Let’s not forget, however, that Moore, a disgraced former judge (twice booted from the court) and an accused child molester who is openly racist and homophobic — received 91 percent of the Republican vote. Republicans, at least in Alabama, remain deeply mired in their theology of white grievance and largely indifferent, if not hostile, to reality. Republicans were not persuaded; they were outvoted. Should they persist in their Trumpian cult and refuse to emerge from their right-wing media bubble, they face being outvoted again and again by enraged non-Republicans — and in places far less Republican than Alabama.
Republicans seem no closer to recognizing some obvious political truths:
- The tighter they cling to Trump, the worse they will do. He won’t help them win even in Alabama.
- Women, especially college-educated women, can outvote non-college-educated men. Even in Alabama, white non-college-graduate men made up just 19 percent of the electorate; the combination of white and nonwhite college-educated women totaled 31 percent. Trump has gone to war with women, becoming the poster boy for loutish behavior and harassment.
- Republicans are losing voters younger than 45 by a mile (a 20-point margin) and barely winning 45-to-64-year-olds. That’s not sustainable, especially as millennials, the largest generation to date, make their way into the electorate and see the image of a nativist, xenophobic, anti-science party.
- Republicans lost moderates by a 25 percent to 74 percent margin. Apparently, Trump and Moore have chased all but hard-core right-wingers from the party.
- Character matters, at some point, if the candidate’s views and alleged behavior are gross enough.
Put simply, old, white, very conservative and non-college-educated men aren’t enough even in Alabama to win. Doubling and tripling down on Trump’s narrow base may soothe his ego, but it is a disaster for the shrinking GOP, which has become off-putting, if not odious, to those outside of it.
Republican politicians may have permanently damaged their brand by association with Trump, and at least for now seem incapable of saving themselves. In 2018 and 2020, the failure to distance themselves from Trump, if not dump him altogether, may doom their chances. Trump just isn’t that popular (his approval rating is in the low-30s nationally and at less than 50 percent in Alabama). And with the #MeToo rebellion and the Robert S. Mueller III investigation proceeding, he’s likely to become less, not more, popular. Having made their Faustian bargain with Trump and adopted a stale, extreme right-wing agenda with little support, Republicans are heading for electoral disaster.
The Democrats shouldn’t get complacent — nor ideologically extreme. They won in Virginia up and down the ticket with center-left, sober-minded candidates. They won in Alabama with a liberal, but one who is tough on crime and ran an intentionally non-ideological race. (“This race is not about Democrats or Republicans,” his website declared. “It is about the people of Alabama — giving them honest answers while working to protect their health care, rights and economic interests.”) They can turn out their base (especially young people, women and nonwhites) while sounding sane and practical enough to scoop up disillusioned ex-Republicans. A simple formula may work for them in 2018: Adhering to government ethics standards; beating back unpopular policies that hurt the middle and working class; and acting as a check on a dangerous, erratic and unfit president. If Republicans have any survival instinct, they might think seriously about how to get rid of Trump before 2018, and certainly before 2020.
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