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Congratulations to colleague Rex Nelson on his prediction and to Alabama and humanity on the outcome.

On a panel at noon Tuesday at the Political Animals Club, I predicted that Alabama was so overwhelmingly conservative and Republican, and so heavily evangelical among those Republicans, that the state would make a moral calculation to cast one dirty vote for a creepy sinner in pursuit of a greater supposed righteousness.

That supposed greater righteousness would be in the form of allegiance to the anti-abortion cause, resistance to gay-rights advancements and solidarity for gun rights.

I thought Alabamians, all too typically of America's political cancer, would prioritize their tribe--meaning their collective partisan interest--over personal morality and positive personal attributes once thought to make one worthy of public office.

I predicted that Roy Moore, credibly accused of improper overtures to girls much too young for him, would win the special election in Alabama for the U.S. Senate.

I did it because I never expect anything but the worst politically from Alabama. I also tend to make pessimistic predictions as a kind of defense mechanism. I could imagine a Democratic senator from Alabama about as credibly as I could imagine the Crimson Tide with a 4-8 record.

Rex, on the panel and asked for his prediction, said he'd go out on a limb and predict that the Democrat, Doug Jones, would win by the "narrowest of margins." He not only turned out to be right, but was spectacularly precise until the final votes. The ultimate margin for Jones swelled beyond the narrowest imaginable to a clearer besting of 50-48.

It's clear that Alabama's black voters were much more motivated for Jones and against Moore than white rural conservative voters were motivated for Moore and against Jones.

Black votes in the cities and the so-called Black Belt, named for the soil and not the race pattern, turned out in significantly higher percentages--between 70 percent and 75 percent--than white rural evangelicals, who turned out at 55 percent to 60 percent.

It must have mattered--as it should have--that Jones was a former U.S. attorney who secured two long-after and case-closing convictions against two white supremacists in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963 in Birmingham that killed four young black girls.

And a decisive number of those white rural evangelicals spurned that dirty vote for a sinner in pursuit of a greater righteousness. They didn't vote for the Democrat directly, but indirectly, by staying home.

The sad factor amid the raging happiness of the outcome is that Moore deserved to lose on matters far preceding the sex-related charges, but probably would not have.

As the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, he built a monument to the Ten Commandments at the Justice Building and then defied a federal court order to remove it. He believed that his personal and extremist religious views, not the finding of a higher court representing a state kept vitally separate from religion, should be the rule of law in Alabama.

He once said America was a better place when families were stronger even if those families were keeping slaves.

Moore's wife said he couldn't possibly be prejudiced against Jews because one of his lawyers was Jewish--a variation on the old racist refrain that one couldn't be racist because one had known many black people and some of them were good ones.

Then, late Tuesday night, Moore refused to concede clear defeat, essentially arguing that a few hundred provisional and military ballots could erase a 21,000-vote deficit. And he said God would provide, quoting from Psalms and fumbling around to say he and his supporters had been declared "unfaithful" and "put in a hole."

It was unclear what that meant. The comments were as odd as riding to a polling place on a horse or waving a handgun at a political rally.

So, some in the evangelical congregation simply stayed home from church. This preacher was too weird, too much to excuse. These folks didn't change churches. Certainly not. They worshipped just this once at home.

The big losers?

President Trump was one, based on his endorsement of Moore and his robocalls for the strange fellow.

But, perhaps more than Trump, angry alt-right extremist Steve Bannon got a serious comeuppance in a state that he thought certain to swoon at his fire-and-brimstone preaching about the "deep state" and the lying liberal media.

And I'm a loser as a failed predictor, being of such little faith.

So, for the rest of the story, maybe Rex will give his love of Arkansas a rest in a forthcoming column and elaborate on his command of Alabama.


John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, was inducted into the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame in 2014. Email him at Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

Editorial on 12/14/2017

Print Headline: Of winners and losers

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