Moore: The GOP’s unpalatable options
“Fasten your seat belts,” said Noah Feldman in Bloomberg.com. Unless Democratic candidate Doug Jones pulls off a historic victory in Alabama’s special election on Dec. 12, his Republican opponent, the alleged serial molester of teenage girls Roy Moore, will be elected to the U.S. Senate. “And if that happens, we are in for a major national fight about expelling him from his seat.” Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell does not want the GOP to be “saddled with a likely pedophile” and says an expulsion vote is now almost certain if Moore wins the election. To oust him, McConnell would need a two-thirds majority, or 67 votes. Expulsion votes are incredibly rare, said Christian Schneider in USA Today. The last one happened in 1862, when 14 pro-Confederacy senators were ejected. Yet “Senate removal seems like the last card Republicans have to play to escape this morass.”
Republicans should tread very carefully, said Brian Kalt in The Wall Street Journal. Expulsions are rare for a reason: They threaten voters’ democratic right to choose their own representatives. Moore has never been prosecuted for his alleged sexual misconduct and meets all the official requirements to serve in the Senate. “He is at least 30, a resident of Alabama, and a U.S. citizen for at least nine years.” Moreover, if Moore wins, said Josh Marshall in TalkingPointsMemo.com, he’ll have done so with the backing of Alabama’s electorate—after they were informed about the molestation allegations. Can you imagine the backlash among the GOP base if McConnell, the leading establishment “squish,” overturned the popular will? Moore might be an “ogre” and a terrible choice for the U.S. Senate. “But voters have a perfect right to be terrible.”
Republicans “might be better off” if Moore loses, said Nate Silver in FiveThirtyEight.com. In the short run, losing the Alabama seat would be costly: McConnell could then “afford only one defection on legislation such as tax reform.” But think of the consequences for every GOP candidate in next year’s midterms if Moore makes it to Capitol Hill. If Republicans don’t eject him, they would be seen as “tolerating” someone who is credibly accused of hanging around shopping malls to prey on girls as young as 14. An expulsion fight, on the other hand, would be divisive, ugly, and potentially damaging to the GOP brand. You have to wonder: Is McConnell secretly rooting for Doug Jones to win?