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.