Two decades ago conservatives turned purple with rage over the allegations concerning President Bill Clinton, Monica Lewinsky, and other women. Many on the right deemed the president’s scandalous behavior intolerable, and insisted that personal rectitude was an absolute necessity for a political figure.
That devotion to family values has suffered considerably in the Trump era. Confronted with Donald Trump boasting on tape about sexual predation, many on the right decided that such behavior, while inappropriate, was less important than partisan politics. Winning mattered more.
A similar calculation has surfaced in the Roy Moore saga. The Republican nominee for Senate is famous — or notorious, depending on your point of view — for his insistence on displaying the Ten Commandments on public property and for vilifying those he considers sexual deviants. Moore now stands accused of child molestation. As Republican Sens. Tim Scott and Pat Toomey have both said, the accusations are more credible than Moore’s denials.
Some conservatives have denounced him or distanced themselves from him. Others, however, have turned into latter-day civil libertarians — insisting that Moore deserves to receive due process, that the allegations concern something that happened decades ago, and so on. Alabama’s state auditor even compared Moore to the biblical Joseph.
Conservatives did not offer similar defenses for Hillary Clinton’s supposed involvement in handing American uranium interests over to Russia — or Bill Clinton’s alleged behavior back in Arkansas. They made no excuses for Anthony Weiner or Bob Menendez. And it seems highly unlikely conservatives would offer similar arguments if Moore were a Democrat.
Partisan loyalty has its place, we suppose — but this emphatically is not it. Moore needs to withdraw from the race, and his Republican colleagues need to make that clear to him.