Roy Moore’s defeat is good for Alabama, good for America – and good for the Republican Party

Image credit: DonkeyHotey

Doug Jones, Democratic candidate for Alabama – a state characterised by deep cultural conservatism which has voted Republican for generations – secured a remarkable victory last night, defeating his disgraced Republican rival, Roy Moore, by the slimmest of margins. His success, at one point a distant prospect, is leading many Democrats to read this defeat as a rejection of Trumpism, an indictment of the President, and a sign that, perhaps, Trump’s policies are alienating voters, even in safe Republican states like Alabama. 

Though, of course, any defeat for the President is far from beneficiary for the White House – particularly in a state in which, as BBC journalist Gary O’Donoghue remarked, a Republic normally “only needs a pulse” to win – it is difficult to suggest that this represents a personal defeat for the President, or a sign that America is turning against his vision for the country. After all, the Republican candidate was almost the worst imaginable. Not only have various allegations of serious sexual misconduct been made against Moore – not least the sexual assault of a fourteen-year old girl – but his political views are extremely questionable, too, and well to the fringes of Republican politics. His views on abortion (expressed here in his personal verse: “Babies piled in dumpsters, Abortion on demand,/Oh, sweet land of liberty; your house is on the sand.”), his quite remarkable – and false – accusations that Illinois is under the jurisdiction of Sharia law, combined with his notorious antics as Chief Justice – ordering state judges to carry on enforcing a ban of same-sex marriages despite the Supreme Court declaring this unconstitutional – made him a candidate who simply could never – and should never – be elected to the Senate. 

As Jack Conway, an American studying at Christ’s, commented: “Jones’ victory in such a deeply Republican state shows there’s a limit to the level of craziness that voters are willing to tolerate.” But as to whether this is a significant setback for the Trump administration? “These were fairly exceptional circumstances and the race was still very close, so I think that the sort of forces that brought Trump to power, while thankfully having limits, are still extremely powerful.” Indeed, these certainly were “fairly exceptional circumstances,” and had the Republican Party chosen a competent and decent candidate, it is difficult to foresee circumstances in which a state that voted 62.1% for Trump only a year ago could have voted for a Democrat. 

In the short term, Jones’ victory makes Trump’s life a little more difficult. The Republicans’ majority in the Senate has now been cut to just one, and with his controversial – though crucial – Tax Bills in the pipeline, the President will be wary of the potential for damaging failures in the Senate. After all, as we saw with his bills aiming to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, GOP Senators are not afraid to rebel. Jones’ victory even opens up the prospect – albeit a relatively unlikely one – that the Democrats could assume overall control of the Senate next year after the mid-term elections, in which case the President’s life, for obvious reasons, suddenly becomes very difficult indeed. 

However, fundamentally, the defeat of Moore – personally and politically – is not only good news for Alabama and America generally, but also for the Republican Party. In the long run, Republican representatives – perhaps even the President himself – will breathe a sigh of relief that such a morally disgraced individual was, by virtue of the wisdom of the voters of Alabama, not given the honour of serving as a Republican Senator. After all, America is one of the world’s greatest democracies, with the Republican Party being one of its historic parties. To have Roy Moore sit as a Senator would only have demeaned both. 

 

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