be kind to Group 3 either. The Reaganites and neo-cons are yesterday’s men and long in the tooth, being replaced by youngsters more impressed by alt-right shitlording than those who have accepted they’ll lose from Day 1 but wish to do so gracefully and in the polite company of people who pay them to say things that don’t upset anyone. This lot will be buoyed by yesterday’s result, but they’re fighting a losing battle. It’s only a matter of time before the remaining right-wing moderates decide it’s better to fight dirty than lose honourably.

Demographics will also help Groups 1 and 2, though. Immigration and the penchant for young people to lean left will swell their numbers, which might speed up the transfer of right-wingers from Group 3 to 4 as they realise what’s going on. Race will also play a greater role: if blacks are going to vote Democrat regardless and make a big deal out of it, whites are going to respond in kind. Indeed, the rise of the alt-right shows this is already happening. In a generation we’re probably going to be left with only 3 political groupings in US politics: 1, 2, and 4 with 3 almost disappearing completely. Perhaps 2 will vanish as well, merging completely with 1. It might well be that Republicans and Democrats share the votes of 1 and 2 while a new party pops up to gather up all those in Group 4.

I am sure today’s media will be filled with many stories about how “decency won” last night – as if publishing fabricated allegations of child abuse in a national newspaper in order to throw an election is decent – but I think the direction of travel is obvious. There will be more dirty tricks, more tribalism, more division, and more nastiness in the years to come. I doubt it will end well.

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36 thoughts on “An Election in Alabama

  1. I despise the fact that this story is the headline story on the BBC website.

    Its relevance to Britain is zero. How many other nations get their irrelevant domestic political news headlining in another country.

    It makes me quite mad and I speak as a political nerd.

  2. Good summary Tim.

    One major feature of the 2016 presidential election was the number of Republicans who reluctantly voted for Trump versus the number of Democrats who enthusiastically voted for Hillary.

    Another one is the number of Democrats who voted for Trump.

    As for groups, there is still a number of true independents, but that group may be shrinking fast.

    In any case, they don’t call the GOP The Stupid Party for nothing.

  3. Good summary Tim.

    Thanks!

    Another one is the number of Democrats who voted for Trump.

    I wondered about that, but wasn’t sure if they were more a case of Republicans who voted for Obama returning to the fold.

    In any case, they don’t call the GOP The Stupid Party for nothing.

    Indeed.

  4. What the Americans call ‘write-in votes’ and UK calls ‘postal votes’ and normal people call ‘fraudulent voting practices’ is going to be all the rage sooner rather than later.

    If it can be shown that fake votes can swing an election and fakery is easy to manage then it will happen more, and thus more supposed voters will apply for them.

    In parts of the UK where the One True Religion thrives it is not unheard of for all postal votes forms to be collected and the local leader of the Greatest Faith The World Has Ever Seen (registered TM) kindly fills them in for the faithful. It’s a short jump then from there to having more than one postal vote for them wot speaks no English and much ticking of one preferred candidate takes place.

    Hey, it saves time to get the winner in place before the election takes place, right?

  5. “What the Americans call ‘write-in votes’ and UK calls ‘postal votes’ and normal people call ‘fraudulent voting practices’ is going to be all the rage sooner rather than later.”

    Nope. A write-in vote is where you write the name of a different candidate on the ballot paper. Often writing-in a different Republican is encouraged by the Demstream Media in close races, for obvious reasons.

  6. I think one angle here is that the plebs are sick of the shit that their supposed betters pull. The elites are revealed as not being eltite at all but just a bunch of rapey, stealing, smug asswipes that deserve no more respect or deference than a crack ho.
    In a state where Republicans ought to be weighing the vote, a shitlord was offered up as candidate and got the finger (relative to what a halfway decent candidate would have got). If we read from this that scuzzy, rapey, smug, shitlordy candidates will do alot worse than in the past I think that has uglier implications for the Dems than the GOP. The politicos, media talking heads, celebrities, sports people, etc are mostly on the Dems side and their aura has evaporated. Trump burst the bubble of undeserved respect they used to have.
    The clear lesson for the GOP is to offer up some normal, decent candidates and go big on exposing the shitlordiness of their Dem opponents. Then they’ll get sick of winning.

  7. There will be more dirty tricks, more tribalism, more division, and more nastiness in the years to come.

    From what little I know of pre-modern history, such ugliness is to be expected in a democracy. It might be the case that we’ve all grown up in an interregnum, a strange period where democracy was briefly civilised, and now reality is coming back.

    (If it ever really was civilised…

    I’ve read somewhere that the 1960 election was rigged for Kennedy. Which raises another question: if a rigged election can give us Kennedy, by most accounts a pretty effective president, then what’s so bad about rigging elections?

    I’ve been wondering about that of late. Even the US and UK suffered lots of electoral violence and corruption in the 19th c., but this is perhaps the period of greatest freedom and improvement in these countries’s history. Meanwhile, Theresa May was probably voted in fair and square.

    And in Australia, Tony Abbott was voted in, fair and square, and then replaced by Malcolm Turnbull.

    We have a tremendous respect for the process of democracy, but should we be concerned more about the results, however we get there? A discomfiting thought.)

  8. “What surprises me a little is the naivety of the Republicans. Actually, no it doesn’t: most of them come across as spectacularly dim.”

    Gee, thanks, Tim.

    But the spectacularly dim Republicans hold the Presidency, the US House, the US Senate, 70% of state legislative chambers, 65% of state governorships . . . I won’t even get into local government across the country.

    Moore is an aberration – a religious whacko in a state full of them. There was no way this election in a single small state was going to turn out well. Had he won, it would have been a mess – the man has opinions and positions that are incompatible with a Constitutional republic. But that’s who Alabaman’s voted for in their primary, so there wasn’t much of a choice for the rest of us.

    Now I’m going to re-examine your two groupings of Republicans and try to figure out if I, and many others just like me, fit in best with the venal ones or the nutjobs.

  9. Gee, thanks, Tim.

    Ah, I meant the politicians, not the voters!

    But the spectacularly dim Republicans hold the Presidency, the US House, the US Senate, 70% of state legislative chambers, 65% of state governorships

    Yeah, but they remind me of our Tories: they’ll not actually do anything with their position of power, and will spectacularly self-destruct before a decent opposition ever presents itself.

  10. It was remarkable that Moore got 50% of the vote, as I can only imagine that your group 4 voters supported him. I don’t know the stats, but it could be that a large chunk of voters in the middle stayed at home, and the election was between hard core democrats and hard core republicans.

    My understanding of Trump’s win was closer to Alisa’s. Trump appealed to working class voters in traditionally blue states (Pennsylvania, Michigan…) but moderate conservatives held their nose to vote for him as an ‘anybody but Hillary candidate’. If the Democrats manage to put forward a candidate next time that isn’t quite so divisive, and has some street cred with the blue collar vote, then I wouldn’t be surprised if that person should win. At present it doesn’t seem likely that they will have the self awareness to make this happen. This is fortunate for Trump.

    Ultimately I think the biggest effect of Trump will be that he has moved the Overton window sufficiently to normalise, in very general terms, the tenets of the alt-right. The American frog was being heated up slowly, but Trump made it realise it better get out of the pan, or stop the cook.

    And agreed on the BBC. You’d think that the UK has sufficient problems to fill the front page every single day. But no, the outcome of an inconsequential – even for the US! – political event is on the front page.

  11. “I’ve read somewhere that the 1960 election was rigged for Kennedy. Which raises another question: if a rigged election can give us Kennedy, by most accounts a pretty effective president, then what’s so bad about rigging elections?”

    Was he effective though? Or do we only think that cos he was killed while still more or less in his honeymoon period?

  12. My understanding of Trump’s win was closer to Alisa’s. Trump appealed to working class voters in traditionally blue states (Pennsylvania, Michigan…) …

    Ah yes, that’s a very good point. My apologies, Alisa.

  13. @abacab
    “Was [Kennedy] effective though? Or do we only think that cos he was killed while still more or less in his honeymoon period?”

    Or, is the way to create an effective politician to kill them? Let us remember that we can always get the cause/effect round the wrong way in casual analysis. Also- what do you mean by effective?

    Without Nixon using Kennedy’s vision of “a man on the moon by the end of the sixties” as a means of honouring his memory, it’s possible that the Russians would have got there first.

  14. Nor the mad decision to base first-strike missiles in Turkey. He was a plonker, absurdly romanticised after his assassination.

  15. “What the Americans call ‘write-in votes’ and UK calls ‘postal votes’”: are you sure? That’s not my impression.

  16. The lesson is that Forgery Pays.

    The second lesson is that you shouldn’t put a Senate seat at risk by appointing a plonker to the DoJ.

  17. What happened in Alabama was that many Trump voters stayed home.

    Remember that Trump strongly backed Moore’s primary opponent Luther Strange. Trump did not want Moore as a candidate. When Strange lost to Moore, the national press account held that it was a disaster for Trump. Most Trump voters saw it that way, too, and recognized that Trump’s ultimate support for Moore was simply Trump trying to rescue the Senate seat from a Democrat.

    Moore has always been a religious nutjob. He was fired from his job as a district court judge in 2003 for refusing to remove a religious monument – the Ten Commandments plaque – from his courtroom. He was fired, in 2016, from his job as Alabama Chief Justice for his anti-gay rulings which directly violated recent US Supreme Court rulings. That alone earned him lots of church support in Alabama, which is a very churchy state to begin with. When the dust settles and the numbers come out, I suspect we’ll find that Moore received heavy support from the notoriously-Democrat black community, which is a very churchy community in Alabama.

    What support Moore had aside from the rabid religious groups came from people who saw him as a giant middle finger to the do-nothing GOP-controlled House and Senate. Ultimately, given the lack of support Trump sees from Congress now, Moore’s loss will be fairly meaningless. Far more important will be the coming midterm elections of 33 of 100 Congressional seats in 2018.

  18. “…from the notoriously-Democrat black community, which is a very churchy community in Alabama.”

    It’s often forgotten that in US terms, atheism falls into the category of Stuff White People Like. It’s no coincidence that the churchiest states also have the highest AA populations, since they have much, much higher rates of belief in God than whites.

    Which would make those Facebook memes correlating intelligence and religious belief by state…erm… racist, no? :p

  19. No apology is necessary Tim, especially as I see no contradiction between the two possibilities.

    ‘Another one is the number of Democrats who voted for Trump.’ I wondered about that, but wasn’t sure if they were more a case of Republicans who voted for Obama returning to the fold.

    I have no idea if there was any significant number of those, so I’m curious in case anyone knows more.

    Yeah, but they remind me of our Tories: they’ll not actually do anything with their position of power, and will spectacularly self-destruct before a decent opposition ever presents itself.

    Indeed, this disease is far from being exclusive to the US.

    When the dust settles and the numbers come out, I suspect we’ll find that Moore received heavy support from the notoriously-Democrat black community, which is a very churchy community in Alabama.

    Another piece of stats I’d be very curious to see. BTW, US blacks in general are not known to be more tolerant to gays than their white compatriots. FWIW.

    It’s often forgotten that in US terms, atheism falls into the category of Stuff White People Like. It’s no coincidence that the churchiest states also have the highest AA populations, since they have much, much higher rates of belief in God than whites.

    Which may be part of the reason for the preceding.

    Which would make those Facebook memes correlating intelligence and religious belief by state…erm… racist, no? :p

    Well, it’s not like the Dems don’t have a long historic background of real institutionalized racism.

    What support Moore had aside from the rabid religious groups came from people who saw him as a giant middle finger to the do-nothing GOP-controlled House and Senate.

    And that’s why personally I was hoping he’d win, even though the guy is totally not my cup of tea.

    Your grasp of American politics is spookily good.

    Seconded.

    (Boy, this is probably the longest comment I have written in quite some time… :-O )

  20. Boy, this is probably the longest comment I have written in quite some time

    Good! I’m just disappointed you weren’t commenting on here for the past year or so! 😉

  21. While I agree with the general thrust of your argument. Roy Moore was a special case. He shouldn’t have won. I agree with your point on identity politics.” if blacks are going to vote Democrat regardless and make a big deal out of it, whites are going to respond in kind.” such polarization isn’t good for any society. But what can we do about it?

  22. “I doubt it will end well.”

    Too many of your posts conclude with this phrase. Hmm….

  23. “…Trump will be that he has moved the Overton window sufficiently to normalise, in very general terms, the tenets of the alt-right. The American frog was being heated up slowly, but Trump made it realise it better get out of the pan, or stop the cook.”

    This is a tough one because I don’t recall at what point being unconvinced my some of the more insane doctrines of identity politics became “alt-right”. It seems to me that we are talking about opinions that were considered fairly mainstream until the whole tranny thing happened.

    So it would be, if anything, Trump moving that Overton window back to where it was. Except he clearly isn’t doing that. Rather he is likely to bequeath us greater extremes of both left and right; a left with some utterly bizarre views which it is heresy not to hold, and a right which is neither conservative nor liberal, but holds to some genuinely nasty tenets that we thought had been buried some decades ago. And the identity-politics left obviously needs to take a lot of responsibility for that development.

  24. “BTW, US blacks in general are not known to be more tolerant to gays than their white compatriots. FWIW.”

    Much less tolerant. Look back to the history of Proposition 8 in California in 2008. This was a statewide vote on a proposition to ban gay marriage. It very narrowly passed, with the black community supporting it by a 70% margin. (It was later overturned by the courts.)

    This caused a rift in intramural Democrat politics in California that still exists. Gays were infuriated at this seeming act of betrayal by their erstwhile allies. Nationwide, with the rise in influence of the pro-gay vote, this has made the Democrats into a very shaky alliance.

  25. In parts of the UK where the One True Religion thrives it is not unheard of for all postal votes forms to be collected and the local leader of the Greatest Faith The World Has Ever Seen (registered TM) kindly fills them in for the faithful. (Watcher on December 13, 2017 at 11:10 am)

    In my home town of Brum this is organised on an industrial scale. On one infamous occasion, even the elections chief (non-RoP but evidently tame/sympathetic/complicit/scared) was caught with ballot papers/boxes in her office, and the city was likened to a ‘banana republic’ in court. Despite refusing to explain her conduct, the wretch in question went on to hold a series of other highly-paid positions she was incapable of doing in the public sector and became a Dame a couple of years ago. That’s an indication of how seriously we regard our democracy.

  26. On the question of relevance to the UK, is it more so than the head of the EU Commission, an organisation which still holds vast power over the UK and deeply involved in the Brexit process, being implicated in illegal surveillance while PM in Luxembourg? Only the Beeb has been running the Alabama election a lot, but I can’t find a mention of this story on its site: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/12/13/jean-claude-juncker-drawn-back-wiretapping-scandal/

  27. Too many of your posts conclude with this phrase.

    I’m one of those people who wants to watch the world burn.

  28. That’s an indication of how seriously we regard our democracy.

    Import the third world and they bring the third world with them.

  29. Was Kennedy effective? Yes: he cut taxes and avoided nuclear war. Curtis LeMay wanted to nuke Cuba.

    Moore received heavy support from the notoriously-Democrat black community

    I read this as “the notoriously black Democrat community”, did a double-take

    It’s no coincidence that the churchiest states also have the highest AA populations

    And I read this as the highest Al-Anon populations and thought you meant the religious are all drunks.

    I think I need some coffee

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