Meyer-Lindenberg: Roy Moore, From a (Short) Distance

Almost a week ago, the people of Alabama, historically, and so on and so forth. Insert your cliché of choice here.

To disclose my bias: I’m delighted Moore lost. Even a body as tainted as the U.S. Senate deserves better than someone who, even if he weren’t most likely a pedophile, would be the most morally and intellectually bankrupt person to run for office in recent memory.

Over at NRO, David French has a handy reminder of Moore’s utterly lawless, tyrannical approach to judging. His conspiratorial antipathies towards Muslims and gay people are a matter of record. When he didn’t duck appearances by giving the worst excuses known to man, he had the stage presence and rhetorical stylings of a frog being hit with a hammer. And when asked to talk about something serious – or worse yet, law – instead of ranting about “reds,” “yellows” and how much better life was under slavery, he’d say things to make a sovereign citizen blush.

The man is summed up by this gut-wrenchingly absurd interview with a Vox journalist. Read it if you can.[1] He says that because the Establishment Clause is consistent with Christian notions of freedom of conscience, it lets the state compel us to be Christian. He argues that Oklahoma’s refusal to ban Sharia law is proof Sharia law governs American communities. And he punctuates all this with phrases like “you have to understand [compelling Christianity] was the duty of the government under the First Amendment, according to Joseph Story who was there for 37 years and wrote the stories on the Constitution.”

Dear sweet Lord. The American people dodged a bullet there.

“But why does any of this matter now,” you may ask, “since Moore lost? Why harp on about his failings when he won’t be going to the Senate?” And yet, it does matter. It matters very much, because the national GOP chose to embrace this turkey of a man rather than commit to not seating him had the expected happened and he pulled off a win.

There’s not a lot of moral authority in public life anymore. In DC, the media, administration and members of both parties in Congress compete with each other to see who can turn out the most partisan absurdities. Worse, in this age of whataboutism, moral relativism is the order of the day. It’s no longer about whether Personality X’s actions were wrong: it’s whether they were more or less execrable than those of Personality Y, who campaigns for the other party.

Seen through that prism, Moore’s candidacy is a disaster for the GOP in more than the sense that they lost a seat or split their base over the Alabama primary. By signing on to the idea of Moore as a colleague, national Republicans[2] plunged the party into disrepute – and thus, because of the twisted times we live in, elevated the Democrats’ standing, simply because they didn’t as recently do anything as bad as the Republicans.

In short, in addition to their electoral victory, the Democrats find themselves in possession of what passes for the moral high ground. What are they going to do with it? There are two options: squander it by protecting their own bad actors, or make a lasting investment in their own credibility by doing the right thing.

The truth is there are unfit scoundrels in the Democratic party, too. Regardless of party affiliation, nobody who’d sexually assault a sleeping woman is fit to serve in the Senate. After weeks of dancing around that fact, Democratic leaders acknowledged it when they called on Sen. Al Franken to resign. Franken, for his part, gave a speech that was billed as an apology and a resignation while somehow managing to be neither. It remains unclear whether he’ll stay or go.

With Moore headed for obscurity instead of the Senate, Franken’s value as a bargaining chip is substantially less than it was a week ago. There are now few constraints on whether Democrats choose to keep him. If they do, however, they’ll not only have done something immoral; they’ll look like hypocrites, both in light of their previous calls for him to go and of their party’s much-touted commitment to fighting sexual harassment.

If, on the other hand, they throw him out in favor of someone with nominal standards, they’ll have gone a long way towards restoring some decency to the Senate. And on a more self-interested note, the Democrats would do well to get rid of Franken if the ultimate goal is still to get rid of Darth Cheeto.

As Andrew C. McCarthy made clear in his book on impeachment, ousting a president is basically a political and not legal problem. For it to have a hope of succeeding, it has to happen with broad popular support. That, in turn, is a lot easier done if you clean up your own act before accusing the opposition of living in sin. If the past year in politics made anything clear, it’s that Americans are highly attuned to, and disgusted by, hypocrisy.

At the beginning of last week, it looked like the Senate, and American politics, were headed for a new low. Now, Democrats have a fabulous opportunity to raise the bar further. If common decency isn’t enough to get them to do the right thing, the demands of long-term planning should be. Ample as Franken’s commitment to toeing the party line has been – even if his legislative track record isn’t quite as impressive – to hear the Resistance tell it, there are even bigger targets in Washington.

A federal government in which Roy Moore has no say is a good start. But there’s no reason to stop here. Let’s hope the Democratic leadership understand that.

[1] Never mind the silly headline. That’s just Vox being Vox.

[2] With exceptions, like Sen. Jeff Flake, who’s serving out his last term.

12 thoughts on “Meyer-Lindenberg: Roy Moore, From a (Short) Distance

  1. Grey Ghost

    would be the most morally and intellectually bankrupt person to run for office in recent memory

    Your memory doesn’t go back to the campaign of 2016? That’s a very short-term definition of “recent.” But I agree, the political landscape has not been overrun with statesmen lately.

      1. SPM

        I have never been accused of being a Trump supporter, but in the style of the old SAT analogies: Abraham Lincoln is to Trump as Trump is to Roy Moore. It is not even close.

        That is not saying anything nice about Donald Trump, it is saying something really bad about Roy Moore.

  2. CLS

    The American people weren’t the only ones who dodged a bullet. Republicans got a gift. If Moore had won that election, every Republican up for reelection in 2018 would’ve been asked about Roy Moore. No matter their response, it would have shown up in an attack ad.

    I, however, respectfully dissent with your notion Democrats gained any moral high ground with their political maneuvering. Franken still hasn’t resigned following his non-apology, John Conyers is “retiring,” and more Democrats are getting hit by the day with the dreaded “sexual impropriety” allegations.

    Furthermore, once Secretary Clinton and her husband had no more political value to Democrats, they got thrown under the bus too.

    From my view, the Republicans who stayed home and chose morality over a Senate seat are those who raised the bar. Regardless, American politics in 2017 is a dumpster fire and I hate everyone involved in it.

    1. David Meyer Lindenberg Post author

      Yeah, I know. Seen this morning’s Politico yet? There’s already plenty of momentum building behind Franken. It’s why I thought a reminder that keeping him would be yugely short-sighted wouldn’t go entirely amiss.

      1. CLS

        I’m not exactly a mind reader, but this seemed to be the line of reasoning for the Democratic Party.

        With the Russia investigation falling apart by the day, the combination of the #MeToo movement, Roy Moore’s horrendous campaign and increasing revelations of “sexual impropriety” on Capitol Hill gave Democrats the thought they could pressure Trump into resigning due to all of his alleged past sexual misdeeds.

        Unfortunately they forgot Trump has no shame and never apologizes for anything.

        It will be interesting to see what tactic they try next other than #Resisting and screaming at the sky. Maybe Democrats might actually do what it takes to win an election: show up and vote.

        1. SPM

          The flaw in the argument: If I am a Democrat, the last thing in the world I would want is for Donald Trump not to be President. Lets say Trump steps down or is removed, then Mike Pence is President. He will suddenly look like a cross between Washington, Lincoln and Roosevelt(s) by comparison. He will also not have much of a negative track record (as President) for the Democrats to run against in 2018.

          No, from a strictly partisan political perspective, I definitely want Trump in the White House. Of course that requires that they ignore distractions like what is best for the country or the world, but that is the federal government we now have.

        1. CLS

          Now that you mention it, SHG, Takei never really faced any repercussions for his Franken moment, did he? It happened, Takei did the “he said, he said” bit, and the ordeal quietly slipped away into that good night.

          It’s almost as if the high priests and priestesses of Social Justice Orthodoxy are immune from certain misdeeds, as long as they keep up with the current groupthink.

  3. John Barleycon

    “A federal government in which Roy Moore has no say is a good start. But there’s no reason to stop here.”

    Well I might agree but Alabama hasn’t published what was on the write-in ballots yet. If they are as creative as I am hoping there might be hope humanity after all.

    If not I shudder to think what you and Junior have in mind… if Al’s notorious flack jacket photo qualifies as sexually assault.

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