Update: Democrat Doug Jones won the Alabama special election, defeating Republican Roy Moore.
This story was originally published on December 12, 2017 at 8 a.m.
Today, all eyes will be on Alabama, as people head to the polls to decide who should be the person to fill the Senate seat left vacant by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
The race between Republican Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones has incredibly high stakes — from defining whether the next senator will help aid the Trump administration's agenda to setting the stage for a showdown between both parties in the 2018 midterm elections anchored by the country's sexual misconduct reckoning.
Former judge Moore is a far-right conservative who has been accused of sexual misconduct by at least eight women — including allegations of child molestation and sexual assault. He denies the accusations and has stayed in the race until the end, despite repeated calls from some factions of the national and local leadership for him to step aside. Moore also counts with the support of President Trump, former White House strategist Steve Bannon, and several parts of the establishment machine, such as the Republican National Committee.
Jones a progressive who is hoping to become the first Democrat in 20 years to be elected to a Senate seat in deep-red Alabama. Jones has tried to capitalize on the allegations against Moore and his history of racist and homophobic statements throughout the years. But his path to becoming a senator is unclear, given that polls were too close to call as late as Monday.
There's been a lot of questions about why conservatives, especially women, would support Moore given the allegations against him. Melissa Deckman, Louis L. Goldstein professor of Public Affairs and chair of the Political Science Department at Washington College, told Refinery29 there are two main reasons why Moore's supporters continue to back him: They believe the allegations against him are false and part of "a larger cultural war against righteous defenders of conservative Christianity." Or they might think the charges hold some legitimacy, but they're choosing to prioritize his policies because the alternative is letting Democrats win.
"Alabama is also one of the most culturally conservative states as well. For many conservative Christians, Roy Moore is an inspiring crusader who has long fought against encroachments on religious liberty and he is nationally known among this group," she said. "While many, if not most, Americans would reject his very conservative actions and beliefs — including his stands against homosexuality and gay marriage, and his attempt to directly marry church and state — these things endear him to a certain group of conservatives."
Some voters in Alabama agree, since they believe that Moore closely aligns with their values, while Jones represents everything they stand against for on issues such as abortion, immigration, and religious liberty. This is a point that President Trump has repeatedly emphasized, for example.
For the Baldwin County Young Republicans — one of the local chapters that broke away from the Young Republican Federation of Alabama's decision to stop supporting Moore — the election came down to what they think it's better for the nation, concerns about the allegations aside.
"We, the Baldwin County Young Republicans, will stand with President Trump by supporting Judge Roy Moore for Alabama U.S. Senate. The allegations have yet to be proven and no physical evidence has prevailed," the chapter's chairman Isaiah Pyritz and vice chair Aaron Seely said in a joint statement to Refinery29. "While the polarization surrounding our candidate is concerning, we must set aside our differences and unite as a party for the betterment of our country. Losing this election would benefit the far-left progressive agenda and stifle the president's America First agenda. Electing Judge Roy Moore to the Senate will be a vote for small government, religious freedom, and a better economy."
If Moore is elected, the thinking goes that it would be easier for Republicans to pass their legislative agenda even if some members of the party defect, much like what happened in the battle to repeal Obamacare.
And though that might seem like a defeat for Democrats, the party is actually looking at the election as a win-win situation: If Jones ends up victorious, they would retake a previously red seat and trim the GOP's majority to just one-vote, which would make it easier to turn the Senate blue in the upcoming elections. But if Moore wins, the narrative would be different — and perhaps a more powerful one in the #MeToo era. Come 2018 and 2020, Democrats can argue that while they've cleaned house and forced those accused of sexual misconduct out of Congress, the GOP went as far as allowing an alleged child molester into their ranks in their pursuit to stay in power.
Whether that will be a winning strategy or not, remains to be seen. But what everyone can agree on is that it's a critical election — and perhaps a turning point for the entire country.
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