Ezra Klein, Why Doug Jones’s narrow win is not enough to make me confident about American democracy, Vox, December 12, 2017.
I don’t think there can be any real doubt that a sizable fraction of Roy Moore’s supporters in Alabama would embrace enthusiastically a government that lacked the most basic features of our Republic, but enforced as law the tenets of their distorted view of Christianity. Moore himself, as a judicial officer, has flouted the Constitution and laws of the country to advance his religious agenda.
This morning, the polls open, the blue battalions are on the move to vote for Mr. Jones, and we have to hope their numbers are enormous, because the Moore cadres, perpetually alert to any threat to their precious white insularity, will be doing what they always do, voting in high percentages.
There’s a wall in Alabama. Alabamians built it awhile back — centuries ago — without any help from the government in Washington. Inside the wall, Jesus rules. Not, mind you, the Jesus the rest of us of all religions embrace as the author of the Sermon on the Mount. The Alabama Jesus. The Jesus who consecrated slavery and rode with terrorists in the night after Lee lost and blessed Jim Crow and thought the races shouldn’t mix and huddles with his flocks in sanctuaries where straight and white and like of mind are welcome. Some say the wall is coming down. And maybe it is. Maybe I’ll be surprised today when the voting’s done and the numbers show that Roy, the good ole boy, didn’t win. It is a consummation devotedly to be wished. But I’ve lived a life cheek by jowl with the folks behind the wall. The Alabama Jesus will be driving them to the polls.
Doug Jones has opened a real lead over Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate race, according to a Fox News poll just out. Put me down as skeptical, in part because of the potential effect of the poll itself. Conservative white Alabamians are among the most clannish people on the planet, and they are already organized into churches. They will be at the voting places in great numbers tomorrow. My money is still on them.
Roy Moore’s core supporters tend to treat Jesus as a brand rather than as the Son of God, author of the Sermon on the Mount, and protector of the poor and forgotten. They’ve dispensed with his Message, using only his name, slapped on bumpers alongside the National Rifle Association and maybe Semper Fi or MAGA. If Jesus were here today, not just as the claimed “personal friend” of folks who fence themselves off from the world his Father made, but as the compassionate healer described in Matthew, he wouldn’t be pulling the lever for Roy Moore. You can take that to the bank.
Reporters who’ve ventured into Alabama to arrive at some sense of why so many people there will vote for Roy Moore, despite his manifold, obvious, and deep flaws, have sent back word that some large fraction of Alabama Republicans just can’t bring themselves to vote for a Democrat, as if this were akin to Alabama fans being unable to bring themselves to root for Auburn. The reporting sanitizes the opposition. The preference for Moore over Jones is so powerful because it is rooted in the desperation of the large white identity clan in the state to hang on to whatever it can of its cultural dominance.
The white church in places like Alabama isn’t so much a refuge from secularism as it is a club for good ole boys and the women who love them to maintain their social distance from people of color. These folks are the cultural descendants of the slaveholders and overseers and the architects of Jim Crow and the hecklers of children integrating public schools and the rest of it. Their eagerness to have Roy Moore in the Senate isn’t driven by any genuine and deep concern for fetuses. Please. Roy is the latest in a line of good ole boys ready to stand in the door to block the full participation of people of color in the social, economic, and political life of Alabama.
The white South always has made its highest priority the preservation of whatever it can salvage of its privileged cultural position. Back before the Democratic Party remade itself as the party of civil rights, the political forebears of the Moore voters were called Yellow Dog Democrats, because they’d vote for a yellow dog before they’d vote for anybody from the party of Lincoln. Now that they’ve found a home in the modern GOP and turned it to their purposes, they might as well be called Yellow Dog Republicans, because they are poised to vote for a scoundrel rather than a decent Democrat, such is the overwhelming importance to them of keeping those Others at bay.
What we have here, folks, is nothing new. The white South always has made its highest priority the preservation of whatever it can salvage of its privileged cultural position. Back before the Democratic Party remade itself as the party of civil rights, the political forebears of the Moore voters were called Yellow Dog Democrats, because they’d vote for a yellow dog before they’d vote for anybody from the party of Lincoln. Now that they’ve found a home in the modern GOP and turned it to their purposes, they might as well be called Yellow Dog Republicans, because they are poised to vote for a scoundrel rather than a decent Democrat, such is the overwhelming importance to them of keeping those Others at bay.
The so-called Christians of Moore’s Alabama would have us believe that their dog-with-a-bone determination to have him take a seat in the Senate is rooted in a fanatical regard for fetuses. What really motivates them, I’d say — not that they’d concede it or necessarily recognize it in themselves — is a desperation to preserve what Moore really stands for: the preservation of white male privilege in southern culture.