Trump’s favorite hatemonger bites the dust

December 13, 2017

Elizabeth Schulte reports on the election defeat of a sexual predator and reactionary.

HEY TRUMP, tweet this.

Your sexual predator endorsee for Alabama senator went down the tubes last night--and literally rode out on the horse he came in on.

And, oh yeah, the women you sexually assaulted and then called "liars"? They aren't going away. They held a press conference this week, and they want Congress to do something about your crimes--and, yes, they are crimes.

In a down-to-the-wire election, Alabama Democrat Doug Jones defeated Bible-thumping sexual predator Republican Roy Moore in a special election Tuesday to fill the Senate seat left open by Jeff Sessions when he became attorney general.

But the big winner in this election is the women of #MeToo--who broke the silence about sexual harassment and assault committed by powerful men.

Moore's fanaticism in the service of hate and reaction is well known--he was drummed out of the state Supreme Court for his statue of the Ten Commandments, and he defied the U.S. Supreme Court by refusing to grant LGBT couples their legal right to marry.

Roy Moore
Roy Moore

But in the end, it was the women who came forward to tell their stories of being abused who turned the tables on him--including one woman who said the holier-than-thou evangelical forced himself on her when he was a district attorney, and she was just 14 years old.

Moore's response to these calls for justice was to smear the women as liars and double down on his nauseating bigotry.

This election was about far more than vote in Alabama for a Senate seat. It was a test of support for Republican monsters like Moore, their bigoted policies and the presidency of Donald Trump.

MOORE'S CAMPAIGN presented itself as a referendum on the Trump administration--and threatened that the Republicans' big plans for next year would be in peril if he lost. "If they can beat [Moore], they can beat [Trump's] agenda, because Judge Moore stands with Donald Trump and his agenda," Moore strategist Dean Young told ABC's This Week.

Sections of the Republican Party fled from Moore, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Alabama's longtime senior senator Richard Shelby, who said he cast his vote for a write-in candidate instead of Moore.

But not Trump. Though the president reluctantly campaigned for the GOP establishment's choice, Luther Strange, Moore's opponent in the Republican primary earlier this year, Trump eagerly jumped on board when Moore became the nominee--despite the allegations of sexual harassment.

Trump recorded a robo-call for the candidate and made an appearance at a pro-Moore rally in Florida--the day before he was scheduled to visit the new Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, no less. Former Trump White House adviser and alt-right celebrity Steve Bannon has also been a fixture of the Moore campaign.

Trump and Moore have a lot in common. Like trying to silence women who accuse them of sexual assault.

As Alabama voters were casting their ballots, Trump went on the attack against a group of women who are calling on Congress to investigate their sexual assault claims against the president. In a sexist tweet, Trump said New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand "would come to my office 'begging' for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them)."

Trump's refusal to go along with Republican Party leaders and continue promoting Moore was a calculated pushback against the #MeToo campaign and its hundreds of women stepping out of the shadows to tell their stories of abuse and, in some cases, bring down their abusers.

At first, the Republican National Committee withdrew its support for Moore's campaign when the allegations of sexual assault emerged. But it flipped on that decision after Trump decided to continue endorsing Moore.

BUT THAT wasn't enough to push Moore over the top. With absentee ballots still to be counted, Jones had defeated the Republican candidate by some 20,000 votes, with about a dozen counties that voted for Trump over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election switching over to the Democrats in this race.

The margin of victory for Jones is about the same as the number of voters who wrote in another candidate. As pointed out, of all Alabama senate races since 1990, only the 2014 race, in which Jeff Sessions ran uncontested, had a higher share of write-in votes.

But while the media will focus on this number, Jones built up his margin of victory in counties with major cities like Birmingham and Huntsville, where African Americans especially voted overwhelmingly for him. Jones also had a stronger advantage among women and younger voters, according to exit polls.

In Birmingham's primarily Black Woodlawn neighborhood, Genesis Johnson told the Washington Post that he hadn't voted since 2008, when he supported Barack Obama for president. He felt compelled to cast his vote for Jones this time.

And no wonder. During this election, Moore wasn't just the anti-woman candidate. When a Black voter asked Moore in September at what point in history he thought America was "great," Moore picked the era when slavery was legal. "I think it was great at the time when families were united--even though we had slavery--they cared for one another," Moore said. "Our families were strong, our country had a direction."

WITH A candidate like that for the Republicans, why was it even close?

The Democrats had a lot of ground to make up, even to defeat a monster like Moore. Alabama hasn't voted for a Democrat in a presidential election since 1976. Republican candidates have won Senate races by over 20 percentage points since 2004--and in 2016, Donald Trump won the state by a 28 percentage-point margin.

Alabama is like other states of the former slave-holding Confederacy and Jim Crow South in having turned from solid Dixiecrat to solid Republican in the aftermath of the civil rights movement.

But it isn't only the legacy of racism and reaction that turned Alabama into a GOP bastion. During the same period since the civil rights era, the Democratic Party increasingly embraced neoliberalism--and, in the process, abandoned even a rhetorical appeal to class issues.

Those issues are as urgent today as ever. Alabama has no state minimum wage, so the paltry federal standard of $7.25 an hour applies. When the city of Birmingham enacted a $10.10 an hour minimum in 2016, state legislators killed it with a law banning cities and counties from raising the minimum wage--or requiring employers to provide leave or other benefits, to boot.

Poverty is dire in rural areas of the state--where hookworm, a disease of extreme poverty that has been largely eradicated in the U.S., is back. During a recent tour focusing on poverty and human rights abuses in the U.S., United Nations investigators singled out Alabama's rural Black Belt as the site of some of the worst conditions.

"I think it's very uncommon in the First World," the UN's Special Rapporteur Philip Alston said, describing Butler County, where investigators documented raw sewage flowing from homes through exposed PVC pipes and into open trenches and pits. "This is not a sight that one normally sees."

But Doug Jones had nothing to say about these issues during the campaign for Senate. He relied on being the not-Roy-Moore candidate.

That was enough to win--barely.

IN LATE November, press accounts quoted African American community leaders warning that Jones and the Democrats weren't doing enough to energize African American voters.

Hatred of Moore and Trump apparently motivated a big enough Black turnout to push Jones over the top. But the sad fact is that Jones has done nothing to deserve their votes other than not being Moore.

The Democrats' failure to provide any positive reason to vote for them will set the stage for disillusionment in the future, when the Republican candidate is merely reactionary, and not an open sexual predator.

Alabama's special election shows the rot in the Republican Party that runs all the way to the White House. This time around, it was enough to repel some reliably Republican voters who couldn't stomach voting for Moore, given the revelations about him.

The consequences of their defeat are unknown, but Trump and the Republicans are likely to pay a price--maybe even over the proposal to cut taxes for the superrich currently before Congress.

But the inadequacy of the Democrats as an alternative to Trumpian reaction is obvious from this election, too.

Trump and his supporters won't back down. They will, in fact, double down on the hate and scapegoating that got them this far, while pushing a reactionary agenda that the ruling class wants to see enacted, whether they approve of Trump or not.

It's a pleasure to see Roy Moore go down to defeat, but we still have a fight on our hands. The resistance to this class war assault will have to be built from the bottom up.

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