Roy Moore Upset: Trump Says ‘deck Was Stacked,' Texas Democrats See Hope, and Other Takeaways

WASHINGTON - The defeat of Senate nominee Roy Moore in Alabama left Democrats giddy, with visions of a landslide in 2018 dancing in their heads. In Texas, some began salivating at a sign of cracks in the Republican stranglehold and the prospect of ousting Sen. Ted Cruz next year.But they shouldn't get too excited about extrapolating from the defeat of an alleged pedophile.For Republicans, the loss of a critical seat in deep red territory suggests a rough patch in the midterms. Their control of the Senate is now undeniably in peril. And the election stoked an internal civil war.But they shouldn't be too despondent -- because keeping Moore from becoming the face of the party is worth losing one seat.These are some of the political calculations. There are many other ways to assess the upset.Rationalization and tribalismIf a U.S. Senate nominee stood before a bank of cameras and declared that in his view, it would be perfectly fine for a 30-something man to seek a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old girl, voters would abandon him in a blink - even if they loved everything he stood for, even if they hated everything on his opponent's agenda.Some things are beyond the pale in politics. Some things are a given.Moore kept loyal supporters in line by calling his accusers liars. He never advocated child molestation; he was only accused of it.Why would eight women lie about such things? For Moore voters -- and party leaders who shored him up, from Steve Bannon and Donald Trump to the Republican National Committee - Moore's agenda was paramount. The vote he represented in a closely divided Senate was the prize, and never mind his flaws."Re­­publicanism is the strongest value that they hold. They'll vote for a maligned Republican before they vote for a clean Democrat," said Larry Powell, a professor of communications studies at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, a political consultant and author of books on state politics."The evidence is pretty overwhelming" that Moore acted inappropriately, and maybe illegally, with teenage girls, he said. "The security people at the mall who witnessed some of the behavior, the police who were instructed to keep him away from cheerleaders at football games. You've got an overwhelming amount of evidence on this. It's just some people are disregarding it because they don't want to believe it.... That's rationalization."Presumption of innocence: not a political doctrineHow many Alabama Republicans, and outsiders who stuck with Moore, insisted that he was innocent until proven guilty?But the accusations were three to four decades old. He'd never been charged with child molesting or creepy behavior at the local mall or sexual assault in a locked car. The allegations hadn't been -- couldn't be -- legally adjudicated. Even if one of the accusers Moore called a liar had dragged him into court for slander, the case could never have been resolved before the election.The doctrine of presumed innocence is meant to preserve a criminal defendant's rights to a fair trial, by putting the burden of proof on police and prosecutors. It's not a catchall, perpetual political shield. Voters have every right to assess the credibility of testimonials about a candidate's past behavior.Alabama must be a defense lawyer's paradise, given how ardently so many members of the jury pool apply the presumption of innocence.Yet Moore lost, because even more voters weren't bamboozled by those invoking a legal doctrine to deter common sense."I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose voters," Trump boasted to Iowa voters in Sioux Center, just before the 2016 caucuses. He was making the point that his supporters were so loyal, in their eyes he could do no wrong.That may have been true. It may still be true, for him. It wasn't true for Moore.There is collective wisdom in the electorate, and it tends to weed out pedophiles and murderers.  Continue reading...

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