There was absolutely no surprise that Trump bellowed loudly on the sexual impropriety of Minnesota Senator Al Franken while maintaining mute silence on the sexual degeneracy of Alabama GOP senatorial candidate Roy Moore. It was hard-nosed partisan politics with a vengeance. Moore is a reprobate and personal pariah to the GOP establishment. However, an Alabama Senate seat not filled by a GOP candidate spells potential political disaster for a GOP controlled Congress. The GOP majority Senate would have had no chance of getting at least nine different initiatives through if a Democrat held the Alabama Senate seat.
There are a handful of others that may have been on just as shaky ground. The biggest one of all was the GOP’s never-ending assault on the Affordable Care Act and its just-as-problematic tax reform plan. VP Mike Pence’s tie-breaking vote might not have been enough to ram the GOP initiatives through, and that included the confirmation of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who, if a Democratic had been in the Alabama seat, almost certainly would not have been confirmed.
The stakes in the Moore debacle are high. So high that Trump was more than willing to roll the dice with Franken despite the inevitable hard finger point at him for his own rotten and well-documented history of sexual harassment, abuse, philandering and who knows what other sexual decadency that lurks within his past. Franken, then, had to be Trump and GOP’s whipping boy to cancel out Moore. It almost worked.
It got the media and public tongues wagging. It ignited a firestorm of condemnation on Twitter demanding that Franken resign. It forced Franken to do multiple mea culpas, back an ethics probe, and virtually renounce his past almost back to the cradle. But the main thing is that it gave the GOP a wide-open path to say, “See, you beat up on the GOP for its sexual deviants, but the hands of liberal Democrats, such as Franken, on sexual misconduct are just as dirty.”
This is absurd by any standard. Just count the numbers. The crush of GOP congresspersons, state and party officials, who have been outed, resigned and are even prosecuted for every kind of sexual crime under the sun, could fill up a small telephone book. Yes, there are a lot of Democrats who are sexual miscreants, including a very well-known former president. But the Democratic Party hasn’t claimed to be the self-appointed morals police of the nation for the past few decades. It hasn’t made a political fetish out of hounding gays, transgender persons and any woman who dares contemplate an abortion into the world of outcasts. It’s called hypocrisy, with a capital “H.”
This is the biggest reason why every time a sexual scandal breaks involving a GOP political saw, it makes news. It’s the same reason why GOP officials close ranks, stay mum or, in the case of Franken, make a big deal out of him. The problem for the GOP, its hypocrisy and the huge political stakes for the Senate and the party in 2018 in the Moore flap is that Moore won’t go away.
Franken apologized, took deserved heat for his indiscretion and did not play the blame game with the accuser. Moore went in the exact opposite direction. He lashed out at any and every one of the multiple women who pretty much branded him a pedophile, pulled the old, liberal, Democratic media to discredit him ploy out of the bag, and then double downed by loudly protesting that he didn’t remember any of the misdeeds he was accused of. This by itself would not be enough to sink him. He’s refused to withdraw from the race and gotten rock-solid backing from legions of Alabama voters. This includes most notably the state GOP and the big pack of Christian evangelicals within and without Alabama. Moore is clearly their guy, and whether he’s truly a saved Christian or not, he’s a staunch conservative ― and equally important, he’s a rock-ribbed Republican. As more than one Alabama and white conservative Southerner has proudly boasted, they’d vote for the devil before a Democrat.
Moore banks on this deep-seated bigotry and bias seeing him through his ordeal. This puts the GOP in a no-win quandary. It can’t dump Moore. Despite the tough talk from GOP Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and other GOP party leaders, they probably can’t even muster enough gumption to expel him from the senate if he wins. So, the fallback tact is to go after Franken and dig hard to find other Democrats who they can lambaste for sexual hijinks.
It’s a great distraction coming from a party and especially Trump who’s turned distraction into a fine art. Yet, despite all the duck and doge misdirection, Moore is still the official GOP Senate candidate. But he’s more. He’s also the standard for GOP politics within and without the South. Trump notwithstanding, no amount of dumping on Franken can ever cancel that out.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His latest book, The Impeachment of President Trump? (Amazon Kindle) will be released in August. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.