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Moore Lost. Now What?

This is going to be very much my personal take on the Democratic victory over Roy Moore for U.S. Senate. First of all, as a Republican I am getting pretty tired of rooting for Democrats. I only do it when I just can’t stand the Republican candidate. And that is happening way too often lately. Nor is it likely to stop until the GOP regains some semblance of sanity.

The thing about this election is that it seems to have been decided by other Republicans who could not hold their noses and pull the Roy Moore lever any more than I could have if I lived in Alabama. It seems fairly clear that the large number of write-ins came mainly from Republicans who would not vote for a Democrat but also could not bring themselves to vote for Moore.

And this was in a state where most voters found Donald Trump acceptable. Apparently Moore actually trumped Trump at being too much for even an Alabama Republican to endure. Why?

In some ways he was the perfect storm. Just too many things to offend too many people. There was the fracas he made over wanting the Ten Commandments displayed in his courthouse. His over-the-top condemnation of gays. His super repugnant choice of the slavery days as his example of the greatness for America that he wants to bring back. And, for those whose stomachs had not been turned yet, the thought of his getting a teenage girl to strip down to her underwear with him. Of course for some of his evangelical Christian supporters the religion-in-the-courthouse, racism or anti-gay stuff may have actually cut in his favor. And some even turned to the Bible in their search for justification of a 30-year-old coming on to teenagers. But apparently even in Alabama that slice of the Christian right is not large enough to make the whole package acceptable. Fortunately.

Another evident cause of Moore’s downfall was the huge voter turnout, fueled by black voters who often seem to think there is not enough difference between the candidates to matter. But this time they had both Moore’s extreme offensiveness and Jones’ stellar civil rights record to motivate them.

All of these factors are important for understanding the unexpected outcome in Alabama, which will make the slim Republican Senate majority even slimmer. But to me the most important element is the sexual misconduct issue that has been dominating the news for the last several weeks. Although numerous important heads had already rolled following the unprecedented onslaught of accusations, so far nothing seemed as dramatic to me as the rejection of a Republican Senatorial candidate by the voters in a highly conservative state like Alabama. This has me really excited.

I have been a pretty radical feminist for decades, and I am both angry and creeped out by the way so many men treat women. Part of what is coming out in the cases now coming to light is that in many organizations sexual harassment by particular men had been an open secret for a very long time with the men turning a blind eye and the women afraid to say anything. It is hard not to wonder what would have happened if more women had dared to speak out long ago, Quite possibly, nothing. The fear of not being believed and the fear of career-ending retaliation was very real. But finally, due in part to an increased number of women in positions of power in business and politics, the point of critical mass has been reached. The floodgates are open and the stream of allegations is unlikely to dry up. One can only guess as to how many men are living in fear that they will be the next to fall, their reputations ruined and their careers gone up in smoke. Although I hate seeing how many women have suffered for so long, I will not deny that I enjoy seeing their tormentors get their just deserts. But I also find myself wondering what the long-term results will be.

What we are dealing with is a culture probably much older than recorded history. Male domination has thrived everywhere and always. American society is not even an especially bad example. Women are treated worse in many parts of the world. But even here they are bought and sold as sexual commodities. Can such systemic oppression be dramatically changed any time soon? We have seen how hard it has been for the civil rights movement of the 1960’s to produce a pervasive cultural shift, in spite of many dramatic changes.

The same is true now in the areas of sexual orientation and gender identity. Laws can change, opposition to oppression can become more vocal. But resistance can also be strong and injustice has myriad ways to preserve itself. History does show that cultural changes can occur, but it also shows that change is usually frustratingly slow. I hope we are at a watershed moment in the treatment of women by men, but we must not think that systemic abuse will come to a screeching halt. It will continue to be a hard struggle, but one that will achieve increasingly tangible results.

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