Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The rural vote in Alabama's US Senate election

Readers will by now know that Doug Jones, a Democrat, was elected to be the U.S. Senator from Alabama last week.  In a special election for the seat formerly held by Jeff Sessions, now U.S. Attorney General, Jones pulled off what many consider an upset, defeating Roy Moore, the controversial Republican who was twice removed from his seat on the Alabama Supreme Court for basically refusing to follow the law--specifically to abide by the U.S. Constitution as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court.  More recently, Moore was accused of inappropriate sexual behavior toward teenage women, particularly when he was a young district attorney in his home town, Gadsden, population 36,856 (though presumably smaller in the late 1970s and early 1980s when these alleged events occurred).

In spite (or because) of these allegations, Moore appealed strongly to evangelicals and other conservatives.  (I saw on Twitter a comment by an evangelical pastor explaining that Moore liked young teens because of their "purity," essentially suggesting that the virginity of these young women justified Moore's attraction to them and bolstered--rather than undermined--his godliness). Although some Republicans--most notably Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the senior U.S. Senator from Alabama Richard Shelby--denounced Moore.  Trump had earlier not supported Moore--had supported his opponent Luther Strange in the primary--but later essentially campaigned for Moore, including at a rally in the Florida panhandle on the eve of the election.

In the run up to the election, lots of pundits noted that the rural vote was likely to be important--if not decisive--so I'm checking in with a report on that issue.  The Washington Post provided some easy-to-digest analysis of the election results and how different constituencies voted.  I'm pasting here a screenshot of what they show about the vote in relation to the size of population clusters or what some might call the degree of rurality or urbanicity. 
This shows that voters categorized as "small cities and rural" did vote for Moore in significantly heftier percentages (62%) than voters in suburbs (51%) and cities of more than 50K (14%).

In another rural angle on this story, multiple news outlets have filed stories indicating that Moore was banned from the mall in Gadsden because he was known for hitting on under-age girls there.  (He was also known to be on the prowl at high school football games in Gadsden).  And that, it seems to me, illustrates an issue I talk about a lot on this blog:  the lack of anonymity that marks small towns and rural communities.

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