To anyone searching for signs that the era of American dominance is nearing its end, the advice is this: look south.
Way down in Alabama, where (as Lynyrd Skynyrd observed) the skies are blue, the race for the Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions is too close to call.
Ordinarily, a Democrat being remotely competitive in a shrine to the Confederate flag would seem encouraging. But this isn’t ordinary. This is as deranged as it gets – even in the US – due to the singular nature of a Republican candidate who calls himself “Judge Roy Moore”, despite having been kicked off the Alabama bench twice.
On their own, Moore’s judicial ponderings would disqualify him from the Iranian parliament for being more insanely homophobic than the average Ayatollah could bear. Yet in this remake of the screwball comedy Too Crazy For Tehran, Moore’s public declarations take a back seat to allegations about his private behaviour.
So far, five women have emerged to accuse him of abusing them in the 1970s, when they were teenagers and he was in his thirties. One claims he pushed her head into his crotch when she was 16. His defenders (those who don’t dismiss the reports as “fake news”) point out that 16 was technically the age of consent.
Roy Moore says he doesn't ‘generally’ remember dating teenage girls while in his thirties
Inconveniently for them, the latest accuser was 14 when, she says, Moore took her phone number after meeting her outside a courthouse. A few days later, he allegedly drove her to his home in the woods (all suitably Brothers Grimm), told her how pretty she was, and kissed her. The next time, she says, he removed her shirt and trousers, before running his hand over her bra and knickers and steering hers to his underpants. Moore strongly denies the allegations, describing them as part of a “witch hunt”.
If you’ve spent time trying to fathom what the term “special relationship” means in practice, I may have an answer. What is so special is that, however embarrassed we may be about our country, America is there to make us feel a little better.
Here, a wretch was forced from the Cabinet – quite rightly – for touching a journalist’s knee and making an inappropriately sexual remark to a female colleague. Over there, a man believed by his own party leaders (though Trump is unwontedly reticent on the matter) to have molested girls, one underage, remains a live runner for the Senate.
One candidate put away the killers of 14-year-old girls, and another is credibly accused of groping them
And how’s this for that last-days-of-Pompeii flavour? Asked how the revelations affect their intentions, 37 per cent of evangelicals replied they make them more likely to vote for Moore. How many are enthused by borderline paedophilia, and how many believe the women are bearing false witness as part of some satanic conspiracy masterminded by George Soros’s New World Order, isn’t clear.
Moore’s first removal from his state’s supreme court was for contravening the separation of church and state, by spending taxpayers’ money to install a huge monument of the Ten Commandments in the Montgomery judicial building. If only “Thou shalt not guide the hands of children and exceedingly young women towards thy penis” had nudged coveting thy neighbour’s wife out of the Decalogue.
Breitbart editor defends Republican candidate Roy Moore over allegations of sexual misconduct with teenagers
The Republican establishment may be the most cowardly nest of snakes yet witnessed in a democracy, but even it has its limits. Yet while the likes of House majority leader Mitch McConnell vainly try to force Moore to pull out, local GOP politicians and the white supremacist media rush to his aid.
Alabama state auditor Jim Zeigler turns to scripture. “Take Joseph and Mary,” he explains. “Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus.”
Quite right. Zeigler could have quoted the passage from Luke (17-19) that goes: “And lo, the Lord said unto Joseph, ‘Do not give her one, adult carpenter, for thou hast a kitchen table to construct. Verily, shall I send Gabriel, my angel, to knock her up in thy stead. Yet when thou has wrought the table from finest walnut, thou mayst then take her teenage hand and place it on thy winkle.’”
Whatever the judgement of God, the judgement of Roy Moore in one case in 2002 deserves a mention. Cataloguing homosexuality as “abominable, detestable, unmentionable, and too disgusting and well known to require other definition”, he denied child custody to a lesbian mother and awarded it to a physically abusive father. The state must use its power to avoid the “subversion of children toward this lifestyle,” he opined, “to not encourage a criminal lifestyle.”
As for his Democratic rival, state attorney Doug Jones prosecuted two Ku Klux Klan members whose own reverence for the Almighty led them to plant a bomb in an Alabama Baptist Church in 1963. It killed four young African American girls. Three of those girls were 14 years old.
If democratic politics has hosted a more black and white, Manichean choice than this, between a candidate who put away the killers of 14-year-old girls, and another credibly accused of groping them, it slipped my notice.
God bless the United States of America if the good ol’ boys and girls of Alabama choose Roy Moore, who rates legalising gay marriage as a greater outrage than the legislation that rendered black people items of property.
But whatever the result, the plain fact that he is a viable candidate for the Senate begs a question. For how much longer can the free world tolerate the shame of being led – even in name – by a country that tolerates the dishonouring of democracy on a scale such as this?
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