How Doug Jones’ Alabama Surprise Win Could Change Everything
Hell hath no fury like a predator scorned. And so it was that Roy Moore, the far-right Republican U.S. Senate candidate who Tuesday night lost a special election in Alabama to Democrat Doug Jones, refused to concede to his rival that evening, even after all the major news outlets called the outcome. On the same day, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to insult a high-profile woman senator with sexual innuendo. As Paul Waldman noted, Trump all but shouted, “Whore!”
Moore and Trump, on the surface, have little in common, Trump being an areligious, foul-mouthed New Yorker, and Moore being a performatively pious Southerner. But they are bonded by an experience they share: a chorus of female voices aimed at them, the voices of women with credible stories of having been groped, forcibly kissed, stalked, and more.
In Moore’s case, the women who allege these assaults and transgressions were teenagers at the time of the stalking and/or assault, while he was in his thirties; in Trump’s case, only some of his 16 accusers were teenagers at the time he allegedly took liberties.
In the mind of Donald Trump lurks an insult, always ready to leap onto his tongue, an insult even more devastating, by his sensibilities, than any implication of sex for sale by a woman senator: that of “Loser!” Trump was Moore’s belated champion, initially keeping his distance from the Republican candidate, then stepping in at the eleventh hour to endorse him.
Moore’s loss to Democrat Doug Jones renders Trump a big loser on several levels. First of all, this is Alabama, y’all—a state that Trump overwhelmingly won against Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. Accusations of Trump’s sexualized transgressions of women were well known by then, and Trump himself had been heard on tape bragging of his right to sexually assault women by dint of his celebrity.
Misogyny was baked into his brand. There are people who voted for him because of it, not in spite of it. Maybe a lot of them. It’s tempting to read Moore’s loss as the tarnishing of misogyny as a selling point, a thought that should make Trump nervous when calculating his chances for 2020. I hope it does, but that’s not exactly what’s happening here: 63 percent of white women in the electorate voted for Moore. A majority—94 percent—of Moore voters sampled told pollstersthey didn’t believe the accusations against Moore.
Jones’s victory largely belongs to Alabama’s African American community, which mobilized a massive turnout operation for the Democrat. As chief justice of the state supreme court, Moore had argued against removing segregationist language from the state constitution; as a federal prosecutor, Jones had brought to justice two of the Klansmen who, in 1963, bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, killing four black girls.
Then there were educated whites, suburbanites typically regarded as swing voters, who couldn’t quite bring themselves to pull the lever for Moore. (The white working class, meanwhile, stuck by Trump’s man.)
In Moore’s loss, Trump also loses a Republican vote in a Senate so closely divided that Jones’s victory shaves the GOP margin to one vote. For the next few years, Trump should expect few legislative victories.
Most notable among those who saddled the GOP with Moore as their candidate in the general election is Steve Bannon, who not only supported Moore’s primary challenge to Luther Strange, the incumbent senator appointed to the seat when Jeff Sessions resigned it in order to become attorney general, but who adamantly stuck by Moore after the allegations of Moore’s “dates” with and assaults of teenage girls were reported by The Washington Post. Bannon, the chief executive of Breitbart and Trump’s former White House strategist, has been trying to seize power for himself by challenging the Republican establishment, especially as personified by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who backed Strange in the primary, and called on Moore to step aside once the allegations against him burst onto the front page of the Post.
Bannon’s power stems from two sources: His ability to manipulate Trump, and the largesse of hedge-fund honcho Robert Mercer and his heirs. But on Tuesday, Bannon made Trump into a big old loser, a wound Trump will likely not forget. And having failed in his strategy for world domination through the election of an alleged molester, who knows how long the Mercers will continue to see Bannon as their vehicle?
Meanwhile, as America faces its reckoning on its institutionalized sexual oppression of women, Trump is confronted with his own history once again, as women who made credible allegations against him during the presidential campaign again resurfaced (here in a video by Brave New Films) to reassert their claims. It was this that prompted U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, a likely contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, to call on the president to resign on December 11, eliciting the Twitter insult from Trump.
Because here’s the thing: Now that the public is becoming more accustomed to powerful men losing their posts due to sexual crimes and misdemeanors conducted against women, a case for the impeachment of Donald J. Trump broadens. The impeachment case against Trump needn’t be predicated simply on whether or not his campaign committed crimes or colluded with Russia. It needn’t prove a crime. The tribal affinity for Trump among majorities of white women in particular states should not deter the Democrats from making the case based in part on his treatment of women, and his braggadocious misogyny. The culture at large is bending under the weight of such allegations against men of high office and handsome payment.
However unlikely it may be that the House of Representatives, with its Republican majority based on ruthlessly gerrymandered maps, would ever vote to pass articles of impeachment, the case must be continuously made. And if Trump is ultimately pushed from office, it will be African Americans and Democratic women of all colors (but especially African American women) who will make it happen. To dismiss them as purveyors of “identity politics” is to simply display the institutional biases the Democratic Party is supposed to guard against. This coalition is the party’s present—and its future. Get used to it.