The Moore-Jones Race

Explaining what Tuesday is likely to bring.

Judge-Roy-MooreThe special election to fill the rest of Jeff Sessions’ Senate term will be held this coming Tuesday.  At the moment I write this, Moore has a +2.3% lead in the RCP polling average.  I would note that special elections are hard to poll, as the pollster needs an appropriate turnout model which is a tricky proposition under normal conditions.  Modeling this special election, which is unusual in a number of ways, has to be especially challenging.  This is not to say that I doubt the polling, but rather that it is difficult to know how well it reflects what we will see next week.  I will note further that as the effects of the initial allegations against Moore had faded, so too the polls have started to look a bit more Moore-ish.

Many might ask (indeed, many are asking):  how can it be that Moore can be seemingly the favorite to win at this point given the allegations of sexual assault against a minor and clear evidence he dated teenagers as a 30+ year-old man?

Let’s start with the obvious:  Alabama is heavily Republican state.  Some numbers:

  • Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton Alabama by 28 percentage points in 2016.
  • Mitt Romney beat Barack Obama by 23 percentage points in 2012.
  • John McCain beat Barack Obama by 22 percentage points in 2008.
  • When Jeff Sessions ran for re-election in 2014, he won 97.3% of the vote because he was unopposed (no Democratic thought it worth the time, effort, and money required to mount even a symbolic campaign).
  • In 2010, Robert Bentley won the gubernatorial election (an open seat that year) by 15.7 percentage points. In the 2014 gubernatorial race, Bentley won re-election by 27.4% percentage points.
  • Since 2011, there have been no Democrats who hold statewide office.
  • The last Democrat to win a Senatorial election in Alabama was current US Senator Richard Shelby in 1992 (after originally being elected in 1986). Two years after his re-election, however, he changed parties to the GOP and has won overwhelming re-election as a Republican in 1998, 2004, 2010, and 2016.  His lowest share of the vote during that time was 64%.

I could go on, but the evidence is overwhelmingly clear:  Alabama is a deep red state and in a race between Generic Republican and Generic Democrat, you can confidently lay your money on Generic Republican.

Now, of course, Roy Moore is not Generic Republican.  He is not, in the language of political science, a high quality candidate.  This is because he has flaws that make him under-perform partisan expectations.

To wit:  when Moore last ran for statewide office (his return to being Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court after his first ouster) he under-performed the GOP’s presidential nominee by 342,904 votes (Romney won 1,255,904 and Moore won 913,021).  As such, in that election a lot of Republicans either abstained from voting on that portion of the ballot, or switched votes to vote for a Democrat (indeed, Moore’s Democratic opponent won 55,120 more votes than Obama did in that race).

So, going into the special election we should have expected a tighter race than Generic R v. Generic D would have predicted.  Further, the Democrats nominated a fairly high quality candidate (certainly relative to what they normally put up) whose resume includes the phrase “KKK-fighting.”

So, even before the allegations of sexual impropriety, polls showed a only single-digit lead for Moore.  Moore was always a controversial candidate ans so was likely to be a fairly close contest.  Indeed, I expect Moore to win fairly narrowly on Tuesday (and think it not impossible that Jones could still win, but I shall not lay any money on the prospect).

As I noted last month, voters take a basket of variables into an electoral decision that requires a binary choice.  So, they rank-order preferences and come to a conclusion.  Usually party affiliation wins the day, although as Moore proved in 2012, distaste for a given candidate can lead to partisanship being over-ridden.

Readers might ask:  given the pre-existing controversy concerning Moore and the added gravity of the allegations against him how can Alabama Republicans elect him?

Some guy who thinks he knows something about politics said the following to an NPR reporter this week:

“If you believe that abortion is murder and if you believe that the post-Roe v. Wade era is tantamount to new genocide, then you’re willing to say, ‘I’m going to ignore all these allegations and vote for Moore anyway’ or it helps to rationalize away the allegations,” said Taylor.

Weirdly enough, I concur.

Note that in a 2014 Pew poll, 58% of Alabama adults stated that abortion should be illegal is most or all cases. Only Mississippi (at 59%) scored higher.

In short, and from a dispassionate point of view, we have the following:  a heavily Republican state in an era of high levels of partisan polarization nationally who have nominated a controversial candidate.  Democrats have countered with a candidate of high quality (especially relative to recent Senate contests), but who has to make up a substantial partisan gap to even be competitive.  The result is a far tighter than normal election contest that will likely result in a close outcome that favors the Republican.  This is outcome is motivated by the basic fact that despite the controversial nature of the GOP candidate, he will far more likely vote in the Senate in a way that GOP voters in Alabama would prefer.  This is especially true on the abortion issue, which is of high salience to conservative Alabamians (who are likely to dominate a low-turnout special election).


FILED UNDER: Campaign 2017, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. CSK says:

    Someone, somewhere, commented recently that the best way to get Alabamans to vote for Roy Moore is to have a bunch of Yankees tell them not to vote for Roy Moore.

  2. gVOR08 says:

    Partisanship is so bad I think abortion is less an issue and more a signal of Republican tribal affiliation.

  3. @gVOR08: The two are linked and self-reinforcing.

    But seriously: do not discount the degree to which a huge number of conservative evangelicals hold the view that abortion is murder, if not a modern genocide.

  4. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    How many conservative evangelicals want to drastically increase the acceptance of ethnic minority refugees from Myanmar, India, Syria, or Darfur?

    You know, victims of actual genocide?

  5. michael reynolds says:

    I commented a while back that abortion was the crack in the American polity, the new slavery. It gives right-wingers permission for everything else they want to excuse, up to and including electing a pervert.

    People need to understand that this same issue would justify anything – anything at all – that the right-wing wants, including a suspension of civil liberties.

    These are dangerous times. The American people have failed democracy. We may or may not have a free country a year from now.

  6. MarkedMan says:

    Personally, I don’t argue my pro-choice views based on a woman’s right to chose for themselves. Most anti-abortionists probably feel the same way, i.e. that women should be free to decide what to do with their own body. The complication is that they believe there is another human body in play, that of the fetus. They believe the fetus is equivalent to a human being. If I believed that, I would also be anti-abortion.

    But that’s the nub. The idea that, say, a three month old mass of cells is a human being is ridiculous. And this slogan that “life begins at conception” is meaningless. The millions of sperm and the ova are living cells even before conception. Fertilization is an amazing biologic feat but it isn’t magic. The idea that at the moment of conception a human soul is created and vested in that cell may have religious validity, but it doesn’t have any physical validity. Just as the concepts of original sin and transubstantiation have metaphysical significance in certain religions but have no physical significance.

    That’s the place to argue. Once you get passed 30-40 years of emotional one-upmanship, most people would agree that that lump of cells is not a person. And that it cuts both ways. Just as a split second at T-zero doesn’t instantaneously create a human being, it is equally ridiculous that a fetus is just a lump of cells up to the moment it passes through the vaginal canal, at which point it is a complete human being and killing it would be murder. I think that Roe v Wade got it right. Abortion in the early stages is a simple medical procedure. Abortion at 9 months poses extremely serious ethical dilemmas and should be much more difficult to get. At the same time, a woman shouldn’t be forced to carry a fetus so damaged that it will die in agony within moments of being born, or who has no upper brain function. Nor should she be forced to die because giving birth will kill her. If the choice is between her life or the baby’s, it should be the woman’s choice or her families if she can’t make it. It shouldn’t be based on someone else’s religious beliefs.

  7. @Stormy Dragon: You are making a normative judgment about their actions (or lack thereof). I take the point.

    But I am explaining behavior. And whether one likes it or not, abortion looms large in the minds of substantial number of voters who are relevant to Dec 12.

  8. Daryl's other brother Daryll says:

    @michael reynolds:

    We may or may not have a free country a year from now.

    I’m betting against.

  9. @MarkedMan:

    most people would agree that that lump of cells is not a person.

    This isn’t true. A huge number of evangelicals do think that the specific set of cells is, in fact, a human.

  10. @Steven L. Taylor: Although if by “most” you mean a bare majority, then you may have a point.

  11. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    But I am explaining behavior.

    If you had said “do not discount the degree to which a huge number of conservative evangelicals SAY they hold the view that abortion is murder, if not a modern genocide”, you would be explaining behavior.

    My point is that just because they say that doesn’t mean they actually believe it. A simple look at the difference in the way they act toward abortion and the way they act toward actual genocide easily demonstrates that regardless of what they say, they do not actually believe the two are equivalent.

    It’s just something they’ve been trained to say.

  12. MarkedMan says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I take your point, but I’m not sure that “believe” is the operative word. They have internalized that statement (“Life begins at conception”) as a powerful marker of their cultural affiliation. But I don’t think many really believe it at a fundamental level. The old thought experiment holds: A fire breaks out in an fertility clinic. In one room is a cooler with thousands of fertilized eggs. In another is a single newborn baby. You only have time to save one or the other. Which do you choose?

    Both sides in the abortion debate have chosen the same cultural marker: That there is no spectrum of “cells to baby”. Both sides have taken a ridiculously extreme position: that the moment “cells” transform into “baby” is instantaneous and completely definable. From my point of view, what we have is the typical end point of many debates that become cultural markers. Two groups that distrust or dislike each other pick some topic where they have some disagreement. Their position on that topic become more and more important in determining whether they are in-group or out. Stronger affiliation and deeper loyalty is signaled by taking an increasingly “purer” position, one that eventually reaches the point where it has no connection with reality. Meaningful debate becomes impossible.

  13. @Stormy Dragon: I am unclear on what hair you are splitting on the SAY issue. You can doubt their honesty, but I am not sure it changes behavior.

  14. @MarkedMan:

    the moment “cells” transform into “baby” is instantaneous and completely definable

    Which is why most pro-lifers say you have to start with conception.

  15. MarkedMan says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Which is why most pro-lifers say you have to start with conception

    Not sure what you are driving at here. That’s what I said above: Anti-abortionists say that at conception a cell magically transforms into a baby. And most pro-choicers (essentially) say that only once an 8 pound mass of cells passes through the vaginal canal does it become a baby.

    Both positions are the result of 30-40 years of ratcheting up “purity” of belief. IMO, both are nonsense.

  16. Gustopher says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Im not sure you can use logic to say that people are being hypocritical when helping X but not Y.

    Look at it this way — there’s an inexhaustible supply of misery and hardship in the world, and there is no way that you are going to solve all of it, or even attempt to solve all of it. If you attempt to help one person or group, are you now suddenly a hypocrite for not trying to help another? If so, the only unhypocritical action is to do nothing. Why are you advocating people do nothing? Why are you advocating Objectivism? Why are you such a monster?

    You’re not advocating Objectivism, you’re simply trying to hoist them by their own petard, but the logic cuts both ways.

    Why favor unborn children over the Sudanese refugees? You can project anything onto these innocent babies you want to, but Sudanese refugees come with all sorts of problems. Or their racists. Or they see enough support for the anti-abortion measures that they think they can make a difference. All sorts of reasons. Some logical, some emotional.

  17. charon says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Which is why most pro-lifers say you have to start with conception.

    Identical twins? Triplets? (Hypothetically, clones?)

  18. Gustopher says:

    @MarkedMan: The fire in a fertility clinic with a kid inside thought experiment is, like most thought experiments, kind of dumb.

    First, we have to ask why this kid is in the burning fertility clinic. Who let her in? Where are her parents? Why won’t she run? Did she start the fire? Is she dangerous?

    Then we have to consider the costs of actually rescuing the fertilized embryos. Do we have enough women willing to become surrogates so the embryos can be born? Can we store them until they can be implanted? Do we have the funding for such a thing?

    And then there are the moral implications — is there an opportunity cost sin? While saving one, are we punished for not saving the other? Also, the embryos are without sin, so they will quickly get to heaven, but this arsonist child who may have murdered her parents needs to be physically saved before she can be spiritually saved.

    The answer in the end is that you should put the fertilized embryos on the child’s back and beat the child until she finally runs screaming from the burning building.

    It’s like transporting three sheep and a fox across a river when you have a boat that can only hold two. It doesn’t come up in reality, and it doesn’t help you determine anything.

  19. Gustopher says:

    @MarkedMan: Here’s another thought experiment for you, and a much more realistic one: there are two foodbanks near me that also have a lot of homeless services, one which covers my neighborhood, and one a neighborhood over.

    I donate a substantial chunk of money to the one a neighborhood over each year, because there are more problems than either can solve (inexhaustible supply), human misery is fungible (no inherent reason to pick one group over the other), and I would like to encourage the homeless people in my neighborhood to go to that other neighborhood. By the way, I really do this.

    Am I a good person for donating several thousand to a food bank, or a horrible person who is trying to make the homeless people go away? The answer is probably both.

    We choose who we help based on a variety of petty and stupid reasons. That’s just human nature, not a deep revelation into our internal conflicts or that we don’t really believe in something.

  20. michael reynolds says:

    @Stormy Dragon:
    Of course they don’t actually believe abortion is murder. They also don’t believe there is a God, or that they will have eternal life. If they believed any of that they’d behave much differently.

    It is a deliberate, self-inflicted lobotomy, an intellectual suicide, a flight to fantasy and a rejection of reality. They pretend to believe, and in order to convince themselves they ram their beliefs down everyone else’s throat. But in their hearts they know it’s all bullsh!t – just check in with any of them on their death beds. Watch how desperately they cling to life and see how much pain and expense they’ll endure to avoid all that eternal happiness.

    If the last year has proven anything it’s that evangelical Christians believe in nothing but hate and rage. That’s the so-called ‘base.’ The mere Republicans believe in nothing but serving their billionaire donors and letting the trickle from their table fall down on them like the good little pets they are. Adelson and the Mercers and the Kochs feed at the trough and a few crumbs fall into the campaign contributions slop bucket.

    Evangelical Christianity is a nihilistic cult, entirely divorced from reality, loudly proclaiming beliefs they don’t actually have, and morals they laugh off as soon as it is convenient. Once you’ve lobotomized yourself to play ‘Christian’ what barrier remains to believing anything you like? What moral structure survives contact with a rule-free fantasy world?

  21. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I am unclear on what hair you are splitting on the SAY issue.

    People are generally terrible at determining their own motivations. Why people say they do things and why they actually do them a frequently very different. This is important to be aware of because when trying influence people, the attempts will often fail if it’s targeted toward what they saw they believe rather than what they actually believe.

  22. gVOR08 says:

    Every now and again an anti-abortionist will slip and admit that for them life is defined by a soul. Life begins when the soul is planted. Catholics have long believed this occurs at conception. Protestants, for the most part believed it occurred at birth. They did not originally have a big problem with Roe v Wade. But the TV preachers like Falwell saw Catholics raising a lot of money on the issue and wanted in on the game. They eventually rewrote their theology to match. as with much of conservative politics, on the Protestant side the whole thing is really a hustle.

  23. JohnMcC says:

    I’ll repeat (and expand a little) a comment I just put up at Mr Mataconis’ O.P. about Rep Franks:

    There was a small explanatory note in the MSM about why the Congressman pressured his subordinate staff to provide a womb. Apparently he (and one supposes, his wife) either rejected or failed at IVF because they refused to agree to the number of embryos that current practice requires. The ‘sin’ of ‘creating’ those human beings whose fate is either perpetual frozen state or medical waste was intolerable (as I understand it) so he pressured and bribed subordinate women to participate.

    All of us have seen (or shown) those ultrasound pictures of in-utero babies. Everyone regardless of what we believe about abortion has felt the joy of an expecting family in planning a nursery, gifting at ‘showers’ and such. I have never met anyone ANYONE! who did not acknowledge the ambiguity and moral difficulties of aborting a fetus.

    The difference between the pro- and anti-abortion positions is that the anti- crowd comes face to face with that moral ambiguity and gives up immediately. They seek psychic comfort in an absolute.

    They are moral/ethical children.

    And like Rep Franks they commit sins against real breathing people because they honor a moral obligation to people they only imagine exist.

  24. Teve tory says:

    Maybe this is a little off topic I’m not sure. I am in regular communication with older people who watch Fox News all day long. Apparently Robert Muller and the entire FBI, James Comey etcetera, are democratic political operatives who desire nothing more than Bringing Down the legitimate presidency of Donald Trump. They also have deliberately ignored the high Crimes of the Hillary Clinton administration to pursue some bogus nonsense charges against the Christian Patriot Donald Trump. If you watch Fox News they spend everyday delegitimizing Robert Muller and the FBI. We could be coming to a point where 37% of the country believe that any legitimate law enforcement action with regards to the Trump Administration constitutes a coup. It seems to me like these people are dangerously close to acquiescing to a complete Trump takeover of the government. It seems like minor stuff right now, and things that we’re not hearing a lot about, but there is increasingly a chance that we will have a constitutional crisis and a large highly-motivated minority of the population will enforce the will of trump and the Republicans regardless of criminal or constitutional matters. This could get real scary, real fast

  25. Mikey says:

    @Teve tory:

    We could be coming to a point where 37% of the country believe that any legitimate law enforcement action with regards to the Trump Administration constitutes a coup.

    I have no doubt whatsoever this is the intended objective. Trump believes he is above the law, and the focus of his Fox News propagandists is to convince his followers any effort to subject him to either legal or Constitutional limits is illegitimate.

  26. Kylopod says:


    The idea that at the moment of conception a human soul is created and vested in that cell may have religious validity, but it doesn’t have any physical validity.

    Even religions are far from unanimous on this question. (That very point was made in the original Roe decision.) Mormonism and Judaism have never held that life begins at conception; the Catholic Church didn’t before the mid-19th century.

  27. wr says:

    We don’t need any of these ludicrous “thought experiments” to show us what evangelicals really think about abortion, because we have reality. And in reality, time after time, when a right-wing, God-fearing evangelical politician who is a great family man knocks up his mistress, he urges or orders her to abort. If he’s a real gentleman, he pays.

    And then the good evangelicals run out and re-elect him — because his opponent won’t be “pro-life.”

  28. Modulo Myself says:

    I’m pro-choice but if someone who is an actual Christian says that abortion is a sin, I would believe them. Sin, as I understand Christianity basically saying, is what everything human is. Our justifiable fears and anxieties come from sin.

    But that’s the rub. Evangelical Christians tend not to believe in abortion as a sin. They see a 17 year old girl who has had an abortion as a hater of children and goodness, rather than justifiably-terrified human who sees herself giving birth to a being she will love but will alter her life in bad ways. This isn’t real. I’ve known women who have had abortions. They don’t want to murder their children. They–if you are a Christian who believes there’s a soul leaping out of nothing when sperm and egg join–are just weak at the most profoundly understandable in human existence.

    Evangelical Christians who call themselves pro-life are so disgusting and empty they simply don’t get this. It’s like people who think it’s ‘deviant’ to get knocked-up at 17. It’s a bad idea, but you have to be scum to think that wanting love and sex at 17 is some perverse act.

  29. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Oh no, that would be like comparing apples and valve guides to them. There’s no correlation at all. (And besides, aren’t most Somalis [ahem] black?)

  30. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Gustopher: Believe it or not, I have a friend from the Fundamentalist community who used to argue that particularly in the cases of unwanted babies, it made greater sense on a spiritual level to abort as many as possible because while fetuses, those children were protected by God’s grace as they had not reached “the age of accountability” whereas allowing them to come to term and be raised in families where they would most likely suffer neglect would most likely doom them to an eternity in hell.

    And here, I bet, you thought you were just being snarky.

  31. de stijl says:

    Saying that abortion is murder / genocide allows Christians, though strongly warned against it by the Bible, fully participate in partisan politics (which is the actual motivating factor).

    It’s false matyrdom by proxy which grants the pretext for worldly conceits (i.e., voting for Republicans or rather, voting *against* Democrats)

    The Protestant “belief” that life begins at conception is an ad hoc argument birthed ~ 1980.

  32. de stijl says:

    On the two main issues on which modern American conservative Christians have declared as immutable precepts, the Bible is notably silent: abortion and homosexuality.

    Seriously, witches and lobsters get more ink than those two. OT or NT, it’s basically “meh.”

    Perhaps there is another animating condition that has allowed these two issues to dominate the conversation with these folk? Whatever could it be? Who can answer this unsolvable riddle?

  33. MBunge says:

    This is getting more than a little ridiculous. One of the obvious reasons people are going to vote for Moore is that they don’t believe the accusations against him. Given that, how on Earth do you write this sort of post and TOTALLY IGNORE a recent revelation that casts legitimate doubt on one of the allegations against him? You don’t have to relitigate the entire case but we’re talking about a significant development in the story that could hugely influence the result…and you don’t even mention it?

    I have to wonder how often you omit relevant facts from other posts.


  34. JohnMcC says:

    @MBunge: Ya know, a really thoughtful, reflective person might stop and think… If they don’t mention that added date in the yearbook then maybe…. Possibly…. They don’t think it’s worth a sneeze.


    And that same thoughtful person might examine the original intent of the Original Post. Ya know, about how motivations and prior concepts influence like… Political behavior. Voting. Commenting on blogs. Stuff like that, huh?

    And it is in that spirit that I say – you obviously are carrying water for a clown which makes such a stupid comment…. Beclowning. You have made yourself more ridiculous than ever.

    But keep trying.

  35. @JohnMcC:

    examine the original intent of the Original Post

    What a radical concept! 😉

  36. michael reynolds says:


    We don’t need any of these ludicrous “thought experiments” to show us what evangelicals really think about abortion, because we have reality.

    Indeed. This is why I deny that Christians actually believe what they say they believe.

    You know what people really, really believe? They really, really believe that walls are solid. As a consequence you never see anyone trying to walk through a wall. (Well, not sober.) But people who claim to believe in God have absolutely no problem ignoring his existence daily. That’s not belief, it’s bullsh!t. It’s a pose. It’s a pose with a purpose: to allow the poseur to imagine themselves superior.

    Whatever the religion it’s the same. Virtually no one actually believes in God. They are all pretending and using their made-up faith to oppress other people in the name of moral principles they themselves fail to honor.

  37. Monala says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I think he means that they don’t really mean it, because they will turn to abortion procedures when they need it. Examples include pro-life Rep. Tim Murphy pressuring his pregnant mistress to have an abortion, Sarah Palin originally considering abortion when she learned her youngest child had Down’s Syndrome (and taking terrible risks even after she decided to carry the baby to term), and the Santorums having a “partial-birth abortion” when it became clear that to do otherwise would risk Karen Santorum’s life.

  38. Monala says:

    @Gustopher: when Fred Clark at Slacktivist wrote about the fertility clinic example, I wrote a short story in the comments that imagined just such a scenario: a pro-life grandfather takes his beloved 5yo granddaughter to visit her “baby brothers and sisters” (her parents’ dozen embryos in an IVF clinic). Even though she’s disappointed they don’t look like babies, he tells her they already have souls and are already babies in the eyes of God. When a fire breaks out in the clinic, she lets go of his hand to “go save the babies,” putting herself in danger. She passes out along the way, and Grandpa has only enough time to either save her or save the embryos. What choice do you think any grandfather with a shred of humanity would make, no matter how strongly they believe life begins at conception?

  39. de stijl says:

    @michael reynolds:

    But people who claim to believe in God have absolutely no problem ignoring his existence daily. That’s not belief, it’s bullsh!t. It’s a pose. It’s a pose with a purpose: to allow the poseur to imagine themselves superior.

    Mostly, it’s probably trying to make sense and purpose out of an indifferent universe. Thankfully, it’s not daily, else we all be mad or virtually catatonic.

    We can usually avoid the fact the we are but tiny beings with an infinitesimal lifespan on a speck of a planet orbiting an nondescript star in the boondocks of an anonymous cluster in an utterly boring galaxy in a bog-standard backwater of the universe that is 14.2 billion years old (that very well may be just one universe out of a virtual infinite supply of universes).

    I am tiny and my life is meaningless.

    When this existential dread invades our thoughts we conjure up a buffer and protector.

    Pondering infinity and eternity is impossible and even trying to can lead to madness, so we avoid it and create a buffer and intermediary who looks like us and is a better version of us but is omnipotent and omnipresent with a killer sense of style and is charismatic like Tyler Durden.

    Verily, we achieve synthesis be shooting ourselves through the cheek while holding hands with Helena Bonham Carter and watching buildings topple with The Pixies providing the soundtrack.

    We create God because we have to. We create Heaven because we must. We make eternity an amusing lark.

    It’s either that or acknowledge that we are but a tiny spark of consciousness in a vast and indifferent space and when we wink out we are gone forever.

  40. JohnMcC says:

    @de stijl: Very heavy, dude. Didja smoke it all?

    I have thought a similar thought. I say it this way: I look up in the sky and see the stars and think I’m seeing the processes of the universe; the color and brightness of the stars reveal their age, direction relative to me and even their composition. My sisters look up at the stars and see God’s eyes looking back at them.

    Who ya gonna call? Ghosts? Ghostbusters?

  41. JohnMcC says:

    Something I’ve meant to inject into this thread: The traditional Christian belief about when the ‘soul’ enters a womb/embryo is that it occurs at something called ‘quickening’. ‘Quick’ as in the phrase ‘the quick and the dead’ – meaning the living and the dead. ‘Quickening’ was the first movements in the womb that Mom was aware of.

    As said somewhere up above, the RCChurch adjusted that date when embryology advanced. The evangelicals adjusted their beliefs when schools were desegregated.

  42. de stijl says:


    I’m more of a ‘shroom man. Ganj makes me paranoid.

  43. de stijl says:


    The traditional Christian belief about when the ‘soul’ enters a womb/embryo is that it occurs at something called ‘quickening’.

    As I understand it, a fetus was considered ensouled and also considered a person at quickening (that was the belief anyway).

    As you said, quickening is the moment in pregnancy when the pregnant woman starts to feel or perceive fetal movements in the uterus.

    And quickening generally occurs roughly 20 weeks after gestation.

    Does that time period sound familiar in the modern-day legal context? Our ancestors weren’t dumb.

  44. gVOR08 says:

    @michael reynolds: Religion is mostly a marker of tribal affiliation. In modern America, it’s often also a grift. European nations had state churches. We wrote them out of the Constitution. As a result religion in America became an entrepreneurial activity.

    Republicans have strong tribal identities, the voters as true ‘Muricans and evangelicals, the Republican elite as, well, the elite. Dems don’t have a strong tribal identity. Minority Dems have an identity as a minority mreso than as a Dem. I’m a Dem because my parents were Dems, because Dem policy makes a lot more sense, because for the most part Dems want a better world, and because modern Rs have become not only wrong on policy but distasteful. But I don’t feel any tribal identity. I’m an agnostic. But that’s an opinion, not an identity. Part of it is white privilege, my ancestry is from Norway, which mostly means I never have to think about it. .

  45. michael reynolds says:

    @de stijl:

    It’s either that or acknowledge that we are but a tiny spark of consciousness in a vast and indifferent space and when we wink out we are gone forever.

    That’s only a frightening outcome to those who haven’t thought it through.

    Every story needs an end. Eternal life is no more meaningful than short-term life, longevity does not confer meaning. If anything the reverse is true – there is inherent drama in brevity, there’s a tick-tock, a three act structure. Without death life is not precious, it’s a given, like gravity or the speed of light. Without death none of the elements of drama is possible because the end of all things is not death, but no end at all, an eternity of boredom. Rather than confer meaning on a meaningless existence eternity would make that meaninglessness perpetual, without possibility of escape. Eternal life – whether in a heaven or a hell – would be eternal misery.

    Imagine the greatest orgasm of your life. Imagine it going on for five minutes. Ten minutes. An hour. A day. A year. A century. Endless pleasure is not pleasure. All good things come to an end, and must do so, or there are no good things.

    The only reason to fear death per se is if you posit an afterlife. Otherwise death is and end of existence, neither pain nor pleasure, neither hot nor cold. Death is nothing. Therefore the only reason to fear death is if you insist that death is not death but just another round of existence.

  46. Bob The Arqubusier says:

    If I may commit the heresy of returning to the original topic, let me offer an alternative view.

    There are scads of reasons to oppose Moore for the Senate, some of which would be quite persuasive to me. For example, I am troubled by his constant habit of putting his religious views above his oath of office (the reason he was removed from office twice), and while I share his staunch support of the 2nd Amendment, I do not like his celebration of that by openly brandishing his handgun.

    But for some reason, Moore’s opponents decided to make the crucial element “he’s a big ol’ perv.” They hung all their arguments on it. It was all they wanted to talk about.

    I dunno why, but that was a fundamentally stupid move.

    To most people who will actually have a say in the election, that made it remarkably simple to dismiss.

    1) The most serious allegations date back 40 years, and nothing since then. Pedophiles are notoriously prone to recidivism, and it would take an Act of God to get a committed pedophile to keep it zipped for a couple of decades.

    1A) Moore’s own loud faith and the fact that he was a Democrat at the time lends a touch of credence to the “divine intervention” excuse.

    2) 40 years later, there’s not going to be any conclusive evidence one way or another. It’s going to boil down to a “he said-she said” case, and then it’s a matter if you’re more inclined to “believe the victim” or “innocent until proven guilty.

    2A) It really doesn’t help the case that the people screaming the loudest about “believe the victims” are suddenly exposed as either been committing gross sexual abuse for years, or covering for people committing gross sexual abuse for years. The people who spent years turning a blind eye to Al Franken, Harvey Weinstein, Bryan Singer, Bill Clinton, Alcee Hastings, John Conyers, Matt Lauer, Garrison Keillor, Anthony Weiner, Mark Halperin, Glenn Thrush, Charlie Rose, and God knows who else are in no position to demand that others reject an alleged pervert.

    And, yes, the “we don’t like a bunch of outsiders telling us how to run our state” is also a big factor. But when a group of people who have literally spent decades assaulting and mocking the notion of “morality” in general and it having a say in politics while acting in the most immoral ways imaginable suddenly taking on the mantle of Absolute Moral Authority and demanding that others suddenly start living up to those long-disparaged moral standards… it would take a saint not to laugh. Even Jesus would be sorely tempted to point and mock.

    As I said, there were plenty of reasons to oppose Moore. I have no idea whose stroke of genius it was to make the “he’s a big ol’ perv” the focal point of the anti-Moore campaign, but they couldn’t have picked a worse issue.

    Unless they were trying to get Moore elected…

  47. michael reynolds says:

    Liberalism breaks down tribal identity by denying it validity – except in the case of minorities where liberalism embraces tribalism. This contradiction is one part of the problem with Democrats. We cannot simultaneously insist that race is irrelevant but simultaneously very important, even defining. My biggest worry about Hillary came from this contradiction. She would open every speech with ‘casual yet scripted’ call-outs to Hispanics, African-Americans, the LGBTQ, women, treating each as a tribe that had to get a name check. All except who? Who was never mentioned? White people, especially white men. Because in current Democratic thinking everyone is entitled to an identity, a tribe, with the exception of the largest voter block in the country: white people.

    This contradiction, and the angry refusal of liberals even to look at the contradiction or acknowledge its existence, leaves us intellectually weakened in confronting malicious white tribalism – the KKK, etc… You simply cannot praise Tribes A, B and C, while denying the right of Tribe D even to be a tribe. It’s logically untenable. We are thus powerless to appeal to whites as a tribe, while explicitly appealing to every non-white tribe. We begin to treat whites as having legitimacy only insofar as they support other tribes, only as supporting players. This is disastrous politics so long as white voters are still over 60% of the total.

  48. michael reynolds says:

    @Bob The Arqubusier:
    You’re a pig rationalizing pigs, a creep apologizing for creeps, a defender of Nazis in Virginia and child molesters in Alabama, and of course the frenzied defender of any white man who guns down a black man.

    You’ve been banned. You’ve been asked to go away. Decent people don’t want you around. Take the hint.

  49. @Monala:

    I think he means that they don’t really mean it, because they will turn to abortion procedures when they need it.

    That people can be hypocritical does not mean that they don’t think they believe what they say they believe.

    Belief is a tricky thing.

    Analytically, however, it does not matter to me if they say they are opposed to abortion for tribal/identity reasons or because of profound, real belief if it affects their behavior in terms of voting.

  50. Bob The Arqubusier says:

    @michael reynolds: Don’t you have any Harvey Weinstein stories to share with the group?

  51. gVOR08 says:

    @michael reynolds: But how do they do it? It’s easy if you’re a Republican, you just lie. ‘I’m going to end Obama’s War On Coal and bring back mining jobs.’ It may not even have been a “lie” since Trump doesn’t understand anything well enough to see it won’t work. Hillary understands the economics quite well. Did we really want her to lie to these people? She tried to offer what realistic help we can and her reward was to be crucified on an out of context quote.

    Thomas Edsall has a piece in Thursday’s NYT saying fairly well what people here are saying. He titled it Liberals Need to Take Their Fingers Out of Their Ears, which gives you a flavor of the piece. But Edsall makes, IMHO, two common mistakes. One is that Democrats can’t decide to stop making WV miners feel threatened, the world is making them feel threatened. The second is that there isn’t really such a thing as The Democrats. There is no Central Committee making strategic decisions and dictating policy. The DNC and various think tanks make some effort to coordinate, but every candidate makes their own choices and the supposedly liberal MSM go their own way.

  52. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Bob The Arqubusier: I’m sure Michael will share a “hanging out at the pub with Harvey Weinstein” story or 2 as soon as you post your “cruising the mall with Roy Moore” story.

  53. michael reynolds says:

    I am increasingly convinced that we need a core economic message, paired with a very strong push to restore ethics and integrity post-Trump. We don’t give an inch on abortion or minority rights – the culture is with us – but shift emphasis.

    The Trump phenomenon is largely cultural panic, I believe: white men who think they’re victims, people freaked out by gays and trans folk, people unable to cope with the era of the internet, and people threatened by secularization. Basically the old, the dim, the non-adaptive. They were just getting used to not being able to call people fags and then it’s transgender bathrooms. Too much, too fast, too many threats to insecure whites, especially white men. Some circus clown comes along who is every bit as dumb and angry as they are and we have this national humiliation.

    Basically it’s a big temper tantrum from the kids who have a hard time keeping up with the rest of the class. But they’ve had their tantrum and gotten nothing for it but more red meat. Some portion of that 46% has already abandoned Trump. More will when the results of his imbecility become clear even to other imbeciles. For those people we need to offer a soft landing, a way to disentangle from rage-o-holic nonsense. So we talk economics and ethics.

  54. gVOR08 says:

    @michael reynolds: In the core economic message I think Dems should go for real tax reform. You’re right about cultural panic, they’ve been hit with too much, too fast. Trump represents a rear guard action against the 21st Century. I think the 21st Century will win, but we can lose a lot in the struggle, including much of our place in the world and our democracy. I think some of the billionaire boys club aspire to something like Putin’s Russia.

  55. MarkedMan says:

    because they will turn to abortion procedures when they need it

    Steven, this is one of the reasons that some of us are differentiating between what they think they believe and what they believe deep down.

    I’ll give a concrete example. A family member used to work in a Planned Parenthood office that was attached to a clinic where abortions were performed. She and her coworkers had to pass protesters screaming at here and waving signs multiple times a week, so they grew to recognize them as individuals. Every so often, on a day when no protesters were present, one of the women would show up and request an abortion for themselves, or sometimes for a daughter, niece or had in tow. More often than not, they would be back on the protest line a few weeks later. And every Planned Parenthood clinic had multiple stories like this.

    Sure they were hypocrites, but that’s not my point. When push came to shove, these women chose abortion. But in other circumstances involving extremely trying circumstances caused, in their minds, by a particular spouse or boss or relation, they did not chose to solve it by secretly killing that person. Deep down, they were not killers. Deep down they knew one situation was murder and one was not.

  56. de stijl says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I welcome the Big Sleep when it comes for me.

    Every story needs an end. Eternal life is no more meaningful than short-term life, longevity does not confer meaning. If anything the reverse is true – there is inherent drama in brevity, there’s a tick-tock, a three act structure. Without death life is not precious, it’s a given, like gravity or the speed of light. Without death none of the elements of drama is possible because the end of all things is not death, but no end at all, an eternity of boredom. Rather than confer meaning on a meaningless existence eternity would make that meaninglessness perpetual, without possibility of escape. Eternal life – whether in a heaven or a hell – would be eternal misery.

    Can you imagine being alive and conscious for eternity? The first billion years or so would become tedious. After a trillion years you would be down-right bored. After a quadrillion times a quadrillion years you would psychotic.

    What be worse than eternal life, would be eternal life + perfect knowledge. Imagine that you were granted perfect knowledge and know everything that has happened and will happen.

    What would you do with your day? You’re bored out of mind and you can’t even pick up a new hobby. You already know everything there is to know about darts: the best board, the best darts for my throwing style, the best fletchings, how to stand, how to concentrate, the mechanics of the throw, and you’d chuck perfect 180s over and over and over without fail forever. So there is absolutely no point whatsoever. Eternal life is Hell.

    Life is curiosity and chaos and not knowing what will happen next. I want to be puny and meaningless, and I want it to end after my natural span.

    Groundhog Day is actually a profound movie. But, it’s a movie, so redemption in the third act, but the premise is profound and deeply disturbing. Plus, there’s Bill Murray and Stephen Tobolowsky and Chris Elliot.

  57. michael reynolds says:

    @de stijl:
    That’s the problem, eternal is way too much and anything else is too little. Many of us, not all, but many will be convinced by painful disease that we’re tired of living. The scary thing isn’t death, it’s the prelude to death. The prelude can be rough as hell, rough enough that by the end you know that death can be a reassurance.

    I suppose the minimum necessary condition for me to want to live is that something be on TV tomorrow. There has to be something interesting happening. But I can imagine reaching the point where I let even that go. I end manuscripts with three hashmarks, and at some point they’ll be at the end of my story. I suppose I feel my obligation is to make it a good story. I wouldn’t want to leave behind subpar work.

    Reading that back I sound like I’m at death’s door. I’m not. I’m perfectly healthy. As far as I know. If you’ve heard differently. . .

  58. Matt says:

    @de stijl: The various proposed deaths of the universe would take care of your immortality at some point 😛

  59. gVOR08 says:

    @de stijl: I read somewhere that there’s research that says time really does seem to pass more quickly for older people. Research said the reason is that you mark time by noteworthy events, and as you get older, there are fewer noteworthy events. Now, Trump is changing that these days, but otherwise, it’s certainly true for me. I don’t watch much TV anymore except news. Sitcoms are boring, I’ve heard all those jokes done better. I watch movies, but mostly movies I’ve seen before, so I can do something else in the foreground. I don’t watch dramatic series anymore because they got so over the top, and they all turned into serials. I’m not committing to the same hour each week to watch a silly drama. I go to movies in theaters, but it’s rare I see anything that impresses me as new or exciting, Dunkirk excepted. I’m retired, so I don’t get work panics, and don’t miss them. And my attitude had become ‘we got through the last hundred of these, we’ll get through this one.’ I haven’t yet reached the point that I go to a lot of funerals. Throwing my back out was new and different, but hopefully there won’t be a lot of those events. And spending every other morning in the gym doing therapy pretty much precludes anything interesting happening then.

    You really do reach a point that you’ve been there and done that. My point being, don’t worry about it, the first billion years will be boring, but they’ll only feel like half a billion.