Politics & Policy

Roy Moore’s Loss Hardly Represents a Cultural Shift

Roy Moore speaks to supporters in Midland City, Ala., December 11, 2017. (Reuters photo: Jonathan Bachman)
If anything, it shows that our tribalism is only increasing.

Yes, it’s great that Doug Jones was able to defeat alleged pedophile Roy Moore on Tuesday — but anyone who actually thinks that this represents some kind of major cultural shift is going to be sorely disappointed.

Far too many people seem to believe that Jones’s election represents some kind of decline in Trump loyalism. A piece in the Washington Post declared that “Trumpism bottomed out in the Moore candidacy.” The New York Times counted it among examples of “stark repudiations of a first-term president, foreshadowing a larger repudiation soon to come.” The Irish Times asked: “Could this be the beginning of the end for the Trump presidency?”

It’s not that I don’t see their argument. President Trump, after all, did instruct his supporters to vote for Roy Moore, and only about 650,000 of them did so. Compare this to the fact that Trump received more than 1.3 million Alabama votes to Hillary Clinton’s fewer than 730,000 in the general election, and it seems as though support for him could be waning.

Yes — in any other circumstances, this could be conceivable. But the truth is, these are not normal circumstances: Roy Moore was facing credible accusations of child molestation, making him arguably far worse than any candidate we’ve seen, and almost certainly worse than any candidate we’ll ever see again. Unless another political party actually nominates an accused pedophile again, nothing about this election’s outcome can really indicate anything about the elections or political landscape of the future.

More than half of voters, after all, said that they believed the allegations, and 60 percent said that those allegations had influenced their votes. Roy Moore’s loss doesn’t mean that President Trump’s supporters have abandoned him or his agenda. It just means that, for some, voting for someone they have good reason to believe has sexually abused underage girls is a line that they won’t cross.

The key word there, by the way, is “some.” Yes, some Alabamians didn’t vote for Moore, but many of them did. This was a very, very close race, with Doug Jones winning by only 1.5 points over Moore, even though Moore was an accused pedophile. Really, is that something to be celebrating? Think about it: Almost half of voters either refused to believe multiple women’s very credible stories of abuse, or they said to themselves, “Well, I may disagree with Roy Moore being an accused pedophile, but I disagree with Doug Jones being a Democrat,” and they decided that being a Democrat was worse. Both of these options are truly disheartening — and any time I see someone call Jones’s win “stunning,” I can’t help but think that what’s truly “stunning” is the fact that it’s true.

I’d love to think that this election somehow proves that this nightmare of a political landscape that we’ve been living in is somehow coming to an end — but I highly doubt that this is the case. If anything, I think the fact that this race was such a nail-biter reveals our ever-growing tribalism, and a continued hesitation to believe women who come forward with stories about sexual abuse. I hope that I’m wrong.


NR Editorial: Roy Moore Does the Impossible

The New South Defeated the Old South

The Politics of Humiliation

— Katherine Timpf is a reporter for National Review Online.