To endorse or not to endorse Moore is a question that is tearing Republicans apart as the election in Alabama draws closer. First, he’s endorsed, then he isn’t, then he is again. Despite the growing storm of sexual harassment allegations, Trump and the Republican National Committee have decided to say yes to Roy Moore. For one senior senator though, the answer is no.
Richard Shelby, Alabama’s senior senator, has publicly stated that he will refuse to endorse Moore and has called for people to vote for a write-in candidate. Instead of voting for Doung Jones, he opted instead to write down what he called ‘a distinguished Republican name.’ Luther Strange is the popular choice for those who are pushing for others to vote for write-in candidates, although some wits have probably considered Abraham Lincoln as an option.
He claimed that the tipping point was the story Moore sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl along with the stories that Moore had tried to date 17 and 18-year-old girls while he was a prosecutor in his 30s. As part of his statement, Shelby said, “I think the women are believable. I have no reason not to believe them. I didn’t vote for Roy Moore. I wouldn’t vote for Roy Moore. I think the Republican party can do better.”
The Republicans can be better. They should be better than this, but such is the state of politics today that Roy Moore can win back the backing of a party that had initially disowned him. Moore’s poll numbers, which have seen a brief uptick in the last few days, has persuaded some in the GOP to put power before decency. Such a position is nothing new to Trump who probably sees a kindred spirit in a fellow sexual predator and cheerleader for Putin.
For the Republicans, it’s a lose-lose situation. Alabama’s election is up in the air when it really shouldn’t according to their statistics. If Alabama goes for Doug Jones, then it will be taken far more seriously than the previous elections in Virginia and New Jersey. The Resistance will gather strength, the Democrats will be riding high and the Republicans could face a potentially hazardous road to next year’s mid-term elections.
Yet, if Moore wins, it will be seen as a strike against the establishment, a sign that Trump’s anti-establishment message is holding strong and still pulling voters. Moore is a full-blown Trump supporter who may symbolize the internal struggle between moderates and extremists in the GOP. After all, this is a man who vigorously attacked the Republican establishment, whose views are almost completely out of step with modern-day America.
Richard C. Shelby is one of the few in his party to break with Trump and the RNC. He is not the only one, but speaking out against your own is a brave and dangerous thing to do, even when it is abundantly clear that the person carrying the standard is wholly unsuitable for the job. Shelby follows Paul Ryan and South Carolina’s Senator Tim Scott among others in refusing to endorse Moore. Voting for a write-in candidate is clearly the preferred choice for those who follow their moral compass although there are clearly precious few in the Republican Party who have one.
Roy Moore should not be eligible for this election, but here he is! A man who is removed not once, but twice as a judge for failing to uphold federal court orders should not serve. A man who actively sought to date girls twice his junior should not represent the people. And yet, even Mitch McConnell, the very man who rallied his party to reject Moore, is staying quiet.
The warning signs are clear and Shelby’s break from his own party should be ringing alarm bells with some Republican voters. Perhaps they’ll take his advice and vote for a write-in candidate. Perhaps the evangelicals will help boost Moore’s chances as Jones struggle to make inroads with young black voters, the latter seen as a key voting bloc against Moore’s conservative activists. At this stage, no one really knows.
With the race getting closer with each hour, the people of Alabama are gearing up to make their choice and ensure that whoever wins, the Republicans lose.