Why are conservatives still supporting Roy Moore?
Roy Moore, the beleaguered U.S. Senate candidate in Alabama, has had a couple of bad weeks.
This week, Beverly Young Nelson and her lawyer Gloria Allred held a packed news conference where she accused Moore of sexual assault when she was a teenager and he was a 30-year-old prosecutor. This makes five accusers, including a woman who stated that a 32-year-old Moore initiated sexual contact with her when she was only 14.
The most recent accusation was followed up by reports that local people in his hometown were sharing memories of Moore wandering around the mall by himself, talking to and flirting with very young, typically high school-age, girls.
Not good for Moore, obviously.
Yet, there has been polling conducted since these allegations came to light, and it hardly paints a terrifying picture for Moore. In the most recent two polls, Moore is ahead by 10 points and six points in the Senate race, respectively.
Which would lead a neutral observer to ask a simple question: Why? How can a man accused of such things survive politically, and even potentially win?
I try very hard to apply a consistent set of standards when judging politicians of both parties. In situations like this, I try to ask myself how I would react if it were a Democrat being accused of the same, or if one of my daughters was on the receiving end of his behavior.
Moore has not been convicted of a crime, but a preponderance of circumstantial evidence points to Moore being, at best, a deeply troubled creep and a moral hypocrite, and at worst a criminal predator of young girls.
So, why is it that Moore even has a chance? Why hasn’t he been abandoned wholesale? How can he be leading?
The core answer boils down to how the conservative universe views the world, and why.
Let’s start with the hypocrisy involved. The entirety of the political and media universe has obsessed over Moore non-stop, 24 hours a day since this story broke. Other scandalous activities by Republicans are always treated this way.
Yet as conservative voters look around at how similar scandals have been treated among Democrats, they hear crickets. Sen. Bob Menendez is on trial for corruption right now, and there had been accusations in the past that he had paid for underage prostitutes.
Have you heard about these things? Is anyone covering it? Was there an avalanche of Democrats calling for Menendez to step down from his Senate seat based on nothing more than accusations made?
Do I even need to list the things Bill Clinton has been accused of, or has admitted doing?
Republicans are tired of being told that we need to eviscerate our own people when they behave badly, while watching the other side get a free pass. We’ve seen it too many times for it to not have fostered anger and resentment.
As if that wasn’t a strong enough reason, there is also the hatred and resentment of the political establishment. Most Republican voters feel like those in power for decades in Washington are out for themselves and have attempted to destroy anyone — particularly populist candidates — who challenge their position of power.
So whenever they see “the establishment” line up on one side of the room, particularly when they are joined by the elite media, they reflexively, without even thinking, line up on the other side.
It is instinctual. If they tell us the sky is blue, we will find a way to make ourselves see green.
Of course, the establishment politicians have been the loudest of critics of Moore, calling on him to drop out. This only, sadly, hardens our conviction to keep him around.
And then you have the involvement of contemptible people. Showboats and hacks like Allred. That she was involved in this at all is a huge red flag that made even me wonder if I should rethink my disgust of Moore.
Conservatives are tired of being treated like pariahs, and lectured to by the elite. They’re tired of people out to get them, and media lapdogs who dutifully amplify them. They’re tired of the hypocritical treatment.
So when something like this happens, it is hard to be surprised when conservatives harden into a bunker mentality and stand behind someone like Moore.
I wish it wasn’t like that, and I think Moore should drop out of the race and let a conservative run as a write-in.
But if you feel like judging Republicans who continue to support him, think about just how bad it would have to be to make us that frustrated, angry and resentful.
Matthew Gagnon of Yarmouth is the chief executive officer of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a free market policy think tank based in Portland. A Hampden native, he previously served as a senior strategist for the Republican Governors Association in Washington, D.C.