Political Animal

Will Anyone Really Be Surprised if Roy Moore Wins?

In an infamously bloody scene in The Untouchables (1987), Robert De Niro declared, “I get nowhere unless the team wins.” Three decades later, De Niro’s line is, in effect, Donald Trump’s motto–and if that motto is shared by a majority of the Alabama electorate, then Roy Moore is guaranteed to win the state’s special US Senate election tomorrow night.

Doug Jones, Moore’s Democratic opponent, should be considered an odds-on favorite…to win the 2018 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award, that is. Jones deserves credit for waging a vigorous campaign, making the case for a less cynical vision in the face of relentless hatred from a president and political movement that seeks to define him as a left-wing zealot who wishes to sacrifice unborn children on the altar of the Church of Pelosi. However, who will really be shocked if his efforts turn out not to be enough?

If Jones fails, it will be because right-wing voters–including right-wing women–have convinced themselves that Moore’s alleged lust is less than loathsome:

Patricia Brady remembers being in an elevator 50 years ago at her office building near Mobile.

She was a young woman in her 20s, a graphic designer. A salesman stopped by her office with a product she’d been seeking — she can’t now recall what it was — but she remembers being so excited to get it. And then so terrified.

The salesman, she said, must have misread her enthusiasm for something else, and tried to grope her in the elevator on the way out. “I just said: ‘Whoa, whoa, what are you doing?’ ”

All these years later, the episode still bothers her. “It sticks with you,” said Brady, 74.

But it hasn’t changed her politics. Brady is going to vote for Roy Moore on Tuesday, joining with the 39 percent of women who are, according to polls, standing with the Republican Senate candidate in Alabama despite allegations that he sexually assaulted teenagers, including one who was 14.

These female Moore supporters have had the same #MeToo moments that, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll, nearly half of all US women have experienced and are now rehashing the episodes in conversations with co-workers and girlfriends.

But many here are drawing a line of tolerance that favors Moore, viewing the allegations against luminaries like movie titan Harvey Weinstein and NBC star Matt Lauer as far worse than Moore’s alleged trawling for teenage girls in his hometown of Gadsden, Ala., when he was in his 30s. Moore has denied the allegations against him.

Call it a collective forgiveness, or a tendency to protect your own tribe. But many women supporting Moore excuse the Senate hopeful’s behavior as more a boorish phase in his past than predatory, if they believe the allegations at all. They are offering him the benefit of the doubt, and it could well be enough to hand him a seat in the US Senate in a special election race Tuesday against Democrat Doug Jones that polls show is close.

Speaking of a “tendency to protect your own tribe,” you may recall that I dismissed the argument that the first allegation of sexual impropriety against soon-to-be-former Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) was part of a right-wing setup. Let’s assume arguendo that I was wrong–that Leeann Tweeden and Roger Stone cooked up a plan to smear Franken as a would-be pervert. If the goal of that strategy was to get some progressives to do unto Tweeden as some right-wingers have done unto Moore’s accusers–to make it look like whether one believes allegations of sexual harassment and/or assault all depends on whose ox is being gored–then based on the aggressive personal attacks on Tweeden in certain progressive circles, it would appear that such a plan was successful beyond Tweeden and Stone’s wildest dreams. Franken’s most vigorous defenders–the ones who are absolutely convinced that Franken can do no wrong, and that claims to the contrary were concocted by conservatives–are effectively doing the same thing that the pro-Moore types who see a “liberal media conspiracy” are doing. If proving that liberals and conservatives are equally susceptible to dismissing claims of bad behavior on the part of ideological allies was indeed Tweeden and Stone’s goal, then mission accomplished. (Remember, right-wingers have always believed that progressives embraced Anita Hill’s allegations against Clarence Thomas only because Thomas was himself a right-winger–that if Thomas had been ideologically aligned with Thurgood Marshall, then progressives would have rejected the veracity of the allegations against Marshall’s replacement. The right is forever trying to prove that progressives are hypocrites; that was very likely the main goal of a hypothetical Stone-Tweeden setup.)

If Moore wins, I just hope there’s no hand-wringing from cable news pundits about how his victory represents a new low in Alabama politics; it’s hard to get any lower than sending Jeff Sessions to the US Senate a full decade after his nomination to the federal bench was rejected due to his bigotry. Yes, some Americans would like to believe that a majority of Alabama voters will think twice before sending an alleged predator of underage girls to the US Senate simply because he’s a Republican. If you’re one of the folks who thinks Alabama voters will reject Roy Moore in the name of common decency, ask yourself: would you bet money on such an outcome?

Roy Moore Goes Into Hiding as Election Day Approaches

Alabama Senate candidate, disgraced judge and accused child molester Roy Moore has never been a shrinking violet. Much like Donald Trump, he has made a career of being an obnoxious, spotlight-grabbing loudmouth, using hot button issues for social conservatives to keep himself in the headlines.

And yet, on the eve of his potential election to the United States Senate, Roy Moore has disappeared from view.

Roy Moore’s evangelicalism is his calling card, but on the Sunday before the special election that could send him to the Senate, he skipped church.

He didn’t worship at his usual hometown service, which some reporters had staked out in hopes of catching a glimpse or asking a question of the elusive Republican candidate. He didn’t visit any other congregations, either.

“Out of respect for people who want to worship without reporters hanging over their heads gawking, no, he did not attend church this morning,” Moore adviser Brett Doster told BuzzFeed News.

In the final days of a race that has put Alabama under a national political spotlight that doesn’t often shine here, Moore has made himself scarce. He hasn’t held a public event since a Tuesday rally with right-wing provocateur Steve Bannon and isn’t scheduled to return to the campaign trail until Monday evening — for an Election Eve encore with Bannon.

Moore’s campaign truancy is strategically understandable: the more visible he is, the more opportunity for uncomfortable questions about his past.

It’s possible that Moore is confident of victory and simply doesn’t want to change the narrative for the worse. The polling average shows Moore slightly ahead, though modeling turnout for this election is almost impossible. If Moore is set to win, then staying out the headlines would seem to be the right play. But it could backfire as well as by failing to energize his base at a crucial time. It is highly unusual for a politician to hold no events on the weekend before election day, and if Moore loses many will second-guess his decision. Also, if Republicans were confident of victory it seems unlikely that Donald Trump would have recorded a robocall for Moore in the final days.

But it’s also possible that Moore is significantly behind where his campaign needs him to be, and they’re hiding him to minimize any further damage. This seems less likely, but it’s entirely possible. The campaign’s late advertising is de-emphasizing Moore himself and focusing on Trump’s endorsement. That, too, is not the sign of a confident campaign. If nothing else, it makes the campaign appear unconfident, which itself could have negative effects on turnout.

The bizarre situation has led to speculation that Moore may be in Philadelphia to watch the Army-Navy football game.

Confronting accusations that he harassed or molested teenage girls, Moore hasn’t held a public event since Tuesday, a decision that has perplexed some Republicans given the closeness of the race. Two Republicans briefed on Moore’s schedule before this weekend said he intended to spend Saturday in Philadelphia at the Army-Navy football game — a long-planned trip that the West Point grad had insisted he would still take this year despite the election.

One of those Republicans, who expressed concern about Moore’s absence, said that the planned trip was discussed with Moore’s campaign within the last few weeks and the candidate determined to go — case closed.

Moore’s campaign declined repeated requests to discuss his whereabouts and refused to say whether he had in fact gone to Philadelphia. His absence has baffled local and out of town reporters, some of whom staked out Moore’s church on Sunday morning only to be informed that he wouldn’t be attending.

It’s just another layer of strangeness in a campaign that has seen the Republican Party, faced with no good options, stoop to a new low.

Will Alabama Republicans Follow Carpetbagger Trump, or Their Own Republican Senators?

As President Trump and the national Republican Party go all in on backing an accused child molester for the U.S. Senate, it’s interesting that Alabama’s Republican Senators want nothing to do with it.

Here’s Senator Richard Shelby today, reaffirming his refusal to vote for Moore:

Sen. Richard Shelby says he wants a Republican elected to the Senate on Tuesday to represent Alabama, but that he didn’t vote for GOP candidate Roy Moore in the special election.

The Alabama Republican said he’s already cast his ballot, and that he chose a write-in candidate.
“I’d rather see the Republican win, but I’d rather see a Republican write-in. I couldn’t vote for Roy Moore. I didn’t vote for Roy Moore,” Shelby told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.”
Former Alabama Senator and now Attorney General Jeff Sessions has also repeatedly stuck a knife in the disgraced judge, saying that he has no reason to doubt Moore’s accusers. And, of course, the current occupant of the Senate seat in question, Luther Strange, lost a bitter primary contest against Moore earlier this year.
Alabama, like many Southern states, has a reputation for being hostile to outside interlopers and carpetbaggers dictating its culture and its elections. Donald Trump is a rich, Yankee heathen. Steve Bannon, who has been one of Moore’s top surrogates, is a decadent Wall Streeter with mansions in California and Malibu. They’re all in on Moore.
But Alabama’s own homegrown conservative political stars are still publicly repudiating him.
If Alabama’s Republican voters back Moore by big enough margins for him to win, it won’t just confirm the power of partisanship, or the evangelical culture of sexual abuse, or their willingness to tolerate even the most morally repugnant candidates.
It will also confirm that even in Alabama, conservatism has gotten worse and more virulent. It will confirm that the Southern resistance to carpetbagging political figures isn’t really about outside interference, but about protecting white male supremacy.
And it will confirm that, at long last, the rest of the country shouldn’t bother ever to care again what these so-called “values voters” say or believe. When you’ve gone too far for even Alabama’s top Republicans, that’s saying something else.

Daniel Shaver’s Murder By Cop Shows How Guns Make Us Less Safe

On January 16 2016 in Mesa, Arizona, an unarmed innocent man named Daniel Shaver was murdered without cause by a police officer after begging for his life on his knees in a hotel hallway. On December 8th of this year Philip Brailsford, the officer who murdered him, was acquitted.

If you have the stomach for it, watch the video. It’s important.

While most needless police killings tend to be byproducts of institutional racism, this one was not. Daniel Shaver was a white man. His killer was a white man as well. So why did this happen?

Let’s start with the reason the cops were called to the scene in the first place. Not surprisingly, it was an alert over a firearm:

Mr Shaver was confronted by police responding to a report of a man pointing a gun out of his hotel room window in January 2016.

The police report said he showed guests in his hotel room a rifle he used for work, killing birds.

It later emerged that the rifle was an airsoft or pellet gun, rather than a genuine firearm.

Other hotel guests were alarmed by what they perceived to be a man wielding a firearm in a hotel window. That stands to reason. Recent events in Las Vegas, if nothing else, should demonstrate the wisdom of a “if you see something, say something” attitude toward rifles in hotel windows.

So when police arrived, they had reason to suspect they might be confronting a potentially dangerous man with a gun.

In most other industrialized nations, the police are usually unarmed. That’s because most suspects are unarmed, and therefore most encounters don’t carry the danger of lethal force on either side. In the United States, the proliferation of guns in the hands of civilians means that it would be unreasonable to disarm police officers. It’s a literal arms race in which cops are trained to be afraid that even a moment’s hesitation could result in their death.

But that doesn’t make police blameless. The officer’s defense team argued that he should be acquitted because he was poorly trained. That much is obvious. As even David French of the conservative National Review notes, soldiers in war zones are calmer and have less itchy trigger fingers than many police in this country. The officer should have felt in control of this situation even without his gun. Speaking of which, the officer’s gun was etched with the words “you’re fucked,” which should give a strong indication of both his frame of mind and his reason for wanting to have the gun in the first place.

Why was Brailsford acquitted? Because the jury didn’t get to see the video, or know about the inscription on the gun. And because juries tend to reflexively acquit police officers, particularly in cases where the victims are people of color, which turns a problem of awful violence into one of horrific institutional injustice compounded tenfold by the evils of institutionalized racism.

It seems obvious that men like former officer Brailsford should not have access to guns. It seems obvious that the gun gives power-tripping officers instant power of life or death over suspects that they should not have. It seems further obvious that whatever training is being given to police about gun is dangerous to public safety. And finally, it seems obvious that, while he certainly didn’t deserve to die, if men like Daniel Shaver weren’t casually waving even Airsoft guns around hotel windows, more American cops wouldn’t have to carry firearms at all.

Conservatives often say that the only answer to a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. That night, the only bad guy with a gun was officer Brailsford. But the real bad guy? That would be the gun itself, and all the guns that lead to the insane situation in this country.

CORRECTION: The jury did get to see the video. Which makes the acquittal all the more amazing, and only makes it clearer just how big a problem we have in bringing justice to victims of police violence.