The recent revelation that Roy Moore, constitutional scofflaw and Republican special-election candidate for Jeff Sessions’s vacated Senate seat, allegedly had improper relations with a credible witness when she was fourteen and he was thirty-two, has inspired interesting reactions among conservatives. Some of them developed excuses for Moore that ranged from the pathetically hilarious to the hilariously pathetic. Others pronounced their erstwhile candidate unfit, which got some liberals thinking, hmm, maybe they’re not all crackpots and con men.
Before we give right-wingers too much credit, let’s look at some other recent events and how these may have influenced their reaction.
You may recall that the brethren had reasonably high hopes for the elections on the first anniversary of the Trumpening, particularly in the Virginia governor’s race, where Republican Ed Gillespie ran an explicitly Trumpish (and Trump-supported) anti-immigrant, pro–Confederate statues campaign against colorless Democrat Ralph Northam.
Just before the election, the good soldiers at National Review ran several pro-Confederacy items as, I have to assume, a coordinated effort for the effigy-embracing Gillespie. Michael Brendan Dougherty claimed liberals wanted to get rid of all white-people statues, even the good ones, and then whither democracy? Ben Shapiro did the old “Did You Know Robert Byrd Was a Klansman” bit (“they labeled conservatives bigots in the 1960s, even as the Democratic party provided the base of support for segregation”). And David French paid loving tribute to his Confederate relatives and wondered why his fellow white people couldn’t see it was all about honor and heritage.
Others amplified Gillespie’s more modern-day race-baiting. “The Virginia governor’s race is the MS-13 election,” howled Conservative Review, which also warned that “Salvadorians continue to enter into the United States illegally enter into the United States in record numbers” — and they’re all in MS-13, even those guys who make you pupusas for lunch! — while “the politically correct Democrat [Northam] often responds to attacks concerning his MS-13 weakness by declaring those who raise concerns about illegal alien gangs as the real bigots.”
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When a Latino Democratic group ran an ad that explicitly tied Republicans to Charlottesville alt-rightists, rightbloggers went hog-wild. “Latino Victory’s anti-GOP election ad backfires in VA. Big time,” declared a YouTube propaganda video. “Dems Stumbling Over Race (Again),” agreed the American Conservative’s Rod Dreher. “If I were in Virginia, I’d vote for Gillespie early and often.… Mark Lilla is right: the left would rather stay pure and woke than actually win elections.”
These stories did have some impact: Mainstream media outlets that had been giving us a year of What-Do-Trump-Voters-Think, Let’s-Go-to-a-Diner-and-Ask stories fell as usual under their sway and ran headlines like “Are Democrats blowing it in Virginia?”
What they didn’t affect was the election. Not only did Northam beat Gillespie by nine points (while the Democrats may have taken control of the Virginia House of Delegates), but other election results looked like a liberal revenge fantasy: A trans woman beat an anti-trans bigot; a droopy-drawered BLM protester won a City Council seat; a victim of gun violence beat an NRA shill; a freaking Democratic Socialist defenestrated the Republican Virginia House majority whip.
The rainbow of hits kept coming, climaxing with New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose first win in 2013 drove conservatives to predict the Big Apple would immediately revert to Death Wish status, getting re-elected — even after a Manhattan terror attack! — with two-thirds of the vote.
It was so bad for the brethren that Fox News blacked out reports of the election for a while, covering breaking stories like Donna Brazile’s tell-all book instead, then playing the whole thing waaaaaaay down and eventually going with a “Dems in Disarray” shtick.
Some conservatives made debacle-ade. For example, Jon Street at RedState headlined, “Democratic Socialist Wins Virginia Delegate Seat, Highlighting Party Division.” Dems in Disarray! Since the Democratic Socialists of America winner, Lee Carter, is leftier than Hillary Clinton, “it’s more difficult for Democrats to argue that their party is uniting against President Trump,” said Street. They may be beating his ass, but only while disarrayed, so the judges can dock them on style points.
Others blamed their insufficiently right-wing fellow right-wingers. The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway seethed on Twitter: “I’m not entirely sure the rest of the GOP is going to be as pleased with NeverTrump’s sabotage of Gillespie as they might think.” Hemingway’s Federalist colleague Sean Davis co-seethed: “The only real difference in 2017 is that one faction from the tribal right decided to join the tribal left.” “Trump is the @GOP, no one wants cucks. Cucks lose,” gibbered nootropic pitchman Mike Cernovich.
When the Moore thing broke, he had supporters, including prominent ones like Iowa Republican congressman Steve King, who complained Moore had been “told to withdraw by Senators who won’t or can’t help move Trump agenda” — probably including Hemingway’s and Davis’s NeverTrump saboteurs!
Erick Erickson, who distinguished himself right after the election by referring to a transgender woman winner as a man, basically said Alabama Republicans had to back the possible pedophile because liberals have been making the godly bake cakes and arranging flowers for gay weddings, and think “people in Alabama should have to let men use the ladies’ bathroom.” Also, the nut who shot all those people at Sutherland Springs was a “militant atheist,” so he’s their fault too.
“In my view Moore is guilty as accused,” tweeted FrontPage magazine’s David Horowitz, “But 1) it happened 30 years ago, & 2) he can’t be removed from the ballot, & 3) electing a Dem strengthens a party that defends these criminals: Obama, the Clintons, Holder, Lynch, Abedin, Cheryl Mills etc. &their crimes are far far worse.”
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And there was the expected damn-liberal-media stuff from the Federalist’s Mary Katherine Ham (“If you look back to the Rolling Stone rape case to the Duke lacrosse case…”), Dinesh D’Souza (“THE LAST MINUTE FISHY FEMINIST ACCUSER TACTIC”), and other volume dealers in bullshit.
But a significant number of conservatives turned against Moore. National Review put on another full-court press, this time of anti-Moore articles: a “Roy Moore Should Drop Out” editorial; “If You Refuse to Condemn Predators because of Politics, You’re Disgusting” by house millennial Kat Timpf; and several by David French, who explained that Moore wasn’t owed “due process” because politics is not a court of law — for example, he said, “it is entirely fair for members of the public to evaluate Juanita Broaddrick’s claims against Bill Clinton without a trial.” Haw, bet National Review readers didn’t have a comeback for that one!
It may be that these writers — and others like Ross Douthat, who compared Moore to such “liberal pigs” as “the industrial-scale predator who buys indulgences from Planned Parenthood” — are genuinely horrified by Moore’s alleged conduct and don’t care if saying so costs them a safe GOP Senate seat. That would be the charitable view, and you are welcome to it.
The jaundiced view would be that recent events got the brethren more worried about their own reputations than Roy Moore’s.
The election results are one reason; it’s hard to face another potentially losing battle after a catastrophe like that. But another recent development may also have the brethren a bit gun-shy: the huge wave of celebrity sex crimes that have been revealed over the past month — starting with the Harvey Weinstein exposé (with which conservatives have sought to beat up the left) and proceeding through horror stories starring Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., and Moore.
In this environment, no one with a media job to lose is going to dismiss any complaint of celebrity sexual malfeasance out of hand. Sure, bottom-feeders like Ann Coulter and Joe Walsh may strengthen bonds with their wing-nut audiences by showing loyalty to accused Republicans, as they did when Trump’s Access Hollywood tape came out. But top-shelf conservatives like Douthat and the National Review writers can’t afford to get on the wrong side of he said–she said when even their own conservative readers might, at least in this case, be siding with she said.
So expect these guys to join the rest of the journalistic world in siding against this alleged sex criminal even if he is a Republican. And maybe even expect them to be a little less casually sexist in the future. Gone, at least for a while, will be the less-woke view of gender relations in which they previously specialized, as seen in such rightblogger classics as National Review’s “Yes, Men View Women as Sex Objects,” the Daily Caller’s “Liberals want to stop men from checking out women,” or RedState’s stories on the “Rape Accusation-Industrial Complex” — at least while the heat’s on, or until they crack under the pressure. Either way, it should be fun to watch.