On Dec. 12, Alabama voters will elect either Democrat Doug Jones or Republican Roy Moore to the US Senate. Complicating this race is a report - from 40 years ago - from The Washington Post that Roy Moore, a former chief justice of the state Supreme Court, engaged in sexual misconduct with a 14-year-old girl, followed by a string of additional accusations from women about Moore’s misconduct.
According to the latest polls, the race is neck and neck, which has left voters outside the South wondering what Alabamians could possibly be thinking. So we and many reporters asked them.
In some ways, this race started as a microcosm of the 2016 presidential election, pitting a Democrat without much of an inspired base against a Republican who, even before the charges were made, was seen as a bizarre man. And as in the national election, some mainstream Republicans have abandoned their candidate.
Even before these allegations came out, President Trump had originally supported Moore’s primary opponent, Luther Strange. Now Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell admits he believes the women accusers, Republican Senator Jeff Flake is supporting the Democrat, and even Ivanka Trump is going against her father’s wishes and condemning the judge. There are lots of controversial issues in our country, but when you come right down to it, it’s easy to say you don’t like pedophiles.
So why are people in Alabama supporting Moore? Based on my conversations with them, Alabama Republicans, just like you and me, would never vote for a pedophile. But they’re not convinced the accusations are true.
Linda voted for Moore in the primary, and intends to vote for him again. “I have read all of the accusations, but there is no smoking gun,” she said. “There is no blue dress, no pictures, no verification of handwriting analysis.” She reminds us that Moore denies the charges, insisting that they are absolute lies.
With no evidence other than stories from 40 years ago, Linda is sticking with her candidate. She has considered that the women accusers are telling the truth, but she also wonders whether they are liberal voters with an agenda who will do anything to keep Moore from getting into office. Added Rick, who lives in rural Alabama, “Show me the evidence. I would never vote for a pedophile, and so I am waiting for more information.”
Besides, they ask, what is the alternative? Just as many voters last November cast their ballots against a candidate rather than for one, the same holds in Alabama.
In the primary, many voters went with Moore as a vote against Luther Strange, who, as attorney general, refused to investigate a corrupt governor facing both a sexual scandal and accusations about using campaign funds for personal use.
They saw Strange as crooked and thus voted for Moore, a judge whose positions, as well as his eccentricities, were familiar. Now the alternative is Doug Jones, a liberal, whom they call “The Hillary Clinton of Alabama.”
For antiabortion, pro-Second-Amendment, pro-building-a-wall Republicans, Jones is on the wrong side of the issues they care about. Voters won’t abandon the opportunity for a conservative Republican solely on hearsay.