“The state of Alabama deserves better,” said Richard Shelby, the senior U.S. senator from Alabama, in explaining why he chose not to vote for Roy Moore, his party’s nominee in Alabama’s special election for the Senate today.
Contrast that with the statement of another prominent Alabama Republican, Gov. Kay Ivey, who said she would vote for Moore even though she “certainly (has) no reason to disbelieve any of them,” referring to the charges made by several women that Moore preyed on them when they were teenagers, one as young as 14.
On Tuesday, Alabama voters will decide between Moore — a minstrel of hate, who trumpets nativism, slanders immigrants and sows racist and sexist discord — and Democratic candidate Doug Jones, a moderate lawyer known mostly for prosecuting the killers of the four little girls in the Birmingham church bombing in 1963.
The choice is really one between Alabama’s past and its future. Shelby gets this. A rock-ribbed Southern Republican, he is no liberal. He’s worked together with Judge Moore in the past. Both want tougher immigration rules and weaker gun laws. Both are strictly anti-abortion. Both want to slash taxes on the rich and cut spending on the poor and add to it for the military.
Shelby, however, understands that there is a new Alabama struggling to be born, one seeking to make a transition to a high-tech modern economy. GE is building a plant there. Mercedes-Benz has production there. A major aerospace industry based on government contracts is growing in Huntsville. None of this could happen without the end of segregation. None of it is likely to continue if Alabama chooses to embrace hate and division.
If the new Alabama is to continue to grow, it needs better schools. It needs to educate and attract well-trained workers. It needs to compete with other states to attract companies.
As Shelby put it to the Washington Post: “Image, reputation. Is this a good place to live, or is it so controversial that we wouldn’t go there? You know, these companies are looking to invest. They are looking for a good place to live, a good place to do business, a good education system, opportunities, transportation. And we have come a long way; we’ve got to keep going. … We can’t live in the past.”
Judge Moore rails against the new Alabama, issuing apocalyptic slanders about immigrants and Muslims. When asked by an African American when he thought America was last great, Moore invoked the era of slavery: “I think it was great at the time when families were united — even though we had slavery. They cared for one another. … Our families were strong, our country had a direction.”
This revisionist history is distilled racism. In reality, slaves had their children ripped from them; families were purposefully torn apart. Rape, beatings and brutality were commonplace. It took the Civil War, the bloodiest of all our wars, to end slavery. Moore’s statement isn’t just inaccurate. It is an insult to the “Christian values” that he supposedly champions.
Sadly impervious to this is Donald Trump, who has loudly endorsed Moore, stumping for him in next door Florida and tweeting for Moore and against Jones: “LAST thing the Make America Great Again Agenda needs is a Liberal Democrat in Senate where we have so little margin for victory already.”
Trump would trade basic decency for a vote in the Senate. Trump traveled to Mississippi this week to join opening ceremonies of the new Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. There he claimed that he had long admired Dr. Martin Luther King, even as he spurned the opportunity to denounce Moore’s grotesque invocation of the slave era. That is a disgrace.
Trump sees Moore as a puppet, worth supporting despite all because he will be a vote in the Senate. Moore’s serious character deficit — be it preying on teenagers or whitewashing slavery — make no difference to the president.
How will Alabama vote? The result is far less about a single vote in the Senate, as Shelby has made clear, than a statement of how much or how little the new Alabama has changed. Trump has already failed the simple test of basic decency. Now Alabama voters will decide to look forward or look backward.