A quick note: If you live in Alabama, don't forget to register to vote in the upcoming election! You can register to vote until November 27th. Click here for more information.
Before we delve into the allegations against Roy Moore, I want to make one thing clear: even before all of the recent news came to light, it should have been obvious to everyone that he had no place anywhere near the United States Senate.
This is a man who was removed from his role on the Alabama Supreme Court twice for failing to comply with rulings from higher courts. He was a leading voice in the birther movement. He said that Keith Ellison should not be seated in the House of Representatives because he is Muslim. He claimed that national tragedies like 9/11 and Sandy Hook were God's punishment for the nation becoming less religious and giving equal rights to LGBT citizens. He has refused to debate Doug Jones, his opponent in the upcoming Senate election, due to his opponent's "very liberal stance on transgenderism."
Roy Moore is a bigot who has shown that he has no problem with acting against the rule of law when said law conflicts with his personal beliefs. That alone should have been enough to disqualify him long before the events of the last week.
And yet the Republican party stood with Roy Moore after he won the Republican runoff against Luther Strange. The RNC had a fundraising agreement with him. While establishment Republicans clearly would have preferred the more mainstream Strange, their political machine went all in on electing Moore despite his numerous glaring flaws. Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised. They did the same thing for Donald Trump.
And just like Trump, it turns out Roy Moore has a history of sexual assault, harassment, and misconduct that should be more than enough to turn the "moral majority" against him.
We've all heard the stories by now. The Washington Post published a meticulously-sourced article alleging that Moore had multiple improper relationships with girls as young as 14 when he was in his 30s. Another woman has since come forward saying Moore assaulted her when she was 16. A former colleague later corroborated the story, saying it was "common knowledge" that Moore dated teenage girls. Interviews with town residents revealed that Moore would often spend his time at the local mall preying on these girls.
Moore's alleged behavior is disgusting, and for many in the mainstream GOP, it was enough for them to finally take action. Most Senate Republicans have withdrawn their support from Moore, as has the RNC. Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan have called on him to step aside.
It goes without saying that Mr. "Grab-Her-By-The-Pussy" has been notably silent on the issue.
The problem for the GOP is that, despite the new allegations being piled atop the garbage heap of bigotry, xenophobia, and law-breaking that is Roy Moore's career, a sizable portion of their party's base still supports him.
He still leads in most polls conducted since the allegations broke, though by a thin margin. Many evangelicals, which make up a huge chunk of the voter base in Alabama, are actually more likely to vote for him since the scandal broke. Despite being accused by multiple women (with numerous corroborating witnesses) of child abuse and pedophilia, it's entirely feasible, and maybe even likely, that Roy Moore will win election on December 12th.
How is that possible? How has one of the major political parties in this country gotten to the point where they may be forced to deal with an alleged pedophile being voted in by their constituents?
A major part of the problem is a distrust of the media, something that has been fostered by our president. If Trump or his supporters don't like a piece of news, it immediately becomes "fake news." It doesn't matter that the Washington Post piece was thoroughly sourced, had 30 witnesses, and has since been further corroborated independently; they don't like it, so it must be part of a "liberal hit job" to help steal the election. Roy Moore has stated exactly that in fundraising e-mails to supporters in the last week, and the insanity reached new heights with a robocall making the rounds in Alabama in which a supposed Washington Post reporter named Bernie Bernstein (because if you're going to protect a pedophile, you may as well be anti-Semitic while you're at it) offered money to women who would come forward with allegations against Moore.
Another issue is the hyper-partisanship currently dividing the country. An Alabama GOP county chair said that, even if every allegation was true, "I would vote for Judge Moore because I wouldn't want to vote for Doug [Jones]. I'm not saying I support what he did." Think about that. This is a GOP official saying he'll vote for a sexual predator and child molester because he's still better than a Democrat. We've reached that point for many Americans where, as one person put it on social media, they "would rather vote for a pedophile than a Democrat because pedophiles just f*ck kids while Democrats f*ck everyone." How many Republicans feel that way? I suppose we will find out in December.
Finally and most disturbingly, there's the "that's not so bad" wing of Moore defenders. Alabama state auditor Jim Ziegler took the gold for most insane defense by saying that "Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus." Meanwhile, Breitbart editor Joel Pollack stated that "the 16 year old and 18 year old don't belong in that story," implying that there's really no issue with a man in his 30s hitting on high school girls. It's sickening.
To be fair, some Republicans have reacted appropriately to this issue. John McCain was the first senator to call for Moore to leave the race without using the "if true" qualifier to hedge his bets. Mitt Romney posted a fantastic statement about the high standard we should be holding elected officials to in this country. If nothing else, this disaster has shown just how far the GOP has fallen and highlights the divide in quality and human decency between their last two presidential nominees and the folks running the show today.
It all boils down to a massive conundrum for the Republicans. What should be a safe Senate seat is in jeopardy, but to fight for it would be to further cede the claim to the moral high ground that they have loved to tout for decades. Will it hurt their party if Doug Jones wins in Alabama? Absolutely. But it will do even more lasting damage, not just to the GOP but to our country's institutions, if the nation sees Roy Moore sworn in as our newest senator.
Next month, we will have to see if the people of Alabama make the right choice.
Post Script: I'd like to take a quick moment to address the Al Franken story that broke as I was finishing this piece. Sexual assault is not a partisan issue, despite the efforts from some (like the president, who has said nothing about Roy Moore for over a week but blasted Franken on Twitter today) to present it as such. To the credit of Democratic representatives, pundits, and public voices, all I have heard from the left with regard to this scandal is condemnation. It's critical that we continue to be the party that stands for the victims of sexual assault and harassment, not for political reasons but because it's the right thing to do. So I add my voice to the calls on both sides demanding that Senator Franken step down.