Now that at least a symbolic small part of the American electorate has restored some faith in its credibility, perhaps we can look forward to a more uplifting main event in the coming year. Hopefully recent events portend a saner approach to governance, or it will be more of the same unrelenting chaos that has gripped the nation since Donald Trump took office.
The true significance of deep red Alabama’s rejection of Roy Moore’s bid for the U.S. Senate was that among a majority of voters, decency prevailed over the crassest of politics. Alabama’s citizens refused to buy into the onerous argument that a needed vote in the Senate excused the morally questionable record of the candidate who delivers it — a state jurist who has been accused of molesting a 14-year-old and sexually harassing a variety of other teenagers half his age at the time. That’s not even to mention that Moore had been removed twice from the Alabama Supreme Court for ignoring orders to stop promoting his religion by displaying the Ten Commandments on court property.
The smell around this Republican candidate was so foul that the party’s leadership disavowed him. Even Alabama’s other Senator, Richard Shelby (also a Republican) urged his state’s voters to write-in a candidate rather than cast their ballot for Moore.
Trump had gone all out for Moore in the final days of the campaign, urging voters to remember the importance of Moore to his agenda. Then in what has become typical for the real estate tycoon, following a defeat he denied his own alarming contentions.
Stephen Cannon, Trump’s former chief strategist in the White House, needed a Moore victory to establish his viability as one who has announced his intentions to radicalize Republicanism into a far-right bastion, ousting its current leadership. It remains to be seen how much damage has been done to his cause by his unflinching support of Moore, although he has made it clear he will carry on the fight in the midterm election year.
Obviously, the Republicans remain seriously divided and Democrats clearly have been given a new lease on their fortunes by the news from Alabama, the most Republican state in the union that Trump carried overwhelmingly in last year’s general election. The Democrats hadn’t placed one of their own in the Senate since the 1990s.
If the Democrats can win back the Senate (they are only two votes down with Moore’s defeat) Trump’s enormous campaign promise list — already strained by his failure to eliminate the Affordable Care Act — may fade considerably.
While it looks as though Trump will be able to claim a major victory in tax reform before Christmas, it’s still dicey. How long the afterglow will last is the substance of a great deal of speculation, especially with opponents charging it favors the rich. Such deep reductions in taxes are rare during times when the economy finally is in a breakaway mode of acceleration. Normally tax cuts have been aimed at boosting a falling or sluggish economy.
And then there is the national debt, a GOP election year political football for decades. Janet Yellen, the outgoing chair of the Federal Reserve, has warned that the tax reforms pressure on the deficit may be of some concern. The projection of deficit increase ranges as high as $1.3 trillion, although that seems excessive after steps taken to offset the shortfall during House/Senate reconciliation of the two different bills.
Moore’s defeat and a continuing onslaught of sexual harassment claims against a growing number of prominent Americans have increased the wattage of the spotlight brought on Trump’s own problems in that direction. As many as 12 women have accused the former reality TV star of being a serial groper and in one instance, a rapist. So far Trump has simply said the allegations aren’t true and all but ignored them. But his accusers don’t seem to be in the mood to walk away. Moore also called his adventures with youngsters when he was in his 30s fake news. It didn’t work.
Then, of course, next year will bring at least partial resolution of the Russian investigation.
But for now, that one act of contrition by Alabama voters has served to restore some faith in the electoral process and make the 2018 congressional elections even more interesting than expected.
Dan Thomasson is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service and a former vice president of Scripps Howard Newspapers. Readers may send him email at: [email protected]