Opinion

Michael A. Cohen

How can Republicans still stand by Roy Moore?

MONTGOMERY, AL - SEPTEMBER 26: Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Alabama, Roy Moore speaks to reporters at an election-night rally after declaring victory on September 26, 2017 in Montgomery, Alabama. Moore, former chief justice of the Alabama supreme court, defeated incumbent Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL) in a primary runoff election for the seat vacated when Jeff Sessions was appointed U.S. Attorney General by President Donald Trump. Moore will now face Democratic candidate Doug Jones in the general election in December. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Scott Olson/Getty Images
Roy Moore.

Roy Moore is astoundingly unqualified to be a US senator and every American with a moral conscious and respect for the Constitution and basic political norms should oppose his candidacy.

That was true before The Washington Post story dropped a blockbuster story Thursday that four decades ago, as a 30-year-old district attorney, Moore allegedly regularly preyed on teenage girls, including one as young as 14.

Only in America 2017 — and only in the modern Republican Party — could accusations of pedophilia be the cherry on the sundae of a Senate candidate’s inappropriateness.

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Even before these sordid allegations against Moore surfaced — made by four women, on the record, and corroborated by 30 others — we knew that Roy Moore was unquestionably a bigot. Moore has said that he believes homosexuality should be against the law and has called homosexual behavior “an act so heinous that it defies one’s ability to describe it.” These are ironic words for a man now accused of dating teenage girls and plying them with alcohol. Moore has also said a Muslim-American should not be allowed to serve in Congress, and he called Islam a “fake religion.”

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We knew, as well, that Moore has, throughout his career, flagrantly thumbed his nose at the rule of law. As chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, he was removed from office for refusing to carry out a federal court order demanding the removal of a 5,000 pound sculpture of the Ten Commandments that he’d had installed outside Alabama’s highest court. Ten years later he was again elected to the Supreme Court and was, this time, suspended from his post for instructing judges in Alabama to ignore a federal court ruling legalizing same sex marriage.

Of course, none of these previous marks against Moore’s candidacy stopped many Republicans from supporting his candidacy for Senate. Child molestation, however, appears to be bridge too far, as yesterday Republican after Republican called for Moore to step down if the allegations against him are true.

This is a tribute, I suppose, to small victories, but let’s hold off on the hosannas. The “if true” conditional takes the burden off of the Senate GOP to do anything about Moore and leaves plenty of ambiguity if he continues to deny these charges — and no further evidence emerges. If Moore wins the Senate race in Alabama, his new Republican colleagues might very well say, “Well, he says it’s not true and it’s a he-said, she-said. Now let’s go cut some taxes for rich people.” After observing the excuses repeatedly made by Republicans over the behavior of Donald Trump, this depressing outcome seems entirely probable.

To be fair, Senate Republicans are a collective profile in courage compared to Alabama Republicans, many of whom have taken the position that even if the charges against Moore are true, it’s no big deal.

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On Thursday, Toronto Star reporter Daniel Dale put calls into Alabama GOP officials asking about Moore and the response was, how shall we say, soul-crushing and undermining of one’s faith in basic humanity.

“It was 40 years ago,” said Alabama Marion County GOP chair David Hall. “I really don’t see the relevance of it. He was 32. She was supposedly 14. She’s not saying that anything happened other than they kissed.”

“There is NO option to support to support [sic] Doug Jones, the Democratic nominee. When you do that, you are supporting the entire Democrat party,” said Alabama County Republican chairman William Blocker.

And according to Alabama Geneva County chairman Riley Seibenhener, “Other than being with an underage person — he didn’t really force himself.”

Here’s a little tip for you. If you begin a sentence with the words “Other than being an underage person,” you might want to just stop right there.

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Perhaps surpassing all of these officials was Alabama’s state auditor, Jim Ziegler, who defended Moore by saying, “Take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus.”

This not only gets basic Catholic theology wrong, but is also incredibly gross.

But if we’ve learned anything over the past two years about American politics it is that tribalism is an intoxicating drug.

Republicans have shown over and over that they are willing to look past immorality, corruption, hypocrisy, and now even pedophilia in support of Republican candidates for office. After all, most of them were happy to ignore the more than dozen women who accused Donald Trump of sexual assault. The pursuit of political power — no matter the compromises needed — has become the only goal that seems to matter. Every time you think America has hit rock bottom in the age of Trump, Republicans find some way to dig a little more ground out of the earth.

That’s why so many Republicans were willing to look past Roy Moore’s outrageous bigotry and his astounding inappropriateness and still support his Senate bid. It’s also the same reason that, even after these latest allegations against Moore, come Dec. 12, in one of the reddest states in America, he is a pretty solid bet to be elected to the US Senate.

Michael A. Cohen’s column appears regularly in the Globe. Follow him on Twitter @speechboy71.