In a familiar twist of fate, another fire-breathing social conservative is now facing allegations of sexual predation. This time it's Roy Moore, the Republican candidate for senator of Alabama, and this time the alleged victim was a child.
The story is absolutely nauseating. The political question, of course, is whether die-hard partisanship is going to overwhelm basic human decency. Will Alabama elect someone accused of preying on a young girl in its Dec. 12 election? We'll find out soon.
The worst episode uncovered by The Washington Post comes from a woman named Leigh Corfman. In 1979, when Moore was an early-30s assistant district attorney and Corfman was 14, she and her mother were at a child custody hearing. Moore offered to look after her while her mother went into the hearing, and he got her number. And then:
Days later, she says, he picked her up around the corner from her house in Gadsden, drove her about 30 minutes to his home in the woods, told her how pretty she was and kissed her. On a second visit, she says, he took off her shirt and pants and removed his clothes. He touched her over her bra and underpants, she says, and guided her hand to touch him over his underwear.
"I wanted it over with — I wanted out," she remembers thinking. "Please just get this over with. Whatever this is, just get it over." Corfman says she asked Moore to take her home, and he did. [Washington Post]
Three other women told the Post that Moore asked them out when they were between 16 and 18 around the same time, and two of them went on a few dates with him. Two described being approached at the local mall, where he was often seen. While disgusting, none of those are illegal in Alabama, where the age of consent is 16, but they do strengthen the credibility of Corfman's story.
Moore has denied the charges, telling the Post that "these allegations are completely false and are a desperate political attack by the National Democrat Party and The Washington Post on this campaign."
It's worth noting that Moore is an outright homophobe who was removed from a 1990s divorce case after ruling that a lesbian woman could not visit her children unsupervised because "minor children will be detrimentally affected by the present lifestyle."
Now, more cynical liberals might assume that Alabama will simply vote in whatever has the Republican label, whether it's Roy Moore or a clone of Adolf Hitler or Satan himself. And Moore certainly still has a solid chance of victory (unless perhaps he's accused of something whose statue of limitations has not yet expired).
That might not be the case, however. The former Republican governor of Alabama, Robert Bentley, recently resigned from office over a sex and corruption scandal. Former Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) lost the Louisiana gubernatorial race in 2015 in part due to revelations that he had hired prostitutes. And neither of those scandals were remotely as horrifying as this one. Republicans in Congress are scrambling to distance themselves from Moore, with most saying that if the charges are true he should quit the race.
Moreover, Moore has been ahead in the polls, but not by that much — only 6 points in the Real Clear Politics average. It's not a sure thing, but it's certainly possible for Moore to lose.
So beyond the obvious moral dimension here, this story is also a great demonstration of the value of running a candidate in each and every race across the country. You never know when some politician will have their depraved history excavated, and suddenly an extreme long shot election is within reach. Democrats trying to decide which races to contest in 2018 should take notice.
It's perhaps a telling coincidence that Doug Jones, Moore's Democratic opponent, is best known for successfully prosecuting the Klansmen who murdered four young girls in the 1963 Birmingham church bombing. If Alabamans want someone who demonstrably protects children, and not an alleged sex creep who whips people into a frenzy about identity politics, the option is open.