Donald Trump, who publicly endorsed Roy Moore, and who has also been accused of sexual assault5th Air Force

Roy Moore faced numerous allegations of sexual assault over the past few weeks (most notably from a woman who was a fourteen year old girl at the time). This should have immediately excluded him from competing to be one of Alabama’s senators.  ‘Innocent until proven guilty’ – well, yes, but anyone in such a position of power and influence must be Caesar’s wife and above suspicion. Unsurprisingly this idiom has escaped much of US politics, and yesterday it seemed very likely that yet another man accused of sexual assault would grace Washington. Today, however, Doug Jones becomes the first Democrat to win state-wide office in Alabama in a decade. This is a significant loss for the Republicans, now holding only a two-seat majority. The Democrats have the opportunity to do some serious damage – which in Washington politics usually translates into filibusters, delays and gridlocks – and potentially even delay Trump’s new tax bill.

More importantly, however, this is a good day to be a woman, non-binary, transgender or BME (or any person for whom sexual harassment and violence is part of their daily life) – let alone a Democrat. It seems like everywhere you look, and in the US especially, allegations of sexual assault having been floating around, picking up intensity and momentum when a notable figure (such as Harvey Weinstein) is pulled in to the spotlight and then, suddenly, it is forgotten. In October 2016 it seemed impossible that Trump could be elected after being exposed as saying he could grab women “by the pussy”. Not that Trump’s election was out of the norm, with the US having set historic precedent for sexual assault allegations to act like water off a duck’s back in the mind of much of the electorate and political establishment. But if Bill Clinton could leave the White House more popular than he arrived and Clarence Thomas be appointed to the Supreme Court, what was there to say that Trump or Moore wouldn’t be elected?

“In Cambridge we need to take note of this anger, and if Alabama can elect a Democrat, then surely anything is possible”

Moore’s defeat is historic, or at least it should be seen as such especially with regard to the demographic divide in voters. That 98% of black women and 93% of black men who turned out voted for Jones – despite being systematically obstructed from the chance to cast their ballot in an institutionally racist system – cannot be ignored.  This election should be understood optimistically as the rubber band of intolerance, racism and sexual assault, which has been stretched so far over the past few years, finally starting to snap back. And yet it must be taken with a pinch of salt. 72% of white men voted for Moore, which is an exceptionally high margin, even when typical Democrat/Republican demographic partisanship is taken in to account. It is frightening that it will take more than the word ‘paedophile’ or ‘sexual assault’ to make any candidate not totally toxic in the eyes of any voter, even white males. Had those in the position of power (and white women, 63% of whom voted for Moore, should not be ignored) not come up against a high African American turnout, Moore would most certainly be picking out the furniture for his Senate office as we speak.


READ MORE

University launches new campaign to tackle harassment and sexual assault

In Cambridge, where the conversation about sexual assault is in the limelight – with CUSU’s call to ‘Break the Silence’ and Dr Peter Hutchinson of Trinity Hall withdrawing from all college involvement following allegations of sexual misconduct – perhaps Alabama can be seen as a beacon of hope for change. It is hard, however, writing as a woman who has grown up dealing with the effects of sexual harassment as part of a daily existence to see that much will really change.

The outcome of Alabama can relate to Cambridge – or anywhere – in two ways: in the negative, those in typical positions of power (white Americans, or in the case of Cambridge: the governing bodies) must change their positions, they must understand that the conversation about sexual assault is salient, pressing and needs to be taken seriously. As it stands, that seems unlikely as long as Trump is president, and as long as allegations of assault are treated with short term fad-like casualness, whereupon those who have allegations, charges and convictions brought against them must only weather the storm and wait for it to be forgotten. That being said, on a more positive note, Moore was defeated because of the outcry of anger from minorities who had had enough of a truly twisted and distorted system. In Cambridge we need to take note of this anger, and if Alabama can elect a Democrat, then surely anything is possible

Sponsored links