U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore poisons Alabama’s business climate
In 2006, a Chicago schoolteacher was sentenced to three years in prison for molesting teenage girls. He was 34 at the time and, according to news accounts, had slipped his hands under the shirt of a 17-year-old and fondled her breasts.
That’s how a moral America deals with men who molest underage girls. Roy Moore apparently did the same at age 32, except that one of the girls was 14 and his hands roved down to panty level.
Every society has its Moores — sick predators who hide their perversions in a thick cloud of religiosity. Not every society would elect them to any office, much less a high one like the U.S. Senate.
It will be interesting to see whether the voters of Alabama find justification for letting such an individual represent them to the world. Alabama’s business community is alarmed that they may.
Alabama has had great success luring foreign manufacturers. Mercedes-Benz, Airbus, Honda and Toyota are among the corporate giants based in other countries now employing over 87,000 Alabamans. The state last year attracted $1.5 billion in foreign investment.
Would multinationals feel secure locating to or expanding in a state that chooses a leader who traffics in the most primitive racism, homophobia and xenophobia — never mind his stalking of underage girls at a local mall? The bigger question here is not Moore himself but the civic culture that finds him OK.
These companies employ specialized workers from all over the world. Few have forgotten the horrific shooting of two engineers at a suburban Kansas City bar because they were dark-skinned foreigners. The engineers, one of whom died, were Indian nationals working for the tech firm Garmin.
The gunman had demanded to know whether they were in the country illegally. The engineers were working legally, plus they were educated in the U.S. The gunman shouted, “Get out of my country!” Then he fired. People back in India were so furious that the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi had to issue a statement condemning the “tragic and senseless act.”
It’s no secret that hostility toward foreigners has risen since the election of Donald Trump. State and local leaders who don’t fight the poison — or who, in Moore’s case, pour more on — will be shunned by large businesses with multiethnic workforces, which most of them have.
Moore’s lawyer made reference to MSNBC anchor Ali Velshi’s Indian heritage in some bizarre defense of the candidate’s sexual misconduct. Velshi is from Canada, actually.
Birmingham has been aggressively vying to win Amazon’s second headquarters and the 50,000 jobs that would come with it. If Moore gets elected, Alabama can kiss that idea goodbye. But even if he loses, Amazon must confront the reality that the state’s dominant party chose Moore over a normal conservative by 9 percentage points.
Moore is an intestinal disease for Alabama’s business leaders. The Business Council of Alabama has not endorsed him, nor has the state’s senior senator, Richard Shelby. Alabama may offer enormous taxpayer subsidies to attract manufacturers, but so can other places.
To overcome the state’s fraught racial history, economic development officials place prominent pictures of blacks and whites working together on their promotional literature. But it would require quite a package to overcome the drawbacks of a state where the political leadership insults the workers they want to hire, not to mention activates local nut jobs who would do them harm.
This election, in the end, isn’t a referendum on Moore. It’s a referendum on a society that will decide whether he reflects Alabama values. There aren’t enough advertising dollars on Madison Avenue to counter the reputational damage that a Moore win would bring.
* Froma Harrop is a syndicated columnist. She can be reached at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @FromaHarrop.