Brown University

In Alabama, Democracy Defeats Theocracy by Jonathan Silin @ Brown University

Doug Jones’s upset victory against Roy Moore in Tuesday’s Senate election in Alabama was more than a victory of blue over red. In this blog post I will argue that Jones’s victory is a victory for the strength of American democracy. Had voters elected Roy Moore, basic constitutional principles such as pluralism, the separation of church and state as well as fair and equal treatment of all Americans would have been in severe jeopardy.

To get a better understanding of the anti-democratic implications of what would have been a Moore senatorship we must look at Moore’s long track record of anti-democratic statements and actions:

  • Ten Commandments: As a county judge in the early 1990s, Moore installed a plaque of the Ten Commandments above his bench and refused to remove it, despite official objections from the state. When he was elected to the Alabama Supreme Court in 1999, Moore commissioned and installed “Roy’s Rock”, a two-ton monument to the Ten Commandments in state court building. At the time, Moore remarked that it was needed   “in order to establish justice, we must invoke the favor and guidance of Almighty God”. A federal appeals court deemed the statue unconstitutional, but Moore refused to have it removed. It was only after the entirety of his fellow justices voted against him that it was dismantled. A year later, the Alabama Court of the Judiciary found him in violation of state judicial ethics, forcing him to resign.
  • Discrimination against LGBTs: Surprisingly, Moore was reelected to the state Supreme Court in 2012. After the U.S. Supreme Court’s in Obergefell v. Hodges declaring same sex marriage legal, Moore ordered his state’s probate judges to deny marriage licenses to same sex couples, in violation of federal law. The Court of the Judiciary again charged Moore with a series of ethics violations, forcing him to resign for a second time. In a November interview, Moore stated that transgender people “don’t have rights”.
  • Proposed ban on Islam: In 2006 Moore argued that U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison ought to be banned from Congress on the basis that he was a Muslim. Moore has gone on to repeat his belief that all Muslims should be excluded from being able to elected to Congress, in clear violation of the Bill of Rights.

It must be understood that Moore is not merely a bigot; he is a hard line religious fanatic who wants his fundamentalist views to be the law of the land. It should come as little surprise, then, that Frederick Clarkson of Policy Research Associates has described Moore as “the most transparently theocratic politician now on the national stage”. Indeed, Moore will not be content until his theocratic vision is forced upon the American people. With Moore, there is no room pluralism, much less debate. The “word” of God is the only moral path forward.

Meeting the benchmark criteria of being more pro-democracy than Moore is an extremely easy accomplishment. Doug Jones, on the other hand, has gone above and beyond this baseline, proving himself as a committed defender of civil rights. As District Attorney for Northern Alabama under President Bill Clinton, Jones prosecuted Ku Klux Klan members for their role in the 1963 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. On the campaign trail this year, Jones as also stated the importance of strengthening civil rights, making reference to Charlottesville. This rhetoric can be seen in stark contrast many of Moore’s bigoted statements, which included referring to Asians and Native Americans as “reds and yellows” and stating that pre-Civil War was the time when America was last “great”.

The fact that 48.4 percent of Alabamans voted for an accused child molester with a long history of anti-democratic tendencies is thoroughly disheartening. However, a number of interesting conclusions can be drawn. Black voters overwhelmingly carried Jones to victory, with 93 and 98 percent of black men and women, respectively voting for Jones. Clearly, black voters noticed the difference in campaign rhetoric and past action between the two candidates. This raises an interesting question: are black American voters inherently more pro-democracy than white American voters? In the case of this election in Alabama is yes. But more broadly, logic would point to the fact this phenomenon holds nationwide. Far more likely to face discrimination and disenfranchisement, African Americans have relied on civil rights and personal protection laws more than other Americans in order to safe guard their right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. From this point of reasoning, it follows that African Americans would be more conscious of the importance of these democratic virtues, not infrequently having to invoke them in order to protect themselves. Furthermore, African Americans have historically worked to expand American democracy to make it a more inclusive place for all. Being on the forefront of such change have given such communities a deep reverence and appreciation of the power and importance of democratic values.

Roy Moore, all too fittingly, has still refused to concede his loss in the election. In a rambling video posted online, Moore instead opined “abortion, sodomy, and materialism have taken the place of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. Democrats and Republicans, at least those more committed to country over party, will be relieved that the “Ayatolla of Alabama” will have not be heading to Washington in January. To the 650,000 who voted for Moore, if you call yourselves patriots then consider voting for someone who behaves like one.

Leave a Reply