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Will GOP put profit over principle in Alabama race?

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Sunday, November 26, 2017

After more than three decades of lecturing Hollywood and the news media about their supposed lack of moral principles, Republicans and their evangelical Christian wing suddenly find the shoe on the other foot: They’re the ones having to hear lectures about the failure to put moral principle above profit.

That’s because while Hollywood and the news media are moving swiftly to deal appropriately with long-suppressed allegations of sexual assault, harassment and misconduct against leading men in their industries, Republicans, and specifically the evangelicals who make up a sizable number of their voters, continue to struggle in their response to allegations of sexual misdeeds by high-profile members of their party.

There’s no shortage of irony in the fact that top figures in Hollywood — film mogul Harvey Weinstein, comedian Louie C.K., actor Kevin Spacey — and the news media — Charlie Rose, Mark Halperin and NPR news chief Michael Oreskes — are losing their jobs over allegations of sexual misconduct but Alabama Republican Roy Moore continues to draw significant support in his bid to win a U.S. Senate bid despite being dogged by allegations of sexual misconduct.

No fewer than nine women have come forward with allegations against Moore, two of whom accuse the former judge of sexually assaulting them, one when she was only 14 years old. Making the allegations particularly troubling is the fact that some of the women were teenagers when they encountered the then 30-year-old Moore, raising the prospect the would-be U.S. senator preyed on minors when he was younger.

Despite these credible allegations and Moore’s uncredible responses to them, however, he still has a good chance of winning Alabama’s vacant Senate seat in the state’s Dec. 12 special election.

Granted, many national Republicans have condemned Moore over the allegations, claiming, as have North Carolina Sens. Thom Tillis and Richard Burr, that they believe his accusers and think he should pull out of the special election. Citing the allegations, the National Republican Committee also has pulled its funding from Moore’s campaign and the National Republican Senatorial Committee has stopped fundraising for him.

Moore, however, has defiantly refused to step aside. He’s denied the allegations, claiming he doesn’t know any of the women making them. He also is accusing the women of taking part in what he claims is a giant smear campaign against him being orchestrated by GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who he rightly accuses of not wanting him in the Senate.

Many of Moore’s supporters in Alabama and elsewhere have done the same, oblivious to the great sea change about sexual misconduct that’s now underway in our society. Women aren’t coming forward with allegations against Moore and other men in positions of power to get them fired or deny them public office, they’re doing so because they’re finally being believed. A society that too often disbelieved women’s complaints of sexual harassment and sexual assault or believed them but decided to look the other way, isn’t interested in disbelieving victims or looking the other way any longer.

In his aggressive denials of his accusers’ allegations, Moore, who bills himself as a great defender of moral values, seems to have adopted the playbook of another serial abuser of women: former President Bill Clinton. It was Clinton who, in the midst of the Monica Lewinsky scandal in the late 1990s, chose to deny he had had sexual relations with the former White House intern. Clinton made the denial, including while under oath, despite polling that showed the American public favored his impeachment or resignation if he lied under oath. Clinton ignored this poll result — plus another that said Americans would forgive him if he told the truth — and chose instead to lie about the Lewinsky affair, telling pollster Dick Morris, “Well, we’ll just have to win, then.” That of course turned out to be a fateful mistake, one that led to Clinton’s impeachment and his near removal from office.

Like Clinton, Moore has decided “we’ll just have to win, then.” He’s digging in his heels, believing that Republicans in Alabama — one of the nation’s most Republican-leaning states — will put their allegiance to party over their qualms about his fitness for public office and vote for him anyway.

That is in fact what Alabama’s Republican governor, Kay Ivey, is doing. Ivey claims to believe Moore’s accusers and says there’s no excuse or rationale for sexual assault, but still plans to vote for her fellow Republican. Ivey said she’s supporting Moore because she feels it’s “most important ... to have a Republican in the United States Senate to vote on things like Supreme Court justices, other appointments the Senate has to confirm and make major decisions.” In other words, voting for someone of high moral character and who adheres to moral principle is only important sometimes. It depends on the issue and never should be a consideration when profit — in this case, the GOP’s continued control of the U.S. Senate — is at stake.

Moore got a similar endorsement from President Donald Trump last week, when the president, breaking his silence on the Moore allegations, said it was important to elect the Republican because “we don’t need a liberal person in there.” Trump was referring to Doug Jones, a former federal prosecutor who’s the Democrat on the Dec. 12 ballot and who leads in some polls of Alabama voters in the wake of the Moore allegations.

Trump repeatedly noted that Moore has denied the allegations and that the women are coming forward only now, suggesting their claims should be disbelieved. Of course Trump did the same thing when 16 women came forward with allegations of sexual harassment, assault and misconduct against him during last year’s presidential campaign. Trump claimed those women had made up their stories and were working to elect his opponent, Hillary Clinton. He also said he planned to sue his accusers. Tellingly, he’s filed no such lawsuits — a strong indicator of who actually was telling the truth about his behavior.

The president, who all but admitted on the “Hollywood Access” tape that he’s committed sexual assault in the past, of course is hoping Alabama voters will do with Moore what voters in enough key states did with him a year ago: Overlook allegations of serious misconduct and vote for the Republican. That could indeed happen. Alabama overwhelmingly votes Republican — Trump defeated Clinton by 34 percentage points in the state last year. So a Jones’ victory is still considered a long-shot.

The Moore-Jones race ultimately will be decided by evangelical Christians who make up nearly half the adult population in Alabama. The election result will tell us a lot about whether they actually believe what they’ve been saying about morality and principle all these years, or whether they’ve decided that winning, to paraphrase Vince Lombardi, really is the only thing.

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