On Tuesday, December 12, Alabamans went to the polls in a special election to fill the seat in the U.S. Senate formerly occupied by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Due to the results of their respective party primaries, the campaign had pitted Democrat Doug Jones against Republican Roy Moore.
Jones won, narrowly but clearly, and this makes the already very narrow Republican majority in the Senate even narrower, giving Democrats and allied “Independents” 49 of the 100 votes in that chamber.
News coverage of the final weeks of the campaign was dominated by charges of sexual misconduct, and in a couple of cases of alleged crimes, committed by Judge Moore.
The age of consent in Alabama is 16. Thus the charge from Leigh Corfman, who tells of a sexual encounter with Moore when she was only 14, in 1979, amounts to a criminal allegation. So does that of Beverly Young Nelson, who says that Moore assaulted her, also in the late 1970s.
One bizarre incident was the appearance in this campaign of James O’Keefe, a conservative who fancies himself a media critic. He set up a ‘sting’ in which he invented an incident about Moore (that he impregnated a 15 year old girl in 1992) and then tried to get the Washington Post to print it. If the WaPo had printed it, he of course would have come forward with contrary evidence, proving that WaPo had accused an innocent man. He would have been a hero, presumably, in the eyes of his target audience, Moore would have been assisted, and the gods appeased.
But the stinger was stung. The WaPo actually checked out the story before – and in this case instead of – printing it. (Imagine that!) And rather than run with the salacious story O’Keefe had tried to feed them, they ran with one about O’Keefe’s attempt to feed it to them.
Right Wing View
The right wing reactions to the stories of Corfman, Nelson, and other women (with less incriminating but still aromatic revelations about Moore) often followed an old victim-blaming script. Corfman, for example, was sometimes considered unreliable because of her multiple divorces and her ”history of financial issues,” including bankruptcy.
But in the words of the leading journal of #NeverTrump conservatism, the National Review, “no fan of Donald Trump should be discounting anyone’s credibility because of life events like that.”
Other conservatives were put off by what they saw as O’Keefe’s bungling. Ben Shapiro, for example, said that O’Keefe’s actions in his sting attempt were “idiotic for a variety of reasons,” among which was that they added to the Post’s credibility. Since the Post was also the forum for the original story about Corfman, this may have hurt Moore.
After Moore’s defeat, those on the right who had supported him through thick and thin took to social media to lick their wounds. Some emphasized that “this [was] not a referendum on Trump.” Others said if “we” (Republicans) “don’t get our act together November  will be a bloodbath.”
Left Wing View
On the night of Jones’ victory, Elliot Hannon, of Slate, wrote elatedly that the victory was “extraordinary [given] the fact that a Jones win seemed near impossible just six weeks ago,” and the state is “still largely supportive of President Trump.” Hannon credited Jones’ win, and more to the point Moore’s loss, to the depth of the split in the GOP “along establishment and insurgent lines.”
Over at Vox, an equally elated Matthew Yglesias said that although the scandals helped weaken Moore, credit should go to the Democratic leadership who “made their own luck in Alabama by recruiting a very strong candidate” in Jones.
On twitter, former Vice President Joe Biden called Jones “a man of incredible integrity, grit, and character” and thanked Alabama for its decision.
Finally (for this brief survey), former NBA great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar tweeted that the victory of Jones “is a triumph of good sense, good values, and good people.”