On Tuesday Roy Moore defeated Luther Strange in the Alabama Republican primary to run in the special election this December. The seat had been resigned by Jeff Sessions when he was confirmed to the position of Attorney General. Strange was appointed by then Governor Robert Bentley to serve in the position until the special election. The only suspense involved in the outcome of the primary was whether Strange would come within 10 points of Moore. (Answer: Barely.)
The Alabama primary illustrates the trouble with democratic elections. They are always a matter of choices to be made. When neither choice is decent, we’ve got a problem. I think that was the case here.
If I had been voting in the primary, I think I would have followed President Trump’s announced if ambivalent preference for “Big Luther.” Strange, however, had some serious baggage involving his appointment to the Senate by the disgraced and now departed Bentley, who left office to avoid impeachment. Perhaps the heaviest baggage of all was Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, favored Strange and who is even less popular in Alabama than he is at home in Kentucky.
In the other corner we had Roy Moore. Moore is the former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. That’s an impressive credential but for the fact that he was twice suspended from his office, the second time earlier this year for the violation of six canons of judicial ethics. The Alabama Supreme Court order in the second suspension is embedded in this AL.com news story. The fact that the inaptly named Southern Poverty Law Center hailed Moore’s suspension does not mean it wasn’t deserved.
Adherence to the rule of law seems to me basic to a decent conservatism. Putting his freely expressed deep thoughts on sundry matters to one side, Moore flunks my test. He is an embarrassment to the Republican Party.
Moore’s opponent in the general election is Democratic former United States Attorney Doug Jones. Jones is perhaps best known for the successful prosecution of those responsible for killing four young girls in Birmingham’s 1963 Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing. That’s an impressive accomplishment. Those men deserve to rot in hell.
But Jones is a good Democrat. As such, he adheres, for example, to the party’s rigorous orthodoxy on the sanctity of abortion. It must be treated as something like a positive good. Nothing must be done to restrict the free exercise of the right. The dogma, one might note with some justice, lives loudly within him.
As I say, there is a trouble with (small “d”) democratic elections. If I were voting in the election between Jones and Moore, at this point I would hold my nose and vote for Moore. The Democratic Party lacks a decent center. In the Senate it answers to the leadership of Chuck Schumer. Return of Democrats to the majority in the Senate would be incredibly destructive.
The Democratic Party is itself engaged in the continuing project of undoing limited constitutional government and of regularizing the lawlessness of the federal government. See the administration of Barack Obama, passim, and the works of Democratic former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, passim. At the least, however, conservatives should not delude themselves into thinking that Roy Moore is anything other than an unpleasant alternative to his Democratic opponent.
PAUL ADDS: My coverage of the Alabama primary was confined to the “horse race” aspect of it, rather than the merits of the candidates. As to the merits, I agree fully with Scott.