So, Democrats are seizing the moral high ground.
They’ll do so with the political corpses of Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) and Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) in tow. First, Democrats forced the “retirement” of Conyers, who had been alleged to have sexually harassed employees; Conyers, who is older than Methuselah, immediately endorsed his son to take over his feudal fiefdom. That isn’t exactly a rough consequence. Not so for Franken, who had been quietly surviving until Wednesday — the day after Republicans re-endorsed Roy Moore and began spending money on him again. Now, Franken was tossed under the bus amidst new accusations of sexual abuse.
Now, there’s no question that Democrats are dumping Conyers and Franken in order to regain the moral high ground on the #MeToo movement: they want to be able to point at Moore and President Trump and suggest that Republicans don’t have women’s backs. But that doesn’t mean that Democrats are morally wrong to dump Franken and Conyers. They’re right, even if they’re cynically motivated.
Meanwhile, Republicans are granting Democrats the political high ground on an obvious moral issue. And they’re not just granting the high ground: they’re throwing it at Democrats with both hands.
Leading the charge: Stephen K. Bannon.
Bannon is a charlatan, a con man who has ridden his way to prominence in politics by hitching his wagon to bigger stars (Sarah Palin, then Andrew Breitbart, then Donald Trump). Now, he’s attempting to carve out a space for himself as the supposed guardian of Trumpism — a philosophic movement and political attitude built around machismo and murky populism. Bannon correctly senses that many Republicans are willing to engage in binary politics — that Republicans can be convinced to support bad candidates in order to avoid worse Democrats. Furthermore, Bannon senses that many Republicans don’t want to live with the cognitive dissonance of supporting bad candidates, and are willing to latch onto the thinnest of reeds to exonerate those bad candidates of bad action. Finally, Bannon knows that many Republicans resent conservatives who aren’t willing to vote for bad men to stop Democrats, or to justify bad men in order to vote for them.
Bannon has combined all of this into a morality-free politics that guises itself in the raiment of strength and principle. All Bannon has to do is this: claim that any bad man is actually an innocent victim, and that those conservatives who refuse to buy such an argument are actually gutless wimps. Thus, last night, Bannon — a Harvard Business School grad and Goldman Sachs lawyer with royalties from Seinfeld — re-emerged from the darkness to shout about Roy Moore’s virtues (Bannon was nowhere to be found while President Trump and the RNC considered Moore’s fate). Bannon donned his homeless hunter outfit and stood on stage in Alabama ripping Mitt Romney, who had the temerity to question Moore’s fitness for office.
And Bannon didn’t just defend Moore — he suggested that Moore, a man who has been credibly accused of attempting to molest a 14-year-old girl and a 16-year-old girl when he was in his early 30s — was a man of the highest quality and character, far superior to the clean-cut Romney. Bannon stated, “By the way, Mitt, while we’re on the subject of honor and integrity, you avoided service, brother. Mitt, here’s how it is, brother. The college deferments, we can debate that — but you hid behind your religion. You went to France to be a missionary while guys were dying in rice paddies in Vietnam.” This is an odd line of attack coming from a man who boosted Donald Trump, who called avoiding sexually transmitted diseases his “personal Vietnam,” and who received five deferments from service. Bannon then attacked Romney’s family: “Judge Moore has more honor and integrity in a pinkie finger than your family has in its whole DNA.”
Well, military service is honorable. But allegedly sexually molesting young girls isn’t. And last I checked, Romney hasn’t done any of that.
But Bannon knows that he can outflank non-scuzzy Republicans by calling them cowards for not defending bad behavior. If they weren’t weak cucks, wouldn’t they side with Roy Moore?
All of which leads Republicans down the primrose path to suicide. Democrats were willing to embrace Bill Clinton’s sins when they thought it would harm them to do otherwise; Republicans are willing to embrace Moore’s sins in the same way. But Republicans were never supposed to be Democrats. And with Democrats beginning to clean house, Democrats aren’t the Democrats they used to be — at least for the moment.