Escape from the abyss: Kudos to our saviors in Alabama

Democrat Doug Jones and his wife Louise wave to supporters

Confetti falls as Democrat Doug Jones and his wife Louise wave to supporters Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017, in Birmingham, Ala. In a stunning victory aided by scandal, Democrat Doug Jones won Alabama's special Senate election on Tuesday, beating back history, an embattled Republican opponent and President Donald Trump, who urgently endorsed GOP rebel Roy Moore despite a litany of sexual misconduct allegations. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

I agree with Roy Moore. There really is a God.

But I’m talking about a sane compassionate God — not the bigoted, homophobic, hate-filled God that Moore sought to impose on Alabama and this benighted nation. I’m talking about a God whose spirit burned bright in the hundreds of thousands of citizens who last night pulled us back from the amoral abyss. I’m talking about the people who saved us from the most repugnant manifestations of Trumpism.

This is a great day for America — not just because Democrat Doug Jones triumphed in a scarlet-red state and barred a credibly accused child molester from cruising the Senate, but because his win is a happy portent for Democrats who seek to put the screws to Trump in the ’18 midterms. If a Democrat (a pro-choice Democrat, no less) can win in a state that hadn’t elected a blue senator in 25 years, that bodes well for Democrats in the more hospitable states where House and perhaps Senate seats are winnable. What happened last night in Alabama will energize the forces of sanity and civility, and kindle hope that we can indeed reverse the slide toward authoritarianism.

But before I thank the saviors who made last night possible, let’s spare a few words for the headlining losers.

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Trump and Moore made quite a team: a lying serial sexual harasser and a mall-trawling serial teen harasser. Moore functioned as Trump’s mini-me, attacking female accusers, spewing about “fake news,” the usual tinpot tripe.  And Trump assumed he had political muscle in a state that he won last year by 28 points. Instead, the two credibly accused pervs — along with Trump’s dirtbag doppelgänger, Steve Bannon — suffered an ignominious defeat. I can taste Champagne just by writing that sentence.

Did Trump have muscle in Alabama? Nope. According to the exit polls, 51 percent of the voters said he wasn’t a factor; in other words, his repeated endorsement of Moore meant nothing. Among those who said Trump wasn’t a factor, a whopping 56 percent voted for Jones. That was the ballgame right there.

By the way, Trump won 62 percent of the presidential vote in 2016, but his Alabama approval rating has dropped to 48 percent. Even in Alabama, he’s bleeding badly. Combine that with everything else we know — his national approval rating in the latest Pew poll is 32 percent; his party lost the gubernatorial races last month in Virginia and New Jersey; his party trails by roughly 10 points in the generic midterm election balloting — and it’s possible that Alabama is his dead canary in the coal mine.

So much for the losers (including Alabama’s white evangelicals, who betrayed their morals by giving Moore 81 percent of their votes). Let’s put our hands together for the winners:

African-Americans. By turning out in numbers that far exceeded expectations (29 percent of last night’s electorate, with 96 percent of their votes going to Jones), they pulled Alabama into the 21st century. Apparently it didn’t sit well with these black citizens that Moore was openly pining for the good old days of slavery and musing that America would be better off without the constitutional amendment that guarantees equal protection of the law. Nor did it probably sit well that Trump came to Alabama and denounced kneeling black athletes as SOBs.

Women. There’s no way of knowing whether they were turned off by Moore’s cruising of teens, or his stated belief that America would be better off without the constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote, or his belief that Muslims shouldn’t serve in government, or his belief that America is evil because it allows gay marriage, or his alliance with a “president” who’s accused of harassment by at least 16 women. Whatever the mix, the numbers tell the tale: They favored Jones over Moore by a whopping 16 points, 57 to 41.

Moore’s female accusers. They came forward, braved all the predictable abuse, and they made a difference. By a 20-point margin, women voters said the allegations about Moore were true. Indeed, among mothers with children under 18, Jones won by 34 points, 66 to 32. (Think about it. What mother would want her daughter to work in Washington as a Moore intern?)

Richard Shelby. Last weekend, Alabama’s senior Republican senator put country above party, urging his constituents to write in a “distinguished” Republican. He thus defied Trump, Bannon, the Republican National Committee (which sent Moore $150,000), and his own state GOP. Though Shelby’s influence is hard to measure — Jones’ winning margin was 1.5 percent — he deserves some of the credit for arresting our race to the bottom. Which brings us to …

Senate Republicans. They’re winners too, inadvertently so. A Moore victory would’ve made their lives hell. A Moore defeat frees them from conducting an ethics investigation and contemplating expulsion. A Moore defeat spares them from having to answer press questions every time Moore opened his yap. They get enough grief as it is from Trump’s moronic tweets.

On the other hand, Jones’ ascent to the Senate narrows the Republican majority to 51-49, which means the GOP has even less margin for error as it labors to deliver legislative wins for Trump in 2018. The party still seems determined to enact a tax “reform” bill that screws the working- and middle-class voters, a bill most Americans strongly oppose, and Jones won’t be sworn in until after it’s passed. But there’s hope for 2018 that at least a few Republican senators will read the Alabama tea leaves and act in the national interest.

As conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin says, “If pure, undistilled Trumpism is a dud in a deep-red state, perhaps Republicans will conclude it is a failed political philosophy for the country at large.” If so, then there truly is a God.

Meanwhile, it’s not often — OK, it’s never — that the normally restrained “USA Today” editorial page writes something I feel compelled to share. But, in addition to Trump’s Alabama debacle, we have this:

“A president who would all but call Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand a whore is not fit to clean the toilets in the Barack Obama Presidential Library or to shine the shoes of George W. Bush.”

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