Ever since several women stepped forward to describe Alabama Senate nominee Roy Moore’s alleged behavior toward them when they were teenagers (one when she was 14) to the Washington Post, there’s been little talk of anything else in politics. And such talk is likely to continue if Moore should win, and become a United States Senator.
If this happens, Republicans risk having the same problem the Democrats had for decades after 1969. And that’s the equivalent of a Ted Kennedy, a man capable of repeatedly winning elections at home, and costing the party many more races in other states.
Ever since that fateful night when a woman died in the back of Kennedy’s submerged car, Democrats had that millstone around their necks. Sure, he was an effective legislator, but he did the party more harm than good, and I’m not just talking about his primary challenge to President Jimmy Carter that sealed the party’s fate in 1980.
For every Senate victory Kennedy reeled off (1976, 1982, 1988, 1994, 2000, 2006, with the seat lost in 2010 after he died), he likely cost the party many more seats in the House and Senate across the country. Ask Democrats from Alabama to Wyoming how many times they had the Ted Kennedy name hurled in their faces by an opponent. Being in the same photo with the guy could cost a politician his or her career in any state south of the Mason-Dixon Line or West of the Mississippi River, and maybe even some in the Midwest or Northeast.
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That’s because Kennedy became synonymous with politicians being above the law, able to get away with acts that would jail most of us, not being held accountable for a terrible event.
And that’s who Roy Moore would become for the Republicans. That’s why so many Republicans in the Senate, House of Representatives, and gubernatorial offices are calling on Moore to step aside. Remember that President Donald Trump endorsed Luther Strange in that primary, with Steven Bannon being the one who forced the former Alabama Chief Justice of the Supreme Court onto the GOP as their nominee.
Now Moore is dropping in the polls. His double-digit lead has evaporated, trailing in a JMC Analytics polls by four points, and a National Republican Senatorial Committee poll by 12 points. In that JMC poll, it showed Alabama men swinging from a 16 point lead for Moore to a tie. This scandal is ticking off men, who also happen to be fathers and brothers.
But the defense mounted by several Alabama politicians, lawyers, and other supporters risks costing the party more than just a Senate seat: “14 year-olds make poor choices,” one said. “It happened a long time ago,” another offered. One likened the crime to no more serious than “stealing a lawn mower.” Then there was the supporter who said it was no different from adult Joseph taking teenage Mary for a wife. “I’d still vote for him, even if these stories were true,” one admitted.
Just like the Democrats selling their soul to save a Senate seat, and a big name in politics, the GOP may find that they’ll lose more than one spot in the legislature if they embrace Moore, or even have to accept him in office. It will be the Democrats winning offices across the country on the Moore name.
John A. Tures is associate professor of political science at LaGrange College; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @JohnTures2.