We are on the cusp of finding out the results of the Senate special election in Alabama. This senate race has been hotly contested for months now because it really does have national implications. The senate is currently divided along party lines. Even with a majority, republicans have struggled to pass legislation. Donald Trump’s healthcare reform was shot down in the senate with a vote of 49 for and 51 against the plan. His tax reform was narrowly passed with a 51-49 vote. Democrats in the senate vote along party lines on just about any major legislation that Trump wants passed and they’ve been managing to get a few republicans to vote with them sometimes.
Republicans own the house by a wide margin, so that hasn’t been much of a problem for the Trump administration. The problem has been passing legislation through the senate, which is why the Alabama senate race has received so much attention. Republicans own a 52-48 majority in the senate. Democrats currently need 3 republicans to side with them to kill any piece of legislation that Trump wants passed. If democratic candidate Doug Jones wins the seat, it will reduce the republican majority to 51-49. This would reduce the number of republican senators they must convince to 2. That being said, a senate seat might be the most valuable thing in American politics at the moment. Senator Al Franken’s resignation certainly doesn’t help the volatility of the senate. Make no mistake about it, republicans and democrats desperately want the Alabama senate seat and this is why the allegations against republican candidate Roy Moore have been such a big topic.
Roy Moore has been accused of sexual misconduct and attempted rape of minors by about a half dozen people. They are shocking allegations because Roy Moore has constantly claimed to be a man of God. He fought for a ten commandments monument that cost him his job. He was twice elected as the Chief Justice the Supreme Court of Alabama without any allegation of sexual misconduct. For some, the allegations are hard to believe for those reasons.
There are serious questions that need to be answered. How is it that he is barely being accused of all these things? How is it that Moore was basically famous for stalking and dating teens in the local area, and allegedly banned from a mall for stalking teens, but none of this came up during any of his prior campaigns? How is it that he sexually assaulted a half dozen people and not one of them said anything for 40 years? How is it that these allegations didn’t come up during the primary against a republican foe, but once he had secured the republican nomination and is facing a democrat? Since this appears to be trial by media, the public has to act as a jury. We must be prudent and inquisitive in our questioning as a jury would.
I had my doubts about the accusers at first because I felt those questions could not be answered. But after Moore’s interview with Sean Hannity he exposed himself. After hearing that interview I felt stupid for not believing the victims in the first place. However, those questions that I ask above are fair, legitimate questions that I still feel like don’t have a sufficient answer. Should I, or others, feel bad for not believing sexual assault victims the moment they make an accusation? NO! People aren’t wrong for being skeptical of the allegations; I certainly don’t think I was. It is difficult to believe that a man, who is now accused of sexually assaulting minors, can go through multiple hotly contested elections and not have one of those allegations brought up. There is so much opposition research nowadays that people will look into your eating habits!
This is why victims do themselves a disservice by bringing up allegations during elections. We are left questioning whether the allegations could be untruthful, partisan attacks. We are left asking, “Why now and not sooner?” As painful as it may be to the victims, those are fair questions and concerns! Those questions and concerns could have been avoided by bringing up the allegations during the republican primary for that senate seat.
I want to be clear, there is never a wrong time to accuse someone of sexual misconduct. Whenever victims feel brave and comfortable enough to come forward, they should. I’m sure some victims have taken their stories to the grave because they never felt comfortable telling anyone, they were threatened, or they didn’t want the reputation and stigma that comes with being a survivor of sexual assault. The thought of that is painful. But if victims want to avoid the questions of their truthfulness, then bringing up allegations of sexual assault during an election might not be the best idea because that is exactly what will happen.
We are a nation that believe in the presumption of innocence. One thing that needs to come from this tsunami-sized wave of sexual misconduct allegations against political figures and celebrities is the removal of the statute of limitations, at the very least for sexual assault crimes. We cannot have trial by media. We must have trials in courtrooms with evidence. That doesn’t mean I don’t believe some of these accusations. I am just uncomfortable with newspapers deciding who is guilty, rather than the courts.
(Jeb Williams is a Business Administration student at the University of Arizona, in Tucson. After moving from the Greater San Diego Area, Jeb and his family have resided along the Arizona Sun Corridor since 2005)