Commentary: Roy Moore has a way of never conceding when he loses an election, but with the certification of Doug Jones as Senator-elect on Thursday, the amazing Senate special election in Alabama appears to be concluded at last.
In retrospect, Moore made a mistake riding that horse to cast his vote in Alabama’s special election on December 12. The moment, consciously staged for press and social media contagion, exposed his riding style to nationwide ridicule. It also set up an obvious joke in the event of defeat: “…and the horse you rode in on,” preceded by a peppery sentiment of choice.
In fairness, there was little reason to think he would lose. Alabama hasn’t elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1992 – and that was Richard Shelby, who soon joined the Republicans anyway.
Moore arrived to his polling place on a horse named Sassy, half-jokingly threatening to trample reporters. This neatly encapsulated his use of media: basking in its light while publicly reviling journalists and accusing them of disseminating “fake news.”
The “fake news” was a solid, meticulously reported story that the Washington Post broke in November. Four women came forward, named and on record, with accounts of Moore pursuing them sexually when they were teenagers. One of the women was 14 at the time. More women subsequently came forward with similar stories. The candidate offered rebuttals as contradictory as the signals he gave his horse: variously admitting to knowing some or none of the women, and lying about his accusers in the face of corroborating witnesses and written evidence.
This scandal crowded out other things that made Moore a monstrous candidate: being removed twice as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama for refusing to respect any gap between Christian identity and the state; arguing that homosexuality should be criminalized and that Muslims should be barred from Congress; and making crazy statements about science, President Obama’s citizenship, and more.
As dissolute as American politics has become, there was a moment in November when the Republican National Committee narrowly averted decency. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called on Moore to step aside or be welcomed to the Senate by an ethics investigation. Principled conservatives, thought to have become instinct, emerged from hiding to declare Moore’s candidacy a bridge too far.
Even the President – a man accused by 19 women, named and on record, of sexual harassment and assault, and who openly boasted of his preferred means of greeting attractive women – shied away from uttering or tweeting Moore’s name for a while. Less was Moore, for a news cycle or two.
The nausea subsided, however, and partisan expediency resumed its throne overlooking the Washington sewer. Keeping that seat Republican overrode any protest for decency. Moore’s accusers were harassed and threatened, journalists were accused of lying, and more than one Alabama Republican official said they would vote for Moore even if they believed the pedophilia accusations to be true.
The victory for Democrat Doug Jones was narrow, with over 650,000 voting for Moore, warts and horse-jerking and all. Jones succeeded in not being Roy Moore and eked out a surprise victory. Whether Democrats will seize this opportunity to offer a bold alternative for working class Alabamians remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, the ethical decay of Washington Republicans continues without intervention from decent and competent conservatives.
Maybe some of our southern New Mexico Republicans should go up there and help. For starters, most of them know how to sit a horse.
Algernon D’Ammassa is Desert Sage. Share your thoughts (or riding tips) at firstname.lastname@example.org.