Democrat Doug Jones, whose uphill bid for U.S. Senate gathered strength when Republican Roy Moore was hit with charges of sexual misconduct with teenage girls, won Alabama’s special election Tuesday.
The special election held in Alabama this week to fill the Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions when he resigned to become Donald Trump’s attorney general was not held to decide whether the deep red state favors Republicans or Democrats; that much was already known. This was an election that pitted common decency and respect over indecency and suspected criminal behavior. In the end, decency won out — but only just barely.
Democrat Doug Jones, a former prosecutor without a blemish on his record, emerged victorious by only 1.5 percentage points over his Republican opponent, Roy Moore, who claimed to run as a Christian backed by God himself. As chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, he was twice suspended for ethics violations, and during his senate campaign, he was accused of preying on vulnerable young girls and women decades earlier. It seemed that Mr. Moore was hiding behind a veneer of Christian principles he had not personally accepted within his own life.
To say this was an election that grabbed a nation by its coat-tails would be an understatement. I read lengthy reports of it in English, German and Israeli newspapers, with each country seeing this as an event that would define America’s future — and reveal the moral state of this country.
And so it might be seen in the greater political scenario that, as a result of Mr. Jones’ victory, Alabama rejected President Trump and his former chief strategist Steve Bannon, both of whom were all in for Mr. Moore, along with the Republican Party itself, which ultimately, if tepidly supported Roy Moore's Senate candidacy. But that might be taking it a bit too far.
A careful look at the statistics shows that, within the Republican Party, a huge proportion of white, college-educated women in Alabama chose to turn their backs on Mr. Moore’s accusers, also white women, and instead support wholeheartedly the man accused of violating them. Not to mention the thousands of men who voted for Mr. Moore (he has thus far refused to concede — further evidence the he is living in a fantasy land built on delusion). Apparently all of them would be comfortable with their teen-age daughters being alone in the same car with Mr. Moore, then, as long as it meant Senate Republicans kept a stronger majority in Congress, which is already reeling from numerous sexual harassment claims against members on both sides of the aisle.
The election of Roy Moore would have symbolized a historic low for the Republican party, yet his loss is no victory for Democrats or America. It was too close, and there is too much at stake for near misses. Doug Jones received a free pass as he ran a campaign that was really defined by the behavior of his opponent.
Still, we can breathe easy, at least for now, and give a sigh of relief that Alabama, in the dying moments of the race, did come to its senses. And we can claim that yes, decency and morality still exist.
The question is: at what level of commitment and for how long?