Moore or less: Lessons from Alabama, United States

Sunday, December 17, 2017

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The state of Alabama in the United States, renowned for slavery and confederacy, elected Mr Doug Jones to the Senate — the first time in 25 years that a Democrat was being voted into office in that state.

The losing candidate, Mr Roy Moore, was rejected not as much for his extreme views as for the fact that enough Republicans took a moral stand against a man accused by several women of sexually abusing them while they were young teenagers.

Enough African Americans exerted themselves and voted, mostly likely not having forgotten the anti-civil rights Governor George Wallace and the march from Selma led by Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr that ended in bloodshed.

We do not see the vote as a shift in demographics, or a sign that Alabama is no longer a Republican stronghold. It does, however, seem to mean that there is a limit to partisan political support. Mr Moore lost a sure Republican seat because the Grand Old Party failed to do the right thing and remove him as a candidate.

The implications are many, starting with the fact that the voters in Alabama restored decency and morality to the United States of America. Mr Moore's candidacy threatened to tarnish the international reputation of a great country.

The next important impact is that it is a major setback to President Donald Trump who — and he has all but admitted it — made the fundamental mistake of endorsing Mr Moore. This is also being seen as a blow to the mystique of Mr Steve Bannon's political acumen.

While it is not enough to halt or change the goals and character of the politics of President Trump, it does change the balance in the US Senate, in a way which will make it more difficult for the Republicans, as immediately evident in the rush to do a tax Bill before Mr Jones takes his seat in January 2018.

The Republicans need to get back to their core conservative philosophy and be less swayed by short-term political victories. Mr Moore was a bad candidate but the obsession with winning prevented the Republican Party from dissociating itself from his political and personal baggage. Candidates need to be subjected to comprehensive background checks. Local parties here can learn from this as well.

The Democrats have to understand that it is not enough to oppose Mr Trump; they have to have a message of their own cognisance, bearing in mind that the newly won Senate seat comes up for election in two years.

The Democratic Party and established media have had the political initiative taken from them by the astute media policy of Mr Trump. The Democrats have been put on the defensive and appear to have no agenda of their own or any obvious new leadership. This allows the Republicans to portray the Democrats as still being led by Mr Barack Obama and the Clintons.

The ideological differences and policy uncertainty mean that Jamaica, like other foreign countries, might be confused about how to deal with the USA and its domestic politics and foreign policy.

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