The Case for Hope

Figures I’ve seen from the exit polls in the Alabama election should give us some renewed hope in the capacity of the electorate to see through the propaganda to the truth about the modern Republican Party. Among the most telling data are these: Although white women overall favored Roy Moore over Doug Jones, when the evangelical women and the non-evangelical women are considered separately, the non-evangelical women overwhelmingly preferred Jones. Moreover, I’ve read, if the percentage of evangelical voters in Alabama were the same as the percentage nationwide, Jones would have taken the election by double digits. The Republican Party, lead by Trump, has alienated so many voters outside a cultish core that the probability of a rout in 2018 has increased substantially.

Vote Suppression

Once again we have credible evidence that the dominant political party, in this case the Republican Party, deliberately has thrown roadblocks in the way of those who might be expected to vote for the opposition’s candidates. And there are lingering questions about the accuracy of vote-counting. This is intolerable and must be remedied. If the people cannot trust the voting process to be fair and accurate, the Republic will be in big trouble.

The Women, the Speaker, and the Majority Leader

Are we to understand, Mr. Speaker and Mr. Majority Leader, that you can’t figure out any way to investigate the women’s renewed charges against Trump, given that he continues to call the women liars? You two and your party are so far below the bar of political decency and regard for the Republic at this point that you really ought to consider resigning your positions. Where is it written that Trump, who holds our highest office and should be held to our highest standard, instead gets a pass for behavior that we’ve come to regard as offensive enough to justify immediate and serious consequences?

The Fox Poll

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.

Jesus as a Brand

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.

Real Tax Reform

Can you describe what for you would be the ideal approach to taxation? My working hypothesis is this: The ideal approach to taxation eliminates all exemptions and deductions, sets rates as low as possible, requires everyone to pay at least something, requires wealthier individuals to bear a larger share of the burden, and makes participating in the system procedurally painless.

The GOP approach to tax reform is hardly reform at all. Its overriding objective is to lower the taxes of its donor class. We won’t get genuine movement of our system of taxation toward my ideal until we kick out the current Congressional leadership, replacing it with pragmatists willing to work across the aisle and pay attention to nonpartisan experts.

See generally TR Reid, A Fine Mess (2017).

Sanitizing the Moore Vote

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 Big Picture

A willfully ignorant, dangerously incompetent schoolyard bully whose mistreatment of women is taken for granted and whose chief motivation seems to be revenge for personal slights currently occupies the White House.

The leaders of the legislative branch of government, far from taking steps to remedy this, are allowing the debasement to continue for partisan political advantage. In the case of the Republicans, the goal is to secure Trump’s signature on legislation that ignores the values and interests of the majority of Americans, catering instead to the wealthy who fund GOP campaigns and the white identity voters who regard the GOP as their bulwark against having to participate in a genuinely just and diverse community.

In the case of the Democrats, the goal is to hang Trump around the necks of Republicans running in 2018, relieving the Democrats of the responsibility to fashion and offer a genuine platform of clear, fresh ideas to build a strong middle class. Just as the Republicans chose to run against Obama rather than for the majority of Americans, the Democrats hope to run against Trump.

The media also benefit immensely from Trump’s continuation in office. Viewership is up. Online is up. Journalists are in the midst of a golden age of political reporting.

The big losers in all this are the rest of us, and the rest of the world.

Why Roy Moore Will Win

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.