The Test for Alabama is the test Our System Failed in 2016
On December 12, Alabamians will decide the fate of the state's reputation, its moral legacy for the coming generation of residents. It is a fate that can be promising, or it can reinforce the depravity of the current administration, led by a man whose campaign survived this revealing confession (printed in the New York Times):
Trump: I moved on her, actually. You know, she was down on Palm Beach. I moved on her, and I failed. I’ll admit it.
Trump: I did try and fuck her. She was married.
Unknown: That’s huge news.
Trump: No, no, Nancy. No, this was [unintelligible] — and I moved on her very heavily. In fact, I took her out furniture shopping.
She wanted to get some furniture. I said, “I’ll show you where they have some nice furniture.” I took her out furniture —
I moved on her like a bitch. But I couldn’t get there. And she was married. Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything. She’s totally changed her look.
Trump: Yeah, that’s her. With the gold. I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.
Bush: Whatever you want.
Trump: Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.
Despite the fact that a majority of voters rejected Trump at the polls, but due to the quirks inherent in the distorting allocation of votes in the Electoral College, Trump was able to squeak by with less than three million votes than his principal opponent. These flaws in our electoral system were exploited to our great disadvantage, but there were deeper flaws being exploited in our culture as well.
In a normal process, a quote like the one above would have been disqualifying, and there is ample evidence that many people in the Republican Party believed that it was. Nevertheless, Trump continued to hold the nomination, and garnered enough votes in key areas to prevail in the Electoral College. Since taking office, the administration has been relentlessly attacking every institution, organization, and policy that protects America's most vulnerable people while promoting policies that would enrich its own donors and high officials, much like the banana republics so common in high poverty countries, where human lives are easily discarded or bartered for political power. Our national treasures and the protection of our liberties are being sold away as well.
Experts on authoritarian regimes are not surprised. These patterns are typical of the kind of behaviors that occur frequently in countries where there has been economic and social collapse. The Great Recession damaged confidence in our institutions, but it also revived fears that produce ripe opportunities for scapegoating other people, conditions ripe for tribalism, jingoistic nationalism, and xenophobia, all things that provide fertile ground for demagogues.
The divisive, outrageous behavior and rhetoric is designed to divide the population, mobilize supporters, and provide a public test of loyalty. The more depraved and morally damaging that the behavior and rhetoric become, the more degraded supporters become and the more willing they are to accept more outrages. Standing by their peers, and being loyal to one another, can easily take precedent over all other considerations, including basic standards of decency.
For those of us who have not been compromised by an overwhelming sense of loyalty to peers, we need to consider what matters more, our humanity or our loyalty? Where do we draw the line? At what point do we say enough?