Doug Jones is a good person and a good candidate. He has sustained a record of doing public good that goes far beyond his impressive avoidance of getting banned from malls for being a known sexual predator, and he deserves Alabama’s vote on his own merits. Yet we’ve spent weeks deadlocked in national debate about a man whose mere candidacy would—in even the most moderately moral and reasonable of worlds—fry the state’s voting infrastructure even before voting begins, when the U.S. citizens in charge of setting up the ballots puke with involuntary projectile patriotism on all the computers.
It’s too late to make a case for Doug Jones or Roy Moore, even from my highly influential seat as a writer at Paste Magazine who lives in Texas. The only people who can do that at this point are Alabamians like this man, a peanut farmer from Wicksburg who, if there’s a god, would be as close to god as anyone who ever lived.
Regardless of the outcome, though, when the polls close this evening we’ll have passed through a political portal second in its significance only to Trump’s election: The President of the United States of America endorsed a child molester. (For the required modicum of journalistic integrity: Alleged child molester. Let’s enter into a contract that whenever I say “child molester,” “pedophile,” “unconscionable sexual criminal,” etc., we assume “alleged.”)
Now I could be wrong, but I believe Trump is the first sitting U.S. president not only to endorse but campaign for a candidate for the U.S. Senate accused several times over of sexual assault up to and including pedophilia. And I believe Mr. Trump is also the first sitting President of the United States to be investigated by his own Department of Justice for involvement in a conspiracy with a foreign adversary to undermine the American democratic process. Improbable as that coincidence would seem just a few years ago, or maybe even a year ago, these things are happening at the same time.
It’s not a coincidence, though, and as we amble flinching into the hellish political radiation 2018 is already emitting, we need to understand exactly why the President campaigned to get a virulently racist, virulently anti-LGBT child molester elected to national office. It explains a lot of what has already happened this year, and what will likely happen in the next few months as the president himself gets pinned down on four almost impressively different criminal fronts: Financial crimes; obstruction of justice; conspiracy against the United States; and sexual assault.
Donald Trump, with the help of about a third of America, is trying to make the presidency invincible.
Mr. Trump built his endorsement for Moore on two planks. The first was the abhorrent utilitarian argument that the GOP needs Moore’s vote to ensure that Mr. Trump’s legislation and his judicial nominees pass through Congress unmolested.
Before we get ahead of ourselves, I’d like to point out that even with Alabama’s extant two Republican votes, Mr. Trump has failed to get any major legislation through Congress. Even the tax bill, a provisional version of which passed the Senate, faces an uncertain future after the GOP’s Potemkin promises to their moderate colleagues have been predictably revealed for what they are. And yes, of course Jones would create a lot of problems for Senate Republicans; on the other hand, so, you’d think, would a fiercely racist and misogynistic birther pedophile judge whom the State of Alabama threw off the bench for his efforts to thwart the U.S. Constitution. Twice.
Which brings us to Trump’s other, debatably more noxious motive to get behind Moore: He’s not that bad.
(NARRATOR: He is that bad.)
The official position of the President of the United States of America is that you shouldn’t believe the several women who have accused this psychopath of sexual predation. And it’s working, because a lot of people don’t. Or at least they say they don’t, but at the same time do believe Bill Clinton’s many accusers, and Senator Al Franken’s, and Democrat patron Harvey Weinstein’s, etc etc. This is, hopefully, the nadir of our cynicism: I can vote for a pedophile because f*ck liberals. You don’t have to do intellectual gymnastics to imagine Alabama voters pressing Moore’s name with a laugh, with satisfaction, with enjoyment, with patriotic pride, with a perverted pride completely independent of patriotism.
This is what I call The Law of 2016: The worse the GOP candidate is, the harder right-wing voters own liberals if they elect him. This is a major driver, if not the fundamental premise, of the increasingly psychotic consolidation of support behind Mr. Trump in the face of an all-you-can-eat buffet of evidence that he’s not only a piece of trash human being, but a stupid, lazy, vacuous, dishonest, bored, racist, amoral, incompetent, traitorous, senile and avaricious criminal working steadily against the best interests of his own base. (I have no interest anymore in reaching out to Trump’s base.) But none of that stuff mattered in 2016, and none of it matters today. According to the Law of 2016, the well-done President has a more-than good chance of convincing most rare-meat-red Alabamians to suppress their cognitive dissonance long enough to press a button today.
Mr. Trump’s instincts are savvy enough that he even encourages these people to enjoy their vote: Stickin’ it to the liberal media.
All Mr. Trump needs to do at this point is give voters an unfalsifiable and therefore unassailable excuse that will allow them to put a public face on what is really an act of unadulterated, childish contempt. So he broke out the reliable FAKE NEWS! and linked the women to the hated mainstream media. Roy Moore, the President said, is the victim of a coordinated left-wing smear campaign. This itself is part of the smear campaign on the mainstream media, and thanks to the dispiriting timing of an entirely unrelated CNN screw-up, the right wing has supercharged this argument to the point of invincibility.
Here’s something: If it’s so easy for the mainstream media to smear someone with false accusations of pedophilia, why isn’t the right-wing media machine out there smearing liberal candidates with competing false allegations? A conservative pedophile versus a liberal pedophile: The choice is yours, Alabama.
(I already know the GOP’s answer: They’re more decent than that.)
It should be clear by now that the right wing will ride this FAKE NEWS! thing until the bitter end. I mean, it kept a pedophile ahead in the polls in an off-year election, even as he came under fire from overwhelming cries of basic human decency from every corner of the country. Even if that pedo loses the race, it’s an incredible achievement in depravity. It’s damn near unbeatable. And the bet is that it might save Mr. Trump.
If Trump can convince even 45% of voters in one state to vote a child molester into national office, he’ll figure he can rally enough unconditional support to stave off the consequences of his own comparatively less heinous crimes and stay in office. Loud and influential voices on the right have begun beating this drum. Together they can discredit Mueller. They can discredit the dozen-plus women accusing Trump of sexual assault. Hell, he or a tight and dedicated inner team might even be able to discredit stories that he’s losing his mind, should irrefutable evidence escalate: A video is manipulated; there are many other angles of that video to consider; the “deep state” and the liberal media have targeted him in a seditious campaign of psychological abuse.
Because here’s The Law of 2017: People will believe anything they choose to believe. You can’t do anything about that.
But there’s also a good chance that The Law of 2018 will be different—that the Law of 2018 is simply the law.
Vote for Doug Jones, Alabama. And to all you Moore supporters, I hope that in the course of casting your vote you have to wade through the righteous and decent puke of patriots.