Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with a further analysis of Alabama’s election laws, specifically regarding Roy Moore’s ability to withdraw from the Senate race.
An earlier version of this story stated an incorrect term length for the Senate seat from Alabama. As this is a special election, whoever wins will merely serve the remainder of the pre-set length of the term begun by the last elected officeholder, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who left to serve in the Trump administration. In this case, that is three years.
On Thursday, the Washington Post dropped a bombshell report that could have ramifications for Republican control of the U.S. Senate.
The story, citing more than 30 sources, details several accusations of child molestation against Roy Moore, the conservative firebrand and former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. Moore is running as the Republican nominee for one of the state’s seats in the U.S. Senate. He faces Democratic challenger Doug Jones in a special election to be held Dec. 12.
Republicans currently hold a 52–48 edge in the legislature’s upper chamber. Losing what should be a safe seat will put the Senate in play during the 2018 midterms, where Democrats are likely to pick up seats in Arizona and Nevada, but nowhere else.
Weeks ago, the thought was unthinkable, but today the bottom line is clear: Alabama is key to Congress’ partisan makeup.
However, that shouldn’t make Moore’s actions a political proxy. What’s wrong is wrong, no matter the perpetrator’s political affiliation.
As a Republican in Alabama, a conservative bastion that hasn’t sent a Democrat to the Senate in over 20 years, Moore was expected to win easily. Even despite the former judge’s track record of controversial statements against Islam, immigrants and the LGBTQ community, the partisan lean of the state seemed too enormous to overcome.
That is, until Thursday, when Moore was accused of molesting a 14-year-old girl.
After the news broke, several Republican members of Congress, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, called on Moore to step down — if the allegations are proven true, that is. The only sitting senator to avoid the use of this caveat in his public denouncement, at least to the knowledge of your author, was Sen. John McCain of Arizona.
Despite these measured calls of reprehension, Moore is, for the moment, refusing to abandon the party’s nomination. Under the state’s election laws, it’s not even clear the state party can do anything about it — many absentee ballots bearing Moore’s name and political affiliation have already been sent to voters.
According to an analysis by Derek T. Muller, a professor of law at Pepperdine University, it appears Moore can still voluntarily withdraw from the race, but he cannot be replaced as the official Republican nominee. But Moore is not exactly the type to step down without a fight, as his battle over installing religious monuments on government property shows.
Thus, pending a write-in campaign, it looks as if the GOP is stuck with Moore.
Judging by the Republicans’ enthusiastic response to the candidacy of President Donald Trump during the 2016 election, such sexual misconduct may not be truly disqualifying for most of the party’s voters. Trump faced accusations of assault from numerous women. Even worse, video footage emerged of the future president bragging about his sexual misdeeds, yet he won the electoral college nonetheless.
Trump performed well with men, racking up a sizable majority of the male vote. His weakness? The very gender he attacked, demeaned and disrespected throughout the campaign and throughout his life. Despite winning the election, Trump lost the vote of women by a record-setting 12-point margin.
It seems sexual assault is no matter for a majority of male voters. I wish it weren’t so, but it’s the truth. Everyone in Alabama should stand up to Moore’s sexual depravities. If history is any guide, a vast majority of male, conservative voters will support him anyway. It’s a foregone conclusion.
However, women, it seems, won’t be so easily taken in. They alone can save Alabama — and our country — from the three years of humiliation and torment a Moore senatorial term would provide.
In today’s age, with accusations of aggressive, perverse and lewd male behavior toppling depraved titans left and right, it seems too many men fail to prioritize the ethical treatment of others above their own physical gratification.
God help us. No, women help us. You’re our only hope to restore sanity to public life. Punish Roy Moore by denying him a seat in the U.S. Senate. It’s not your responsibility, but, as a decisive half of the electorate, it is clearly within your power.
This isn’t about politics. It’s about taking a stand for what is right, and drawing a line at basic principles of human decency.
If Moore wins, we all lose. ■