Alabamians came out and voted yesterday. The national take was pretty straightforward: incumbent governor Bob Riley beats Roy Moore, while citizens overwhelmingly approve gay marriage ban. But when you look more closely at a few numbers, things look more complicated. Consider:
Roy Moore (in the Republican primary) had, at last count, 153,373 votes. Opponents of the constitutional ban on gay marriage (an issue on both Democratic and Republican ballots) grabbed 170,399 votes.
This tells us that there were more people opposing a gay marriage ban than supporting Roy Moore. This suggests that support for Moore’s version of religious government might actually be weaker than support for the possibility of gay marriage. (It is possible that some Moore supporters didn’t vote in the Republican primary. However, it was an open primary, and one would think Moore supporters would have been pretty motivated to vote Republican irrespective of their party affiliation.) For the rest of the nation, the 4-1 support for a gay marriage ban will be further proof that Alabama is completely retrograde. But I wonder what the vote on this would have been five years ago. And while 170,000 people is nowhere near a political majority, it is a significant number both as a starting point for social change, and as a potential community for progressives.
Another interesting vote tally: Holocaust denying Libertarian turned Democrat, Larry Darby, snared 162,420 votes in the race for attorney general. (He lost 54-46 percent.) More people supported the man who called the Holocaust the HoloHoax than supported Roy Moore.
Alabama is a complicated place. This vote confirms my sense that the state is home to greater political disparity than almost any other state. The most curious part is that almost everyone – left and right, tolerant and not – still shops at Wal-Mart, still enjoys the same barbeque joints (and sweet tea), and still thinks that those darn condescending Northerners should get their own house in order before they come complaining about how Alabamians live their lives.