Later today we will find out if the Good People of Alabama will vote into senate Roy Moore, a man who by his own admission dated girls as young as 14, was reportedly banned from the local mall for “badgering” young girls, thinks Muslims should be banned from public office, and thinks the US was a better place for the American family when that family could keep slaves. Or whether they’ll support Doug Jones, a man who can list among his achievements prosecuting two members of the Ku Klux Klan for their involvement in bombing a church. The fact that there is even something to discuss about this choice says much about the place to which Donald Trump’s election and time in office have dragged political opinion among some of the American voting public.
When the many allegations surfaced of his affairs with young girls, the news initially hurt Roy Moore’s chances of victory severely. But his supporters in Alabama, the GOP, and the White House, fought back, to the point where incredibly, the race is now impossible to call.
Trump announcing his support on national television (and of course on Twitter) with the idea that he denies the allegations, was just the endorsement Moore needed. Because for Trump supporters and Republicans in general, anyone is better than a Democrat when it comes to a seat in power. Plus of course, if Roy Moore is elected, Trump strengthens his base in Congress and has the guy absolutely in his pocket (until such time as one or the other leaves office, by whatever means). If Doug Jones wins, Trump will delete his supportive tweets and pretend it never happened.
Moore also has the all-important backing of Steve Bannon, essential for someone so obviously unsuitable for high office, and the UK’s own pound shop* Bannon, Nigel Farage, travelled to the US specifically to endorse him.
*(“five and dime” I think would be the US equivalent - you get the idea).
As the allegations about Moore grew, the narrative changed from initially making light of it, actually saying it was ok because he asked the parents, to having supporters call out the background and motives of his accusers, and more recently suggesting maybe it didn’t happen at all, and that his accusers are criminals. This narrative chain may seem familiar – it’s a chain forged of course by Trump.
The trouble is that allegations of sexual misconduct have emerged in recent months from across the political spectrum. Both Republicans and Democrats have problems in this area – Senator Al Franken being the most recent case, agreeing to step down after growing calls from his own party. But where Democrats move quickly to address their problems and convince the wrongdoers to apologise and/or quit, the GOP line is somewhat different - if you steadfastly refuse to apologise or admit any wrongdoing, then obviously you’ve done nothing wrong. If you ride out the storm you’ll eventually get back some (or even most) of the support you lost.
Democrats are, to their credit, sticking to the mantra “when they go low, we go high”. The problem is that this tactic cost them the US election. Roy Moore shows that Republicans are presently prepared to tolerate almost anything except a Democrat in any seat of power.
Nobody with common sense or a sense of decency wants a race to the bottom in American politics. But racing to the bottom seems at present to be the best way to the top.