Things go well until they don’t. What wasn’t supposed to happen happens. Winners become losers. This was the weekend that the number one ranked college football team in the country, those Georgia Bulldogs, got blown out by the tenth ranked Auburn Tigers. No one saw that coming. The third ranked team, Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish, got blown out by the seventh ranked Miami Hurricanes. No one saw that coming either. Everything went wrong for those on top. They couldn’t catch a break. Georgia and Notre Dame won’t be in the playoffs for the national championship. And this was the weekend that the Republican Party – finally in control of the House and the Senate and the White House, for the first time since the heady days of Herbert Hoover – and in firm control of thirty-seven of the fifty state governments – saw it all fall apart too. There’s no national championship in politics, but if there were, they’d be out of the running. In fact, there are those who say the Republican Party is over. Turn out the lights. The party’s over – literally.
That may be overstating things, but in football, the end of it all usually starts with one player blowing it – a bad snap, a dropped pass that should have been caught – and then everything that follows somehow goes wrong. There’s always a goat – that one person that begins the cascade of woes. He doesn’t ruin everything. He just sets off the ruin, and it’s the same in politics. For the Republicans, that’s Roy Moore. He didn’t ruin the Republican Party. He just made that ruin inevitable.
Anyone who had played any team sports knows how it goes – try hard to recover from that one boneheaded play and things get worse or worse. Try even harder and lose. It’s the same in politics. The Washington Post’s Sean Sullivan, Robert Costa and Jenna Johnson report on how that seems to be the case with Republicans now:
Senate Republican leaders on Monday waged an urgent campaign to pressure GOP nominee Roy Moore to withdraw from the Alabama Senate race amid allegations of sexual misconduct, declaring him “unfit to serve” and threatening to expel him from Congress if he were elected.
But Moore showed no signs that he was preparing to step aside, even as another woman came forward, accusing him of sexually assaulting her in the late 1970s when she was 16 years old.
The only thing to do is to try harder:
The fusillade from Senate Republicans started Monday morning in Louisville, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) called on Moore to end his run.
“I believe the women, yes,” he said of the allegations leveled against Moore.
Later, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) issued a written statement going further. “If he refuses to withdraw and wins, the Senate should vote to expel him,” Gardner said. He told reporters afterward that Moore “doesn’t belong in the United States Senate.”
The public comments from top Republican senators marked a dramatic escalation from their initial reactions to Thursday’s Washington Post report detailing allegations that Moore initiated a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old girl when he was 32.
They know things are dire:
The intensifying effort against Moore reflected a growing sense that his candidacy is becoming a national emergency for the Republican Party, which is already deeply concerned about its standing with voters ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. In campaigns far from Alabama, Democrats on Monday sought to tie GOP candidates to Moore to take advantage of the controversy surrounding the former judge.
Still, national Republican leaders and their allies were left without a clear path forward, with no way to remove Moore’s name from the ballot for the Dec. 12 special election. One last-ditch possibility that some GOP officials were pushing was a write-in campaign by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who vacated the seat to join the Trump administration.
Perhaps it was time for desperation that never works:
While top Republicans favor Sessions because they think he would be a widely known and well-liked GOP alternative, unlike other potential contenders, there was considerable skepticism in Sessions’ orbit that he would agree to that idea and leave his current post for his old job.
Others floated the prospect of a write-in effort for Sen. Luther Strange (R-Ala.), whom Moore defeated in the primary in September…
In recent days, senior Trump administration officials have been in touch with Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) and her inner circle, according to several people briefed on the talks. One person described those conversations as “information gathering” so the White House would know where Ivey stands and to keep the channels of communication open.
Governor Ivey could reschedule the election for a later date. Governor Ivey won’t – but there’s a bit of hope there – and there is the president – and no hope:
Since Trump won’t return from Asia until late Tuesday and is still considering his own options regarding how to further address Moore’s candidacy, White House officials have been reluctant to lean on Ivey in any way, the people said.
“It’s tough having him out of town because no one wants to get too far ahead of him,” said one Republican involved in the talks, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe private deliberations.
It seems that everything’s a long shot, calling for a Hail Mary pass:
Gardner’s call to expel Moore if he is elected was Senate Republican leaders’ most aggressive move yet to get the former judge to drop out of the race. But expelling a senator is extremely rare and would require the approval of two-thirds of the chamber to be successful. An actual vote hasn’t happened since 1862.
It was desperation time, and there’s the goat:
Moore was defiant amid the increasing pressure from party leaders. He wrote on social media that McConnell is the one “who should step aside” and that he has “failed conservatives.”
This is Republicans against Republicans now, and things were getting worse and worse:
The war of words unfolded on the same day that Beverly Young Nelson, who turns 56 Tuesday, accused Moore, now 70, of sexually assaulting her and bruising her neck in the late 1970s when she was 16 years old.
Nelson said at a news conference at a New York hotel that Moore, then the district attorney of Etowah County, was a regular at a restaurant, Old Hickory House in the northeastern Alabama town of Gadsden, where she was a waitress, and that he would sometimes compliment her looks or touch her long, red hair. She showed a copy of her high school yearbook that she said Moore signed on Dec. 22, 1977, with the inscription: “To a sweeter more beautiful girl I could not say ‘Merry Christmas.’ ”
On a cold night about a week or two after that, Nelson alleges, Moore offered to give her a ride home from work after her shift ended at 10 p.m. Instead of taking her home, Nelson said, Moore pulled the two-door car into a dark and deserted area between a Dumpster and the back of the restaurant.
When she asked what he was doing, Nelson alleges, Moore put his hands on her breasts and began groping her. When she tried to open the car door and leave, Nelson said, he reached over and locked the door. When she yelled at him to stop and tried to fight him off, she alleges, he tightly squeezed the back of her neck and tried to force her head toward his lap. He also tried to pull her shirt off, she said.
And add this:
“He told me, he said, ‘You’re just a child,’ and he said, ‘I am the district attorney of Etowah County and if you tell anyone about this no one will ever believe you.'”
Moore says it never happened. That yearbook page was shown on every news show, except on Fox News. Things were looking dire:
As Republican senators returned to Washington on Monday, several made clear to the leadership in phone calls and through colleagues that they would support a tougher line on Moore in the coming days and would encourage Trump to join them once he returns from Asia, according to two people familiar with the discussions.
Asked if there was any easy solution to the Moore situation, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) replied: “No.” Then he reconsidered.
“There’s one solution,” McCain said. “He should never be a United States senator.”
That makes some sense, as even more anecdotal evidence surfaced. Charles Bethea writes at the New Yorker that in the late seventies and early eighties, Roy Moore liked to cruise his local mall so obsessively that at one point he got himself banned:
This past weekend, I spoke or messaged with more than a dozen people – including a major political figure in the state – who told me that they had heard over the years that Moore had been banned from the mall because he repeatedly badgered teenage girls. Some say that they heard this at the time, others in the years since…
Greg Legat, who is now fifty-nine and living in East Gadsden, was, from 1981 to 1985, an employee at the Record Bar, a store that was in the Gadsden Mall… Legat says that he saw Moore there a few times, even though his understanding then was that he had already been banned. “It started around 1979, I think,” Legat said. “I know the ban was still in place when I got there.”
Two officers I spoke to this weekend, both of whom asked to remain unnamed, told me that they have long heard stories about Moore and the mall. “The general knowledge at the time when I moved here was that this guy is a lawyer cruising the mall for high-school dates,” one of the officers said. The legal age of consent in Alabama is sixteen, so it would not be illegal there for a man in his early thirties to date a girl who was, say, a senior in high school. But these officers, along with the other people I spoke to, said that Moore’s presence at the mall was regarded as a problem. “I heard from one girl who had to tell the manager of a store at the mall to get Moore to leave her alone.”
That is anecdotal, but Kevin Drum adds this:
This might all be completely factual, or it might be one of those things that lots of people have “heard” but without any firsthand evidence. For now, though, I guess it’s safe to say that nobody will be surprised if this turns out to be true.
As in football, when one thing goes wrong, everything goes wrong. Even the stuff that shouldn’t count somehow counts:
Following accusations that Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama made sexual advances toward a 14-year-old girl when he was 32 in 1979, women began tweeting pictures of themselves when they were 14.
Many of the photos, which several female celebrities have shared, also include accounts of what they were doing at the time instead of dating men twice their age.
Lawyer Catherine Lawson started the #MeAt14 campaign. She said it aims to circulate images of girls who were the same age Leigh Corfman was when Moore allegedly pursued her.
“Show what a 14-year-old looks like. Affirm they’re not capable of consent. Remind people kids deserve protection,” Lawson tweeted.
Among the celebrities participating in the campaign so far are comedian Sarah Silverman, reporter Katie Couric, news anchor Gretchen Carlson, and actress Alyssa Milano…
That’s not fair. Not one of them was there, back then. Or that’s fair. Each of them was fourteen once. They know. And there was this:
The wife of embattled Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore sought Monday to draw attention to an August letter from 53 Alabama pastors supporting him in the GOP primary as allegations of sexual misconduct build ahead of next month’s special election.
The letter, published on AL.com and highlighted on Kayla Moore’s Facebook page, praises the candidate for his “immovable convictions for Biblical principles” and says he suffered “persecution” for his faith by opposing gay marriage as Alabama’s chief justice.
“For decades, Roy Moore has been an immovable rock in the culture wars – a bold defender of the ‘little guy,’ a just judge to those who came before his court, a warrior for the unborn child, defender of the sanctity of marriage, and a champion for religious liberty,” the letter reads.
What are the Republican supposed to with that? Amy Davidson Sorkin suggests this:
What litmus tests does the Republican Party have these days? Islamophobia evidently wasn’t enough to end its support of Moore, but neither, apparently, were his imprecations that homosexuality should be criminally punished and that the Supreme Court’s marriage-equality ruling was worse than the Dred Scott decision; or his record of being twice removed from the Alabama bench for defying, and ordering other judges to defy, federal courts, once regarding a Ten Commandments monument outside his courthouse, and once for his attempt to deny marriage equality to Alabama couples; or that the foundation he formed has hosted “Secession Day” events; or his brandishing of a gun on a stage at a political rally; or his comments about the Bible superseding American law; or his belief in birtherism – though that one, actually, loops back to Islamophobia, and to President Trump. The President, who first backed Strange, later said that Moore “sounds like a really great guy.”
That is a bit awkward:
The statement from the White House on the Moore story began with the caveat “Like most Americans, the President believes that we cannot allow a mere allegation – in this case, one from many years ago – to destroy a person’s life.” One might read this as a reference to some of the charges that have been attached to Trump himself. And only then did the statement note that “the President also believes that if these allegations are true, Judge Moore will do the right thing and step aside.” If he doesn’t, will the President push him, or just shrug?
This is a mess:
Moore is just another name for the test that the GOP is failing, each day, with Trump. What, in the end, is its reward?
George Will adds this:
Evangelical Christians who embrace Moore are serving the public good by making ridiculous their pose as uniquely moral Americans, and by revealing their leaders to be especially grotesque specimens of the vanity – vanity about virtue – that is curdling politics. Another public benefit from the Moore spectacle is the embarrassment of national Republicans. Their party having made the star of the “Access Hollywood” tape president, they now are horrified that Moore might become one percent of the Senate.
George Will is not impressed – he left the Republican Party when it became Trump’s party and likes it less at it becomes Moore’s party – and Frank Rich argues that the Republican Party has been effectively destroyed.
The idea that the pre-Trump GOP will make a post-Trump comeback to vanquish these forces is laughable. Old-line Establishment Republicans in the Senate and the House, even very conservative ones like [Sen. Jeff] Flake, are engaging in self-deportation, as Mitt Romney might say, rather than face a firing squad in the primaries. The Trumpists will with time expunge the rest, including Paul Ryan (whom Steve Bannon has dismissed as “a limp-dick motherfucker who was born in a petri dish at the Heritage Foundation,” according to Joshua Green in The Devil’s Bargain). It’s a replay of the purge of the 1960s, when the reinvented GOP shaped by Goldwater, Nixon, and the “southern strategy” shoved aside the likes of Nelson Rockefeller and George Romney. Given that 89 percent of Republicans voted for Trump in November and that 80 percent of today’s GOP voters reliably give Trump favorable approval ratings no matter what he has said or done since, that means only a fifth of those Americans identifying as Republicans are (possibly) “Never Trumpers.”
In short, just as they caved to Trump, they’ll cave to Moore:
The remains of Establishment Republicanism are at best a Potemkin village. It’s too little, too late for “the Republican renovation project” floated in October by the former George W. Bush speechwriter and passionate “Never Trumper” Michael Gerson, who imagined that John Kasich, Flake, Ben Sasse, and the like would dream up “a compelling alternative to the Bannon appeal.” History will show that feckless Establishment Republicans repeatedly missed their chance to take back or renovate their party by being too cowardly, too cynical, or too inept to confront Trumpism as it fanned the flames of racial backlash under Palin, the tea party, and finally Trump during the Obama years…
By illuminating a pathway to power that no one had thought possible, and demolishing the civic guardrails that we assumed protected us from autocrats, Trump has paved the way for far slicker opportunists to gain access to the national stage. Imagine a presidential candidate with Trump’s views and ambitions who does not arrive with Trump’s personal baggage, his undisciplined penchant for self-incrimination, and his unsurpassed vulgarity.
Martin Longman sees that too:
What Trump has done was always possible. What stood in the way more than anything else was the lack of someone with the basic lack of decency to give it a try. And, yes, perhaps George Wallace came too early, before Reaganism, automation, consolidation, and globalization had a chance to weaken small-town and rural America to the point where they’d stop believing anything told by anyone with a modicum of responsibility for their plight. Or, perhaps, Wallace was only lacking ostentatious wealth and a hit reality show that could make him look competent.
That is, Trump set the stage for Roy Moore:
What matters now is that Trump won. And, by winning, he showed the way for others to succeed. Whether or not anyone else can repeat his success in an open question, but future Republican candidates will be expected to try.
All the things that Trump exploited and continues to exploit were always options on the table. They went largely untouched because people were unwilling to use them. In particular, no one was willing to attack our institutions like Trump. The media is the most important of these, if only because it’s been discredited in the eyes of Trump’s supporters to the point that they can’t hold him accountable. That makes it possible for Trump to get away with attacking everything else, from prisoners of war and Gold Star families and the Pope, to our intelligence agencies and the congressional leadership of his own party.
It’s absolutely true that the groundwork for this was laid over decades by the conservative movement and eventually the Republicans’ top strategists who chipped away at the media in every way they could devise. When science and expert advice didn’t align with their goals, they invented their own science and expert advice. When the media reported their lies, they created their own media.
They created Roy Moore too, and Longman says that means that the party really is over:
I expect there to be some kind of third party force, probably in the form of a Teddy Roosevelt or more effective Ross Perot character who splits their support and renders them something less than a full member of the two-party system. The Democrats will be the immediate beneficiaries of this, but it won’t necessarily add much to their overall level of support. It’s not unlikely that once the disruption to the system settles out a little that the Democratic Party will be next on the chopping block.
In the interim, we’d see more regionalism and more of a suburban-exurban split in political alliances. Our system isn’t really set up for more than two parties, especially in Congress where new members must choose one side or the other in order to get any committee assignments. We could begin to see strange things, like protracted negotiations involving parliamentary-style haggling in order for the House to settle on a Speaker or the Senate to settle on a Majority Leader. The conservatives could see themselves shunted to the corner as a new center right party with relatively few members finds common cause with center left Democrats to choose a congressional leadership committed to paying our bills on time.
If these things happen, they will come more from necessity than from any new ideology. Monied interests are going to conclude that the GOP can no longer serve their purposes. That’s already happening, which is why you see so many Republicans openly admitting that their donors have had it and will not continue to fund their social conservatism unless they get their corporate tax cuts. For our coastal elites, the cultural humiliation of being aligned with Trumpism is already getting too great to bear…
And pedophiles are too much to bear too. Things go well until they don’t. What wasn’t supposed to happen happens. Winners become losers. That one person begins the cascade of woes. He doesn’t ruin everything. He just sets off the ruin. That’s Roy Moore. He didn’t ruin the Republican Party. He just made that ruin inevitable. Turn out the lights. The party’s over.