Normally, anyone who reaches the U.S. Senate has an aura of dignity. That’s because a distinguished bearing is essential just to start building support for a Senate campaign.
Americans expect their senators to behave like statesmen because they are one of 100 members in the most select club on Earth.
Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby and former Sen. Jeff Sessions always have projected a dignified image.
We had hoped Alabama Sen.-elect Tommy Tuberville would similarly rise to that level after his overwhelming victory in Tuesday’s general election. Instead, Tuberville made social media posts Thursday that resembled his antics as a football coach rather than projecting the serious responsibilities of a U.S. senator.
Tuberville wrote that “the election results are out of control” to echo the claims of President Donald Trump without offering any evidence of election fraud or mistakes. He was only trying to encourage ignorance among voters.
“It’s like the whistle has blown, the game is over, and the players have gone home, but the referees are suddenly adding touchdowns to the other team’s side of the scoreboard,” Tuberville wrote. “I’d challenge that as a coach, and President Trump is right to challenge that as a candidate.”
There’s a major problem with Tuberville’s logic. The “whistle” blew to end in-person balloting at 7 p.m. on Election Day in Alabama. At that time the score was 0-0 in every race because no vote totals had been released.
All of Tuberville’s impressive total of 1,375,796 votes as of Friday were accumulated after 7 p.m. Election Day. And Tuberville will add to his vote total this week when provisional ballots are tabulated well after the “whistle has blown.”
Anyone who thinks vote counting ends on Election Day should consider this: Military ballots had to be postmarked by Election Day to qualify in Alabama, but they had up to an additional week to arrive and be counted.
Similarly, the votes that election officials are counting in other states were cast before deadlines.
Tuberville’s ill-informed comments on vote counting follow his appalling response to a question about the Voting Rights Act, landmark legislation that prohibited discriminatory voting practices.
“The thing about the Voting Rights Act is, you know, there’s a lot of different things you can look at it as. Who is it going to help? What direction do we need to go with it? ... We keep an eye on it. It’s run by our government,” Tuberville said, according to a recording of his comments.
As a coach, Tuberville’s actions may have inflamed rivals, but they could be seen as part of the spirit of fun. For instance when Auburn beat bitter rival Alabama for the fourth straight time in November 2005, Tuberville ran to the Tigers’ student section and held four fingers high into the air. A month later, when Auburn arrived in Orlando, Florida, for the Capital One Bowl, his wife handed him a long-sleeved T-shirt with “Fear the Thumb” scrawled across the front.
Alabama fans weren’t amused, but Auburn fans were.
That was football. A coach can act goofy to delight fans and get attention from recruits.
The U.S. Senate is a more important pursuit. As Tuberville prepares to become a senator, we need him to be serious and thoughtful in his actions.