In the month since the Harvey Weinstein revelations hit the press, new allegations of powerful men behaving badly have exploded. Actors Kevin Spacey, Danny Masterson and Steven Seagal. Film director/producer Brett Ratner. Comedian Louis C.K. Even beloved Star Trek actor George Takei has now been accused of sexual misconduct.
And in every case the condemnation has been swift and unequivocal, credibility instantly shattered, careers built over the course of a lifetime gone in the blink of an eye. The country is listening loud and clear to hundreds of victims who’ve finally found the courage to speak out.
And now that wildfire of sexual misconduct charges has hit politics in a big way: In the past week, five women have accused Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore of inappropriate behavior when they were teenagers. One of the women alleges Moore molested her when she was just 14 years old. The most recent accuser claims Moore sexually assaulted her in a car when she was 16.
Now, given the bipartisan and universal disgust of all the other offenders accused of serial sexual misconduct, you’d think this would be a no-brainer for Republicans: an unpalatable candidate already disliked in his party is accused of sexually assaulting teenage girls at a time when the entire country is laser-focused on this problem.
And indeed, quite a few decent and principled Republicans have asked Roy Moore to step aside so the party isn’t stuck with him like a rotting albatross around their neck, turning the reckless candidate into the new political poster child for moral degeneracy.
Yet amazingly, many Republicans don’t seem particularly fazed by these monstrous charges, and have been lining up to support Moore and offer all manner of excuses and deflections for why he should stay in the race regardless of these stomach-churning claims.
Of course, Moore himself denies the charges – because what else is he gonna do? – insisting it’s all a last minute “hit job” to sabotage his chances at being elected to the Senate.
What Moore and his supporters are blaming is some loose conspiracy theory, with a hazy cabal of villains – the Obama/Clinton Machine, the Fake News, establishment Republicans, take your pick – who’ve waited until just now to pounce, and have somehow drafted four civilian women to serve as pawns to lie and smear him.
Never mind that the Washington Post article that broke the story had over 30 different sources, involved four women who didn’t know one another, didn’t seek any publicity and had to be convinced to speak out, were willing to go on the record with their charges – oh, and the woman who claims Moore molested her when she was 14 voted for Trump, so not exactly a Democratic plant.
But the timing, the oh-so-suspicious timing of these charges, you say – there’s just something too convenient about the timing, mere weeks before the election!
Yes, you could make a compelling argument about the timing… if these charges weren’t coming in the wake of a tsunami of similar sexual assault claims all gushing into the press over the last month, as women across the country finally felt safety in numbers after decades of humiliation and mustered the courage to speak out en masse.
Given that reality, there’s nothing at all “suspicious” about the timing of the charges against Moore. In fact, the timing makes even more sense: it reassured and encouraged his accusers, who’d obviously felt too fearful to talk prior to this.
Additionally, victims go public about embarrassing claims on their own timelines, when they’re damned well good and ready, not when it’s politically convenient for their attackers. In fact, it’d be human nature to want to inflict maximum damage on the person who harmed you.
Sadly, no one is surprised that so many conservatives are standing by Roy Moore despite these charges: Republicans have a razor-thin Senate majority, and if they don’t win the Alabama seat, then it puts their agenda of passing a tax cut for their wealthy donors in serious jeopardy – and if that happens, checkbooks close for the 2018 midterms. It’s ruthless pragmatism.
Unfortunately, it also hangs a huge neon sign on Republican double standards. When Democratic congressman Anthony Weiner was accused of merely texting a 15 year old girl, Republicans immediately and passionately condemned Weiner as a creep who deserved to see his life and career obliterated.
But when Roy Moore is accused of molesting and assaulting 14 and 16 year old girls? “If the allegations are true…” “Innocent until proven guilty.” “We can’t let one allegation destroy a man’s life.” And every other equivocation in the book… including one Alabama Republican official who tried to defend Moore by comparing him to Jesus’s father, Joseph!
The bottomline is clear and devastating: the Republican Party is now stuck between backing an alleged child molester with an admitted attraction to teenage girls… or potentially crippling their Senate majority and risking their all-important donor-driven tax cut.
What’s next is anyone’s guess. But this much is certain: the G.O.P.’s hypocrisy and ethical bankruptcy has never been more nauseating.
Charlie Vignola is a former college Republican turned liberal Democrat. He lives in Fair Oaks Ranch, works in the motion picture industry and loves his wife and kids.