As I write this at 6am on a Wednesday morning, several major news organizations have called the Alabama Senate special election for Democrat Doug Jones. The Republican candidate, the odious Roy Moore, has yet to concede.
This is a big deal for American politics. Early exit polls and anecdotal evidence suggests this is more a demographic victory than a Democratic one. Minority, younger, and urban voters faced off against entrenched white, older, and rural voters, amid a blatant barrage of vote-suppression tactics engineered by Alabama Republicans.
How bad was it? Mother Jones Magazine has this report. The Alabama Supreme Court set in motion measures intended to immediately destroy paper ballots and erase electronic traces, acts intended to ‘protect’ a Republican victory from claims of vote-rigging. Anti-Moore voters persisted and gave enough of a victory to (probably) be safe from a recount.
The Democrats and associated #Resistance folks are understandably jubilant. Donald Trump has so far offered an uncharacteristically mild congratulation to Doug Jones, followed by a tepid claim that Luther Strange would have been the better candidate (instead of Moore).
The Republican majority in the Senate has shrunk by one more vote, making their legislative effectiveness even more questionable. Moreover, this election can only be seen as a warning to Republicans: their party direction under Trump could tarnish their ‘brand’ for generations.
Do they care?
Understand that, to the Evangelical Christian bloc, Donald J. Trump was always an unsavory but useful tool. As long he is useful to their Culture War efforts, he’ll be tolerated. Mike Pence has spent decades grooming himself as a logical Evangelical choice for POTUS. The year he’s spent kowtowing to Trump has undoubtedly been hard for him, but he probably views it as a divine test of his faith.
And right where his right-wing allies –from KKK and alt-right Nazis, to ultra-devout Evangelicals and ultra-rich donors, to even Russian interests — want him to be.
The new Republicans understand they are at a crossroads: control of the US hinges on demographics and voter engagement, pitting largely older whites against largely younger minorities. Freezing out those younger, poorer, easily disillusioned voters with suppression and misinformation was *the* core goal of the 2016 Presidential Election. It worked then.
Will the election of Doug Jones signal a new era of engagement and cooperation among liberal voting blocs in the US? It’s a promising start, but only one battle in a long and dangerous war.
President Pence is not where sane Americans, or the world, want to be on the eve of global recession, nuclear threats , and climate disasters. Donald J. Trump can be reliably said to only be out for himself (with his blood family a distant second). Pence has a Mission from God, and it’s not the one from the Blues Brothers movie.
What is so bad about a President Pence? His allies, for one: a world-spanning collection of oligarchs and devout thugs who will stop at nothing to cement political and economic power. The ‘tax reform’ bills making their way through consensus in the US House and Senate are proof enough of that. These bills take away earnings, freedom, and security for most poor and middle-class Americans, and reward the ultra-rich.
Pence’s Russian ally Vladimir Putin has led and refined a dangerous game of concealing his own incompetence and inadequacy by creating a false-equivalence narrative. ‘Everybody cheats, everybody lies, there is no moral high ground, and democracy is a lie.’ His ultimate goal is not the ennobling of Russia, but the degradation of its opponents. Donald J. Trump is undoubtedly Putin’s puppet, but Pence and the Republicans are his useful equals.
Far worse is Mike Pence & Co’s enthusiastic acceptance of End Times beliefs: the idea that the world is ending in a series of events predicted in the Biblical Book of Revelations.
End Times is the *only* reason Christian Evangelicals support Israel. They don’t like Jews, but according to Revelations, Jews and Israel are necessary to kickstart the return of Christ. Christian Evangelicals of Mike Pence’s strain are likely to be anti-science, anti-tolerance, anti-climate change, and anti-alternative energy.
They don’t think the world is worth saving. They mask that belief behind a practical pro-business, anti-tax strategy that bills itself as good for the short-term economy. But at the root, most End Times believers (who can be every religion from Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, and far-right Hindu, among others) think the End is going to come in their lifetime, so why build anything for a secular future? They recognize their views are unpopular with liberal mindsets, so they’ve set out to minimize liberal challenges while they can.
My takeaway from the Doug Jones election is this: liberal voters and politicians need to be ready for anything, and committed to landslide victories and constant vigilance…or the resulting alt-right empires will make Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale look like Disneyland.