Sunday, December 10, 2017



ALABAMA, ALABAMA



DECEMBER 10, 2017:

On Nov. 16, I offered my thoughts on the situation in Alabama (see below). I would not change anything I said. I would update it.

I see two different campaigns going on, one in AL and one in the nation. In AL, it is a culture war, in the nation a political war. They are far different. The majority of the whites in AL have focused all their cultural understandings onto one issue, abortion. Moore is against it. Jones is in favor. There is the election. Moore will win, even if narrowly. Why will Moore win?

---Historically AL votes on cultural and not economic issues. Most Alabamians are completely oblivious to Trump's new pending tax "reform" that will drastically impact negatively on the economic needs of most Alabamians. Time and again, Alabama whites vote against their own economic interests. For instance, AL has the most regressive tax structure in America and AL voters are completely unconcerned.

---AL is more Trumpian than Trump. 90% of the whites in AL voted for Trump last year. AL is one of the two or three reddest states in the U.S. If anything, they are more for him now than then. His weekend visits to Pensacola and Jackson sounded loud dog whistles to his devotees in AL. Trump is ingenious at playing on the cultural views of most whites in AL (racism, gender, homosexuality, provincialism). Moore is Trump on steroids and most whites love it. The Trump-Moore movement is basically the backlash of the angry white working class men against the forces they believe are out to defeat them (esp. blacks, women, homosexuals, foreigners). While it is a social movement, those in it define it as a cultural one (hence the focus on abortion).

---The base of the Democratic vote in AL is the African American population. I see little enthusiasm there. Besides, AL has been actively suppressing black vote for years. There are not enough blacks, progressive white Dems and moderate Reps to carry the election for Jones.

---The AL Republican establishment has solidified around Moore. Some, as the governor, have said they believe his accusers but they are for him anyway. Again, they are defining this race in cultural and not moral terms.

---I expect that many, if not most, Alabamians do not care if Moore molested or stalked young girls. They would probably blame the girls. They did not care that Moore, as the chief judge in the state, defiantly violated the law, not once but TWICE, and was removed from office TWICE. It was WHY he violated the law that they loved---to defend "God's law" against the state. Moore is the champion of the born-again Christians ( a huge force in AL). He is their knight battling the dark forces of evil in the world (separation of church and state, racial equality, women's right to control their own bodies, equal rights for homosexuals). Most whites in AL define this race as the struggle for God's rule. They will turn out to vote in droves.

And so, dear readers, it is with a heavy heart that I have to predict that Moore will win on Tuesday. This is another disaster in the history of AL and the U.S. The saddest thing of all is that we can expect more Moores around America. Donald Trump has legitimized and "normalized" this kind of anti-democratic and anti-Constitutional demagogery. I would like to think Moore is the end, but I fear he is only a beginning. If only I were wrong, no one would be happier than I.



ORIGINAL POST, NOVEMBER 16:

Dear reader, please indulge me in a moment of diversion from the schism in South Carolina. Something important is happening in Alabama, and the whole world is watching.

OK, I admit it, I live in Alabama. I first moved here in 1971. What is more, I live near Gadsden; and yes, I shop often in the Gadsden Mall. I do not know Roy Moore. I do not know any of his accusers, but I believe these women. I know this part of Alabama. What they are saying has a loud ring of truth. So, what are we to make of all the stories crowding the news reports these days? With its less than stellar past, Alabama is sometimes called the state of embarrassment. What is going on with Roy Moore is not surprising; and it is nothing new. (The unofficial motto is Alabama is, "Thank God for Mississippi". MS keeps AL from being 50th in every list.)

If you think your state government leaves much to be desired, you should look at Alabama. It will make you thankful for what you have. Recall, this was a state that elected George Wallace, not once, twice, or three times, but four times, and his wife once. This is the Wallace who, confined to a wheelchair, spent his last days apologizing for his whole life. It is Alabama that should have been apologizing for ever electing him.

The heads of all three branches of the Alabama state government have been removed from office for wrongdoing one way or another in the last months. In June of 2016, Mike Hubbard, the speaker of the state House of Representatives was convicted on 12 felony ethics charges, and subsequently sentenced to 4 years in prison. In April of 2017, Governor Robert Bentley resigned from office rather than face removal following a sex scandal. Rumors had it that his wife of 46 years who found out and turned him in. They have divorced. Then, there is Roy Moore. In May of 2016 he was suspended from his office as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court by a state commission because he defied federal law. He told probate judges in the state they did not have to recognize the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage. Still suspended, Moore resigned from office in April of 2017 in order to run for the U.S. Senate.

Roy Moore is a well-known figure in the state, and has been for many years. He rose through the legal ranks in Etowah County (Gadsden) as a defiant religious zealot, displaying the Ten Commandments conspicuously in court. "The Ten Commandments Judge" developed a strongly devoted base of fundamentalists/evangelical devotees in the state who believed that the state should be subject to the church. (AL and MS have the highest church membership in the U.S., both mostly fundamentalist/evangelical.) Moore and his followers do not understand the Constitution of the United States. They have no patience for the fundamental American principle of the separation of church and state. They do not understand the First Amendment.

Moore was elected Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court in 2001 and immediately installed a 5,000 pound monument to the Ten Commandments in the rotunda of the supreme court building in Montgomery. The ACLU took him to court on the First Amendment and a federal judge ordered the removal of the monument. Moore refused. His followers hailed him as a great hero. The state ethics board removed him from office.

He was just getting warmed up. In 2012, he ran for the seat of Chief Justice again, and won. His base celebrated the return of their fighting hero. When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage in 2015, Moore told the probate courts of the state they did not have to follow federal law. Moore was promptly suspended from office, again, by the state judicial commission. So, Moore, the highest judicial official of Alabama twice told people they did not have to follow the law; and twice he was removed from office. This man is now the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate. In the primary, he beat out the former Attorney General and Senate-appointee, Luther Strange. President Trump even campaigned in AL on behalf of Strange (It should tell you a lot that even Trump found Moore to be too much). 

The accusations of Moore's sexual misconduct are new, and this is a problem. Why did the women wait until now? (Nine women as of today.) It makes sense to me. You have to understand the deeply embedded sexism in the culture. Even now, in an age of growing awareness of sexual harassment, Alabama lags way behind. So, for these women to come out, and give their names, not to mention all the details, means a great deal. Believe me, this makes them entirely credible. The sad thing is, they should have done this long ago. But, I understand why they did not.

So, what happens now?

Today it looks as if Moore will remain in the race. He is certainly not leaving on his own. His followers are demanding that he stay in the race. The state Republican establishment is supporting him. Governor Kay Ivey, who replaced Bentley, says she is voting for Moore. I see no movement at all on the state level for Moore to leave the race, or to change the terms of the election. However, I detect cracks in Moore's base as local Republicans here and there are beginning to turn against him, astonishing on its own.

Will Moore get elected to the U.S. Senate? A few days ago, I would have said, yes. Now, I think it is a toss up and the situation is fluid. If the already strong case against Moore of pedophilia and sexual predatory behavior toward young women continues to grow, enough public opinion may begin to bend against him. His base will never desert him, just as Donald Trump's base would never leave him. It does not matter what these men do, their hardcore followers will support them anyway. This group, however, is a minority of the population. Moore's solid base is a minority in Alabama. The Democrats in Alabama are not numerous enough to carry the election on their own. The outcome, then, will depend on the suburban Republicans around the cities, particularly Birmingham, Huntsville, and Tuscaloosa. This group is hard to read at the moment. I think if matters continue on as they are going, the majority in the suburbs will vote against Moore, not so much for Jones, but against Moore. The key is the white woman Republican suburbanite. 

We have several more weeks to go before the election. My prediction is that if the story on Moore continues on the present track, the Democratic candidate, Doug Jones has a good chance of winning the election. If he does, Alabamians will go a long way to restoring decency and ethics to our government. If the voters choose Moore, Alabamians will validate the too-familiar stereotypes of the state, and for good reason. Roy Moore is Donald Trump on steroids, or the reincarnation of George Wallace without the overt racism. For this, we cannot rule out Moore winning in Alabama. Trump won this state 2 to 1. 

Alabama is a wonderful place in so many ways. I would not be here if I did not think that. It is beautiful country, from the gentle verdant hills of the north to the emerald waters of the south. The people are kind, honest, and generous. If you sit on a bench in Wal-Mart, I will guarantee you within 5 minutes someone will sit down and tell you all about their family and want to know about your kin. In traffic, if you let someone in, you will invariably get a thank-you wave. Here, all problems can be solved by food, and all ugly comments can be made good by "bless his/her heart." So, the shortcomings of Alabamians do not come from the heart, they come from the head. To be sure, the shortcomings are serious: e.g. racism, sexism, and homophobia. But, these can be changed; and I think there is evidence they are being repaired, however slowly.  

There is an old saying, people get the government they deserve. I wonder what Alabamians did to deserve what they have. I do not know. But, I know there is a chance at redemption, and it is coming up in a few weeks. We will see.