Roy Moore

Roy Moore and the End of Republican Credibility

Can the conservative movement survive the election of a possible child molester?


BibleWizard, Wikimedia

One of the least-predictable outcomes of the swirl of sexual-harassment charges blowing east-to-west out of Hollywood, U.S.A. is that a bible-thumping Alabama Republican judge—most famous for refusing to move a multi-ton granite version of the Ten Commandments from in front of his courthouse—stands credibly accused of molesting a 14-year-old girl and assaulting a 16-year-old girl back in the 1970s.

But that's where Roy Moore, who was in his thirties and a district attorney at the time, has taken us.

A second impossible-to-predict outcome of the national conversation that kicked into high gear with the outing of Harvey Weinstein as a serial predator? That the Republican Party and many of its press allies—think Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, National Review, and The Weekly Standard—have called for Moore to quit his race, even if it means a Democratic pickup in a deep-red state.

McConnell said today, "I believe the women" and that Moore "should step aside," advice that is tantamount to turning over the seat to Democrat Doug Jones. National Review, which long ago distanced itself from Donald Trump despite sharing much of his legislative agenda, especially on immigration), has similarly called for Moore to take a long hike off a short pier. Here's a representative take from NR's Jonah Goldberg, who casts conservative support for Moore as an existential threat to his movement's seriousness and moral standing:

I've lost count of how many times I've written about the unfolding corruption of conservatism these last few years, but the events of the last 24 hours have shocked me about how deep the rot goes. Forget the people who refuse to even give the heavily sourced and corroborated Washington Post account a fair reading on the tired and predictable pretense that inconvenient facts are simply proof of the conspiracy against them. What galls and astounds me are the supposedly conservative public figures arguing that even if it's true that Moore molested a 14-year-old girl, it doesn't matter because, well, because the Bible said it was okay or Democrats are eeeeevil or it was a long time ago. At least Roy Moore admits that the allegation is serious and has denied it….They'd rather be more pro-kid-touching than the alleged kid-toucher himself.

In a house editorial, The Weekly Standard's editorial team makes a similar argument:

If he has any shame left, Moore will withdraw his candidacy and, if he is elected, refuse to serve. That seems unlikely to happen. The special election is scheduled for December 12.

Assuming Moore stays in the race, however, his candidacy may have a clarifying effect on the GOP. Having ignored their former insistence on the importance of personal character and nominated an unprincipled hooligan to be president of the United States, Republicans—Alabama GOP voters and Washington's Republican commentators and politicos—will have to decide if they still think character doesn't matter as long as you cast the right votes and make the right enemies.

Even Breitbart, which staunchly supported Moore when he challenged the Trump-approved conservative Luther Strange in the GOP primary, is playing things on the square. The site is covering the accusations and the backlash against Moore as part and parcel of the surge of charges against liberal Hollywood and entertainment-industry types such as Louis C.K. and George Takei.

Sure, Moore still has his supporters and is running 2 points ahead of his Democratic opponent in the race to fill the vacancy caused by Jeff Sessions joining Trump's cabinet as Attorney General (no polls yet take into account the newer accusations against him). Over 50 Alabama ministers have signed a letter supporting him and his unconstitutional refusals to remove his Ten Commandments monument and allow for same-sex marriage after it was legalized by the Supreme Court. And Fox News' Sean Hannity is actively encouraging his viewers to boycott advertisers who are critical of Moore.

Only a few weeks ago, the media was awash in stories about "the Republican civil war" pitting limited-government conservatives against less-principled tribalists and who simply want to win at any cost. Roy Moore may well represent the final straw for principled conservatives. The GOP has manifestly failed to shrink the size, scope, and spending of government every time it has run the roost; this year's failure to pass a repeal-and-replace Obamacare bill, let alone a sensible budget, is more salt in those wounds. Given his lack of ideological coherence or commitments (not to mention his pussy-grabbing comments), Trump was bad enough. A Senate seat isn't as big a deal as the presidency of course, but it may well be the cherry on top of the shit sundae that the Republican Party has become. What comes next is anybody's guess, but here's hoping that the "clarifying effect" of all this is an actual commitment to shrinking the state and limiting its power in all aspects of our lives.