Judge Roy Moore, President Donald Trump and Tribalism

Roy Moore, via Wikimedia

Analysis by Reporting San Diego

Nov 10, 2017 (San Diego) What does Judge Roy Moore and President Donald Trump have in common? It is not that they are Republicans. Or that they even grew up in the same circumstances, because they did not. What they have in common is that we know Trump attacked and demeaned women during his time in Hollywood. He even admitted to sexual harassment, even perhaps assault in the Hollywood Access tape to Billy Bush. 

The Washington Post came out with an explosive story where four women told the Post that the Judge went after then as teenagers. In short, the judge may have committed sexual assault on a minor. The statue of limitations has passed, so none of these women can take the judge to court for a criminal case

These are very serious allegations. They include touching a 14 year old in an inappropriate way. He also allegedly guided her hand to his genitals, over his underwear. This could be construed as pedophilia. 

We are all very familiar it’s the Access Hollywood tape. At one point a women’s advocacy group live-streamed it at the National Mall. However, this had no effect in the ultimate election of Trump to the White House

These two incidents, and the reaction of the Republican Party, reveals a lot about tribalism in the United States, as well as power, and in particular Southern morals, or lack off.

When the Access Hollywood tape emerged, via the Washington Post, the Trump campaign went on to deflect the issue at hand. In the beginning there was plain out denial. And as far as Trump is concerned, he went on the attack. Like Moore, it was the liberal media, and they were the enemy. It was portrayed as fake news. The media became the enemy in this case.

However, now we see a very clear split between the far right and the far more mainstream national Republican Party. The former is making all kinds of excuses for Moore’s alleged actions, while mainstream Republicans are now demanding that Moore step aside. The Senate may have to refuse to seat him. Why? Moore may very well be elected. He did win the primary, and like Trump, voters will probably double down.

Steve Bannon, former strategist for President Trump, is a Moore supporter. This is his test as to whether the far right can continue to rise in national electoral politics. Moreover, Alabama is a state where populism is a very strong element in state politics. Moore’s campaign has very strong elements of far right populism, with a dash of extreme Christianity. Moore has run for years on a return to Christian values and even denied the establishment clause of the constitution. In his mind the attacks of September 11 came because the country was punished by god. He also said that Keith Ellison, the first Muslim member of Congress should not be able to serve. Moore also claimed that there were communities in Michigan that are run under Sharia law, and made racist remarks regarding Asian and First People’s. Like Trump, he also claimed that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States. You can read the list via Politico

Moore is showing how deep the split is within the Republican Party. This could be a battle for the soul of the party. It also shows something more troubling. This is the inability of its far right flank to be even a little critical of a politician that has been accused of pedophilia. Since the statue of limitations has run, there is no way that this man will ever face criminal charges. At least not for this. 

The Alabama Republican Party has gone so far as to use Biblical stories to justify this. 

“Take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus,” Alabama state auditor Jim Ziegler told the Washington Examiner on Thursday.

However, there are other reasons why Moore and his state party are acting the way they are. It is shocking to those outside of Alabama, and we see shades of this spreading. In particular with the Trump White House, and the Access Hollywood tape.

According to the Harvard Political Review:

After the election of Donald Trump, many commentators expressed shock that the president-elect, with his lewd comments and sexual impropriety, did so well in the South, a place known for “family values.” The truth is the South has never prioritized the personal values of its leaders. Back in the 1940s and 50s, Governor “Big Jim” Folsom was one of the most popular men ever to hold the position. To this day, many Alabamians say that if another Folsom ever runs for office, they’ll vote for him, because Big Jim famously paved rural roads to underserved places (including my grandparents’ childhood homes). Big Jim was also famous for his vices–in a televised debate with George Wallace, Folsom showed up drunk and failed to remember the names of his many children. His apocryphal line–“if they bait a hook with whiskey and women, they’ll catch Big Jim every time”–remains prominent in Alabama lore.

The lesson is simple: populism rises above all other concerns in Alabama. Demagoguery has a long track record of success in the South, and a politician who sufficiently channels that energy can say and do most anything–“grab them by the pussy,” for example–and still win by a landslide. George Wallace’s racism cost Alabama millions in economic development and outside investment, yet his populist appeal won elections. He served several nonconsecutive terms as governor, including one as late as the 1980s.

To many in the state what happened is normal. The mere denial is all that they need to be able to move on. We predict that Moore will likely be elected. While there are many things that Leader Mitch McConnell can do to keep Moore from gaining too much influence, the reality is that this will be short term. McConnell needs Moore in the coming tax fight. 

Moore, like Trump, is a radical right populist. He is also coming from a state where connections are critical. Morality is used to keep the masses in line, but those same masses do not care what their leaders do. This is also how autocracies behave. Those with connections have almost complete impunity. 

The split we are seeing though is fascinating. The reason for that, the reaction is very telling and the American south may be ahead of national politics on this road to hell. It also speaks to the deep tribalism, where voting for your tribe is far more important than anything else. This includes standard rules of society, such as what Judge Moore did when he was 32. It also raises the question. Are there more?  


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