Would you sacrifice your own daughter to achieve a greater good?
The wolves are circling around Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Roy Moore.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was among the earliest Republicans inside the Beltway to call for the candidate to step aside after on-the-record accusation were published by the Washington Post that Moore engaged in inappropriate relationships with very young girls when he was in his 30s. The most serious accusation is from Alabaman Leigh Corman who said she was 14 and Moore was 32 when he pursued having a relationship with her and eventually initiated sexual contact.
A former law firm colleagues of Moore from the time of the accusations has said that it was “common knowledge” that Moore dated teenagers.
On Monday, Gloria Allred – the Babe Ruth of sexual harassment litigation – stood by her client, a fifth accuser who said Moore sexually assaulted her when she was 16.
Since last Thursday when the story broke, the list of Republicans calling for Moore to step aside has steadily grown. New allegations are likely to accelerate that trend, but Moore has shown no indications that he will yield.
Despite the swelling pressure to lance Moore from the body politic, the lightning rod former Alabama chief justice has plenty of defenders.
There are those who question the timing or veracity of the stories, or dismiss them as outright fabrications by a conspiring media.
There are those who believe that no decision about Moore should be made until he’s given “due process.” (National Review senior writer David French has excellent thoughts on why this is wrong and why the differences between legal judgment and societal judgment are significant and important.)
And, of course, there are also the motley crew of miscreants who a) offer warped and illogical interpretations of Christian teachings in a way that tolerates or normalizes sex with children, or b) bizarrely argue that any victim who keeps their abuse secret is actually an accomplice to the crime and thus victimizing the assailant. (Take a moment to regroup if your mind is spinning. And, yes, this last thing really happened.)
But there is one faction of the Moore defense that will push a simple and seductive line of reasoning. Let’s label them the “Even If” Coalition, and call them out for the simple, seductive, and poisonous logic they’re peddling.
The pitch starts with a seemingly pragmatic existential imperative: “Even if Moore did these things – which may be horrible – we have to stop Democrats from taking over. Vote Moore. Save America.”
It’s a powerful appeal because it’s founded a real fear. The stakes are very high. Every flipped seat in Congress is one step closer to a Democratic majority, one that will more likely organize around an even more socialist set of unifying principles than the last time they held the government.
There’s one big problem, and conservatives need to face it honestly. The surge of pressure to vote for Moore states the explicit danger without spelling out the implicit transaction; for those who are in the “Even If” camp, there’s a hidden sacrifice of humanity proposed that is more than just disturbing.
The “Even Ifs” may not fully recognize that the transactional rallying cry of ‘Vote Moore, Save America’ is only part of the bargain they’re offering. The very insertion of “even if” implies some amount of doubt as to whether the allegations are false, as Moore asserts. This is why conservatives need to continue their criticism of the “even if” rationalizers. If the accusations might be true, doesn’t that logically mean that the lost innocence of four girls is being viewed as an acceptable sacrifice?
But If one of the girls accusing Moore was your daughter, sister, niece, or granddaughter, would you be comfortable exchanging her sanity for a seat in Congress? I suspect that most of those making this argument would not be, but that they haven’t considered a hidden spiritual cost of their political calculus. Is electing Roy Moore to the U.S. Senate worth that cost? Or, more probably, is it worth going to the end of the line for a candidate who is more likely to lose, and in doing so foreclose on other options to hold the seat?
To make matters worse, Moore’s recalcitrance is keeping this ugly rationale alive among some opinion leaders and rank-and-file on the right.
Debate over whether he should leave and if he stays in the race whether he should be supported keeps the “even if” argument active, and Moore’s run to high ground – direct appeals to evangelical voters that not opposing pro-abortion Democrat Doug Jones means the end of Alabama and the Union, in that order – adds cacophony to a much-needed character and morality debate within the broader conservative movement.
“Even If” Republicans who do choose to support Moore might claim to be holding their nose. They may envision self-soothing scenarios in which Moore would never actually serve and the party could appoint a worthy successor. Still, there’s no way to get completely bury the act of supporting a candidate while accepting that he might be guilty of a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old. The further darkening of the soul of our body politic will have been abetted and publicly so.
If the whole problem of a spiritual void still doesn’t concern “Even Ifs,” the downstream political effect should. Swing voters in suburban purple districts may decide to punish this kind of moral ambiguity by sending a message and destroying Republican candidates in the 2018 midterms, just as they appear to have done to send an anti-Trump message in the November election just past.
Fear of Democrats regaining control is valid and real, to be sure. They have become a party that appeals to extremes, too often sits by when freedoms are being suppressed, and seeks more power over our day-to-day choices. If Moore wins, however, the world doesn’t look any safer for Republicans as our would-be protectors. Having Moore in the Senate makes the task of holding the body harder, not easier.
If we have to pick our poison, we’d be smart to sip the toxin that may wound us, but avoid the cup that will surely kill us slowly from within.