• Daniel Ethan Finneran

RNC Returns To Roy Mooore

December 2017

Damn the torpedoes! bellows the RNC, as it jumps back aboard the Roy Moore express. Bumbling full-steam ahead with the wind in his sails, Moore has his eye set on victory and a voyage north to D.C. The election is next week—that is, the one to choose Alabama’s next senator—and it’s hardly a time to shirk the ship. Every endorsement counts and every moment matters; the polls at long last look propitious and the tides are favorably shifting below. All the stars are aligned and the seas lap to the sound of easy victory. Onward! the campaign brays and so goes the barge.

All thanks for this renewed vim and verve is owed to none other than President Trump. On Monday, the man at the helm of the Republican party turned what had been tepid support for Moore into a full-throated endorsement. After having equivocated for weeks, refusing to explicitly support or denounce a man accused of courting teenage girls, Trump laid to rest all questions about his allegiance. It belongs, as we’ve sadly learned, to the predator Moore and the Republican party, rather than the young victims.

The present situation is lamentable, but in no way unforeseen. It was clear from the outset that Trump would handle the imbroglio tactlessly. The bombshell first exploded while he was on an official sojourn overseas. It was during his weekend visit to China when initially the news broke. When asked to do so at the time, he refrained from making a public comment, and owing to poor cell phone reception, his Twitter feed fell silent. Even as the press pool traveling aboard Air Force One poured over him for a soundbite, Trump hadn’t a thing to say.

It wasn’t until he arrived back at the Capitol that he finally decided to weigh in. At that point, four days had come and gone since the allegations first hit the airwaves. Granted, four days isn’t too long a time, but in the torrent that is this news-cycle, it may as well have been a decade. Most congressmen and women by that point had made up their minds about Moore. The majority opinion was that he was toast. But others were still holding out hope. A few on the fringes were suspending their verdicts, waiting in vain to see if the allegations would prove untrue.

President Trump counted himself a member in the second of those groups. Early on, it looked as if he would try toeing the line by keeping quiet and waiting to render a decision. The fact that he stayed silent for so long led pundits to think he’d been all the while devising a plan—one that might call for some new Republican candidate to run in Moore’s place. This was the most optimistic, and frankly, quixotic reading into the inner-workings of Trump’s mind.

Alas, all hope failed the moment the president opened his lips. The fanciful scenario of him publicly denouncing Moore, fell in a heap to the wayside. In giving his first public comment on the issue, it was clear that Trump was determined to defend Moore. Recognizing it as unwise to throw his support behind Moore full-stop, Trump instead flirted with supporting the sexual deviant. To defend the indefensible, Trump said that Moore “totally denies” the allegations and that “he (Roy Moore) says it didn’t happen”. If unconvinced, Trump clarified that Moore’s is a “total denial”—not a partial one, mind you—and that “forty years is a long time” for an allegation to have been closeted and now suddenly broached.

Journalists dubbed this Trump’s “all-but” endorsement of Roy Moore; he gave it in essence, if not in word. Still though, the opportunity existed for Trump to turn on Moore. And if that was unpalatable, he could’ve just rallied the party against Doug Jones—Moore’s Democratic opponent—instead of advocating for Moore. Again, this wouldn’t appease many people, as it would read out like just another “all-but” situation, but at least he could defend himself by saying that he wasn’t openly endorsing a credibly-alleged child molester.

That all matters little now, for Trump chose a different route. On Monday, he had this to say: “Democrats refusal to give even one vote for massive tax cuts is why we need Republican Roy Moore to win in Alabama”. The collective sigh ensued, but it was a sigh there had been ample time to rehearse. For those who were surprised, this brief analysis might help.

In some ways—ignoble though they are—Trump sees in himself aspects of Roy Moore. Both are fistic, forever counter-punching when they feel attacked. Both are anti-establishment mavericks scornful of the pack and status quo. And above all, both are sexual deviants, with fetishes they’ve been forced to reckon with in the past year (Trump is said to have found himself oddly comfortable, perhaps too much so, in the presence of Miss Teen USA contestants). Bearing all of these unsavory similarities in mind, it becomes all the more peculiar that Trump didn’t support Roy Moore earlier on. In the Alabama primary some months ago, Trump touted Luther Strange, a McConnell man, instead of Moore, when it was the latter who more closely aligned with the president’s persona.

But now, Trump’s endorsement is clear. And while that’s encouraging for the Moore campaign, it remains without the RNC’s backing. The Republican National Committee, which is the party’s most influential fundraising machine, withdrew its support and its coinage on November 14th. It looked at the time like Moore was being marooned and left to find his way alone—a tough task when the RNC holds the map. This all changed, however, when the president planted his flag at Moore’s feet.

Like a sheep in its flock, the RNC followed its staff-wielding shepherd Trump immediately and obsequiously. Mind you, not yet a month has passed since the RNC removed its support. Now, the party is jumping back on the Moore bandwagon with an alacrity that’s laughable, especially when one compares it with the reluctance with which it jumped off. Secure in its moral poverty—or otherwise unfazed by it—the RNC has now returned to filling the coffers of the Moore campaign. This is no small thing; in supporting him financially, the party legitimizes him.

Lamentable though it may be, this is the decision of the Republican party machine. But what about the conservative cogs who oil the gears and turn its wheels? Here one looks to Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell and Senator Lindsey Graham, both prominent figures who adamantly opposed Moore staying on the ballot when the charges arose. Their response now? An insouciant shrug of the shoulders and an impuissant pass. Graham says, “we can’t stop him from being seated” (although they certainly can) and McConnell says, “we’ll let Alabama decide”.

These two aren’t alone. In fact, all the erstwhile Republican objectors, who once considered Moore’s candidacy untenable and the allegations incontrovertible, have walked their positions shamelessly back. Save for a few, the herd mentality is now stamped on the Republicans with Moore being their man. Win or lose next week, this above all else will be the party’s defining, indelible mark.

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