Compounding Errors in Alabama

You’ve probably heard by now that Roy Moore lost his Senate bid in Alabama to the Democratic challenger, Doug Jones. It seems to me that there are a number of lessons to be learned from that election including:

  1. Don’t chase after girls half your age.
  2. Don’t even be open to the charge that you’ve chased 14 year old girls.
  3. The bad or just dumb things you’ve done in the distant past can come back to haunt you, even if you’ve been given a pass on them for 30 years.
  4. Don’t support a bad candidate for strategic reasons.
  5. Don’t double-down on your support for a bad candidate for strategic reasons.
  6. There are some boundaries that shouldn’t be crossed even in presumably rock-solid states.

There are also some lessons that shouldn’t be learned, i.e. that the election in Alabama is a sign of an anti-Trump wave sweeping across the country. It was a sign that there are boundaries that shouldn’t be crossed. Whether it’s a sign of an anti-Trump wave remains to be seen.

I’m not an Alabaman and as I’ve noted before I wouldn’t have voted for Moore before the allegations of sexual misconduct but I’m glad that he won’t be joining the U. S. Senate and I think that all of us should be.

Will anyone take any of these lessons to heart? I doubt it. Doubling-down is the mode of the day.

17 comments… add one
  • Guarneri

    Well that pretty much sums it up. Only time will tell, but I doubt there will be any doubling down. I do believe you will see people coming out of the woodwork with long ago and unprovable charges. Better book Gloria now; her calendar is filling fast.

  • Guarneri

    BTW – you know who the saddest person in America is today? Moore? Bannon? McConnell? Trump? Nope.

    Al Franken. Buh-bye.

  • Guarneri

    While I’m at it. The Moore story isn’t the biggest from yesterday. That’s small potatoes. It’s McCabe not showing up due to a “scheduling error.” (Snicker). “Facts” to be manufactured and refined…….

  • PD Shaw

    Those lessons seem to be too abstract. A majority of Republicans, including Trump and the state establishment, didn’t support him before the allegations of sexual assaults. He navigated a crowded field in which the incumbent was tarred by his appointment by a governor immersed in sex scandal. Yesterday’s results indicate that Moore would not have won the Republican Primary with the additional information.

    I take all of that to mean there was a systems failure in which a job, which mostly involves cast votes that represent your electorate, went to someone who doesn’t represent the political views of most Alabamans. And now we have the spectacle of the Senate refusing to seat him until the tax bill is passed. Would not seating Jones ever best reflect Alabama’s views?

  • which mostly involves cast votes that represent your electorate

    If only that were the case! Nowadays the role of senator mostly involves raising funds for your reelection and voting as the party leadership directs you to.

  • Modulo Myself

    I’m not sure how much this was about Moore. Turnout was super high with black voters, who loathe Trump and the GOP. And it’s less the specific charges of cruising malls and sexual assault than the fact that this kind of random raving raping idiot is becoming a thing for Republicans, which all goes back to Trump and his pussy-grabbing and how little they cared about that.

  • Modulo Myself

    The other big thing is how tilted the under-45 vote was for Jones–61-38. The Republicans have become the party of people so old and out-of-touch that they have put people who have children, mortgages, 10 pm bedtimes, and gray hair in the same demographic as 22 year-olds who refer to E as Molly.

  • Andy

    I usually don’t have much opinion on elections in other states, but in this case I’m glad Moore lost. He was unfit for office in so many ways.

    I agree with both Dave and PD, especially PD’s point that this was a systemic failure – and, in particular, a partisan part failure. A representative system cannot work effectively when nominations are far outside the mainstream of the broader electorate.

  • Modulo Myself

    The GOP’s prefab dishonesty has destroyed their ability to be mainstream anything. A mainstream GOP would have been able to work with Obama on healthcare and they would have held hearings on Scalia’s replacement last year.

    Or they would have admitted straight-up that they did not think Democrats deserve power, which is the truth. They love freedom–i.e. the freedom for me to speak and you to shut up, listen, and agree.

  • Andy


    The issue is that representative Democracy, in order to function, requires representatives who actually represent the interests of their constituents – not the narrow interests of a few primary voters, donors lobbyists and partisan activists.

    In the House we have a system where parties essentially select their electorate. In the Senate and the Presidency we have systems where a minority of the most partisan voters and operatives choose candidates for a binary choice election. And, unfortunately for our host, there are places where there isn’t even a binary choice at all.

    It’s easy to point out the failures of these systems in terms of their actual ability to produce candidates that are popular or at least represent the interests of their constituents. I understand that you don’t like Republicans – it’s a position that you’ve made explicit many times – but the systemic issues will not be resolved by simply electing Democrats. I am more interested in more accurate representation and good governance that I am in furthering a policy agenda. Blind partisanship that places ends above all else is something that should be challenged everywhere it is found.

  • Modulo Myself

    Yes, our system is terrible. Why? It’s been dominated forever by center-left to far-right views about ‘issues’. This is the result of excluding life from politics, of turning everything into P&L spreadsheets, Econ 101 thought problems, and angry taxpayers.

    The answer is to turn away from that, stop worrying about partisanship and stop fearing subjectivity. Oh yes and actually care about ends rather than appearances, which is all the anti-partisan jumble really amounts to. Of all the things to be vain about, being above the political fray strikes me as the lamest. In real life humans who act like that are considered tedious dupes rather than the Solomonic figures they envision themselves as.

  • CuriousOnlooker

    Lesson #1, never take voters for granted; voters can and will humble the powerful; its the greatest feature of democracy.

    My take is THERE is a wave coming for both Congressional Republicans and Trump. From where I sit, when I look at the past year, Trump and Congressional Republicans have done a pretty terrible job the past year. The special elections in Georgia, Montana, Alabama, and the regular elections in Virginia is proof the voters disapprove.

    I do like to have successful Presidencies; so I will throw out advice on what Trump can do better. Now I’m doubtful Trump can change his spots like Bill Clinton; he seems too old and fixed in his ways.
    1) Act Presidential. The campaign is over; Americans don’t appreciate their Presidents to get into twitter wars with the host of Morning Joe, needlessly offend every leader of close allies (the UK), or fight a soldier’s widow.
    2) Practice personnel is policy and politics. I acknowledge Never Trumpers and leftover Democrats are out to get Trump; but it seems Trump’s worst personnel choices were his own choices. Michael Flynn (ironically, I think he got entrapped by the FBI, but look at the uncharged stuff like the Turkey deal), Jeff Sessions, Tom Price, Ryan Zinke, Roy Moore were all poorly vetted. Why have Reince Priebus, Steve Bannon, Scaramucci when they were all poor team players?
    Trump does have a base to build on with John Kelly, but there needs to be more. Suggestion, recruit from the Statehouses, they are less likely to infected by “the swamp” whether in ethics or just dislike of Trump.
    3) Figure out an agenda. Paul Ryan is a smart and decent man with many ideas, but his political instincts is not great. Trump seemed to realize that in the campaign, by going against R orthodoxy on a bunch of issues. So why spend the first year trying to pass Paul Ryan’s agenda on healthcare and taxes (which was not emphasized in the campaign)? Hint; if Trump wants an agenda, just look at the list of things that were emphasized in the campaign and in the acceptance speech. There’s plenty of idea men in this country to turn those campaign priorities into an agenda.
    4) Stop making enemies needlessly. The popular narrative is you took on 15 Republicans singlehandedly, then Hillary and won. The truth is Trump rather skillfully used an alliance with Ted Cruz and others at the right times. Which is to say spending the past year fighting everyone and anyone ends in disaster; as it has. And there are people who don’t like Trump but perhaps may be willing to work with him, like Charles Barkley, who said its time for Democrats to stop taking African Americans for granted after the win last night. Working with African Americans would have the double bonus of lowering the anger over the mealy mouth response to Charlottesville.

  • Steve

    The lesson to be learned, as with Clinton, is that it is still possible to run a candidate so awful that your own team will find it difficult to support them.


  • I do like to have successful Presidencies

    I’d prefer successful Congresses. Sadly, the likelihood of our getting one seems to be receding with each passing year. My gripe about President Obama’s first term is primarily with the Reid-Pelosi Congress which I consider one of the worst of my lifetime. The present McConnell-Ryan Congress is following right in its footsteps and may actually exceed it in awfulness.

    The job of the Congress isn’t just to pass a roster of legislation that pleases 10% of the country. It’s also to create durable consensuses that will support that legislation over time. The 50%+1 strategy may please your strongest partisans but it’se no way to run a country, particularly not one as large and diverse as the U. S.

  • CuriousOnlooker

    I would say for Congressional Republicans, my #1 advice is figure out who is voting for you.

    An example is the tax bill; out of conference they decide to lower the top marginal rate which affects what 1-3% of total voters (and probably the majority in this bracket vote D). Meanwhile I am guessing the vast majority of R voters make less then 100000, and a substantial portion make less then 50000. Why prioritize this sliver of voters over the vast majority?

    I don’t know how to fix Congress; the dysfunction has multiple systemic causes. You need reforms in the Primary / norminating system, the role of political parties, the ability of Congress to delegate to judiciary / executive / bureaucracy, term limits, reforms in the senate…

  • Andy


    “The answer is to turn away from that, stop worrying about partisanship and stop fearing subjectivity. Oh yes and actually care about ends rather than appearances, which is all the anti-partisan jumble really amounts to. Of all the things to be vain about, being above the political fray strikes me as the lamest.”

    You’re making incorrect assumptions. My position isn’t based on being or viewing myself as above the fray or vanity. It’s based on different priorities than partisans like yourself.

    To put it simply, I usually value process and legitimacy above ends. I believe that how we arrive at a decision or policy is usually more important than the policy itself. I believe that it is usually wrong and counterproductive to shove policies down people’s throats.

    My view comes from a lot of experience visiting (and living in) foreign countries and I’ve seen that putting ends above all else leads to authoritarianism. It also comes from study of social movements and revolutions throughout history, particularly American history (see, as the two biggest examples, the Temperance Movement and the Civil Rights Movement).

    So for me here in the US this translates into focusing on the importance of process which is what gives any desired end legitimacy. That doesn’t mean we ignore ends or ignore our own policy preferences – but it does mean we need to bring them about in ways that are viewed as legitimate by the polity they affect.

    Our system presently doesn’t support that. It values brute force political action and the doctrine of 50 plus one percent instead of building legitimacy that is broad-based. Partisans, I have found, have not problem with brute force politics – in fact they often embrace it. I don’t think they realize where that road eventually leads.

  • PD Shaw

    My Congressman, LaHood (R), apparently is co-sponsoring a bill with Congressman Lipinski (D), to create a bi-partisan Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress. This has only been done a few times before (1945, 1965, and 1992), so it sounds interesting, but I haven’t read much about it. I think they could make the ads to sell it: we want Congress to have the respect that it had when our Dads held our seats.

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