The past year has seen a torrent of allegations of sexual misconduct against men in positions of power across Western society. From Kevin Spacey to Al Franken to Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly, previously untouchable men in positions of power have been forced off their perches. However, Republican politicians have proved impermeable to this social movement. The President of the United States stands accused by a dozen women of sexual misconduct. He’s still the president. Roy Moore was accused of sexual misconduct and paedophilia. Despite public outcry, he continued his campaign. In a truly tragic turn of events, Dan Johnson, a Republican member of the Kentucky House of Representatives chose to take his own life in the wake of allegations of sexual misconduct in lieu of resigning.
Why have so many powerful men resigned, except for Republican politicians?
It’s instructive to understand the deep political calculus at play here. There was a stunning admission a few days ago from the Editor-in-Chief of Breitbart News. He confirmed a long-held progressive critique: Breitbart was purposely misleading the public in an effort to protect both Roy Moore and the President over the course of the Alabama campaign. Alex Marlow, the aforementioned editor, is on the record conceding that he was personally uncomfortable with the allegations against Moore, but due to the importance of a unified Republican national front, he decided to continue victim-bashing.
This follows an old political playbook – one hewn from the robes of Niccolo Machiavelli, and perfected by Bismarck – that the ends justify the means. Which is specifically the pursuit of power and influence over all else. This has deep historical significance in American politics. A cursory glance at the early Cold War era is quite revealing. The spectre of communism was explicitly used by the Republican Party in the late 1940s and early 1950s to undermine progressive political candidates and win elections. Joseph McCarthy is still dancing his merry jig. Richard Nixon’s triumph in the California Congressional race in 1947 justified these new tactics, which depended on spreading misinformation. (Talbot, 162-66)
Behind the scenes, there were darker forces at work. Nixon’s campaign was funded by the Wall Street oligarchs of the day. The same oligarchs that had brought the country to the brink of financial disaster with the Great Depression. The same oligarchs that were aghast at Roosevelt’s attempts to redistribute wealth and reign in their excesses with the New Deal. In fact, there was a plot in the 1930s to stage a coup to overthrow Roosevelt and protect the wealth of the elites.
Fast forward to today, and you could argue that the political establishment across the ideological spectrum is in the pocket of the Wall Street oligarchs. Oligarchs who, just like in the 1920s, played a critical role in creating the conditions for our Great Recession. Unlike the 1930s, however, our progressive president du jour decided to bail them out. Both the Tea Party and Occupy picked up on this and from opposite sides of the aisle railed against a similar notion – elites in positions of power simply served their own interests.
Savvy and deceitful politicians like Donald Trump were able to capitalise on this anti-elite sentiment and position themselves as the saviours of the masses, railing against political corruption and rhetorically “draining the swamp”. Ironically, of course, Trump and his ilk are the literal manifestations of the swamp.
The Roy Moore election came down to something simple. The Republican Party needed him to win. It was more important to have a Republican senator who happened to be a sexual deviant, than a Democratic senator. No other considerations were of import. Much like the election of Trump back in 2016, a unified Republican front was essential. Why is this?
The first and obvious one is the tax bill that was rushed through Congress and the Senate in December of 2017. There were at least three Republican senators on record stating “we need to pass this bill for our donors”. The Tax Bill is the largest government-sanctioned redistribution of wealth since the Reagan-era tax cuts in the 1980s. Explicitly redistributing wealth to the rich. Roy Moore’s vote was seen as critical, as the Republicans held a slender majority in the Senate.
And then there’s abortion, which has long been a hot-button issue in American political life. In the last few days of his campaign, Roy Moore kept stressing his anti-abortion position. In the run-up to the 2016 Presidential election, Donald Trump did the same. Despite a huge amount of reticence at first – Trump was an odious candidate after all – the Republican establishment threw their full force behind him. Because there was an opening on the Supreme Court and the Republicans needed to make sure they filled it with a conservative judge, one who would re-open the abortion debate.
The voters in Alabama ended up rejecting Roy Moore. They decided his brand of politics and his morally reprehensible behaviour made him unfit for public office. But he never should have stood for election in the first place. And 48% of Alabamians still voted for him. In fact, if people of colour hadn’t turned out in their droves to vote, Moore would have won. Tax cuts and abortion were critical wedge issues and trumped morality for millions of white Alabamian voters.
Sources not cited in-text
David Talbot, “The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government,” HarperCollins: New York City, 2015.
By Rashid Mohiddin
Please note that opinions expressed are the author’s own. They do not necessarily reflect the views and values of The Blank Page.