Roy Moore besmirches the Republican name and that is the reason his support outside his Alabama base (and Bannonites generally) is so thin. Sexual misconduct allegations are flying around all over the place these days as former mores for behavior between the sexes find no purchase in our modern world of heightened sensitivities and easily offended sensibilities, the world of social media accelerating the collapse of behavior that once seemed acceptable or no big deal (sexually loaded banter, come-ons, etc., in the work place). Even dating younger girls was once no big deal and this was especially so in the American South. But nowadays, men can’t even contemplate making sexually charged allusions to grown women unbidden in a non-intimate setting, let alone to teenagers. (Oddly enough there is less outrage about such things when they happen in other cultures than in ours but then this IS about our culture, isn’t it? A double standard for the West vs. everyone else hardly seems to matter anymore.)
But Roy Moore was a real jerk to begin with, having been forced out of his position as Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice twice for flaunting the law. Apparently he has significant appeal among Alabamans, particularly among Alabamans who have adopted the Republican Party as their political home, but he is anathema to most Republicans outside his home state for his moral self-righteousness. Discovering that he had made sexual passes at teenage girls in his past, while in his thirties, resonates with many Republicans who loathed the idea of his nomination in the first place.
Like Donald Trump’s own nomination, Moore’s was driven by a base that wants to stick its collective finger in the eye of those in the GOP who don’t tow their line. Moore’s nomination, driven by Steve Bannon, erstwhile Trump senior aide and past and current populist right wing bomb thrower, has tapped into this angry sensibility and is trying to turn it into a tidal wave by pushing characters like Moore into Congress. Moore is the spearhead of Bannon’s new crusade.
Trump succeeded, against all odds and it seemed as if Moore would, too. Indeed, he still may because Republicans seem to have little alternative if they want to hang onto majority control of the Senate. But how can Republicans in good conscience back a man like Moore, especially now, in light of evidence he has behaved in a way that no longer seems culturally kosher to contemporary sensibilities? Not only is dating girls half your age just entering their maturity inappropriate but there are allegations he behaved in a fashion with some of them that isn’t even appropriate with women closer to one’s own age.
I do think we have gone overboard in our outrage at sexual innuendos, once par for the course in our society, but there have always been abuses and some of the allegations against Moore suggest he may have been guilty of some of them. A better candidate might warrant the benefit of the doubt, even of lots of doubt. There’s no question politics is a contact sport, as they say, and many politicians find themselves on the receiving end of such allegations. Unless we want to return to the puritanism of our colonial past, we should be careful about pumping up the outrage over things like this and making asexuality the standard for public office.
But Moore doesn’t deserve our doubt. He is a bad example of Republican office seekers and Steve Bannon a danger to the GOP and the nation should he succeed in driving moderates and principled conservatives from the party they currently call home. Just as the GOP forfeited its chance to achieve a Senate majority back in 2012 when Tea Party activists forced nominees on the GOP who had dabbled in witchcraft or thought some kinds of rape “legitimate” (in fairness he may have only meant cases which could legitimately be described as “rape” but even that was either inarticulate or insensitively put) and handed Harry Reid an easy win in Utah because of another divisive candidate, it seems like Bannon is set to do it again.
So Republicans should divest themselves of Moore before the American voting public divests itself of them. He likely won’t step down, though, and could actually win given the substantial Republican majority in Alabama, in which case Republicans will have had a real stink bomb lobbed onto the Senate floor by Alabamans. At some point the GOP will no longer be able to hold itself together. Is Moore the breaking point?