The Republican nominee in the special election to take the place of Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions, former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, should have had a cakewalk into office, except for two things. First, Moore has a checkered populist history that twice got him tossed for defying national judicial orders he saw, with some justification, as poor jurisprudential decisions. Perhaps no politician, not even Republican Pres. Donald Trump who backed another GOP candidate in the primary, can claim the mantle as insurgent more honestly than Moore, making him a target to the more accommodationist establishment branch of the party.
Yet their unhappiness could not have derailed his election against the solidly but unspectacularly liberal Democrat nominee, former prosecutor Doug Jones who runs the same playbook as Louisiana’s Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards – accentuate the relatively few socially conservative views he alleges to have and downplay the rest except when in front of leftist audiences. Only something salacious and shocking had a chance of stopping Moore’s triumph.
That came when, suddenly coming out of the woodwork after the primary election and including a known Democrat activist, several women alleged that Moore had “inappropriately” expressed sexual interest in them. Given his decades in elected office one wonders why only now, in a fashion seemingly highly coordinated, these self-reporting accusers en masse decided to come forward.
Besides the appearance of being stage managed, they also bring pretty thin cases with next-to-no corroboration or evidence attached. As far as verifiable information goes, about the worst thing Moore did was date women in their late teens about a dozen years younger than he (at least one apparently let on she was older than she was). If using this information as a test for office based on character, that doesn’t mean the more exploitative allegations aren’t true, it’s just that there’s no independent proof these happened and Moore’s subsequent personal behavior over the past four decades shows nothing like it – unlike creeps like Democrat Sen. Al Franken, who admits he engaged in over a long period sexual harassment during his entertainment career and after his election, although he argues he didn’t mean it or see it that way.
Far more persuasive and pervasive evidence backs such claims made against Franken, whom most of the political left continues to defend, just as Democrat politicians and their liberal media allies over a quarter-century kept denying any culpability by former Pres. Bill Clinton against claims of harassment and assault thoroughly documented and now in part admitted by him, which has led some to recant in light of charges against Franken, longtime Democrat Rep. John Conyers, and others from the Hollywood left. Yet, despite much more suspect and flimsy evidence, many on both the left and right have called on the Alabama electorate not to vote for Moore.
That includes Cassidy, who revoked an endorsement of Moore not long after the stories were made public. He joined several other GOP senators in doing so. However, Kennedy has not issued any statements supporting or opposing Moore since the outbreak.
This reflects a fault line running through the party that divides whether elected Republicans feel like they need to express some exculpation about their ideology. More specifically, some Republicans act defensively about their conservatism, as if they cannot philosophically answer as to why conservative policies produce best outcomes for society and why its principles most validly understand the human condition.
Cassidy falls into this school, as evidenced by his rhetoric on topics like health care and tax cuts. For example, his recent health care reform bill tried to swat away charges that it would cut care deeply by its keeping of big government financing mechanisms, and on tax code changes he has worked to get to the Senate floor that would allow for larger government than the House version.
In other words, Cassidy feels as if some harshness comes with conservatism that requires government to blunt it, akin to the belief associated with the redundant phrase “compassionate conservatism” in vogue a decade ago – duplicative because by its very nature conservatism creates a just distribution of resources in society by rewarding these in proportion to the contribution one makes, with a safety net for those without the inherent abilities to contribute much. This belief in a fundamental shortcoming of conservatism that needs correction parallels the idea that conservatism needs some kind of apology to accompany its implementation.
It’s easy to see how this can extend to Moore’s situation, automatically assuming the worst about him despite scant evidence, and stands in contrast to Kennedy’s views, as signaled by his pronouncements over the past decade exhorting smaller government and assigning more oversight of individuals and asks greater responsibility of recipients of government benefits. He (at present) exhibits greater faith in conservatism and aligns more closely with Moore’s worldview that demands more individual responsibility and agency.
In short, Cassidy’s orientation would lead him to have greater doubts about Moore, from a belief conservatism has a built-in flaw that needs correction when translating it into policy. It becomes easier to believe that a very principled conservative like Moore, willing to tolerate that assumed shortcoming of insufficient compassion in beliefs, accordingly in his personal life may engage in flawed behavior.
Therefore, Cassidy becomes quicker to judge negatively events like unsubstantiated accusations against a solid conservative, because it recognizes acting more “compassionately” by doing so. Kennedy apparently does not feel the same pressure. How the two respond to future political controversies where the same dynamic reappears bears watching.