Stars Fell On Alabama
All Eyes On 2018
The sky didn’t fall, but a few stars fell on Alabama Tuesday when Doug Jones edged out Roy Moore to win the Senate race that became a national obsession, split the GOP, energized Democrats, and set the stage for an uncertain political year when all eyes will be on the midterm elections in November.
The biggest casualty, of course, is Moore himself. An outspoken, controversial, and defiant public figure for decades, Moore could not survive the scandal that erupted in early November with allegations of sexual harassment and assault. Although Moore denied the allegations, in the end the scandal was too much for Alabama voters who handed Jones an upset narrow victory.
Another casualty is President Trump. The President initially stood firmly behind Senator Luther Strange. But Trump shifted gears in hopes of saving the Senate seat for the GOP when Moore beat Strange. The Republican National Committee also reversed course and renewed funding for Moore. But establishment Republicans in Congress closed ranks, with Senate Republicans suggesting that there would be a protracted fight over Moore becoming a Senator, including an Ethics Committee investigation and even a move to expel Moore if he was seated.
Yet another casualty is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Having rolled the dice and lost, McConnell now faces a majority of one when he can ill afford any erosion in his Republican ranks as the Senate prepares to vote on tax reform and government spending. One thing is certain. Vice President Mike Pence will be spending more of his time presiding over the Senate as the standby to break any tie votes. (It is uncertain when the Jones victory will be certified by state authorities and he will be sworn in.)
The Moore-Jones race and the Moore scandal played out against the backdrop of the Harvey Weinstein scandal that broke a month before the Moore allegations. The Weinstein scandal launched an avalanche of allegations against the Hollywood mogul and sparked the #MeToo movement. Public figures in entertainment, the media, and government started dropping on a daily basis. A long-overdue cultural moment gained a head of steam that shows no sign of slowing down.
Meanwhile, Democrats are feeling their collective oats. Claiming that they have cleaned their own house with the disposal of John Conyers and Al Franken, they have moved on to President Trump, asking for Congressional hearings on allegations of sexual harassment by the President, staging a vote for impeachment proceedings, and even calling for the President’s resignation. Now that Moore is gone, attacking the President is the order of the day for Democrats determined to destroy the Trump presidency.
At the same time, Robert Mueller’s investigation into the 2016 presidential campaign moves forward, but not without a boiling controversy over Mueller’s staff and FBI personnel. The Special Counsel’s investigation is a shambles that loses credibility with each passing day.
Those determined to destroy Trump now pin their hopes on flimsy charges of obstruction of justice. It will be weeks and even months before the public receives substantial conclusions from Mueller and the Justice Department. Partisan divisions and strident rhetoric will continue to erode public confidence in the institutions of government.
Next month will mark the one-year anniversary of Trump’s inauguration. Trump’s second year will begin with the same public divides as the first. There will be raging controversies instead of healing compromise. Meanwhile, voters will look on with dismay and even disgust, wondering when if ever they will realize relief.
During the course of his career, Walker has worked in Chicago, Washington DC, New York City, and Phoenix. He served as a reporter in Chicago, a press secretary and speechwriter in Washington, and in numerous positions in New York in corporate and financial services communications.
Walker is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.