Politics

Roll Tide

“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.” -Atticus Finch

Alabama won last night. 

For a year now, I’ve struggled to escape the feeling that the system was broken; not broken the way we designed it to be. Where it’s hard to get things done because of intentional checks and balances. Not broken the way it was, lost in special interests or crony capitalism. Broken in a much more dangerous way.

Broken because we didn’t believe in the ideas that we built it on in the first place any more.

Accountability. Equality of opportunity. The truth of a free press. The rights of Man.

And decency.

Yes. Decency.

For the first time in my life, I felt a sense of powerlessness in the future. No behavior was intolerable. No norms need be heeded.

Might made right. Anything else was “fake news”.

The ideas we built our society on and then fought so hard to bring to reality had been shuffled behind an ideology of fear and protection. The march towards insistent inclusion in our diverse society had been replaced by a bizarre notion that Americans need be investing in taking back what was their’s. Important was the nativist notion that a society was something to possess. Less important was the idea that giving it back to those who once owned it, meant taking it away from those we fought so hard to share it with.

Carl Bernstein called it a “cold civil war.”

Last night, the tide may have turned.

In a narrow race, Alabama elected a Democratic candidate to represent them in the United States Senate. A state with a baseline Republican preference of nearly 80% that gave Donald Trump a 30-point victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016, elected a Democrat.

They didn’t do it because those Americans insisting that our best efforts should be aimed at taking back our country changed their minds and decided not to vote for a man with credible accusations of child sexual assault, who believed only Christians should serve in government and that Alabama’s best days were when slavery was still allowed.  Those folks were remarkably unchanged by the troubling details of their candidate.

According to exit polls, three quarters of voting white men in Alabama still believed Roy Moore belonged in the United States Senate. 80% of Evangelical Christians did too.

Alabama elected Doug Jones because the people who a new emboldened version of Americans were trying to take America back from, refused to let them do it.

96% of African Americans voted for Doug Jones.

60% of voters under the age of 45 did too.

The power structure of old white men was broken in Alabama last night. And though it took an accused sexual predator, racist theocrat to enable it, if it can be broken at all in Alabama, it can be broken anywhere.

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9 replies »

  1. For my money this is the most perceptive piece you’ve written. Thank you for cutting so quickly to the heart of what happened in Alabama yesterday. Demographics WILL win over the long run. But it is reassuring to have a bit of proof for that hypothesis after all the events of the last 13 months. Do you believe us ‘old, white men’ will see the handwriting on the wall and try to accommodate the coming changes or will we do our worst to sabotage our society so that it dies along with our privilege?

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  2. Anonymous – I am an ‘old white woman’. Your final question could be a closed one; i.e., a yes or no answer. I know it was directed to Chartwell. Some of us ‘old white people’ do and will see the handwriting on the wall and try to accommodate. Those who will do the worst to sabotage our society (and humanity) just don’t have the education, the resources, or the health to do so. And then we have Trump!

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  3. Whites who fear the inevitable demise of their unearned position at the top of the food chain will not give up gently. Many have lived in racially and/or socioeconomically segregated bubbles for their lifetimes, and others simply share the world view of the current president and someone like Moore. Whites who have been given or sought after opportunities to live among diverse peoples, raise interracial families, and to choose friends and associates of varying backgrounds, have begun to understand that a culture where everyone’s voice is heard is something to be celebrated!! That if any one group is devalued, we are all diminished. But those who live lives solely among their “own” do not have personal experiences to understand this. They are simply angry and afraid. Their fears are stoked and flamed by the rhetoric of the current president, the minions who share his world view, and the media that fuels that shrill voice and its ugly message. I am so grateful for the results of this election and in particular, for the voice of black women to have been heard so clearly by all of us.

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  4. I wouldn’t get too excited about this. Roy Moore was one of the worst, most disgusting candidates in Senate history and he still lost by less than 2 percentage points. If anything, as a fan of basic human decency I’d argue it is somewhat discouraging that it was still that close.

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