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Moore’s loss in Alabama is a great gift for Republicans: James Miller

Posted 12/20/17

Christmas came early for the Republican Party this year. The state of Alabama gifted the floundering party a new lease on life.

On Dec. 12, the Heart of Dixie elected its first Democratic senator …

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Moore’s loss in Alabama is a great gift for Republicans: James Miller

Roy Moore
Roy Moore
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Christmas came early for the Republican Party this year. The state of Alabama gifted the floundering party a new lease on life.

On Dec. 12, the Heart of Dixie elected its first Democratic senator in more than two decades. Doug Jones, a civil rights attorney, scored an upset victory against Republican Roy Moore, a twice-removed Alabama Supreme Court chief justice and alleged sex offender.

Days prior to the election, Moore held a steady lead in the polls, despite tenable accusations by multiple women that he pursued them romantically in their teen years. Jones scored a come-from-behind victory by running as a moderate alternative while reaching out to minority voters, who, ultimately, delivered his win.

The race was never supposed to be this close or contentious. Moore, a near-theocratic gadfly and darling of evangelical Christians, stole the Republican nomination from Luther Strange, the favorite candidate of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The contest started as morally mangled as any political bout could be. Strange was appointed to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s seat under dubious circumstances. As Alabama’s attorney general, Strange tried to delay impeachment proceedings against Gov. Robert Bentley just before his appointment. A handful of state lawmakers questioned the timing of the request, and speculated a quid pro quo was in play.

Once ensconced in the Senate, Strange became a loyal backer of McConnell, earning the Republican leader’s support for his special election bid. When the primary began, Moore and Rep. Mo Brooks, a member of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus, jumped in the fray. McConnell and his Senate Leadership Fund PAC threw millions at Strange, and focused their attacks on Brooks, leaving Moore wide open to steal the field.

Even an endorsement from President Donald Trump couldn’t put Strange over the top in the primary runoff.

So Moore, a twice disbarred judge who openly ruminates about locking up homosexuals, became the GOP standard bearer. And he did so on his own. The media may point to former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon as the mastermind behind his win, but Bannon didn’t come in until voters had already chosen Moore.

There was never a question of who was more qualified for the job. Moore defied federal orders and spread crank conspiracies about Barack Obama’s place of birth and religion. He was a walking caricature of how liberal Yankees see the conservative South — hidebound, weird, artificially pious and prone to delusion. And this was before pedophilia was in the picture.

Jones’s pedigree, on the other hand, has all the makings of an American success story. Son of a steelworker who grew up in the throes of Deep South desegregation, Jones, as an attorney, helped prosecute two Klu Klux Klansmen for the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham that killed four black girls.

The Democrats may as well have been running Martin Luther King Jr. against Bull Connor.

I’ll admit, at first I found Moore endearing. His quixotic campaign to keep a gaudy, 5,000-pound granite monument of the Ten Commandments in his courtroom earned him a judicial defrocking. That took, pardon the pun, stones. And it showed that Moore was the kind of candid, heart-on-his-sleeve guy who makes this country such a diverse pleasure to live in.

Even after he lost but refused to concede, Moore went on a blistering rant, blasting secular heresies and declaring, “Abortion, sodomy and materialism have taken the place of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Nowhere but America does a man wear his faith so unsparingly. Moore is, as writer John Derbyshire puts it, an “American original.” Had it not been for his outing as a teen fetishist, we’d be calling him a senator.

But alas, Moore’s explicit past made up too compromised to support. A large contingent of white evangelicals and traditional Republicans either stayed home or wrote another candidate in. The press pounced on the story like a starving hyena. Everywhere, Moore was condemned.

In a culture that increasingly lauds sexual liberation, watching a major political figure felled by his libidinous interest in teenager girls was refreshing. It showed that our country still has some agreed-upon standards when it comes to sex.

In the season of giving, Alabama gave the Republican Party much-needed relief from scandal. Had Moore won, we would have seen a protracted fight to remove him from the Senate, extinguishing whatever moral capital the GOP still has.

This was a loss with the potential to become a greater win. A historic parallel can be found in Harry Truman’s rejection by the Missouri Democratic Party machine to be governor of the state. Crestfallen, he carried on his duty as presiding judge of Jackson County. He was later appointed senator, starting his unlikely ascent to the White House.

The adage of good things coming to those who wait is true. Republicans may have lost a Senate seat, but they saved their dignity. The messiness of trying to force out a duly elected member of Congress would have deepened the Trump-sized schism running through the party.

With Moore’s loss there is a chance for revival. Elected Republicans learned a hard lesson. But have the voters?

It is they who will ultimately decide the fate of Lincoln’s party.

James E. Miller, a native of Middletown, works as a digital marketer in Northern Virginia.