OK, Alabama, I know what you're thinking: But everything was going so well! People were starting to respect us! Why did Roy Moore's dumb ass have to ruin everything and jump into the race for governor?
This isn't as bad as it looks. Really. Let me explain.
If Roy Moore's ego is as big as I think it is, and the Republican Party is just as insular and rigidly dictatorial as I think it is, this could be just what it takes to punch the Alabama GOP right in the gut and set them back 10 years or more. In previous races, the Republicans were able to make considerable hay by snagging support from both the old-school pro-business conservative faction and the neocon crypto-fascist Christian-right faction. But now they could very well be split in two. The pro-business Republicans will stick behind Moore because they know that Moore becoming the face of Alabama would be a business disaster for the state, but the Christian conservatives will jump right on board the Moore bandwagon. The Democrats may have to deal with a schism of their own as Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley faces off against former Gov. Don Siegelman in the Democratic primary, but that won't be nearly as fractious, nor as long-lasting, as the one on the Republican side.
The Republicans have to re-nominate Riley for governor, of course. To not nominate an incumbent governor would be tantamount to admitting that the last four years were a mistake. If the Alabama GOP is anywhere near as single-minded and vindictive as the national party -- and there's every reason to believe they are -- they'll do everything they can to deep-six Moore's campaign so that Riley can coast. And they'll look the other way if the Riley campaign pulls tactics against Moore similar to what the Bush campaign did to John McCain five years ago.
There are four possible outcomes here. The first is that Roy Moore loses the nomination to Riley, bows out gracefully, and the Baxley-vs.-Riley race proceeds according to plan. Think Moore's ego will allow this to happen? Yeah, me neither.
So the three other outcomes are:
a) Moore loses the nomination to Riley, fades into nothingness, and his disgruntled hard-core-Christian supporters stay home on Election Day, pissed off that Riley doesn't have enough of the hard-core right-wingnutty goodness they crave -- allowing Baxley to coast.
b) Moore loses the nomination to Riley -- and decides to run as an independent. The conservative wing of the party is split right down the middle: The old-school economic conservatives back Riley (or, seeing the writing on the wall, jump over to Baxley), the Christian wingnuts back Moore, and Baxley wins with 40 percent of the vote.
c) Moore somehow wins the Republican nomination, forcing the GOP to campaign with one of the nation's most polarizing (by which I mean "embarrassing") figures at the top of the ticket. Pro-business conservatives stay home or get behind the Baxley campaign. Anyone even remotely left-of-center swarms the polls to keep a whack job like Moore out of the governor's mansion, and Baxley wins big.
So you see, Alabama, all is not lost. Just let Moore do his thing, let the Republicans do their thing, and we'll be fine.
I don't know how many of you have had occasion to take I-65 north from Mongtomery up roward Birmingham, but if you've made that trip anytime in the last 15 years or so you've probably seen these two billboards facing the interstate on some guy's property about 15 miles north of Montgomery. The first one has the "For God so loved the world" Bible verse on it, and the second -- quite sincerely, according to most of the lifelong Alabamians I know -- says "GO TO CHURCH OR THE DEVIL WILL GET YOU!"
At least it did, until recently -- when it was changed to say "We Love Lucy: Baxley For Governor."
See? There's nothing to worry about. Alabama, we'll be fine.