First published in Breaking / Bannon.
Dear Esteemed Alabamians and Fellow Americans,
Thank you again for taking time to read this “outsider” perspective on the Alabama Senate election. My concluding thoughts turn toward Alabama Democrat and Senate candidate, Doug Jones.
The Alabama Election’s Forgotten Man
People of the hard-right, Breitbart persuasion refer to Doug Jones as “Dud” Jones or “Dough” Jones, and of course that sort of 3rd-grade humor is as close as they come to incisive political commentary. And much has been written about how Doug Jones, despite running the strongest statewide campaign by a Democrat and a “moderate” liberal in anyone’s memory, remains in some respects the election’s forgotten man. Which truly is part of his appeal, and in itself a reason he may deserve Alabama’s vote in Tuesday’s election.
Doug Jones’s quiet calm and confidence stand as a counterpoint to the ghostly/ghastly noise Roy Moore makes even when he is not visible, as he has not been throughout most of this election season. Even an absent Roy Moore (or one who appears through his surrogates) sucks air from the room while rattling his invisible chains.
L’Etat C’est Moi
Hillary Clinton stumbled in the 2016 election partly because her own perspective of herself as a paragon of virtue was at at odds with a public perception that she was entitled, self-serving, and out-of-touch with the needs and experiences of ordinary Americans. True or not, inflected with a caustic sexism or not, this perception probably cost her the election.
The ultimate irony, of course, is that Donald Trump, the Republican Party candidate who defeated Hillary Clinton, carried into the White House and into our public life a vastly more aggrieved and aggressive sense of personal entitlement, privilege, and vindictiveness toward those less fortunate than him.
Eerie parallels exist between last year’s presidential election and the 2017 special Senate election in Alabama. Aside from similarities between the crude, clueless, empty-headed spewings of Donald Trump and Roy Moore (along with their ill-starred bromances with elitist, Bama-hater Steve Bannon), the Republican Party “swamp” establishment in Alabama may also have made the mistake, like the Democratic Party in 2016, of taking for granted its own political omnipotence, despite a rap sheet of corruption and incompetence that would shame a tin-horn dictator.
I am no soothsayer, and I have no idea who will win tomorrow’s election (although I stand my prediction that Auburn’s Iron Bowl upset of Alabama portends a Doug Jones upset against Roy Moore). If Doug Jones does triumph in the Senate election, one major reason will be that the political omnipotence of the Republican Party in the state has fooled its leaders into believing the Republican Party and the state of Alabama are a single, undifferentiated entity (l’etat c’est moi). With that misapprehension comes the conviction that Alabama citizens serve the party, and will automatically bow down to the party’s dictates, even if it means voting for an accused sexual predator who is otherwise, and not incidentally, a blithering idiot. But as I have speculated, there may be limits to how low Alabama Republicans are willing to go.
In Which Moore, Bannon, and Trump Drain the Swamp and Are Left Only With Themselves
Like many others in the Tea Party, Roy Moore would go to Washington and enter the corridors of power in order to smash and dismantle them. Elsewhere, people might call this a coup d’etat. In the United States, we call it “draining the swamp.” And now Senator Shelby appears to have gone a bridge too far with his public denunciations of Roy Moore on behalf of the protocols, traditions, and purposes of the U.S. Senate. As one guy wrote me (echoing “outsider” Steve Bannon), “Shelby needs to be gone too. DRAIN THE SWAMP!”
Having traveled their own bridge too far – from birthering Barack Obama to jailing Hillary Clinton to mocking Mitch McConnell – Bannon and his posse of arsonists now want to take the burn to one of the most stalwart conservatives the Senate has ever known. A swamp thus drained may end up only harboring Roy Moore, Donald Trump, and Steve Bannon, and then they can all take turns ruling each other.
Of course, what Roy Moore and Steve Bannon fail to admit is that the swamp is not a location. The swamp is a state of mind. And politics, by its nature requires a certain swampiness and resists purification, even by so notable a witch-burner as Roy Moore.
Servant Leadership: A Novel Idea!
Which leaves us with the estimable Doug Jones and the historic choice that awaits Alabama on Tuesday. To support one’s political party and vote for Roy Moore, or to stand up for one’s state and nation, and vote for Doug Jones. Because we already know what Alabama will get from each candidate. We know that Roy Moore is happy to reduce the election to a test of personal loyalty, to his “character” and to Donald Trump. “L’etat c’est moi.”
By contrast, Doug Jones only asks that you let him serve you, the citizens and residents of Alabama. You do not owe him loyalty; he owes loyalty to you. He bows down to you. Finally, of course, it is this concept of service, the commitment to being a servant leader, to lifting up your fellow citizens and not yourself, that distinguishes Doug Jones and separates him from so many other politicians. For this reason alone (although there are many others, as well), Doug Jones deserves your vote.
Breaking / Bannon