Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse, Jeff Flake, Michael Steele, Bill Kristol, Jonah Goldberg, David French, Kat Timpf, Guy Benson, Kimberly Ross, David Harsanyi, and the many other right-of-center figures who want Alabama Republicans to refuse to vote for Roy Moore in today’s election are right about one thing: it is despicable to not care whether Moore is guilty of molesting or assaulting children, to find any degree of rationalization or justification for his alleged actions, and to not care whether a pedophile joins the United States Senate. Reasonable questions have been raised about some of the accusations, but holes have also been poked in some of the Moore camp’s denials (chiefly by Moore himself), so while his guilt is uncertain, nor can we be confident in his innocence.
Here’s where they’re wrong: it is equally despicable to be okay with Moore’s Democrat opponent, Doug Jones, joining the Senate despite the confirmed fact that, according to his own words, he supports the legal ability to kill children at virtually any point in pregnancy (there are numerous issues on which Jones defeating Moore would be a net harm to the American people by further narrowing the GOP’s majority, which is already too thin to consistently pass conservative legislation, but here we’ll focus on abortion, as it best clarifies the moral stakes).
So what do we do? Excuse pedophilia in the name of the preborn? That’s how some of the above have framed the choice. While refusing to directly address the evil of Jones’ abortion position, they argue that we must sacrifice the Senate seat to the Democrats to demonstrate our integrity.
But there’s another option that doesn’t require us to give a possible predator a pass or add another prenatal execution enthusiast to the Senate: vote for Roy Moore, then have the Senate launch an ethics investigation into the charges against him once he takes office. As I wrote at TFPP:
If Moore is cleared of assault and molestation, then the issue is closed and the “honor” of a chamber that counts Teddy “Swimmer” Kennedy and Robert “Sheets” Byrd among its distinguished past members is unaffected.
But if Moore is guilty — or even if he perjures himself while the facts of the charges remain uncertain — then the Senate has an actual basis for expelling him, at which point Alabama Governor Kay Ivey appoints a Republican replacement and the Senate seat has been kept out of the hands of both a child predator and a child killer.
Despite all the hysterics #NeverTrump types have spewed over the predicament, the solution has always been clear. The path laid out above doesn’t require anyone on either side to compromise any of our principles — we don’t have to rationalize preying on children, we don’t have to take the Washington Post or Gloria Allred’s word for anything, and we don’t have to accept that giving Democrats one more vote with which to harm the country is the price of demonstrating how “virtuous” we are.
It has since been reported that the Senate Ethics Committee will “immediately” take up the matter. Especially after Al Franken’s resignation (which may or may not actually happen, but I digress), Republicans will have every incentive to get it done, and most of the people listed above consider Mitch McConnell a principled and effective leader, so he should be more than capable of getting Republicans on board for an expulsion vote (that is, assuming Republicans even need to be pushed).
So what’s the problem? Why isn’t every conservative advocating this path? Why do we have to preemptively surrender the seat to Jones? Nobody listed above will say. It goes suspiciously unmentioned in their columns and tweets and TV appearances. For weeks, I’ve been posing this question to several of these folks on Twitter, and none of them have answered (despite routinely taking the time to highlight and swat back softballs from fringe accounts).
Perhaps it’s because for many in the Beltway-based, moderation-inclined, and establishment-friendly corners of the Right, implementing conservative principles and protecting the American people from the Left aren’t really their top priorities at all.
Maintaining one’s image of (supposed) moral purity is more important. Conservatism needs to be more moderate. Some GOP agenda items matter more than others. The Right needs to be punished for not picking our candidates and appreciating our wisdom. And heaven forbid the mainstream press get the impression that we’re not the respectable kind of conservative!
To varying degrees all of these animate the vast majority of center-right pundits possessed by NeverTrump/NeverMoore fever. And above all, they simply refuse to see the Left for what it is.
Case in point: a couple weeks ago, many of the above ganged up on philosophy professor Tully Borland’s Federalist op-ed arguing that Republicans vote for Moore even if he’s guilty, because Jones’ abortion position is the greater evil. Critics rightly criticized Borland’s passage about adults dating teenagers, but conveniently ignored that his actual overall position was “Elect Moore and support the Senate not giving him a seat. This would bring about another special election”…and none of them seriously grappled with Borland’s ultimate point about abortion’s evil.
In fact, Jonah Goldberg’s response (which doesn’t refute the point; he just frets that he dislikes the implications) inadvertently demonstrates just how morally twisted the “respectable” Right has become:
But because Moore’s opponent is pro-abortion, Moore is the superior choice — despite the fact he is the more evil man in his personal conduct […] His argument isn’t that Doug Jones is an evil man per se, it’s that the Democrats are so evil and the Alabama Senate seat is so important, Republicans should abandon any standards of personal conduct that are inconvenient to victory [emphasis added].
Note how Goldberg distinguishes between policy evil (without expressly agreeing that abortion is evil, by the way) and personal evil–as if there’s a difference. The laws enacted by government take effect in the real world, not SimCity. Abortions kill real human beings just as surely as Stephen Paddock did. How is an enabler and defender of literal child murder not every bit as much of an “evil man per se” as a child predator, just because his evil manifests in his professional conduct rather than personal?
It’s of a piece with this crowd’s hostility to the idea that politics is a figurative war. But whatever one thinks of that framework, it’s apparent their alternative goes too far in the other direction–treating politics like a game in which the other side is granted some bare minimum level of respect no matter what and elections can be thrown without feeling a basic obligation to even address their outcomes’ policy impact on millions of Americans.
Mo Brooks, not Roy Moore, clearly should have been the nominee. But unless somebody knows where to find a time machine, there’s nothing we can do about that now. All we can do now is elect Moore to keep out the proven evil, then demand that the Senate set to work confirming and ejecting the alleged evil. This isn’t a call to settle for the lesser evil over the greater one; it’s a call to exercise patience and strategy to protect the country from both.