What white women’s votes for Roy Moore mean
Despite the accusations of sexual assault and molestation made against Alabama Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Roy Moore, as well as the racist and anti-semitic comments he made — like his claim that America was great during slavery — nearly two-thirds of white women voted for him. While Democratic candidate Doug Jones ultimately won the special Senate election this month, many feminists are wondering how so many white women could support a candidate like Moore.
The answer can perhaps be found by examining one of Roy Moore’s primary defense strategies against allegations during his campaign: his wife, Kayla Moore. Moore blamed liberal institutions for smearing her husband. For example, at one event in Montgomery, Alabama, Moore framed the accusations of her husband’s misconduct as a partisan issue: She claimed that the accusations against her husband came from liberals in the media, the Democratic National Committee, and even the Human Rights Campaign. In doing so, Moore conveniently discounted the greater narrative of harassment revelations emerging in a number of other industries that were playing out in the media at the time, and failed to acknowledge that the issue of sexual misconduct transcends partisan lines.
Moore also attempted to defend her husband’s racist and anti-semitic remarks. At Roy Moore’s final campaign rally, Kayla claimed that the white couple “have many friends that are black” and said that “one of our attorneys is a Jew.” Instead of addressing the complex set of issues minorities in the Alabama electorate, let alone the greater United States, face, Moore used claims of personal friendship to deter concerns about how racist attitudes might affect her husband’s policies or votes. Friendships do virtually nothing to address the institutionalized discrimination the black community in Alabama and the United States at large face. Having a black friend does not change that Roy Moore actually praised the very institution that originally perpetuated racial inequality in the United States.
When the election results rolled in, it became clear that perhaps Kayla’s defense was reflective of something more than a wife trying to support her husband, but in fact a broader attitude held by women like Kayla in Alabama — and, indeed, white women in America. The pattern that emerged in Alabama was reminiscent of the 2016 election. Over half of white American women voted for a presidential candidate who also has been accused of sexual assault and has made racist remarks. Meanwhile, 98 percent of Black women in Alabama voted for Jones, and black women overwhelmingly voted for 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton
It’s clear we can no longer ignore how the intersection of race and gender plays an essential role in the choices American women make in terms of their support for political candidates. While many thought the accusations of sexual assault would dissuade the majority of all women from voting for Jones — more female Alabama voters said allegations of sexual misconduct by Roy Moore were true than said it was false — it did not.
As depressing as this revelation about white women voters is, however, this election also revealed some hope: Alabama voters ages 18 to 44 supported Jones over Moore by a roughly 20-point margin. This general trend suggests a shift — perhaps Jones will usher in a new era in Alabama. "Old Alabama is nothing but divisive politics, demagogues that try to divide us,” Jones told CBS News after winning the election. “I am here for all people. And Alabama is changing. Alabama is getting more diverse every day. … That's the new Alabama."
Ultimately, while Roy Moore’s loss could signal a potential cultural shift in which voters no longer support white men who abuse their power, there’s only way to ensure the creation of a new Alabama and, hopefully, new United States of America. Not only do we have to continue to vote in every election, from special Senate elections to the next presidential one, but we all need to vote in a way that benefits us all — and that includes white women standing up for their own rights as well as others.
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