Doug Jones, Roy Moore, and the Politics of the Lesser Evil

No one earns a mandate by merely being less awful than the other guy.


Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Newscom

Doug Jones' victory in Alabama's special election yesterday was another win for the lesser evil.

That's not to suggest that Jones is evil. Far from it. He seems a perfectly adequate politician who ran an excellent race that few of his peers would have considered winnable when he started campaigning. He seemed genuinely grateful—to his staff and to the voters—in his victory speech. But even after following the much-watched campaign and hearing Jones' speech, you'd have a hard time nailing down exactly what it is that he believes, or how he thinks the country should be run. He won not because he convinced the voters of deep red Alabama to suddenly transform into liberal Democrats (or even conservative Democrats), but because of who he was running against.

Alabamans had not come close to rejecting a Republican senatorial candidate in a quarter-century. The nearest thing to a close call was a 19-point victory in for Jeff Sessions in 2002. Their rejection of Roy Moore, then, is a stunning result, but it's one that points mostly to just how terrible the GOP candidate was. Leave aside the allegations of child molestation if you want, and there was still a long, long list of reasons why he should never have been allowed access to one of the most powerful governing bodies in the world.

The politics of the lesser evil are very much in vogue right now—though not usually in terms as stark as what we just witnessed in Alabama—because neither major party has much in the way of a compelling vision to win support. Demonizing the other side and hardening tribal lines over issues of race, class, and social policy is, if not the only way to win in that environment, then certainly the easiest. This "negative partisanship" has infected all parts of the political dynamic, and it's getting worse.

But winning elections isn't supposed to be the goal of politics. Creating policy is. And the politics of the lesser evil are not good for the creation of policy, because whoever wins gains power and therefore quickly becomes the greater evil.

Voters last year rejected Hillary Clinton—just as they previously rejected Jeb Bush and the rest of the Republican clown car—and Donald Trump happened to be the guy who struck just enough voters as being slightly less awful. The "Trump phenomenon" that the media and political class have spent the last 12 months trying to decode and repurpose for other elections was never the dominant force in the GOP. Indeed, Trump still struggles to elucidate any clear governing philosophy. Many of the votes for Trump, like many of the votes for Jones, were cast not out of any particular love for the man or his political avatar, but as a rejection of his opponent.

There's nothing innately wrong with voting against a candidate instead of voting for a different candidate. The mistake comes higher up. Both major political parties see results that aren't really there. The Republicans headed into 2017 believing they had a mandate from the American people because they had been given control of all three parts of the legislative process, but that was hardly true. Trump, after all, got a scant 62 million votes last year, and far more voters picked other candidates.

Now that Republicans hold all the power in Washington, D.C. (and in most states too, for that matter), Democrats have set about demonizing their policy ideas as outright evil. The GOP is in charge and suddenly the lesser evil is the greater one. The wheel turns and crushes those who rode it to the top.

Democrats may make the same mistake in the wake of the Jones victory—liberal pundits are already excitedly talking about what Tuesday's election means for the 2018 midterms—but their reactions will likely be tempered by the fact that they are still a minority party in the federal government and they are facing an uphill battle in next year's Senate races even with Trump driving voters into their arms. Still, if they are successful in retaking Congress in next year's midterms, I have little doubt that it will be because voters suddenly see them as the lesser evil. Republicans can lend a hand by continuing to nominate noxious candidates like Moore.

Building a mandate requires a vision for how the country should be, and getting voters to back that vision. Republicans don't have a mandate now, and haven't had one all year. Nor did Democrats win in Alabama because scores of conservatives suddenly changed their minds about which direction the country should go. Neither major party has the makings of a mandate, and neither will unless it moves past the politics of the lesser evil.

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  1. Both major political parties see results that aren’t really there.

    A lot of pundits, as well.

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  2. I open up Reason and the first thing I see is that the creepy pedophile lost. Thank you Reason, that makes up for many of the nut punches you have given me over the years.

    1. …….and the pedophile communist gun grabber slaver won instead. Yes, what a wonderful thing.

      1. Yeah Crazy Season alright.

        Reason’s writers should practice more reasoning.

    2. Hey dumbass Branbybuck, a pedophile is defined as someone who has a sexual attraction to prepubescent children. If you’re stupid enough to believe all of these 35 – 40 year old allegations against Moore that “coincidentally” came up just after the runoff but before the general election, at least put forth the effort to use correct terminology.

      1. Yeah, that has been seriously bugging me, too. Since he seems more into pubescent children, Moore should properly be referred to as an ephebophile. Keep your perversions straight, people!

        1. Since all the confirmed ‘cases’ about Moore revolve around 16-18 year olds, it’s more like Moore likes post pubescent females (something we usually call ‘young women’)

          Most human males like ‘young women’. It’s built in.

          Human attraction doesn’t adhere to arbitrarily decided ‘years’–it revolves around developmental stages. Attraction to pre-pubescent children is a defect. Attraction to pubescent children is a defect, though less severe. Attraction to post pubescent individuals is the norm.

          Acting on that attraction is what can be limited to arbitrarily decided years.

          1. Thus continues the stauch defense of Roy Moore, a judge twice removed from office, a homophobe (go ahead, lecture on what ‘phobe’ means), a racist, and sexual predator.

            That is reason.com libertarianism

            1. Removed from office for using HIS OWN MONEY to post a personal effect -the 10 commandments- in his courtroom, and the second time for CORRECTLY pointing out in a message that the Supreme Court’s opinion about same sex marriage does not have to bind clerks who object for conscience’ sake. (Where can you find same-sex marriage in the Constitution?)

              I oppose criminalizing private consensual acts, and I oppose any government having anything to do with having control over marriage, especially the federal government, including any such thing Roy Moore advocates.

              But you now get much worse with a guy who will vote in favor of more socialism, more war, for another Cold War with Russia even if only to stop Trump’s moves to rapproachment with Russia.

              C’mon REASON it out!

        2. One very dubious accusation of 14 years old, questioned by people who knew both at the time. The others were POST-pubescent accusers. And scandal made to order for AFTER the primaries but long enough before the general election to give a solid month for TEN TIMES more money than the candidate hated by the Swamp to pour into the race in favor of the socialist gun-control freak candidate.

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  3. As long as americans keep voting for lesser evil, the two party system wins out.
    And it will continue to win out because the people are sheep that do what they are told.

    That’s how the march to socialism always triumphs.

    When the educational system is run by leftists, there is no hope for future generations to become educated out of the brainwashing. Brainwashing takes too long to undo.

    1. Moore losing is great but another piece of shit got into office.

      What embarrassed AL most during this is that the two party system was not indicted as a result of this. We need about 5 political parties since nothing is getting done anyway.

      All we can hope for now is total gridlock for the rest of our lives. That is the actual best hope to curtail spending but we have seen how little that slowed down the parasites before.

      1. That didn’t stop shithead celebrities from shilling for the pos.

        Amazing how they lack any modicum of integrity.

      2. Why is Doug Jones a piece of shit? Is it the letter after his name?

        1. It’s called the tony standard.

        2. I wouldn’t dismiss a candidate just because they admit on their application they are a “Dick”. However, saying on their resume that they will vote the party line is not admirable.

        3. Tony, he ho,do many positions similar or identical to yours. So tha makes him bad. Just like you.

        4. Same reasons you are, Tony

        5. Tony, he is a piece of shit because of how he will vote. I personally don’t care about what he does in his private life or if he’s a “nice” person – all that is important is how he will vote. I will have to admit that Democrats are much better at political gamesmanship than are Republicans.

        6. No, he is a reason.com Republican posing as a libertarian. That is a membership requirement

  4. That’s not to suggest that Jones is evil. Far from it. He seems a perfectly adequate politician

    “Perfectly adequate politician” is not necessarily the strong contrast to “evil” that you’re looking for, Eric.

    1. He’s a socialist – therefore he’s evil.

      1. I thought he was a bog-standard blue dog Democrat. Or are we supposed to pretend that all non-Republicans are socialists now?

        1. No, I don’t think that is the case. The assumption is that any elected Democrat will simply be Chuck Schumer’s and/or Nancy Pelosi’s puppet. Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan seem to have a much more difficult time corralling their party members. Therefore if the Republican party is more disagreeable with one another than the Democrats, they have better odds of producing legislation smells slightly less than the alternative, or even better, they may end up doing nothing at all.

          1. I see this line of reasoning around here and it makes no sense to me whatsoever. When a party is out of power, it’s hella-easy to “corral” the members because the party is doing fuck-all. They have no power. In contrast, Republicans are in power, when factoring State and Federal, in a way we haven’t seen in decades. This means all of the individual members are very hopeful of getting what they want passed, which means the coalition is much more prone to fracturing.

            1. Isn’t this reinforcing the case to continue voting Republicans into office? In fact, couldn’t this be an effective strategy for third parties to eliminate one half of the competition?

              1. “…couldn’t this be an effective strategy for third parties…”
                Dude! Borrowing an earlier quote, Libertarians can always be expected to do “fuck-all”. (not really sure what that means, but it sounds cool.)

              2. Well sure, but that’s not really all that novel of an idea. When is ever NOT in a party’s interest to have more of their members voted in to office?

        2. There are no blue dog democrats left that I can think of. Can you think of any?

          1. The progtards largely purged them over the last decade.

          2. Manchin? He’s more blue than dog on a historical perspective, but he’s what passes for blue dog nowadays.

        3. No, he’s not. Jones if extremely far left.

      2. Anyone seated to the left of Mises is a fucking socialist.

  5. Our ex Governor started this shit storm, by putting the sitting AG in the Senate as a deal to avoid prosecution. Everybody in the state knew that was why Luther Strange was in office, so the stink on Strange allowed Moore to get in…with the help of some illegal crossover voting by Dems showing up for Moore.

    There were several state Reps who were inline for the appointment, would have made decent Senators, and would have won handily in this election. Instead, we get this crap. Also do not believe that AL will suddenly flip Blue. When this seat is up next it likely flips back to Red.

  6. Yeah, voters didn’t reject Hillary Clinton. She won the popular vote by a clear and indisputable majority. More than is usually necessary to win the electoral college. Damn the luck in a few states. Oh, the wise “working class” voters in flyover America. What a wise system we have, with the fate of the world in the hands of people who could, on a whim, think Donald Trump is presidential material.

    I know, I know, Californians don’t matter because they are, you know, whatever.

    1. More than is usually necessary to win the electoral college.

      lol wut

      1. People like To-To would work to ‘end the Electoral College’ based on this ridiculous example. And just as soon as they’d lose the popular vote, they’d scream to change it back to the EC. Or come up with some other bull shit because they didn’t like the outcome.

        1. Democrats have won the popular vote in 4 of the past 5 elections, but only have 2 presidential terms to show for it. Surely you can understand the frustration.

          1. Yes, because the popular vote for Senators has worked out so well. Sure, extoll the virtues of direct democracy to us some more.

            1. I don’t want to direct democracy. What I want is a return to the old-school electoral college, where the voting public makes some suggestions and the college makes the actual decision. What we have now is crap – it’s direct democracy, but run through a ridiculous algorithm called the “electoral college” that means the winner may or may not be a cruel joke.

    2. You’re still banging on that tiresome, irrelevant, pop. vote drum?

      She won because of two major urban centres. Big shit. She lost. It’s like saying ‘hey, I know we lost the series in seven games but we scored more goals/runs!’

      Congrats. You’re still a loser.

      1. The claim was that voters rejected Hillary Clinton. That is a lie. The electoral college rejected her. That is not the same thing.

        1. How does that make sense? The EC is based on…votes. It’s the calculus of how it translates into EC’s you have a problem with. The mechanics if you will.

          I personally think the EC did its job in that it prevented California and NY from dictating the outcome.

          1. The problem with that being that those states have the most people? And the people’s will should be suppressed if they happen to live in a jurisdiction with lots of other people?

            The claim was that the people rejected HRC. Californians are people. All of them. So that is a lie. It’s still a lie. Keep trying.

            1. A bare majority of eligible voters voted. So you like the rules when one plurality votes the way you want and hate those same rules when a different plurality doesn’t. Sounds pretty typical of you.

              1. I’ve been against the electoral college since I was in middle school.

                1. Uh huh.

                  1. I was going to say something snarky about how Tony’s political understanding hasn’t evolved since childhood, but he beat me to it.

                2. Sounds like middle school is the last time you gave any thought to it as well.

              2. RE: A bare majority of eligible voters voted.

                If someone doesn’t want to vote, which is well within their right, there’s nothing to do about that and so it’s pointless to bring them up like they matter. They didn’t vote, so they don’t care.

                1. If you want to make the special plea that winning the popular vote matters, then the fact that the popular vote represents a bare majority of the total eligible vote isn’t “pointless,” it is the point.

                  1. So what if someone wins a popular vote where most people thought the choices were so terrible they stayed home? That doesn’t say what some people seem to think it says.

            2. I think you need to rethink what you just wrote.

              Hint: The purpose of the EC and how your system of governance was designed.

              1. The EC is totally obsolete. And it’s not like it’s accidentally delivering us fantastic presidents who lose the popular vote.

                1. It’s doing better than the popular vote so far.

              2. The electoral college was designed that way because slave states had large populations if you counted the slaves, but low populations if you counted voters.

                And so you get the three-fifths compromise and the electoral college, because otherwise the South wasn’t going to sign the Constitution.

                If you aren’t mentioning slavery when talking about the “why” if the EC, you’re either deceived or deceiving.

        2. Laws and rules are a matter of convenience to you as always.

          The campaigns would have been run differently and voting incentives would also have been different if the popular vote mattered. It doesn’t.

          1. True, but it still remains a lie that the people of America rejected HRC.

            1. No it doesn’t. Over two thirds of the country did not vote for her. That’s a rejection.

              1. More people didn’t vote for Trump, so what point are you trying to make?

                1. You’re the one failing to make a point. Mine was quite clear.

                  1. psst, he’s pointing at his ass

            2. the majority of voters, who actually voted, did not vote for her.

    3. Clinton won a majority of voters in California, but since they’re state government is insane, it is a good thing that the brain dead morons that make up that state’s majority did not get their way.

      1. Are there any, like, non-authoritarian-fascists on this freedom lover site?

        1. Well you don’t help on that account.

        2. WTF is a “non-authoritarian-fascist”?

          1. It’s what Tony calls himself when he is masturbating to pics of the Killing Fields with a baseball bat stuck up his ass.

          2. An oxymoron.

    4. Tony thinks property rights are overrated. Said so himself.

      I couldn’t think of a stronger endorsement of Donald Trump than being a mortal enemy of socialists.

    5. “…Yeah, voters didn’t reject Hillary Clinton…”
      OMFG. Now THAT candidate was a “pos”.SHE LOST TO TRUMP!
      I rejected her but didn’t vote for Trump. See how that works? Maybe if she’d had Oprah as a running mate.

    6. “She won the popular vote”

      and your point is?

    7. Tony, much as you may regret it, we don’t actually have a dictatorship of the proletariat in the US

  7. The whole Dem tactic of creating or drudging up false or questionable allegations has been around a long time – they tried it last year with Trump. They tipped the scales this time because it was an off-cycle campaign with lots of media attention. Also helped the establishment GOP wanted nothing to do with Moore even before the hit pieces.

    Next year, I expect the Democrats to overplay their hand and try to destroy Republicans in many close races. Ever fewer people will believe the allegations.

    1. Next year, I expect the Democrats to overplay their hand and try to destroy Republicans in many close races. Ever fewer people will believe the allegations.

      Well, there are lots of easily duped voters out there, and downright idiots, who will only be too happy to follow Team Blue’s orders and vote straight D. We just saw this happen in Virginia, so no reason to think they can’t replicate it elsewhere. I do think though that Moore’s losing had everything to do with the fact that he is a colossal POS, and not that Alabamans suddenly want transgender bathrooms and drive through abortion clinics on every corner.

      1. I’d be happy to vote R if they would stop nominating lunatics, or started passing bills that actually do the things they claim to want to do. I won’t hold my breath.

        1. survey question:
          “I’d be happy to vote R if _____________”

          -please avoid using words such as “suck, dick, asshole, POS, illiterate, etc

          1. If there was a Republican candidate who credibly claimed they were going to carefully cut back regulation, foster growth by improving competition, improve trade deals, and reform immigration with an eye towards bringing in much needed workers, than I would seriously consider voting for them. But I have absolutely no reason to believe any Republican candidate or politician will do any of those things, because their only play for the last 30 years is to shovel more money on people who already have lots of it, and further entrench crony capitalism.

            1. The only realistic alternative is the Democratic candidate….do you think they will do any better?

              I realize this is a Libertarian site, but how many Libertarians actually get elected to office?

              1. On those particular issues, probably not (with the exception of immigration, to a degree). But at least they legislate like people who make less than 500K are actual human beings, who have wants and needs and dreams.

  8. Building a mandate requires a vision for how the country should be

    Oh stop it with “mandate” nonsense. “Mandate” doesn’t exist, it’s just statist garbage.

    “Mandate” suggests that if your majority is pretty big (whatever that means to you), then it’s OK to do whatever you want and trample whoever you want.

    Please don’t ever use that idiotic term again.

    1. “Mandate” suggests that if your majority is pretty big (whatever that means to you), then it’s OK to do whatever you want and trample whoever you want.

      Certain phallic analogies come to mind. That said, my mandate is rather average…

    2. “Mandato” in several languages simply means term of office. There is unfortunate leakage of terminology shorn of exact meaning in the vague and euphemistic universe of looter/liar politics.

    3. mandate = bromance

  9. With the politics of the lesser evil, eventually you end up having to choose between Hitler and Stalin.

    Or Trump and Clinton, as the case may be.

    1. Bush & Gore
      Obama & McCain
      Clinton & Dole
      Bush & Kerry
      Turd Sandwich & Giant Douche

    2. It’s just about time for a civil war to clean things up for awhile. Elections fail us more and more, so those are not a solution.

  10. So many of you appear to think Jones is somehow an improvement over Moore. He’s not. He’s far worse on many different levels that actually matter, unlike Moore’s pecodillos.

    This just goes to prove what I always say, idiocy abounds.

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  12. Has Eric ever read ANY political party platform? It is a chore, and The Kleptocracy together churned out 71000 words of hatred, garble and goo, most of which cancels out. F’rinstance, both wings of the DemoGOP are OK with First Responders? kicking in doors and shooting women, kids and puppy dogs because of “the wrong kind” of plant leaves. They differ on energy and the Second Amendment. Dems want to ban electricity and some guns (not Gestapo or tax collector guns). The Gee Oh Pee want to keep the Second Amendment (which also protects anti-missile systems) and has a wordy energy plank that, if terse, would resemble the LP plank. The GOP also gets votes from the likes of Roy Moore by promising to change the 14th Amendment to bring back coathanger abortions. But that cancels out against the Dems gun-grabbing fantasies. The only surviving difference is electricity and carbon taxes. Has anyone else noticed something I missed?

  13. I still don’t get why we are supposed to care about the sex lives of our representatives. What matters is the legislation they vote for.

    1. Roy Moore actually said this ”


      That would eliminate many problems,” Moore said on the show, after the host proposed a constitutional amendment that would void all but the first 10. “You know people don’t understand how some of these amendments have completely tried to wreck the form of government that our forefathers intended.”

      Amendments passed after the first 10 include the 13th, which abolished slavery; the 14th, which guaranteed citizenship for former slaves; the 15th, which allowed black people to vote; and the 19th, which allowed women to vote.

      He was a shitty shitty candidate who riled up all the black voters, women voters and some solid GOP voters. That’s why he lost.

  14. The problem of course is the only mandate that most voters will support is impossible. Lots of government services and entitlements combined with low taxes and a balanced budget of course.

  15. The Republicans headed into 2017 believing they had a mandate from the American people because they had been given control of all three parts of the legislative process, but that was hardly true. Trump, after all, got a scant 62 million votes last year, and far more voters picked other candidates.

    Now that Republicans hold all the power in Washington, D.C. (and in most states too, for that matter),

    Okay, control of all three branches of government AND control of most statehouses and state legislatures.

    What IS that if not a mandate?

  16. So does this mean Al Franken still has to resign?

  17. NO, Eric, reject cluelessness.

    Doug Jones’ “victory” was really NOT because Roy Moore was such a bad candidate.

    It was because the Washington Post avidly grabbed a lot of past-life dirt fed to them by a Jeb Bush operative fighting enemies of the Swamp, enemies of theirs being anybody who will not follow their rules.

    We all know that. And of course then the local Alabama press journalists, giddy with glee at something finally breaking that might give them an opening against all those deplorables in their state, followed suit with a couple of little innuendos of their own.

    Washington Post and amigos would have not had such an animus against Roy Moore, and would have let bygones be bygones, IF ROY MOORE HAD BEEN SUCH AN ABYSMALLY SWAMP-LOVING CANDIDATE AS DOUG JONES.

    Said another way, Roy Moore got the short end because he was such a GOOD candidate that the Swamp hated his guts. They do not hate men that once or twice did something stupid before, IF the accusations were even accurate.

    And of course Swamp Media ignored some credible rebuttals to the accusers. The Swamp made the rebuttals from boyfriends from the day and the other one exposed as both liar and forger, out to be “How Could Anybody Accuse the Accuser?” instead of apologizing for their sloppiness in skipping the vetting process. (Oh but then they bragged about their vetting with the O’Keefe girl).

    Reason’s writers should live up a little more to their name.

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