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Roy Moore in Alabama shows us what would have happened if Trump lost 2016
This is what it could have looked like.
Christmas movies are chock full of alternate realities. Ebenezer Scrooge learns what life would have been like if he wasn’t actively awful in A Christmas Carol. In It’s A Wonderful Life, George Bailey learns that life in his terrible town would have been even worse if he were never born. And now, if we look to Alabama, we can see what life would have been like if Donald Trump had lost the presidency.
Failed conservative Alabama Senate candidate and alleged pedophile Roy Moore lost to Democrat Doug Jones fair and square in the special election held on Dec. 12. The margin was a comfortable 1.5 percent, well past what would trigger a recount. Now, Moore is doing exactly what Trump promised he would do if he had come up short against Hillary Clinton: he is contesting the results. Not only is he attempting to cast doubt on the race, but Moore is actually raising money to investigate voter fraud in the state. Like many firebrands who have come before him, he is splitting his time between throwing temper tantrums, being racist, and indulging absurd conspiracy theories now that he has lost.
The day after he lost the race, Moore quickly announced that he refused to concede in a video that was long on fire-and-brimstone rhetoric and short on any concrete arguments in his favor.
In the video, Moore said, “We are indeed in a struggle to preserve our republic, our civilization, and our religion and to set free a suffering humanity. Today we no longer recognize the universal truth that God is the author of our life and liberty. Abortion, sodomy, and materialism have taken the place of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
While Moore let out cries of injustice in his video, he must not believe his own headlines that deeply. He has declined to press for a recount. However, legally speaking, that would be a difficult proposition for him to take. Jones won by well over the .5% maximum margin that can trigger a recount, and absentee and military ballots will not be enough to bridge that gap.
That hasn’t stopped Moore from raising money off of his defeat. Shortly after he issued his anti-concession speech, he announced that he would raise money to fight voter fraud in Alabama. Moore released a statement that claimed, “My campaign team is busy collecting numerous reported cases of voter fraud and irregularities from the Secretary of State’s office.” He then sent an email to his supporters asking for money to assist in his investigation. Though the email didn’t go into detail regarding what those allegations might be, Moore did ask, “So can I count on you to chip in a donation to my campaign’s ‘Election Integrity Fund’ to help document and submit EVERY report of voter fraud and irregularities before the deadline?”
Because this is 2017, apparently at least some people are taking Moore’s voter fraud claims seriously. It was announced on Wednesday that Alabama’s secretary of state, Moore supporter John Merrill, would be looking into voter fraud in Alabama. So far, his most notable piece of evidence is an off-hand comment someone made to a local news crew about how many people came from out of state to canvass for Jones. Canvassing in other states is not illegal, and has nothing to do with voting.
While it is incredibly unlikely that this investigation will turn up credible instances of voter fraud (they never do), it is likely that Alabama Republicans will use the opportunity to further restrict the vote. Rules such as creating voter ID laws and purging the rolls keep the poor, minority, and formerly incarcerated numbers low in elections. As these are traditionally Democratic constituencies, voter fraud investigations are old hat tactics for Republicans all over the country. This is why voter fraud will remain a GOP talking point in any close election, even if the results are incontrovertible. The same would have absolutely been true of Donald Trump had he not been elected.
Though Trump has called for Moore to concede, Moore’s playbook seems to be cribbed directly from the Donald. If Trump had lost the election (he lost the popular vote, while winning the electoral college), his rhetoric would likely have looked quite similar to Moore’s. During the campaign, he repeatedly threatened to contest the election were he to lose, especially when poll numbers were stacked against him. In the fall of 2016, when life was simpler and it looked like Trump was going to lose bigly, he publicly toyed with the idea that he wouldn’t concede, alleging “massive voter fraud” and repeatedly claiming the contest was “rigged” against him.
At the final Presidential debate, Trump went as far as to say, when asked if he would accept the results of the election, “I will look at it at the time. I will keep you in suspense.”
Like Moore, Trump is no stranger to turning a setback into a fundraising opportunity. He has tried to raise money off of the Paul Manafort indictment, Hurricane Harvey, and a non-existent Hillary Clinton indictment, among other instances of craven opportunism.
We can be sure that if the election had turned out differently, Trump would have found a way to make some money off of his loss. His quixotic war against voter fraud would be pursued with even more vigor. His bigotry would be even more naked.
Sadly, we can only speculate as to how Trump would have raised raise money from MAGA faithful to conduct. Would it have been a more sweeping voter fraud inquiry? Would he have launched his own news channel? Would he have accused his opponent of rigging the election or spitting in the face of God? We can only imagine, but, if Trump did lose the election, we have to imagine Trump’s behavior would have looked a lot like what we’re seeing in Alabama right now.
Of course, instead of a cowboy hat, Trump would be wearing a red baseball cap. Otherwise, it would look just about the same.
Brenden Gallagher is a politics reporter and cultural commentator. His work has been published by Motherboard, Complex, and VH1. He’s the co-founder of Beer Money Films, an indie production company. Based in Los Angeles, he works in television drama as a writers assistant.