The Alabama Republicans’ Dilemma

The special election in Alabama is over, with Democrat Doug Jones having defeated Republican Roy Moore, but the dilemma faced by Christian Republican voters remains a fascinating case study in ethical decision-making.

The contrast between the candidates’ positions on the issues could not have been sharper:

Jones supports abortion, stating “I fully support a woman’s freedom to choose what happens to her own body. That is an intensely, intensely personal decision that only she, in consultation with her god, her doctor, her partner or family [can make], that’s her choice.” Moore opposes all abortion, as well as any federal funding of its chief provider, Planned Parenthood.

Jones opposes repealing Obamacare, calling any such efforts “a nonstarter.” Moore supports repeal, claiming that the program amounted to “socialized medicine which will ultimately lead to loss of quality and affordability of heath care, as well as a loss of access to the latest medical technology.” Instead, he argues, “businesses should receive tax credits for employee health care coverage, and health insurance should be available between the states for competition and quality care,” with churches and charitable groups expanding their services.

Jones favors more gun control—“We need to make sure we shore up the National Crime Information System, the NCIC system for background checks, to both keep guns out of the hands of criminals, but at the same time, cut down on error so that law-abiding citizens can get those.” A strong supporter of Second Amendment rights, Moore opposes the expansion of background checks and of the assault weapons ban.

Jones supports LGBT rights, saying “We’ve got to protect them. Absolutely. They were wrong to get rid of those Title IX Rules . . . and wrong to ban transgender [sic] from the military, just wrong, wrong, wrong.” Moore opposes LGBT rights. In his view, “Homosexual conduct should be illegal.”

Jones opposes “tax breaks for the wealthy, which seem to be in [the current] bill overloaded,” as well as being “troubled by what appears to be ultimately tax increases or no tax cuts to the middle class.” Moore supports the tax proposal, believing that all tax levels should be reduced and that the deficit should be reduced and the budget balanced.

In a typical Alabama election, given the candidates’ positions on the issues, the Republican would have won handily. But this election was very untypical because more than eight women alleged that he had tried to date them and/or touch them inappropriately when he was in his thirties and they were teenagers.

The moral dilemma for Christian voters was whether (a) to vote for a candidate who was plausibly alleged to have made sexual overtures to underage girls when he was a grown man, (b) to vote, instead, for a candidate who approves of destroying innocent male and female lives before birth, (c) not to vote at all, which would abdicate their responsibility as a citizen, or (d) to “write in” another person’s name, which would be little different from not voting at all.

In other words, for Christian voters there was no good choice, only several bad choices, yet they had to make a choice. How should they have dealt with this dilemma? The question is a very practical one and cannot be adequately answered by theoretical musing. Unfortunately, a good number of Christian commentators talk around it without offering a meaningful answer.

I submit that the most responsible action for Alabama Christians would have been to determine which campaign issues were of the highest moral importance, then to compare the candidates’ positions and decide which candidate would be likely to support the Christian viewpoint on the most important issues.

If I were an Alabama voter, I would have reasoned that Roy Moore would have been unlikely to commit the heinous offense he was accused of in the future, but given past behavior in public life, would support Christian values in the Senate. On the other hand, it is almost certain that Doug Jones would (and given his win, will) base his votes on liberal views that are at odds with mainstream Christian values. I would therefore have, as the saying goes, “held my nose” and voted for Roy Moore.

Copyright © 2017 by Vincent Ryan Ruggiero. All rights reserved

About Vincent Ryan Ruggiero

Since retiring from teaching, I have continued my work in promoting sound thinking in education and in the general culture. More specifically, I have kept refining my textbooks, four of which have been continuously in print for an average of 33 years. I have also continued to write books for the general public, the latest of which is Corrupted Culture: Rediscovering America’s Enduring Principles, Values, and Common Sense, and I write a weekly column for an online journal.