Chicago Sun Times
Steinberg: Trump and Moore lose, Jones — and America — win
U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore rides a horse to vote during the Alabama senatorial election, Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017, in Gallant, Ala. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Neil Steinberg December 13, 2017
That’s the short version.
At least the country hasn’t gone completely crazy. Any loss for Donald Trump is a win for America.
Close, but enough. Thank you, God, Jesus and Alabama. Roll Tide!
The long version is more complicated.
Put it this way:
Shame and pride had a wrestling match in Alabama on Tuesday.
Even in a solid Southern red state that hadn’t elected a Democratic Senator in a quarter century, the idea of electing Roy S. Moore — a Republican, yes, but also credibly accused of groping several young women and girls — to the United States Senate was simply too much for voters to bear.
Even Republican voters. Even Alabama voters. Even in the debased, tawdry Era of Trump.
Or as NBA legend and Alabama native Charles Barkley succinctly put it, campaigning for the victor, Doug Jones: “At some point we got to stop looking like idiots to the nation.”
That point is now.
Okay, not now. It’s not as if the state had a communal change of heart since Nov. 2016, when Alabamans voted for Trump almost 2-to-1 over Hillary Clinton.
They just didn’t want to be embarrassed by electing an alleged child molester. It’s a start.
That Moore was a bad judge, is a bad man, and would certainly be a bad senator, assuming the Senate didn’t expel him immediately upon being sworn in, was not so much a factor as that electing him would look bad. Few Alabama voters seemed to care that he was dismissed from the bench, twice, for refusing to obey the law. They liked that. They’re proud of that defiant attachment to faith, a Duke of Hazzard flipping off of the man.
Doug Jones won. Even though his good qualities were eclipsed by his being a Democrat, and on the wrong side of the only moral issue that matters down there: abortion. His victory is still a reflection of the polarized, poisonous political atmosphere that this election does not change so much as ratify. Almost half the state still voted for Moore.
Jones won. But his election won’t change anything, not yet. The Senate will still be in Republican hands. And there is no defeat that Trump can’t spin into supposed victory.
Is Jones’ win a reason to be glad? Sure. But a cause for celebration? Not really.
People in Chicago only care about who represents Alabama in the Senate because that contest was seen as a bellwether for the 2018 midterm elections, a test to see if the Trump Rebellion is played out.
Does Jones’ win mean that Trumpism has reached his high water mark and will now begin to recede? Or is Jones’ victory just a pause in the rainstorm?
Celebration feels premature. Trump has suffered setback after setback since being finessed into office with — I believe — a boost from his friends the Russians. Obamacare withstood his onslaught, the military recently shrugged off his attempt to ban transgender troops. Everything bothers Trump, but nothing fazes him. He’s like that metal man in “Terminator 2.”
Jones’ victory is important because it nibbles away at Trump’s thin majority in the Senate. It also reminds us of the power of shame. Doing the right thing because people are watching you isn’t the best reason, but it will do.
This is not the beginning of the end. Maybe, to quote Winston Churchill, it’s the end of the beginning.
There is no question that the Trump administration will eventually fall apart, because it is a house built on sand. You can only get by on lies and bluster so long. Facts are facts. Climate change is real. Muslims and Hispanics make good, hard-working, tax-paying, law-abiding American citizens as well as anyone else. Gays make excellent partners, if you are so inclined and responsible parents.
The question is when.
The answer: not yet.
The election of Doug Jones does not mean that the historic intolerance and fierce partisanship of the Southland has been overcome. They have an enormous burden still.
This is a first step. Change is possible, yes. But change hasn’t happened yet or Roy S. Moore would never have been the Republican candidate. Jones’ win is merely one dry day in a season of flooding. That said, it is a welcome relief.