In Alabama, the margin of victory may have been small, but not the message

*** BESTPIX *** BIRMINGHAM, AL - DECEMBER 12: Supporters of democratic U.S. Senator candidate Doug Jones celebrate as Jones is declared the winner during his election night gathering the Sheraton Hotel on December 12, 2017 in Birmingham, Alabama. Doug Jones defeated his republican challenger Roy Moore to claim Alabama's U.S. Senate seat that was vacated by attorney general Jeff Sessions. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Supporters of Doug Jones celebrate his election to the US Senate in Birmingham Tuesday night.

Sweet vote, Alabama.

Described and derided as a place that might well elect an accused sexual predator rather than a Democrat, the state instead said no to Roy Moore, the man who spent his early 30s allegedly preying on teenage girls.

The margin of victory may have been small, but not the message.


That was huge. Alabama declared there are things more important than partisan politics, and basic decency is one of them.

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Doug Jones, the Democratic victor, said Tuesday night that this campaign had never been about him and had never been about Moore. The first assertion was largely true, the second almost completely false.

In fact, it was almost entirely about Moore and his monumental character flaws. Thus it was that Alabamans turned their back on President Trump and Rasputin — er, Steve Bannon — and rejected their urgings to vote for Moore.

Yes, Jones ran a good campaign, keeping the race local rather than national, and he deserves credit for pulling this off.

But this wasn’t a conservative state embracing a liberal.


Nor was it a red state turning blue. Or even purple.

It was a conservative state saying, no, Roy Moore is just a step too far. There we won’t go.

As such, it’s a big loss for Trump. The president had enfolded the reptilian Moore in his clammy the-ends-justify-the-means, victory-is-all-that-counts embrace.

A man who dubiously denied multiple credible accounts of sexual harassment against him during his own campaign had gone to bat for another candidate who took the same approach. Based on his own presidential-campaign experience, Trump believed a candidate could dismiss character concerns.

He was wrong. Resoundingly so.


Alabama, a state Trump himself carried overwhelmingly, delivered its verdict in certain terms: Sorry, Mr. President, but we won’t look away. This stuff matters.

With Trump’s own alleged sexual misbehavior being re-examined in the post-Weinstein era, that must be a disquieting message indeed for the occupant of the White House.

If Trump squandered more of his rapidly dwindling store of clout and credibility on a dismal candidate, Bannon was left looking like a muddle-headed malcontent on a self-aggrandizing ego trip.

Bannon, of course, has declared war on the establishment wing of the Republican Party. On Tuesday night, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s allies moved quickly to hang this loss around Bannon’s neck. He won’t go away. People like him never do. But his voice certainly deserves to be diminished.

At Moore headquarters on Tuesday, they seemed to be holding out hope that God might well conduct a recount and overturn this earthly verdict.

But in the real world, this is the second Southern state — the first: Virginia, in last month’s governor’s race — in as many months to reject the message of Donald Trump’s Republican Party.

Trump and Bannon won’t learn, of course. You can’t teach old cynics new tricks.

Still, it’s heartening indeed to witness the voters themselves seeing through the amoral politics of the Trump age and demanding better.

Scot Lehigh can be reached at lehigh@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GlobeScotLehigh.