It is hard to understand why, in Alabama, white voters professing to be staunch Christians tried their best to send Roy Moore, a man widely believed to be a child molester, to the U.S. Senate. These evangelicals are the same people who, for decades, have asserted that they hold the moral high ground in this country. Yet, they believed that sending an accused child molester to Washington was God’s will. What is even more difficult to understand why (as Newsweek reported) 63% of the white women who voted in Alabama supported a candidate who has been credibly accused of preying upon teenage girls when he was a prosecutor in his thirties.
It is crucial to the political, economic and civic wellbeing of Black folk for us to understand the reasons for such insane political positions. Without this understanding we are unable to be fully equipped to force this nation to become truly the land of liberty and justice for all.
The near success of Roy Moore’s candidacy gives us an excellent window into the soul of many white Southern evangelicals, and we should not look away.
The “religious right” came to prominence in the 1980s, claiming to be the “moral majority” of America. It soon found particularly fertile ground in the deeply red former slave holding Confederate states.
The religious right raised its banner throughout the South in support of prayer in schools and against sex education, the Equal Rights Amendment, abortion rights and a host of other issues. But embedded in the social DNA of many of these Southern Christians is the soul of a white supremacist. And in the white South, race still trump’s all else.
White Christian voters in the South may have told exit pollsters that they voted for Roy Moore as a stand against abortion, but it is not credible to say that you want to support unborn girls at the expense of those who walk among us.
During Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign a popular saying was coined. “It’s the economy, stupid,” was said repeatedly to assure the nation that concerns about the economy were driving American politics. But again, the suggested motive animating Southern voters did not take race into account. Looking at voter behavior today it is clear, despite what the polls say, concerns about the economy are not the only motivators when ballots are cast.
Southern white evangelical voters root for a Republican Congress that pushes for tax laws that reduce taxes for large corporations and the very rich while placing greater burdens on lower and middle-class Americans.
These voters cheer the rising averages of the stock markets as a sign that the Republicans have the country on the road to recovers while they and their neighbors try to survive on stagnant wages.
These voters fervently advocate the sanctity of life while giving full throated support to the death penalty.
These Southern white Christians are not simply “voting their wallets,” nor are they simply drawing a line in the sand against abortion. They are also voting their hatred and fear of people of color, and of people they do not understand.
Their arguments about economics and the sanctity of life are not made absent considerations of race and diversity. Simply put, their votes are predicated upon the notion of white supremacy. They see America as a meritocracy, where whiteness is the overriding merit.
It was this world view of white supremacy, not simply economics or Christianity, that allowed Pat Robertson, (who has been termed “Christianity’s crazy uncle) and the late Jerry Falwell to garner support and political power in the 1980s. It had nothing to do with any legitimate sense of morality.
These same voters, who wring their hands over the rights of the unborn child, justified their attempt to send a pedophile to the halls of Congress to represent them by claiming that it would be better to have a child molester than a Democrat represent them in Congress.
In the former slave holding Confederate states the term “Democrat” has become a “dog whistle” warning many Southern whites that people of color are gaining too much at the expense of whites. Just as “liberal” has become a dirty word in conservative America, “Democrat” is becoming a term of scorn. Liberal Democrats are the people most associated with civil rights and the progress of Black folk.
Southern white evangelicals are willing to throw over their self-proclaimed moral superiority to secure supreme Court justices that will interpret laws and the U.S. Constitution with a world view that is close to theirs – a world view that would bring a halt to the progress of civil rights for people of color.