Anyone who continues to dogmatically defend Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore against credible allegations of sexual assault should consider that the choice to do so makes it much more challenging for thoughtful women to identify as Republicans or to justify being conservative.
Late last week, the Washington Post published a story containing well-substantiated claims from four women that Moore initiated romantic relationships with them while they were teenagers and he was in his 30s. One of those women alleges that Moore sexually assaulted her when she was 14 years old. In the aftermath of these allegations — and a subsequent allegation of brutal assault brought forward Monday — far too many conservatives have tripped over themselves in their haste to defend the Alabama Republican.
But passionate Republicans have immediately excused Moore, sight unseen. Some have claimed, based on nothing more than the judge’s word, that Moore never engaged in any inappropriate behavior. Still more troubling, some seemed to suggest that, even if the allegations were true, it wouldn’t be a cause for concern.
Before the Post story was even published, Breitbart’s front-page headline jumped out ahead of the news: “After Endorsing Democrat in Alabama, Bezos’s Washington Post Plans to Hit Roy Moore with Allegations of Inappropriate Relations with Teenagers; Judge Claims Smear Campaign.” Enough spin to make you dizzy.
According to Pollak, “the 16-year-old and the 18-year-old have no business in that story,” because the age of consent in Alabama is 16. Pollak insisted that those relationships, being legal, were “perfectly legitimate.” He went on to argue, “As far as we know, there’s only one relationship that’s been alleged that is problematic.”
Meanwhile, Alabama state auditor Jim Zeigler developed an even more creative (not to mention theologically erroneous) means of excusing Moore’s alleged behavior. “Take Joseph and Mary,” he told the Washington Examiner. “Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus. . . . There’s just nothing immoral or illegal here. Maybe just a little bit unusual.”
Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr., a noteworthy Evangelical leader and prominent supporter of Donald Trump, told Religion News Service that he believes Moore is innocent. “It comes down to a question who is more credible in the eyes of the voters — the candidate or the accuser,” Falwell said. “The same thing happened to President Trump a few weeks before his election last year except it was several women making allegations.”
For far too many on the right, partisan loyalty has taken the place of honesty and honor.
Falwell is right on one count: The same thing happened to President Trump. But in Trump’s case, as in Moore’s, there exists plenty of credible evidence that he has indeed committed sexual assault. In fact, the president admitted as much in his own words, made public in the infamous Access Hollywood tape.
We could’ve predicted these reactions to the allegations against Moore, because the same thing unfolded a year ago with Trump. The GOP nominee hardly lost a single high-profile endorsement, and powerful figures within the GOP rushed to defend him as completely innocent, to refuse to disavow him, and to denigrate and discredit his accusers. One might even say the GOP has been harsher in its condemnation of Moore than it was in chastising Trump.
Any defense of this kind of behavior on the part of Trump and Moore — disturbingly boorish at best and violently predatory at worst — is proof that, for far too many on the right, partisan loyalty has taken the place of honesty and honor. Perhaps most important, it puts conservative women in an untenable position. And while many of us, myself included, won’t change our political views, justifying them has become even more of an uphill battle than it previously was.
We are already subjected to an undeniable media bias. But when many in the GOP continue to defend Trump and Moore against credible accusations of assault, it gives the Left ammunition with which to double down on those attacks. What’s more, it reveals the hypocrisy of those on the right who have long criticized the Left for embracing Bill Clinton while condemning conservatives who don’t live up to their values. In defending Trump and Moore, conservatives excuse them the same way the Left excused Clinton, but unlike them, the Left never claimed to promote sexual morality.
This double standard gives feminists the chance to slander conservative women as traitorous, in pieces such as this one: “How Conservative Women Justify Betraying Their Own Gender.” (The title was altered without explanation a few days after publication.) We’re forced to answer for our fellow Republicans’ choice to tolerate or excuse inappropriate or criminal behavior toward women.
Women on the right routinely have to explain that one can be a Republican without accepting sexual assault as just “boys being boys.” We have to defend ourselves for wanting to belong to a party that contains people who preemptively disparage the stories of women whose lives appear to have been made a living nightmare by the predation of older men.
Those of us conservative women who are pro-life and pro-family face yet another obstacle: We have to explain that opposing abortion isn’t actually an assault on women’s rights. We have to find a way to make the case against abortion and in favor of marriage and family, in the face of substantial cultural opposition, even as fellow conservatives rush to embrace Trump and Moore as champions of the pro-life, pro-family cause.
Of course, part of the blame goes to disingenuous feminists and leftists who take every opportunity to discredit conservatism and its female constituents. But conservatives who attempt to defend Trump and Moore as moral and upstanding men contribute enormously to the problem.
Conservatism is defined by belief in a set of principles, not by sheer partisanship that would stoop to defending sexual abusers. Being a conservative woman has never been an act of betrayal. Don’t prove us wrong.
— Alexandra DeSanctis is a William F. Buckley Fellow in Political Journalism with the National Review Institute.