It’s finally over and it’s decisive.
Alabama Republicans nominated the worst candidate they could think of–against the President’s stated wishes–and then declined to turn out for him–also against the President’s stated wishes. You can be outspent by your opponent by 5 to 1, run as a candidate from a despised and failed state governor’s administration, or even beat up a journalist and still be reasonably assured of winning as a Republican candidate in a heavily Republican state or precinct; but you can’t win if you are accused of sexual assault and your own voters refuse to believe you.
I didn’t expect Moore to lose, honestly. He was winning in the RCP average of polls up until Monday (for whatever that’s worth post-2016) but I doubted that Deep South Republicans would stay home and allow a pro-abortion senator to be voted in. It’s not that I doubted the accusations against Moore. Even in spite of the likelihood that the yearbook was forged and the severe skepticism I feel toward whatever Gloria Allred is pushing, my early gut feeling was that Moore had done something. He wasn’t reacting to the accusations like an innocent man should.
If there was anything that gave me pause, it was Senator Shelby’s declaration that he did not vote for Moore that did it. Many Trump Republicans are already howling for Shelby to be primaried. I think that’s unfair. Shelby has backed Trump more often than not and he’s a solid conservative. He fully recognized that Moore was going to be a problem for the GOP from the day he set foot in the Capitol.
McConnell would have been under pressure to expel him from the Senate, as was threatened. It would have been a “fuck you” to Republican voters if he did it and an ethics nightmare if he didn’t with all of the fresh accusations of sexual misconduct landing all over both parties with many more still to come. Add to that the likelihood that Moore was probably going to wave a gun around on the Senate floor while introducing a Constitutional amendment to repeal everything after the 10th and you can imagine the donkey show the Senate GOP was going to have to endure.
I give Shelby credit and think he did the right thing. Trump should have listened to the party and stayed out of it, as the party pretty much did until the last minute. Trump could have had a win-win by declining to endorse Moore on the grounds that he had supported Strange and voters didn’t listen to him. The result might have been that if Moore lost, he’d get “I told you so” credit and if Moore won, that’s another Senate seat on his side. Ah, but who am I kidding? Trump will still say “I told you so.”
Whatever he says, this is a clear moral defeat for Trump, although I don’t think it goes further than that. It doesn’t change control of the Senate, though it does make John McCain a bit more powerful as the perpetual wild card.
There are other consequences, naturally. Steve Bannon, the architect of this fiasco, might finally go hide under a rock for a while. Al Franken will have no choice but to leave the Senate. All other Congress-critters who have any sort of credible or even semi-credible sexual scandal now cannot point to a Senator Moore as an excuse to fight back. Jones gets to be Senator until at least 2020, when I can only hope that Alabama Republicans make sure he doesn’t run against an eccentric horndog again.
The biggest winner of the night was #MeToo. The message was that no politician is safe no matter how long ago he engaged in predatory sexual behavior. Maybe that’s not a bad thing in principle, but I have a funny feeling that the Democrats are going to be able to find one or two accusers for each of the hundreds of Republican candidates on the ballots in 2018. There will be many hoaxes among them, but we’ll have to see whether or not this trend holds until 2018. The #MeToo movement has now been energized and its going to be as much of a bane to Democrats as Republicans between now and the midterms. Their grand prize is to push for Trump to resign over it all (now that Mueller’s investigation is on the rocks). He won’t, of course.
What about the Democratic Party? Didn’t they really win too? I don’t think so, in spite of the celebratory attitudes I’m seeing already. Yeah, they can look ahead to 2018 and say, “If we can flip Alabama, we can do it anywhere!” If they want to get that cocky, fine, but this election was still close and that’s with Moore having been effectively on his own with little support from the party as he was outspent by Jones by 7 to 1. It came down to turnout and Moore gave Republicans enough reason to stay home all by himself, with no help from Allred’s forged yearbook.
So my message tonight to all Americans is this: first, be happy that Moore lost. Whether or not you’re angry that he was taken down by 40 year old accusations based on no evidence, you have to accept that he was a problem. His one Senate seat was not going to be worth the damage. Second, show up for primary elections and vote for sane people. Maybe it won’t do any good, but I’ve always believed it’s better to head off crazy shit before it gets too deep. Believe me, we learned our lesson here in Missouri back in 2012 with Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin who managed to blow an easily winnable Senate race, Moore-style.
We all dodged a bullet from Alabama. Only Democrats and Never Trump Republicans get to gloat about it tonight, but they may well find that Senator Moore would have shielded their own elected predators from #MeToo and they can’t count on it now.