Moore thoughts

The world was preserved, according to one of my Facebook friends, with the defeat of Republican U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore in Alabama Tuesday night.

Even if you don’t pay attention to the accusations of sexual misconduct on Moore’s part, you have to wonder why people would vote for someone with these views, as chronicled by The Hill:

Moore has argued on multiple occasions that America’s secular shift is responsible for many of its darkest moments, including the 9/11 terrorist attacks and recent “shootings and killings.” …

Days before Moore won first place in the August primary that set up Tuesday’s runoff, Moore spoke with The Guardian and appeared to sympathize with Russian criticism of the United States.

Moore noted that former President Reagan’s description of the Soviet Union as “the focus of evil in the modern world” could be applied to America today, because “we promote a lot of bad things” like “same-sex marriage.”

When The Guardian’s reporter noted that current Russian President Vladimir Putin makes a similar argument, Moore replied, “Maybe he’s more akin to me than I know.” …

Moore was a leading proponent of the “birther” conspiracy theory, which posited, without evidence, that former President Obama wasn’t born in the United States.

Moore expressed doubts about Obama’s country of origin as recently as December. …

Moore took serious issue with Rep. Keith Ellison’s (D-Minn.) decision to take his oath of office with his hand on the Quran.

Ellison, who became the first Muslim in Congress upon his election in 2006, took the ceremonial oath of office using a Quran that had been owned by Thomas Jefferson.

But Moore criticized Ellison’s decision to use a Quran, airing his criticism in a 2006 post on WorldNetDaily.com.

“In 1943, we would never have allowed a member of Congress to take their oath on ‘Mein Kampf,’ or someone in the 1950s to swear allegiance to the ‘Communist Manifesto,’ ” he wrote.

“Congress has the authority and should act to prohibit Ellison from taking the congressional oath today!” …

Moore sparked still more controversy just days ago when he decried division among “reds and yellows” during a stump speech, when he compared the current political climate to the strife around the Civil War.

“We were torn apart in the Civil War — brother against brother, North against South, party against party. What changed?” Moore asked.

“Now we have blacks and whites fighting, reds and yellows fighting, Democrats and Republicans fighting, men and women fighting. What’s going to unite us? What’s going to bring us back together? A president? A Congress? No. It’s going to be God.”

After the quote provoked criticism, Moore’s campaign said that he was only paraphrasing the popular religious song “Jesus Loves the Little Children,” which contains similar references to “reds” and “yellows.”

Moore wouldn’t get 100 votes in Wisconsin.

If you want to believe the Chicago Tribune, you might wonder what all the fuss was about:

The odds of any Democrat capturing a U.S. Senate seat in Alabama are steep at best, but Doug Jones was uniquely suited to pull off an upset Tuesday over Republican Roy Moore.

Accusations that Moore sexually abused teenage girls played a big part, no doubt, in Jones’ improbable victory over the renowned religious right crusader.

Jones, 63, is a former U.S. attorney who cast himself as a law-and-order man. He is skilled at muting his liberal stands on such issues as abortion and gay rights — a necessity in one of the South’s most conservative states.

Jones also carries not a whiff of scandal, a major asset in Alabama after a spate of corruption scandals.

It didn’t hurt that Jones also supports gun rights.

“He turkey-hunts, he deer-hunts, and he believes strongly in the 2nd Amendment,” said Lowell Barron, a former Democratic leader in the state Senate.

Overwhelming support from African Americans was crucial for Jones, who is best known for prosecuting and convicting two Ku Klux Klansmen for the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, an attack that left four girls dead.

He also prosecuted Eric Rudolph for the 1998 bombing of a Birmingham abortion clinic, which killed an off-duty police officer and blinded a nurse.

Jones won the seat vacated by Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions, the first Republican senator to break with his party’s establishment last year to endorse Donald Trump for president.

In 2020, when Jones will be up for reelection, he will probably be challenged by a Republican more viable than the politically wounded Moore, so he will face pressure in the Senate to resist his party’s most liberal impulses.

Jones has promised to seek common ground with Republicans.

“I would expect him to be a very conservative Democrat,” said Joseph Smith, chairman of the political science department at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

Analysts expect Jones to fit the mold of Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, another Democrat who was elected to the Senate in a deep-red state and votes accordingly. …

As he ran for Senate, Jones avoided talking about abortion and other cultural issues that animated Moore’s campaign, focusing instead on jobs, healthcare and education.

He calls for more spending on schools, job training and renewable energy, and less on prisons. Jones supports an overhaul of criminal sentencing laws to reduce incarceration of nonviolent felons. Though he supports Obamacare, he does not back single-payer healthcare, which many liberals advocate.

Democratic pollster Zac McCrary of Montgomery, Ala., said he expects Jones to stay focused in Washington on practical measures to improve voters’ day-to-day lives.

“I think that is where his energy will be focused,” he said. “That would be his wheelhouse.”

Republicans who may have held their noses and voted for Moore in a Trump-like fashion claimed that Jones opposes any restrictions whatsoever on abortion. AL.com reported before the election:

Doug Jones, the Democratic nominee in the Dec. 12 Senate election, said he supports Alabama’s abortion laws as they are, saying that people are “fairly comfortable” with the current law.

In an interview this week with AL.com at his Huntsville campaign office, Jones said he wanted “to be clear” where he stood in the aftermath of a national interview with MSNBC that included abortion and led some political observers in the state to speculate he had damaged his campaign. …

“Those comments, everybody wants to attack you so they are going to make out on those comments what they want to their political advantage,” Jones said. “To be clear, I fully support a woman’s freedom to choose to what happens to her own body. That is an intensely, intensely personal decision that only she, in consultation with her god, her doctor, her partner or family, that’s her choice.

“Having said that, the law for decades has been that late-term procedures are generally restricted except in the case of medical necessity. That’s what I support. I don’t see any changes in that. It is a personal decision.”

In the Sept. 27 MSNBC interview, host Chuck Todd asked Jones about abortion.

Jones said he’s a “firm believer that a woman should have to freedom to choose what happens to her own body” and that he opposed a ban on abortions after the 20th week of gestation, which is a bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and now under consideration in the Senate.

Alabama law allows abortions to be performed as late as 22 weeks into a pregnancy.

“I’m not in favor of anything that is going to infringe on a woman’s right and her freedom to choose,” Jones said in the MSNBC interview. “That’s just the position that I’ve had for many years. It’s a position I continue to have. But I want to make sure people understand, that once a baby is born, I’m going to be there for that child. That’s where I become a right-to-lifer.”

Apparently Jones’ position on abortion didn’t bother the reported 22,000 registered Republicans who voted for Jones. His supposed non-liberalism remains to be seen. Alabama is not likely to have turned more liberal based on one election where a plurality of GOP voters nominated a horrible candidate even outside of the allegations of improper conduct with minors.

(The interesting thing about that last point is that Moore ran for the Alabama Supreme Court twice and for governor once, and in none of those cases did those allegations get to public light. Have things really changed that much since 2013, when Moore was last Supreme Court chief justice?)

To no one’s surprise, Democrats have been beclowning themselves since Tuesday night, as RightWisconsin notes:

Now Democrats in Wisconsin are at least feigning that the results are somehow meaningful in Wisconsin. “We just elected a Democrat in Alabama,” tweeted Randy Bryce, a Democrat challenging House Speaker Paul Ryan. “The most conservative state in the country. Next up, it’s Paul Ryan’s turn to face the voters.”

Democratic gubernatorial candidates state Rep. Dana Wachs (D-La Crosse) sent a fundraising email, “If Alabama can do it, so can we.”

“Scott Walker must know this momentum is not just in Alabama,” Wachs campaign said.

But unless Ryan or Walker have been pursuing dates in Wisconsin’s middle schools, what happened in Alabama doesn’t translate to here. If anyone else had gotten the GOP nomination there, the talking heads on cable news would be dismissing a GOP win with, “of course the Republican candidate won. It’s Alabama.”

On the other hand, candidates that fail to pay child support (Bryce) or voted for Rep. Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) as the minority leader (Wachs) probably be less triumphal over an election where character was the dominant issue.

Hintz, you’ll recall, has that little matter of a conviction for sexual misconduct at an Appleton massage parlor, not to mention his informing Rep. Michelle Litjens (R–Oshkosh) “You are f—ing dead” for a vote on which they disagreed, both of which were followed by predictably insincere apologies from Hintz. And of course to people with morals the Democratic Party still has miles to go to atone for celebrating U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy (D–Massachusetts) for killing one of his female campaign workers and for the various acts of serial sex offender Bill Clinton and Hillary his chief enabler.

Meanwhile, proving the old saw that success has a thousand fathers while failure is an orphan, a circular firing squad has unsurprisingly formed over Moore’s defeat. George Neumayr takes one tack:

The Moore race had occasioned an orgy of opportunism masquerading as high virtue, a spectacle that it is only going to intensify, with the scummy GOP consultant class, whose members routinely work for checkered candidates, pontificating about the race in the most self-righteous terms. The insufferable Steve Schmidt tops this list. He presents himself as the great conscience of the GOP. Never mind that he was a consultant to serial groper Arnold Schwarzenegger, who, unlike Moore, survived a late hit from the press (in the form of an investigative article by the Los Angeles Times), thanks in large part to the rescue efforts of the very GOP establishment that pretended to be so appalled by Moore.

That crowd never wanted Moore to win in the first place and found the abuse charges a convenient added reason to sabotage his campaign. Under a typhoon of negative media coverage, Moore, whose previous wins had been squeakers, needed all the help he could get. But the stupid party was too divided and dysfunctional to lend a hand. The Dems form a defensive circle around vulnerable candidates; the Republicans shoot theirs.

At first, the establishment Republicans just wanted to hand the seat to the Democrats. So they called for Moore to withdraw. But then McConnell’s total opposition changed to ambivalence when he deemed the race a matter for “the people of Alabama to decide.” Yet even that ambivalence couldn’t hold. In the crucial final days of the race, the establishment continued to signal its wish for Moore’s defeat in ways both large and small, from Senator Shelby telling the press that he couldn’t vote for Moore to Republicans pushing the story that once Moore arrived the ethics committee was going to pounce on him. Perhaps if Moore had had a Trumpian level of charisma, he could have survived the onslaught. But he didn’t have it, and his decision to leave the state on the weekend before the election punctuated the shakiness of his campaign.

At the very moment he needed the party to pull him across the finish line, it was nowhere to be found, with the exception of a few comments and tweets from Trump. Jones wildly outspent Moore.

The GOP establishment assumes Moore’s defeat will improve its image and standing. But it won’t. it will only increase the disgust of the rank-and-file for a resentful GOP ruling class that operates like a front for the Democrats. If you are going to take Vienna, take Vienna, said Napoleon. The base is sick and tired of a GOP establishment that never fights to win in that spirit — a collection of Beltway colluders who would prefer a pat on the head from the media to policy wins. Most of the establishment strategists who appear on TV haven’t won a race in years — a fact they conspicuously avoid advertising. But here’s one loss for which they will proudly take credit. And they will use it to try and con their way into new positions from which they can lose again.

Well, that’s one opinion. Ed Rogers has another:

First, good for Alabama. When Alabamians had to stand up and do the right thing, they did. Special credit goes to Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.), who channeled Atticus Finch. When a rabid threat had to be extinguished, he came to the rescue. With perfect timing and vivid clarity, Shelby spoke out against Moore despite having little obvious, self-serving reason to do so. Any number of things can make the difference between winning or losing in a close race, but I think nothing was as impactful as Shelby’s 11th-hour push. Good for him.

Second, as a proud Alabamian, I think the best thing about yesterday’s election is that Alabama will not have to endure or be associated with the poisonous presence of Roy Moore on the national stage in the U.S. Senate. Beyond just becoming the media’s favorite Republican, Moore would have been an indelible stain on Alabama.

Just to restate the obvious, Moore’s presence would have deterred economic development in a state that needs as much economic development as it can get. As I’ve written several times before, not one person I have spoken to ever thought it would be a good idea for Moore to meet with a chief executive considering launching a new business or facility in Alabama. Moore’s presence would be toxic and repulsive in ways we probably could not have imagined. It’s fair to say his presence would have even affected college football recruiting. There is no chance it would have helped. I’m not kidding.

And, oh by the way, being sensitive to Alabama’s image, I was hoping no one outside Alabama, much less overseas, would notice Moore’s rise. But the world was well aware of what was happening. I was particularly discouraged during a trip last week to Hong Kong, Dubai and London when just about everyone wanted to ask me about Moore. A lot of people I meet with in foreign capitals have harsh things to say about American politics these days. It was very disheartening that Moore had become such a focal point.

Anyway, Doug Jones will be the first Democrat to represent Alabama in the U.S. Senate since 1992. His election was the result of a perfect storm defined by improbable circumstances that no one could have predicted. But wave elections are always comprised of a few lucky breaks and seemingly one-off occurrences that benefit the party catching the wave. Republicans must be true to ourselves and recognize that Jones’s election is evidence of momentum that is building against us.

Finally, Alabama did the nation a service last night by defeating Stephen K. Bannon and his attempt to seize power in the Republican Party. I hate to say it, but there is probably no better place for Bannon’s twisted plans than Alabama. But today, I can’t imagine what state party or candidate is hoping that Bannon will show up and do for their state and campaign what he did for Moore and Alabama. Everything about the campaign and the results from Alabama made Bannon weaker.

The mainstream media was hoping a win for Moore would legitimize Bannon and accelerate his attempt at a takeover of the party. While last night was not a good night for Republicans, it was a bad night for Steve Bannon. Having more Republican votes in the Senate is always better than having fewer, but in this case, it is best that Roy Moore’s vote was sacrificed. It would not have been worth the cost to Alabama or the nation.

These views aren’t necessarily exclusive, though obviously Neumayr favored Moore and Rogers didn’t. Neumayr’s wrath is better pointed at all the Republican-registered voters who voted for Jones, because they believed the allegations, or because Moore’s most extreme positions turned them off, or for both reasons.

If Moore’s loss ends up pushing Bannon out of the GOP, that will be worthwhile. Bannon is the right-wing equivalent of union thugs. Bannon should feel free to join the Constitution Party or the American Nazi Party or whatever political movement will take him.

I remember learning in high school and college what a great progressive step it was to have back-room party bosses choosing candidates replaced by primary elections, the great accomplishment of Fighting Bob La Follette and other progressives. I also remember how the state Republican Party endorsed Bob Kasten over UW–Stevens Point chancellor Lee Sherman Dreyfus before the 1978 GOP gubernatorial primary, which Kasten did not win. (Though Kasten did get the consolation prize of getting elected to the U.S. Senate two years later.)

Well, let us keep in mind what primary elections hath wrought recently: (1) Donald Trump and (2) Roy Moore. The Founding Fathers were distrustful of democracy, and they may have been more correct than Fighting Bob. (For that matter, Fighting Bob espoused direct election of senators, which also got us, well, every U.S. Senate election result you don’t like.)

This is not necessarily a disaster or the start of a trend for Republicans, even though Jones’ election reduces the GOP control of the Senate to 51–49. That in turn places more power in the hands of such Republicans as Sen. John McCain (R–Arizona) who don’t always sing from the GOP hymnal. Republican senators were conspicuous by their lack of support for Moore.

The biggest lesson to take from Tuesday is that no matter how much they feel about the Establishment, Republicans need to pick candidates who can, first, win the nonpartisan voter. I think it’s safe to say that no non-Republican voted for Moore, and a lot of Republicans didn’t vote for him either. Moore lost because of those thousands of Republicans who didn’t vote for him. Jones won by less than 21,000 votes, with almost 23,000 write-in votes. (Including for, bizarrely, Alabama football coach Nick Saban, who if by some miracle he got elected would no longer be the ’Bama coach. Did people who voted for him realize that?)

Jones’ win does require the speeding-up of the tax cut bill because Jones won’t vote for it just because. As bad as Tuesday may look to Republicans, Democrats will have to find something to cover bigger paychecks from a tax cut in 11 months, if that becomes law. If not, then voters will rightly wonder why they voted for the GOP to control the White House, Senate and House a year ago.

 

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