Commentary: How Alabama can help save the Republican Party — or help destroy it

Commentary: How Alabama can help save the Republican Party — or help destroy it
Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Roy Moore is facing accusations of sexual misconduct. Will the Alabama GOP continue to support him? (Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

On Nov. 9, the Washington Post reported that Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, the former chief justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court, has been accused of having a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl when Moore was 32. The alleged victim claims Moore lured her into a disturbing sexual relationship, and the Post reported at least three other teenage girls also claimed to have been pursued by Moore, although those girls were older and could legally consent to a relationship.

In a subsequent report, AL.com’s Anna Claire Vollers wrote locals who lived in Etowah County at the time the alleged events occurred say many people in that community have long been aware of Moore’s history of pursuing romantic relationships with teenage girls.

“These stories have been going around this town for 30 years,” said one resident. “Nobody could believe they hadn’t come out yet.”

A political crisis

These accusations have thrown the Republicans into full-blown crisis mode. Under Alabama law, Moore cannot be replaced on the ballot, so the only way another Republican could win the election is if he or she were to run as a write-in candidate or if a new election were to be held, which reportedly could occur if voters elect Moore after the state Republican Party were to pull its nomination of Moore or Moore were to resign from the campaign.

Moore, now 70, has denied the claims made in the Post’s story, using language that leaves absolutely no room for backtracking. “The Obama-Clinton Machine’s liberal media lapdogs just launched the most vicious and nasty round of attacks against me I’ve EVER faced! We are in the midst of a spiritual battle with those who want to silence our message,” Moore wrote on Twitter.

Just a few weeks ago, it seemed all but impossible Democratic Party candidate Doug Jones could win this deep-red U.S. Senate seat in the special election on Dec. 12, but with each passing day, it seems increasingly likely that could occur. If it does, make no mistake about it, it would be a complete and utter disaster for the conservative movement. The already thin margins in the Senate would suddenly get thinner, and with an important election coming up in less than a year, congressional Republicans need every vote they can get.

Evaluating the allegations

Initially, I felt a tremendous sense of hesitancy to condemn Moore based on accusations alone, but in the days that followed the release of the Post’s story, Moore’s answers to the allegations about the consensual relationships with teenagers seemed to shift and sway. Even a staunch supporter of Moore, if thinking fairly, would have to acknowledge that some of his answers have been incredibly troubling.

For instance, during an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity, Moore said when asked if he dated teenagers when he was in his 30s, “Not generally, no.” In another section of the interview, he said, “I don’t remember dating any girl without the permission of her mother,” and he admitted he remembered two of the women making the accusations, saying, “These two young girls actually said their mothers encouraged them to be friends with me.”

Ask yourself this question: If you were falsely accused of dating teenagers when you were in your 30s, would you respond by saying you didn’t “generally” date teens? Would you go out of your way to make it clear you always asked for “permission” from girls’ mothers? Would dozens of witnesses from your local community say they have known for years that you used to date teenagers?

The evidence Moore sexually molested anyone remains scant, but it seems quite clear, based on the information now available, Moore, at the very least, dated teenagers.

A difficult situation

There are some who have argued that so long as Moore didn’t violate the law, his personal affairs should have no bearing on voters’ decisions. Whether you agree with this view or not, there is no denying that much of the conservative movement has taken the opposite view in previous elections, especially when Democrats were involved in scandals of their own. For instance, the same logic used repeatedly on the right to condemn Bill Clinton, when applied to this situation, should produce the same result. Further, if Moore is willing to mislead voters about his past non-sexual relationships with teenagers, then how can we be sure he’s not misleading voters about the sexual abuse allegations?

Given all this information, the people of Alabama have found themselves in a very difficult situation. Many of the voters in the state, especially Republicans, know that Moore’s Democratic opponent does not represent their beliefs or values. By all accounts, Jones is a supporter of massive centralized government and leftist causes. His victory would put Democrats one step closer to retaking the Senate, and it would deal a significant blow to Republicans’ chances of passing numerous important pieces of legislation, including tax reform and an Obamacare replacement. Allowing Jones to win by backing a write-in candidate while Moore is still in the race likely seems like a completely unacceptable strategy for many, but voting for Moore could be a vote in favor of someone who engaged in disgusting criminal activity.

This isn’t the first time conservatives have been asked to put their morals aside and choose between the lesser of two evils, and it likely won’t be the last. But rather debate which is worse—a vote against liberty or a vote for an immoral man—perhaps it’s time conservatives realize a vote in favor of immorality is also a vote against liberty.

Learning from the past

Conservatives spend a lot of time talking about the Founding Fathers, especially men like George Washington, but they don’t seem to spend a whole lot of time thinking about precisely what made those individuals so successful. Washington is, of course, one of the most important of the Fathers, and I’ve often wondered what it was about him that made his men so willing to risk everything they had to fight a brutal war in some of the harshest conditions imaginable, especially at Valley Forge.

Yes, the soldiers believed in the cause of liberty, but they didn’t show the same devotion to some of the other commanders on the side of the Patriots. What was it about Washington that inspired such devotion and faith? As Glenn Beck noted in “Being George Washington,” it was, at least in part, his honor.

Washington’s men were willing to give anything for him because they knew he’d do the same for them. He was a man of honor, and that honor, along with Washington’s courage, inspired greatness and devotion in others. This isn’t a strategy for success that Washington stumbled into, either. Throughout history, other great men and women have found that others are willing to follow if leaders are willing to serve honorably. Why then is the Republican Party, which spends much time invoking the names of people such as Washington, so unwilling to adopt a similar path to success?

If Republicans want to lead this nation and inspire others to follow, they need to show the world that they truly value the same characteristics embodied by Washington. In the process, it’s possible Democrats might win an election or two. It’s possible conservatives will face serious setbacks. It’s even possible the forces of tyranny will temporarily attain more power. But in the long run, honor will win out, as it always does.

Save the party, save the country

Is it fair that Democrats should be held to a different standard? Of course not. But rather than lowering the standards of conservatism to match those embraced by liberalism, we should recognize the value, including the political value, of integrity. This is precisely what Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, and other world changers did, and it’s why we remember them for their heroic accomplishments.

Americans want selfless, self-sacrificing leaders, not a political party who will embrace any candidate out of fear of losing to a Democrat. Republicans in Alabama have an opportunity to show the rest of the nation what real conservatism is, and it starts by adopting a simple principle: It’s better to lose 1,000 elections but keep one’s soul. It’s that sort of willingness to self-sacrifice for the greater good that has the potential to inspire future victories and progress.

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