By Kent R. Kroeger (Source: NuQum.com, November 28, 2017)
Roy Moore is going to win the Alabama U.S. Senate race on December 12th.
That is bad news for the national Republican Party.
At a time when Nikki Haley and Paul Ryan should be the images of the party’s future, instead, we get a man that tacitly acknowledges, as a 30-something assistant district attorney, he dated minors (with their mother’s permission).
Jethro Bodine has a more honorable dating history.
But here are the facts on the ground…
As of now, the RealClearPolitics.com polling average for the Alabama U.S. Senate race shows former Alabama Supreme Court Judge Roy Moore (Republican) and Democrat Doug Jones in a close race with less than two weeks to go in the campaign.
To many observers outside of Alabama, it defies explanation that Moore is competitive after The Washington Post published allegations of improper sexual contact between Moore, a 32-year-old assistant district attorney at the time, and a 14-year-old girl.
Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell views the allegations against Moore as believable and the National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) said the Senate should expel Moore, even if elected by Alabama’s voters.
Democratic challenger Doug Jones, a bland politician generally seen as a “sober, competent public servant,” may become the first Democrat to win an Alabama U.S. Senate race since Howell Heflin in 1990. [Heflin was stridently pro-life and pro-gun Democrat — such people roamed the political landscape once.]
However, Jones knows clubbing Moore over the head with The Washington Post‘s sexual misconduct allegations is not a winning strategy for a Democrat in Alabama.
Jones has only tangentially brought up the Moore allegations during the campaign, which should signal to political pundits outside Alabama that the impact of the allegations is still unknown. So unknown that attempting to understand why Alabama might still elect Moore is a fool’s errand…
…but here it goes…
Moore is all too familiar to those of us who grew in America’s Bible Belt (…I grew up in Iowa and, yes, Iowa is part of the Bible Belt).
As others with an academic understanding of pedophilia have made clear, Moore cannot be classified as a pedophile based on the accusations of the women who have come forward describing their encounters with Moore when they were still minors.
“Moore is not a pedophile,” Rachel Hope Cleves, a professor of history at the University of Victoria, and Nicholas L. Syrett, a professor of women, gender and sexuality studies at the University of Kansas, write in The Washington Post. “If you believe his accusers, as we do, he is a powerful man who has serially harassed and even assaulted teenage girls.”
However, explaining Moore’s alleged behavior through the prism of “age, class, gender and power” differentials, as Hope Cleves and Syrett do, conflates contextual factors with causal factors. By explicitly linking Moore’s behavior to the #MeToo movement’s addressing sexual harassment and assault within the broader society — particularly in the workplace — Hope Cleves and Syrett are succumbing to a bandwagon mentality instead of an interest in doing solid social analysis.
There are obvious commonalities between Harvey Weinstein and Roy Moore. No adult male pursues relationships with young girls or younger adult women without exploiting differences in age, class, gender or power — but those are situational prerequisites, not causal explanations.
Instead, our best (and still disturbing) understanding of Moore is offered by his own defenders within the evangelical community.
Pop psychology doesn’t get much creepier than Pastor Flip Benham, the national leader of North Carolina-based Operation Save America, a pro-life group, attempting to explain why a 32-year-old Roy Moore preferred female minors to women his age.
“All of the ladies, or many of the ladies that he possibly could have married, were not available then, they were already married, maybe, somewhere,” Benham told a reporter for The Hill. ”
It gets worse…
“The lady that he’s married to now, Ms. Kayla, is a younger woman.” Benham remarked about the 14-year age gap between Moore and his wife. “He did that because there is something about a purity of a young woman, there is something that is good, that’s true, that’s straight and he looked for that.”
So there you have it. It was most likely inconceivable to a 32-year-old Roy Moore to propose to a woman with prior sexual experiences — which ruled out most of the single women his age at the time. This scenario is not a justification for improper contact with a minor, but it is an explanation.
Roy Moore, in his mind, is not lying when he says he has never had inappropriate contact with underage girls, and while Moore and his supporters won’t say this outright (except for Pastor Benham), the 32-year-old Moore was probably trolling for a chaste wife when he approached a 14-year-old child. From their biblical-centered perspective, what Moore may have done in the 1970s to find a wife was entirely appropriate.
Laugh (or cry) in disgust if you must, but Jones’ avoidance of the allegations against Moore on the campaign trail signals it is not a laughing matter to Democrats still trying to win elections in the Heart of Dixie.
Liberals gleefully extol their belief in a corrosive connection between the religious right, sexual repression, and the anti-feminist political agenda of the Republican Party. They aren’t entirely wrong — which is why Roy Moore is so dangerous to the future of the Republican Party.
The Republican Party needs to be seen as the party of Bob Corker, Jeff Flake, Rand Paul, Nikki Haley, and Paul Ryan, not Roy Moore.
Now is not the time for the Republican Party to re-wage its war on the sexual revolution. That war was lost long ago and there are too many issues far more important (size of government, taxes, regulations, Middle East war) to allow dinosaur’s like Roy Moore to tarnish the Republican brand.
The post-1960s sexual revolution changed Alabama just as much as it did other parts of the country. The religious right will not bring back the 1950s.
Instead, they will have to be content with sticking Roy Moore up the ass of Mitch McConnell and the U.S. Senate.
Despite recent polling trends, Roy Moore will win on December 12th.
Moore’s drop in the polls has reached bottom (around 46 percent of likely voters) and a more aggressive Moore has already started to emerge on the campaign stump in the past few days. Republican Lee Busby’s write-in candidacy will as likely take votes from Jones as it will from Moore. This means Moore can win without passing the 50 percent threshold.
Assuming the turnout differential between Democratic and Republican partisans holds fairly close to past elections, Moore will win in a close election. That, in itself, is a miracle of biblical proportions for the Democrats.
Whatever the outcome, expect the Democrats to over-interpret the result as further evidence of the Republicans’ forthcoming demise in the 2018 midterm elections.
The Republicans, for their part, will equally misdiagnose the results as a merely an outlier specific to the unusual factors present in the Moore-Jones race.
Both interpretations will have flaws.
The Democrats are far from certain to take back the U.S. House in 2018 and the Alabama special election, should Moore lose, will offer little insight into the 2018 midterms.
However, if Roy Moore becomes a U.S. Senator, the impact on an already damaged Republican brand could be the tipping point that brings not only the U.S. House but the U.S. Senate back into the Democrats’ hands in 2018.
Unlikely? Yes. Impossible? Far from it.
Predictit.com shows a 31 percent chance of the Democrats regaining the Senate in 2018, and a 53 percent chance of taking back the House. If Republicans aren’t scared right now, they should be.
Arizona Senator Jeff Flake gets is exactly right. A Republican Party defined by Donald Trump and Roy Moore is not a winning national brand.
Should Republicans be rooting against Roy Moore on December 12th? Yes. Hell yes.
The economy is booming right now, due in part to the Trump administration’s swift rollback of burdensome regulations that were needlessly hurting U.S. companies and doing little good for the nation-at-large.
In typical times, strong economic growth would keep the incumbent party’s midterm losses to a minimum. These are not typical times.
Trump’s job approval ratings are stalling around 39 percent and do not appear linked to conditions in the U.S. macro-economy. Somebody in the White House that actually knows shit needs to step up and lead an effort to frame the 2018 midterms on the strong economy.
For the Republicans to have any chance of staving off the Democrats onslaught in 2018, the midterm elections need to be less a referendum on Trump and more on the state of the economy. As detailed in a previous NuQum.com post, under current (strong) economic conditions, Trump’s job approval numbers, as measured by Gallup, need to be north of 41 percent for the Republicans to have a chance to keep control of the U.S. House.
If Alabama elects Roy Moore on December 12th, keeping control of the U.S. House will become even more difficult than necessary.
About the author: Kent Kroeger is a writer and statistical consultant with over 30 -years experience measuring and analyzing public opinion for public and private sector clients. He also spent ten years working for the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and the Defense Intelligence Agency. He holds a B.S. degree in Journalism/Political Science from The University of Iowa, and an M.A. in Quantitative Methods from Columbia University (New York, NY). He lives in Ewing, New Jersey with his wife and son.