The Moratorium On Morals
Sordid tales of prominent men and their sexual improprieties continued to dominate the news cycle this week. The sluice has been opened, and through it, a steady stream of allegations showers the nation’s conversation and its conscience. It’s become a watermill of sorts, with each new allegation—whether days or decades old—giving further spin to the wheel’s momentum. Each tale, and the brave woman behind its telling, represents another revealing drop in a bucket bound to burst.
What I didn’t expect to break so easily, however, was America’s morality. We’ve witnessed this on both sides of the political divide. And while it’s striking, this fracture isn’t new. It’s been going on for months, and more probably, for years, but the past two weeks have made it a sad, permeating truth and each day makes it more acutely clear.
It began with Roy Moore, the once auspicious Alabama senate candidate, whose predatory past has come back to haunt him and the GOP. The lurid details of Moore’s lechery have been slowly trickling out since early last week. The Washington Post first caught whispers of them when covering Moore’s campaign against Luther Strange in the late summer months. Strange was and remains until December 12th the state’s interim incumbent senator. He’s the Republican who replaced Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and from now until his unseating in December, he awaits Alabama’s decision for succession.
The nomination of Moore over Strange is a fait accompli. It’s a decision that can’t be undone, even in the midst of so many damning allegations levied against the former judge. The accusations were raised too close in time to the general election in December. For this reason, Republicans in Alabama are now unable to replace Moore with someone more palatable and less perverted on the ballot. Knowing that his party’s hands are tied and believing that his own are clean, Moore has hunkered down and intends to see the vote to its end.
By doing so, he’s put the Republican Party in a sticky situation. At this ever-important juncture, the GOP can ill-afford to lose a senatorial seat. As it stands, they hold only a meager majority, and time has proven just how little this actually means. Many recent party-line votes, particularly those in regard to healthcare reform, have failed on the senate floor. These failures have been the result of Republicans defecting from their ostensible side. The names are familiar—McCain, Murkowski, and Collins—but these three and their crippling votes of no confidence will matter less if a Democrat usurps a seat. In that scenario, should it take place, the Republican majority would shift from 52-48 to 51-49, and so too would all chances of tax, healthcare, and spending reform.
This is the quagmire within which Republicans are caught. If Moore wins, and it’s still quite possible he may, the party wound strengthen its position but risk its reputation. The damage from welcoming Moore into their chamber would be irreparable. The scar simply wouldn’t heal. Understanding this full well, many prominent Republicans have come out openly to oppose Roy Moore. From McConnell to Ryan and Toomey to Cruz, Moore has been essentially marooned by these establishment members. They’ve shown much-needed backbone and the RNC has followed suit. As of a few days ago, the Republican National Committee has withdrawn all funding for Moore’s campaign.
The same can’t be said for some of Alabama’s local Republicans, who remain as bullish as ever for their man. Their rationales—if you’d be so generous as to call them that—for continuing to support Moore are as repugnant as they are disheartening. Their explanations for choosing Moore over the Democratic challenger, Doug Jones seem to be a continuation of the “lesser evil” dichotomy, in which one is chosen over the worse. But never will this lead to something or someone good. And it’s these Moore supporters, besotted with their provincial pride, who could choose the worst of all and send him uncontested to Capitol Hill. Of course, there are options beside voting for the Democrat Jones, namely a well-orchestrated write-in campaign, but that third way is better left for another post.
It’s within this split—between Washington’s Republicans and those in Alabama—where the moratorium on morals first takes form. But it’s a bridgeable gap, and one that could be closed if a certain Commander-in-Chief were to speak. This is a situation that President Trump could influence in a significant way. Trump is the beloved, misbegotten son of Manhattan, who thinks himself closer in kin to Alabama than any other state—not excluding his own in New York. This much he’s said—many times during rallies in the state—where his popularity soared during the campaigns and has been maintained ever since. But on this particular point, Trump has been atypically tight-lipped. He hasn’t tweeted his thoughts on the ordeal, which has been headline news for weeks. And for a man to whom no topic is too trivial for a response, his silence is telling. President Trump, with the stroke of a single tweet, could bury Moore and give birth to the write-in campaign. So far, he has not, and few think he will.
But while things look bad for the GOP, they look no better in the Democratic Party. The latter finds itself, thanks to Senator Al Franken, in a similarly contemptible conundrum. It’s been asserted that Franken, the Minnesotan turned comedian turned politician, is similarly guilty of sexual misconduct. The allegation against him comes from Leeann Tweeden, an eyesome Los Angeles radio personality and former fitness model.
Tweeden described in disgusting detail the encounter she had with Franken in 2006. At that time, which was two years before Franken’s controversial senate victory in 2008, she and he were together providing entertainment to America’s servicemen and women stationed abroad. In preparing for a skit that featured the two, Franken proposed they practice the kiss—that climactic scene embedded in every Shakespearean and make-shift stage.
As Tweeden remembers it, which she seems to do so vividly, Franken took the opportunity to “mash” his face upon hers and forcibly intrude his tongue along hers. Tweeden, feeling herself fully violated, repulsed and reprimanded him on the spot. This might’ve been the end of it, without the public ever learning about this eleven years later, but Franken wasn’t done. En route home, aboard a United Service Organization plane, he thought it funny to take a ribald photo of him fondling her breasts. What’s worse, he did so while she slept. His uncouth caress was then captured on film, and Tweeden has since released it to support her claim.
The photo quieted even the most incredulous Democrats, who stubbornly held onto the hope that Tweeden’s claim was untrue. But the image is incontrovertible and telling, and no amount of spin can change its optics. The presumption of guilt is now Franken’s to bear, and other women are likely to step forth with similar accusations. All hopes of a future forged by Franken, a vision the Left was becoming smitten with, should by now be gone by the wayside.
But they remain, and so too does Franken. The now disgraced senator released a lengthy statement of apology (which, in turn, Tweeden publicly accepted). It read as being genuine and heartfelt, and was actually rather refreshing in light of Roy Moore’s unwillingness to take seriously his accusers. While that’s all well and good, and I’m happy to know the hatchet between them is buried, it seems as though Franken will escape this mess unscathed. Pundits have appeared reluctant to call for his ouster. Those on the Hill are hesitant to see him to the door. Hypocrites the lot of them, they think Franken the asset trumps Franken the harasser.
Not unlike Moore, Franken isn’t giving the impression of a defeated man planning to step down. He’s made his public appearances sparse as of late—perhaps waiting for the tide to roll over, but he’ll soon resurface. And it’s very likely that when he does, he’ll be met with quiet applause from the Left. My humble opinion, however, is that the party would be better off without him. Let him be swept to sea, I say, where he can join in an ocean of ignominy all of those perverse politicians that came before him.
Both sides want it both ways. They want simultaneously to asperse their adversary and espouse their own. If it hasn’t already become clear, this approach simply isn’t sustainable. We can’t continue to conduct ourselves with such subjective standards. We can’t hope for success when the definition of decency remains so ductile and malleable in order to fit the expediencies of the day. This moratorium on morals simply can’t persist. The question boils down to this: do you overlook a person’s sins if he plays for your side, or do you submit to a higher moral imperative that ultimately and always rules the day? It seems that for most Republicans and Democrats, their decisions have been made.