The Question on the Table in Alabama’s Special Election

There is a reason why the special election in Alabama today has gained so much national attention. I suspect that would have happened regardless of whether Roy Moore’s victims had come forward with stories about his sexual abuse of teenage girls.

Before that happened, we knew that the candidate nominated for this office by Alabama Republicans had twice lost his seat on the state Supreme Court for refusing to abide by the rulings of this nation’s highest court. We knew that he once said that Muslims shouldn’t be allowed to serve in Congress and that he thought this country was great during the days of slavery. We also know that he is an absolutist when it comes to being against women’s reproductive rights and equality for our LGBT brothers and sisters. We now know that he considers Constitutional amendments passed after the Bill of Rights—like the one giving women the right to vote and the one that abolished slavery—are at the root of some of our problems today.

There is a reason why someone like Steve Bannon went to bat for him and Donald Trump has embraced him. The contest between Roy Moore and Doug Jones represents everything that divides our country today: an extremist vs a Democrat.

Jones is no flaming liberal. But he clearly embraces the values that undergird the Democratic Party. And he is not hesitant to say so. This is a man who, while running for the senate in the state of Alabama, has not shied away from his history of prosecuting members of the KKK for the Birmingham Church bombing. In fact, he’s made it central to his campaign.

In the video of his speech last week that Martin just highlighted, Jones began by talking about how Alabama was at a crossroads and ended by suggesting that it was time to put the state on the right side of history. As he talked about his pride in prosecuting the men responsible for the church bombing, I couldn’t help but think of the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. at their memorial service.

These children—unoffending, innocent, and beautiful—were the victims of one of the most vicious and tragic crimes ever perpetrated against humanity.

And yet they died nobly. They are the martyred heroines of a holy crusade for freedom and human dignity. And so this afternoon in a real sense they have something to say to each of us in their death. They have something to say to every minister of the gospel who has remained silent behind the safe security of stained-glass windows. They have something to say to every politician who has fed his constituents with the stale bread of hatred and the spoiled meat of racism. They have something to say to a federal government that has compromised with the undemocratic practices of southern Dixiecrats and the blatant hypocrisy of right-wing northern Republicans. They have something to say to every Negro who has passively accepted the evil system of segregation and who has stood on the sidelines in a mighty struggle for justice. They say to each of us, black and white alike, that we must substitute courage for caution. They say to us that we must be concerned not merely about who murdered them, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers. Their death says to us that we must work passionately and unrelentingly for the realization of the American dream.

In a way, those young girls are still speaking to us today as Doug Jones says their names and reminds us of the circumstances of their death. Both Alabama and the country as a whole are still struggling against “the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers.” You need look no further for proof of that than the presidency of Donald Trump and the candidacy of Roy Moore. When Jones says that we’re at a crossroads to determine whether or not we’ll come down on the right side of history, that is the primary question on the table. The people of Alabama will get a shot at beginning to answer it today.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60 .