What America giveth, America can also taketh away.
If the women (and sane men) of this country have been feeling pretty good lately about the swift and sudden accountability that has met certain prominent men accused of inappropriate—and, in many cases, felonious—sexual conduct over the years, that hopefulness is being severely tempered down south, where the good people of Alabama are about to send a pedophile to the U.S. Senate.
The pedophile in question is one Roy Moore, a former judge and religious fanatic who has twice been yanked from his courtroom perch after refusing to enforce laws he found personally inconvenient, and who has been known to publicly suggest (among other things) that 9/11 was divine retribution for America’s sins and that gay sex is “a crime against nature, an inherent evil, and an act so heinous that it defies one’s ability to describe it”—the latter suggesting more about the man’s internet viewing habits than he perhaps intended.
This being Alabama—the most religious state in the union, according to Pew—Moore’s strutting Christian authoritarianism had already made him the odds-on favorite in his state’s special Senate election on December 12. However, now that Moore has been accused of sexual harassment and/or assault by no less than six women—most of whom were underage at the time—his victory against Democrat Doug Jones seems all but guaranteed. Indeed, if the latest polling is any indication, Moore’s in-state popularity has only grown as the claims of sexual misconduct have piled up.
In an earlier era—say, 13 months ago—such a scenario would’ve seemed unthinkable in America—not to mention dangerous, appalling, depressing and grotesque.
Here in the penultimate month of 2017, the prospect of a known serial predator being elected to the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body is still dangerous, appalling, depressing and grotesque—but it is also just about the most thinkable thing in American politics. Roy Moore will, in fact, be the next senator from Alabama, he will not be expelled by his 99 chamber mates when he arrives (contrary to rumor), and he will serve there at least until his first term expires in January 2021.
How do I know this? Because I lived through all 366 miserable days of 2016—including the one involving the sentence, “Grab ’em by the pussy”—and I know history repeating itself when I see it. If Donald Trump was the tragedy, Roy Moore is the farce.
One need not be a political scientist to notice the cascade of similarities between last year’s rise of Trump and this year’s rise of Moore: Both entered their campaigns as objects of national ridicule and disgrace. Both are known for irresponsible, inflammatory comments on divisive cultural issues and a general contempt for those with whom they disagree. Both are profoundly immature and obsessed with maintaining their oh-so-fragile sense of alpha superiority. Both have been able to parlay that über-masculinity into a Stalin-esque personality cult among their most loyal fans. Both have become so convinced of their infallibility that they never, under any circumstances, admit any fault or assume any personal responsibility.
Finally—and, at the moment, most importantly—both Trump and Moore have been presented with credible evidence of having behaved criminally toward multiple women (at least 12, in Trump’s case), both have faced calls within their own party to drop out of their respective races (Trump after the Access Hollywood incident) and, in denying all accusations, both have flatly and defiantly pledged to fight on to the end, claiming they themselves—not their accusers—are the real victims in this story.
All that remains to be seen is whether lightning can strike twice—whether, for the second year in a row, an obviously and flamboyantly unqualified political candidate can stonewall his way to victory in the face of all common sense, potential criminal charges, and every law of political gravity.
Let’s not kid ourselves, folks: If America can make a pussy-grabber president, Alabama can make a pedophile senator.