Republican Party

An Open Letter to Alabama Voters / Part Three: The “L’Etat C’est Moi” and “Drain Le Swamp” Edition

freedom-of-speech-1943

Freedom of Speech (Rockwell, 1943)

Dear Esteemed Alabamians and Fellow Americans,

This is the third and final part of my Open Letter to Alabama Voters. You can read Part One here and Part Two here.

Thank you again for taking time to read this “outsider” perspective on the Alabama Senate election. My concluding thoughts turn toward Alabama Democrat and Senate candidate, Doug Jones.

The Alabama Election’s Forgotten Man

People of the hard-right, Breitbart persuasion refer to Doug Jones as “Dud” Jones or “Dough” Jones, and of course that sort of 3rd-grade humor is as close as they come to incisive political commentary. And much has been written about how Doug Jones, despite running the strongest statewide campaign by a Democrat and a “moderate” liberal in anyone’s memory, remains in some respects the election’s forgotten man. Which truly is part of his appeal, and in itself a reason he may deserve Alabama’s vote in Tuesday’s election.

Doug Jones’s quiet calm and confidence stand as a counterpoint to the ghostly/ghastly noise Roy Moore makes even when he is not visible, as he has not been throughout most of this election season. Even an absent Roy Moore (or one who appears through his surrogates) sucks air from the room while rattling his invisible chains.

L’Etat C’est Moi

Hillary Clinton stumbled in the 2016 election partly because her own perspective of herself as a paragon of virtue was at at odds with a public perception that she was entitled, self-serving, and out-of-touch with the needs and experiences of ordinary Americans. True or not, inflected with a caustic sexism or not, this perception probably cost her the election.

The ultimate irony, of course, is that Donald Trump, the Republican Party candidate who defeated Hillary Clinton, carried into the White House and into our public life a vastly more aggrieved and aggressive sense of personal entitlement, privilege, and vindictiveness toward those less fortunate than him.

Eerie parallels exist between last year’s presidential election and the 2017 special Senate election in Alabama. Aside from similarities between the crude, clueless, empty-headed spewings of Donald Trump and Roy Moore (along with their ill-starred bromances with  elitist, Bama-hater Steve Bannon), the Republican Party “swamp” establishment in Alabama may also have made the mistake, like the Democratic Party in 2016, of taking for granted its own political omnipotence, despite a rap sheet of corruption and incompetence that would shame a tin-horn dictator.

I am no soothsayer, and I have no idea who will win tomorrow’s election (although I stand my prediction that Auburn’s Iron Bowl upset of Alabama portends a Doug Jones upset against Roy Moore). If Doug Jones does triumph in the Senate election, one major reason will be that the political omnipotence of the Republican Party in the state has fooled its leaders into believing the Republican Party and the state of Alabama are a single, undifferentiated entity (l’etat c’est moi). With that misapprehension comes the conviction that Alabama citizens serve the party, and will automatically bow down to the party’s dictates, even if it means voting for an accused sexual predator who is otherwise, and not incidentally, a blithering idiot. But as I have speculated, there may be limits to how low Alabama Republicans are willing to go.

In Which Moore, Bannon, and Trump Drain the Swamp and Are Left Only With Themselves

Like many others in the Tea Party, Roy Moore would go to Washington and enter the corridors of power in order to smash and dismantle them. Elsewhere, people might call this a coup d’etat. In the United States, we call it “draining the swamp.” And now Senator Shelby appears to have gone a bridge too far with his public denunciations of Roy Moore on behalf of the protocols, traditions, and purposes of the U.S. Senate. As one guy wrote me (echoing “outsider” Steve Bannon), “Shelby needs to be gone too. DRAIN THE SWAMP!”

Having traveled their own bridge too far – from birthering Barack Obama to jailing Hillary Clinton to mocking Mitch McConnell – Bannon and his posse of arsonists now want to take the burn to one of the most stalwart conservatives the Senate has ever known. A swamp thus drained may end up only harboring Roy Moore, Donald Trump, and Steve Bannon, and then they can all take turns ruling each other.

Of course, what Roy Moore and Steve Bannon fail to admit is that the swamp is not a location. The swamp is a state of mind. And politics, by its nature requires a certain swampiness and resists purification, even by so notable a witch-burner as Roy Moore.

Servant Leadership: A Novel Idea!

Which leaves us with the estimable Doug Jones and the historic choice that awaits Alabama on Tuesday. To support one’s political party and vote for Roy Moore, or to stand up for one’s state and nation, and vote for Doug Jones. Because we already know what Alabama will get from each candidate. We know that Roy Moore is happy to reduce the election to a test of personal loyalty, to his “character” and to Donald Trump. “L’etat c’est moi.”

By contrast, Doug Jones only asks that you let him serve you, the citizens and residents of Alabama. You do not owe him loyalty; he owes loyalty to you. He bows down to you. Finally, of course, it is this concept of service, the commitment to being a servant leader,  to lifting up your fellow citizens and not yourself, that distinguishes Doug Jones and separates him from so many other politicians. For this reason alone (although there are many others, as well), Doug Jones deserves your vote.

Sincerely,

Peter Schwartz
Breaking / Bannon

the-problem-we-all-live-with-1935

The Problem We All Live With (Rockwell, 1964)

Advertisements

An Open Letter to Alabama Voters / Part Two

insane-clown-2001

Insane Clown (Banksy, 2001)

Dear Esteemed Alabamians and Fellow Americans,

This is the second part of my Open Letter to Alabama Voters. You can read Part One here.

Thank you again for taking time to read my “outsider’s” perspective on the Alabama Senate election. I know a deluge of election appeals has descended on you.

The Mad Scientist and Roy Moore

My goal in writing this Open Letter is to emphasize how all of us in the U.S., and not simply Alabama residents, have a stake in the outcome. of this election, and how much we are counting on and rooting for Alabama to make an extraordinary, courageous, and healing step forward in our history as a nation.

In Part One, I specifically emphasized the national and global powers and responsibilities of U.S. Senators from every state. Because of the scope of these powers and responsibilities, the choice tomorrow for Alabama is between two individuals, not two political parties.

My argument has been that a vote for Roy Moore simply because he is a Republican ignores who he is as a person, and how entirely unprepared (in any capacity, really) he is to govern on matters that affect everyone on the planet. This insufficiency is probably why Senator Shelby said yesterday, “I couldn’t vote for Roy Moore. Alabama deserves better.”

Indeed. Imagine, for a moment, if a mad scientist hatched a nefarious scheme to create the least knowledgeable, competent, constructive, and effective U.S. Senator. That evil genius might conjure a person very much like Roy Moore. Please allow me to illustrate below.

I’m going to surf off Senator Shelby’s perspective, and not because I want to pander to Alabama Republicans, but because Shelby has served in the Senate for so long (forever, actually), and he understands what allows the Senate to work effectively, and what damage ensues for everyone when the Senate becomes dysfunctional.

Shelby appreciates, in other words, that some things matter far more than specific policy positions and far more than political party loyalty, and on this matter I could not agree more. The long-term health and strength of state and national political institutions simply cannot be held hostage to policy and party.

Richard Shelby and Roy Moore and the Future of Alabama

Alabama is obviously a very conservative state, politically. Richard Shelby is not a renegade, RINO Republican. Shelby marches side-by-side with Roy Moore (and Donald Trump) on issues concerning abortion, immigration, gun ownership, military spending, the “sovereignty” of God, and the Senate filibuster (a foundation of the Senate as a deliberative body). So Shelby’s concerns about Roy Moore are certainly not ideological.

They are, rather, concerns about the fitness and temperament of Roy Moore to serve effectively in the Senate, and to move Alabama, and the rest of the nation, forward rather than backwards (or out of time altogether through an end-of-days indifference to temporal matters).

Shelby believes the women who have accused Roy Moore of sexual activity with teenage girls when he was in his 30s. Lesser, “unproven” charges have led to resignations of scores of other politicians and the termination of the employment of men in every business sector. Shelby is saying Roy Moore is not above his accusers on this matter, and that he brings shame upon Alabama and the Senate.

But Shelby’s concerns about Moore predate these allegations, and they seem to emerge from knowledge that Moore (whom Shelby knows very well) acts upon personal, messianic instincts that undermine the rule of law itself. “I believe in the rule of law,” said Shelby. “I disagree with a lot of court decisions, and even a lot of statutory things I don’t like, but still it’s the law.”

In this sense, it’s in no way trivial that Alabama state officials, many of whom presumably agreed with Roy Moore on the policy substance of church-state separation and same-sex marriage matters, twice removed him from high office as the State Supreme Court Chief Justice (perhaps an unprecendented achievement on Roy Moore’s part).

Shelby also voices concerns about reputational harm the state of Alabama may experience if Roy Moore is elected, with negative impacts that could undermine economic progress in the state, along with its ability to attract outside investment and business capital. Of course, the economic nationalist and protectionist agenda Moore is likely to enthusiastically favor also threatens to further cut off the United States from the rest of the world, economically and otherwise.

There are other concerns that involve fitness and temperament, the concerns that Roy Moore routinely goes his own way and goes off off half-cocked, not unlike Banksy’s Insane Clown. We already know Moore is neither knowledgeable on matters of policy nor worldly or experienced in any manner that might prepare him to deal with the complexity and nuance of national, regional, and global policies and crises. We also can be sure he will bring an unqualified, like-minded staff with him to Washington.

Finally, it is difficult to imagine the toxic and destructive impact of a Trump-Bannon-Moore troika in DC, with all being master bomb-throwers and shit-disturbers, but also entirely uninterested in the “what happens next” questions after dust from their explosions and institutional mayhem settles (not to mention with Moore in DC, the media will entirely lose ther minds, Breitbart wackos and mainstream guys alike). I’m pretty sure none of us, Republicans and “Libtards” alike, really want that.

History’s Pivotal Moments

Once again, the question all of Alabama will answer when it votes tomorrow is whether Doug Jones or Roy Moore will better represent the state of Alabama in the U.S. Senate, with skills, knowledge, and temperament suited for the scope and importance of the responsibilites of a U.S. Senator.

There are three other ways to think about this moment in our history. One is simply that this election involves a risk-reward calculation. What is the balance of risk and reward, for Alabama and the United States, if Roy Moore or Doug Jones becomes Senator? What is the balance of risk and reward if Alabama Republicans choose party of state and nation?

Another sobering layer of our awareness is that the United States may be more at risk of self-destructing than at any time in its history since the Civil War. Given the regional differences that still separate us, more than 150 years after Appomattox, it’s reasonable to make sure we all do better jobs parsing our local, regional, national, and political identities. We all have far more in common than we sometimes realize in the heat of the moment. We all need each other far more than identities constructed around local or party or racial or religious identity. We all remain Americans, and we all remain part of the broader world. Just something to bear in mind as you vote.

Finally, Roy Moore is simply one old dude! So is Donald Trump. And the roster of politicians leading the nation, both Democrat and Republican, is generally on the geriatric side. No disrespect intended, but we live in a world where the pace of change and the new dimensions of the challenges we face require younger minds and bodies. I’m not comfortable with Roy Moore and Donald Trump as 70-year olds, and am for sure even less excited about dealing with their mess when they are 75 or 76 years old.

Finales and Hosannahs

I would like to send one more email before Tuesday’s election.  This final email will  imagine and assess the impact, for Alabama and the nation, of Doug Jones as the U.S. Senator from Alabama.

Thank you again for your time. Please do vote. You truly will be participating in one of the most meaningful elections in U.S. history.

And please feel free to share this email with anyone who needs an extra nudge to vote. We are counting on Alabama to rise tomorrow and unfurl its highest, most noble, and most courageous version of itself. You won’t be able to imagine the hosannah’s spilling across our fruited plain.

Sincerely,

Peter Schwartz
Breaking / Bannon

Passionate Partisans and Erotic Evangelicals: The Republican Party in Alabama

doctor-faustus

Doctor Faustus (Maddox)

Change Research has published results of their most recent poll, undertaken (I don’t use the verb arbitrarily) between September 5 and September 7. The poll shows Republican Roy Moore with the same 7% lead over Democratic Doug Jones that the Raycom News poll reported from their December 4 polling. Moore has been ahead by at least 3% in 4 of the 5 most recent polls, with an average lead that now approaches the furthest edge of the margin of error.

Alabama.Roy Moore.Doug Jones.Polls.120817

(Click to view image)

Two insights from the Change Research poll, one concerning partisanship and one concerning the strange evangelical openness to adult men in their 30s dating teenage girls. Let’s examine each in turn.

Passionate Partisans

Among those Alabama voters who have made their decision in the last week, 61% say they will vote for Roy Moore, while only 22% will support Doug Jones. Among those making up their minds in November, the gap was far smaller, with Moore leading Jones by only 51% to 47%.

As Change Research emphasizes, these numbers represent a sharp return to embedded partisan loyalties in Alabama, with emotional attachment to the Republican Party (and an aversion to anything or anyone representing a challenge to the Republican Party) trumping a more nuanced and flexible commitment to the well-being of state and nation.

We can see evidence for this sharply inward and defensive turn in the intensity of the vitriol for Roy Moore’s opponent, Doug Jones, among these late deciders. The Change Research survey shows that the “late deciders” do not love Roy Moore, with 51% saying he has “weak character and integrity.” For unclear reasons, the poll indicates their views of Doug Jones are even more negative.

Erotic Evangelicals

An even more interesting polling statistic is that 34% of evangelical Protestants say (setting aside the Roy Moore allegations) it sometimes or always acceptable for men in their 30s to date teenage girls, compared to 18% of all non-evangelicals. This data point is pretty remarkable, and it suggests the degree to which eroticized, objectifying, and adolescent male lusts infuse the culture.

This proclivity to sexualize teenage girls helps us to reconcile another strange twist in the polling data – that evangelicals use the term “morality” quite differently from non-evangelicals. Only 11% of Moore supporters consider character, integrity, and ethics to be more important than the policy positions of a politician, compared to 37% of Jones supporters. Among all religious groups, independently of political preference, evangalicals are far less likely to prioritize character, integrity and ethics over policy positions.

So when Roy Moore talks about “morality,” what he is really talking about is not an inner condition of ethical awareness and equilibrium, but instead about a narrow and fetishisized political program concerning reproductive health of women same-sex marriage that is largely about control and power over women and their bodies. We might more properly call this emphasis a focus “mooreality” (or, perhaps, “moo-reality”).

The Parallel Universe

Is this crazy stuff? Of course. Should these gothic obsessions drive our national (and local) politics. Obviously not. But Alabama and other parts of the United States do seem to inhabit a parallel universe characterized by a “brutalist” mentality I have discussed elsewhere in essays about Donald Trump and Steve Bannon.

The brutalist mentality conforms to the ethno-nationalist, hard-right worldview and agenda of the Trump Administration, which suggests that Roy Moore would be a worthy instrument of this worldview and agenda in the U.S. Senate. Indeed, just as the Marquis de Sade opened new frontiers in sexual torture games beyond the imagination of those who preceded him, Roy Moore could well take the Trump program into twisted new realms of punishment and degradation beyond Trump’s own wildest dreams.

We live in Roman times, and Republicans in Alabama need to appreciate the forking path in the road that Roy Moore presents to them. Republicans can choose to follow Moore into a dark and brambled forest with a howling, hollowing yellow moon. Or they can make the difficult but courageous decision to vote for Doug Jones, a Democrat, a decent and brave man, a choice that requires they choose invest their passions in state and nation, not in a poisonous partisanship.