This weekend, millions of Americans will flock to theaters for the premiere of The Last Jedi, the latest episode of the Star Wars series. There is plenty that fans find appealing about the sci-fi epic, from the outlandish creatures to the human conflict and the iconic quotes to John Williams’ beautiful scoring.
One refreshing fact about the series is its cut-and-dry view of right versus wrong. In the recent movies especially, the message has been clear: A diverse coalition fights for freedom against the tyranny of a pseudo-fascist, repressive regime...but in space. It is, by design, a question of good and evil simple enough for children to wrap their heads around; in other words, it’s abundantly clear whom the audience should be rooting for.
Coincidentally enough, a similar moral clarity was on display last Tuesday night, as Alabamians went to the polls for a special election to replace Senator Luther Strange. The sides could not have been any clearer had they been clad, respectively, in Jedi robes and Stormtrooper armor.
On one side was Doug Jones, a career civil servant and advocate whose career highlight reel includes the successful prosecution of two KKK members who bombed Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963, killing four young African-American girls. Opposite him was former judge Roy Moore, best known for allegedly molesting girls as young as 14 years - and before that, being twice removed from Alabama’s State Supreme Court for his repeated failures to comply with the law. Indeed, the men were like characters from a movie unto themselves - Jones a stalwart Atticus Finch trope, and Moore akin to whatever 80s movie villain might’ve been skeevy enough to be banned from a mall for habitually harassing young female employees.
The obviousness of the right choice was inherent not just in the character of the candidates, but in the ideas that they represented as well. Jones ran a campaign focused on equality of opportunity and justice (criminal, reproductive, environmental, and otherwise); Moore, on the other hand, railed against “the homosexual agenda,” alleged that Muslims couldn’t serve in public office and women oughtn’t vote, and promised to be an enthusiastic supporter of President Trump’s morally bankrupt and overtly corrupt agenda on every front.
Despite the clear contrast, while many national level Republicans said Moore ought to step down from the race when his first assault allegations became public, the party by and large gradually re-coalesced around his candidacy. The Republican National Committee cut off support for his campaign on Nov. 14, but after a warm endorsement from the president, cash and volunteers begin to flow once more on Dec. 4 (though a committeewoman from Nebraska, to her credit, resigned in protest). Only a few national-level GOP leaders, among them Senators Flake, Corker, and Alabama’s own Shelby, insisted on Moore’s glaring lack of fitness for office through the end of the election.
And at least some Alabama Republicans must have agreed, because along with a phenomenal turnout from Democrats - specifically African-Americans, and even more specifically African-American women - Jones eked out a victory by some 20,000 votes. He will be the first Democratic senator from Alabama since 1992. Meanwhile, like many a villain before him, Moore is going down swinging; as of the time of writing, he had yet to formally concede the election.
To be clear, it should never have been this close. A candidate with a personal past so gross and political platform so repugnant should not have come within miles of a responsible party’s nominating process, let alone a U.S. Senate seat. But regardless, the right man for the job did prevail, because enough people in Alabama had either the courage or the common sense to make the obvious choice.
Senator-elect Jones’ victory over someone so antithetical to American values - and the fact that he himself is such an exemplar of the same - can give many of us hope. And for Star Wars fans specifically, it’s an encouraging sign that the ‘light side’ of the Force may triumph over darkness yet.
Graham F. West is the Communications Director for Truman Center for National Policy and Truman National Security Project, though views expressed here are his own. You can reach West at firstname.lastname@example.org.