Repeating assertions that GOP candidate Roy Moore should step aside in the Alabama Senate race runoff, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he has spoken to both President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in recent days. (Nov. 14)
Amid sexual impropriety accusations, GOP leaders deserve some credit for going against partisan interests: Our view
There is something truly remarkable about the insistence of Republican leaders that Roy Moore end his bid for a Senate seat from Alabama.
Absent these entreaties, Moore, a former state Supreme Court justice accused by five women of sexual impropriety — including sexually assaulting 16-year-old Beverly Nelson and molesting 14-year-old Leigh Corfman — would likely still be the front-runner. With opposition from House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and many others, loyal Alabama Republicans will have an easier time voting for Democrat Doug Jones, writing in a candidate, or simply staying home on Election Day.
For too long, in the case of both former president Bill Clinton and President Trump, politicians have put political convenience above principle in deciding exactly which accusers to believe. Republican leaders deserve credit for going against their partisan interests, but not too much.
OPPOSING VIEW: Moore defeat would hurt Senate GOP majority
A single Senate seat is far less important than the presidency. Cold political calculation could easily lead to the conclusion that the damage Moore’s alleged penchant for pursuing underage girls would do to the Republican brand isn’t worth a Senate seat.
But it is the voters of Alabama who will have the final say, and it was just a year ago when they looked past Donald Trump’s many female accusers — as well as his own crude behavior — to elect him president.
And it was not that long ago, in 1998, when the public rushed to the side of President Clinton, who was under threat of impeachment for an affair with an intern and the efforts he took to conceal that affair. The highest approval ratings of his presidency came in the middle of those impeachment proceedings. That was after voters in 1992 and 1996 overlooked sexual harassment allegations.
Even before a series of women made their allegations against Moore, it is unlikely that the former prosecutor would have brought credit to the Senate. He has displayed an abhorrent disregard for the U.S. Constitution both as a justice on the Alabama Supreme Court, when he refused to accept a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, and in public statements arguing, for instance, that Muslims shouldn’t be allowed to hold high office.
But the ultimate impact of Alabama’s Dec. 12 special election to fill the seat once held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions will say less about respect for the Constitution than it does about respect for women — and the imperative to win their votes.
If Republican leaders needed an indication of what might have changed on this front, they got it on Nov. 7, with elections in Virginia, New Jersey and elsewhere. Exit polls showed female voters surging toward Democratic candidates, propelled less by state and local issues or a newfound liberalism than by a desire to register their objection to the womanizer in chief.
At this point, it seems a political and cultural shift is only beginning. Driven by the Trump presidency and the Harvey Weinstein moment born after weeks of sickening accusations about rape, sexual harassment and abuse in entertainment, finance, journalism and politics, there’s little doubt the country is moving toward greater gender equality.
If this special election helps push that forward, it will have served a purpose well beyond Alabama.
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