The US state of Alabama has been all over the news recently, as the special election to choose their next Senator gained mainstream traction. The reason? The man running on the Republican ticket: Roy Moore.
The cowboy-outfited, geriatric former judge and his bid for the Senate had, in the weeks leading up to the election, become a proxy for the nation’s politics. The most recent allegation against Moore, accusing him of predatory behaviour towards (way too) young girls during his 30s, became the main assault on his character, but behind them was a long list of other indiscretions.
Moore’s infamy nationwide stemmed from his unrelenting stance on conservative issues such as insisting that the ten commandments be displayed in his court house, alongside general racism and homophobia. Some in Alabama adore him for fighting for the issues that they care about, issues that put them at odds with liberal America.
Alabama is what they call a ‘deep red’ state, one that is expected to always vote Republican. The allegations against him of sexual misconduct actually served to increase his support among some voters, while others were willing to choose the lesser of two evils; he may be a sexual predator, but at least he’s not a democrat.
Donald Trump initially backed Moore’s opponent for the Republican nomination, Luther Strange, but soon warmed towards Moore before outright endorsing him in the days leading up to the election. By the time election day arrived, Moore’s brand had become so toxic that it would be a test of Alabama’s character. Republicans were split on whether to back an unsavoury candidate who would become an embarrassment to their party and to Congress, or whether to support the other party.
This was the decision facing the people of Alabama. Do they vote Democrat, and give their Senate seat to the opposition party, or do they give it to a man blatantly unfit to serve, whose presence there would be a perpetual embarrassment?
In the end, the race was won by Doug Jones, a man whose campaign was defined as much by him not being Moore as by anything else. His success will be dissected, and the early reports are that black voters turned out in bigger-than-expected numbers to vote Jones in. Many Republicans will breathe a sigh of relief that their party lost, and they can disassociate with Moore rather than be stuck with him as a member of Congress.
The result is not just a defeat for Moore, but also a defeat for Trump and for Trumpism. As much as Moore may have reflected traditional Republican values, he was more a symbol of the insurgent Trumpism that is taking over the party.
By sending Moore to the Senate as their elected representative, Alabama would have told the rest of the world that they are just as backward as we might think they are. By rejecting him, they dealt a big defeat to Trumpism.