Will the Republican Party Fail Another Roy Moore Test? (New Yorker)

Will the Republican Party Fail Another Roy Moore Test?


The report, in the Washington Post, that Roy Moore, the Alabama
Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate, engaged in predatory behavior
with teen-age girls when he was in his thirties, poses a test for
Republicans, but it would be farcical to say that it is the first
difficult problem that he has posed for them. Roy Moore tests have been
administered regularly, and with few exceptions the G.O.P.’s leaders
have failed them spectacularly. On October 26th, for example, Senator
Jeff Flake, of Arizona, said that he could not endorse Moore because “a
guy who says a Muslim member of Congress shouldn’t be able to
serve—that’s not right.” This is, indeed, something that Moore said, in
2006, in a opinion piece for WorldNetDaily, in which he argued that
Representative Keith Ellison, a Democrat from Minnesota, should not be
seated; when questioned about it in October, he said that the article
was an accurate expression of his views. But, two days before Flake’s
remarks, the Republican National Committee and the National Republican
Senatorial Committee had entered into a joint fund-raising agreement with
Moore, one of a number of ways that the institutional Party has put its
weight behind his campaign. (On Friday afternoon, the N.S.R.C.
withdrew.) Neither Flake’s warning nor a speech that he gave on the
Senate floor pointing out that Moore, who talks a good deal about
religious freedom, was trampling on that tradition caused anyone in the
Republican leadership to budge. This was true even though, in the
Alabama primary, the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, had endorsed
Moore’s opponent Luther Strange. But Moore’s victory seemed to wash all
that away. The Majority Whip, Senator John Cornyn, of Texas, endorsed
him, and so did Rand Paul and Ted Cruz. Others dodged questions about
him. One of the only other Republican senators to join Flake—who is,
perhaps not incidentally, retiring after this term—in openly refusing to
endorse Moore was Ben Sasse, of Nebraska, who said, “The Constitution is
pretty dang clear about not having a religious litmus test.”

What litmus tests does the Republican Party have these days?
Islamophobia evidently wasn’t enough to end its support of Moore, but
neither, apparently, were his imprecations that homosexuality should be
criminally punished and that the Supreme Court’s marriage-equality
ruling was worse than the Dred Scott decision; or his record of being
twice removed from the Alabama bench for defying, and ordering other
judges to defy, federal courts, once regarding a Ten Commandments
monument outside his courthouse, and once for his attempt to deny
marriage equality to Alabama couples; or that the foundation he formed
has hosted “Secession Day” events; or his brandishing of a gun on a
stage at a political rally; or his comments about the Bible superseding
American law; or his belief in birtherism—though that one, actually,
loops back to Islamophobia, and to President Trump. The
President, who first backed Strange, later said that Moore “sounds like
a really great guy.”

If all that really weren’t enough, the Republican Party now has the
alleged abuse of teen-age girls to consider. According to the Post, in
1979, Moore, then thirty-two, targeted one girl, Leigh Corfman, when she
was fourteen years old and sitting outside a courtroom where her
parents, who were in the process of divorcing, were having a custody
hearing. Her mother was sitting with her when Moore, who was then an
assistant district attorney, with an office down the hall, first
approached; he offered to watch Leigh while her mother went before the
judge, presenting himself, an officer of the court, as a respectable
momentary guardian. “He said, ‘Oh, you don’t want her to go in there and
hear all that. I’ll stay out here with her,’ ” Corfman’s mother told the
Post. Leigh was, in other words, explicitly a child and obviously
vulnerable. And that, Leigh said, was when Moore asked for her phone
number; later, he twice went to her home, picked her up in his car, and
drove her to a house in the woods. The first time, he kissed her; the
second time, he took off her clothes and his, touched her sexually and
had her touch him before, at her request, he took her home. She told the
Post that she remembered thinking, “Please just get this over with.
Whatever this is, just get it over.”

Moore has said that Corfman’s charges, and other charges from three more
women, who were sixteen, seventeen, and eighteen at the time of the
reported incidents, are politically motivated lies—he called them
“garbage.” On Friday, in a radio interview with Sean Hannity, he said,
of Corfman’s account, that “it never happened” and that he didn’t know who
she was. He said that he vaguely remembered meeting two of the other
women, through their families, but that his behavior was always
“appropriate”—indeed, he said, he had “a special concern for the safety
of young ladies,” and never dated a woman without her mother’s
permission. And he told Hannity that the timing of the story, four weeks
before the election, was suspicious—“it’s obvious to the casual observer
that something’s up”—and that, indeed, he had launched an investigation
that had already turned up evidence of “collusion,” which he would
release in good time. His opponents, he said, resented his faith in

After the Post story, many Republican leaders in Alabama, as Charles
Bethea has noted, hurried to say that they didn’t believe the
allegations or, worse, that it didn’t matter if they were true—either
because even a molesting Republican was better than a Democrat, or
because they weren’t really sure that it was bad for a man in his
thirties to be sexually propositioning teen-agers. (One, Jim Zeigler,
the Alabama state auditor, compared such a relationship to that of St.
Joseph and Mary.) Washington Republicans were more circumspect, but
their answers, too, were qualified. They called for Moore to step aside
if, as McConnell put it, “these allegations are true.” Flake went a bit
further, saying that Moore should leave the race immediately if there
was even a “shred of truth” to the story. John McCain, of Arizona, was
an exception, saying that what he had heard was enough to disqualify
Moore for office. “He should immediately step aside and allow the people
of Alabama to elect a candidate they can be proud of,” McCain said. The
pride of the G.O.P., he might have added, is at stake, too.

The statement from the White House on the Moore story began with the
caveat “Like most Americans, the President believes that we cannot
allow a mere allegation—in this case, one from many years ago—to destroy
a person’s life.” One might read this as a reference to some of the
charges that have been attached to Trump himself. And only then did the
statement note that “the President also believes that if these
allegations are true, Judge Moore will do the right thing and step
aside.” If he doesn’t, will the President push him, or just shrug?
On Fox News on Thursday night, Hannity, who often acts as the id of the
Trumpist wing of the Party, said, “How do you possibly tell, know, the
truth?” (Hannity also agreed with a guest who said that the relations
were “consensual,” though he later said that this only applied to the
seventeen- and eighteen-year-olds.)

A better question is how the G.O.P. can prove that it is not the party
of Roy Moore—not when it comes to exploiting the young or denying
members of the L.G.B.T.Q. community or people of minority religions
their full citizenship. It is too late for Moore to be removed from the
Alabama ballot. That doesn’t mean—and the G.O.P. cannot be allowed to
pretend that it means—that the Party doesn’t have choices. If the state
Party disqualified his nomination, even if Moore got the most votes he wouldn’t get
the seat. Perhaps more practically, the G.O.P. could endorse and spend
money supporting a write-in candidate. As Senator Lisa Murkowski,
the Republican from Alaska, reminded her colleagues, this is a feasible
option—she won as a write-in. By not trying any of these options, the
G.O.P. will have actively decided that it would rather bet on winning
with Moore. The situation in Alabama is, in some ways, a crude
caricature, but Moore is just another name for the test that the G.O.P. is
failing, each day, with Trump. What, in the end, is its reward?


via New Yorker http://bit.ly/2v93nIt

November 10, 2017 at 03:45PM

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