What the Alabama Senate Race Boils Down To

Polling Place
Time to vote.

While politicos and commentators alike are busy preparing their “super-hot takes” for whatever the outcome of the Alabama Senate race will ultimately be, voters there are headed to the polls to cast their vote in a closely-watched election where – in my opinion – there are no good options.

As Twitter friend “Lady North” put it:

But although there are no good options when it comes to the candidates, there are indeed choices that voters there can make.

That’s one thing people tend to forget in elections where both the Republican and Democrat candidates are wholly unappealing: You have a choice:

– You can vote for the person who you see as the lesser of two evils, which is what most voters do around election time – provided they find their “lesser evil” has some redeeming value as a candidate for the office they seek.

– You can vote for the third party candidate, assuming there is one and that the candidate is someone you can feel reasonably comfortable representing you in elected office.

– You can abstain from voting as a form of protest, even though in some circles that disqualifies you from being able to complain about the outcome and what follows as a result (I happen to disagree).

– You can write in a candidate as a form of protest if you want to send a message to the party that you are not going to reward a candidate who you find deeply flawed (which is what some of us did in the presidential election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, and what I would do if I was an Alabama voter tonight).

A person’s vote ultimately is their own. No matter how much pressure is put on them by outsiders or insiders. At the end of the day, they have to live with their decision, to be able to go to bed at night being at peace with it.

We know hardline Democrat and Republican insiders view the Alabama Senate race as “total war.” But what’s become surprisingly clear since Trump’s shocking win in 2016 is that an increasing number of conservative Republican voters are walking away from the “character matters” mantra that has been so prevalent in their circles prior to 2016.

The Atlantic‘s McCay Coppins wrote about this recently in a piece that deserves more attention:

Conservative values voters seem to have largely abandoned their search for moral exemplars in the political arena—as my colleague Yoni Appelbaum wrote last year—and are now content to settle for any candidate who will fight abortion and protect their religious freedom.

“In an ideal world, you would have both character and [the right policy positions], but we don’t live an ideal world—we live in a fallen world,” Robert Jeffress, a pastor of First Baptist Dallas and a Trump adviser, told me. “That’s not to say character isn’t important. It’s certainly important. But it’s one of many factors you have to look at … character, competence, policy. Depending on where the country is at the time, you have to determine which of those is most important.”

Character still counts, in other words, but its market value has plummeted.

Like it or not (and I don’t), that’s the stark truth of the matter.

People who vote for Roy Moore will vote for him for one or more of a variety of reasons:

-They don’t believe the allegations against him and don’t believe he’s a sexual predator.
-They aren’t sure if the allegations are true or not, but they’ll be damned if they allow a pro-choice Democrat to represent them in the Senate.
-They know that by voting for him that even if he does get kicked out of the Senate by his colleagues that the Republican governor there, Kay Ivey, will appoint another Republican to fill that seat.
-They don’t care if the allegations against him are true.
-They agree with his (troubling) stances on numerous issues.

But these aren’t the only reasons. Perhaps the most important ones to consider are below:

For many conservatives, their religious freedom and pro-life stances are not areas they relish compromising on. In fact, for a lot of them it’s their line in the sand. And any candidate who promises to protect those freedoms – regardless of character flaws (both perceived and actual) – are going to get their attention.

Also, as Coppins noted in his piece, more and more religious/pro-life conservatives see their way of life as under attack – by so-called “establishment Republicans”, by radical left wing Democrats, and by those who they view as the left’s allies in these cultural battles: The mainstream media and hypocritical Hollywood liberals. Any right wing candidate who makes it a point to routinely attack the media is going to draw their interest and score points.

What these conservatives have seen over the last 25 years or so is that their value system has been source of constant ridicule. They saw that if they chose a candidate who exemplified high moral standards, they were attacked by Democrats and media types. And when they tried to hold Democrats in elected office to the same standards, they were also attacked.

They’ve watched the years go by as Democrats who time and time again claimed the moral high ground turned around and voted deeply flawed candidates into office (like Bill Clinton) with absolutely no regrets whatsoever – and then went on to ram through their agendas with no apologies. They’ve watched as those same flawed elected Democrats were held to different (read: no) standards by many in the mainstream media than they held Republican politicos to. They became sick of the double standards.

Many of these same conservatives believe that the people they’ve sent to office over and over again, people who by and large were scandal-free, did not hold up their end of the bargain once they got to work. In their minds, their elected representatives lost their way, stopped fighting, and “joined the crowd.”

If Democrats aren’t going to play fair and aren’t going to be held to any reasonable standards, these same conservatives believe those same (non)rules should apply to their candidates, too.

As a result of all this, America got Trump as its president. And it is perhaps the primary reason why a large (or not?) segment of Alabama Republican voters and southern Democrats may vote for Roy Moore tonight, right or wrong.

“Character matters” has been replaced with “fight fire with fire.” Scorched earth and all that. It’s a sad commentary on modern politics that people on both “sides” feel they have to resort to this but it’s a reality that can no longer be ignored.

The polls close in Alabama at 7 pm CST. You can view the results here.