I am going to argue for the very unpopular, even shocking, view that, even if Roy Moore did what he is accused of doing, Alabamans are within their rights to vote for him, and they shouldn’t let Democrats and Never Trumpers shame them into not voting.
Here is one thing we know and should admit from the start: in his early thirties, Moore had a penchant for dating teenagers. Apparently, this was not an uncommon occurrence during this time. In fact, this practice has a long history and is not without some merit if one wants to raise a large family.
To have a large family, the wife must start having kids when she is young. The husband needs to be well-established and able to support the family, in which case he will typically need to marry when older. Consider Keith Burgess-Jackson’s (philosophy professor at UT Arlington) account of his own grandparents:
What’s the big deal about a 32-year-old man courting a 14-year-old girl? My maternal grandmother was 15 years old when she married and 16 years old when she conceived her first child. Her husband was 41 and 42. They had 10 children during the next 20 years. This was normal back then. I’m sure it was normal in Alabama 40 years ago as well. The age of consent in Alabama even today is 16 (with parental consent)…I’m sick to death of people imposing their own moral standards on people of the past, whether it’s Thomas Jefferson, Robert E. Lee, George Armstrong Custer, Martin Luther King Jr, or Roy Moore.
As for the Sexual Assault Allegations
What else do we know? We know that two women have accused him of having inappropriate sexual contact or coercion. The most recent allegation appears to have involved more coercion than the first. Whether it would rise to attempted rape in court no one knows, because the details are too sketchy. Forty years is a long time to remember a lot of details.
Both claims have been called into doubt. The yearbook Moore allegedly signed appears to have been doctored, and his accuser falsely claimed never to have seen Moore since even though he was the judge for her divorce. Given recently discovered court records, there is also reason to doubt Leigh Corfman’s story.
But let’s suppose the accusations are mostly true. Then from a conservative moral perspective, Moore is guilty of lying, trying to have pre-marital sexual relations with girls half his age, and pressuring them to do so without first determining that they reciprocate. There is no sugar-coating what he did. Moore was a dirt bag and is currently lying about his actions rather than confessing the truth and asking for forgiveness.
If elected, Moore would join the ranks of other undignified politicians who have been liars and fornicators. I have a 14-year-old daughter. If I caught him doing what was alleged, for starters I would kick him where it counts. Hard. That being said, I don’t think it’s wrong to vote for Moore.
Voting for a Lesser of Two Evils Doesn’t End Your Integrity
Others disagree. In a recent post at the National Review, David French appears to think it’s immoral to vote for Moore, going so far as accusing evangelicals of having a lack of faith. Although I respect French, the article offers little actual argument. Nonetheless, it has received so much attention that it deserves some commentary. Plus, it’s an exemplary for the lack of argument the #Never____ers routinely put forward.
French’s view can be summarized with the three following sentences: “No amount of concern for the future of the Church can justify supporting an evil man.” “Do you [evangelicals] really have so little trust in God that you believe it’s justifiable—no, necessary—to ally with, defend, and even embrace corrupt men if you think it will save the Church?” “There’s no defensible argument for choosing the ‘lesser of two evils’ in Alabama.”
I point out, but leave aside, the fact that French seems to take for granted that Moore is not only corrupt but evil, since we are assuming for the sake of argument that Moore did what he is alleged to have done. The question before us is whether one can still maintain faith and one’s moral integrity while voting for a lesser of two evils. The answer is, yes, in both cases.
All voting is voting for the lesser of two evils, and it’s almost never wrong to vote for the lesser of the two. There are no perfect candidates. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, sometimes bigly. Assuming Moore did what’s been alleged, let’s turn to his rival, Democratic candidate Doug Jones.
Doug Jones Is a Moral Monster Or Moral Ignoramus
Jones has gone on record that not only does he support abortion, but he supports unrestricted abortion, even opposing a ban on abortion after 20 weeks. This is morally equivalent to supporting infanticide. So either Jones knows exactly what he’s doing in supporting killing babies in utero but doesn’t care, in which case he’s a moral monster, or his moral compass is in such need of calibration that one should never trust his judgment in moral matters. Politics, of course, is inextricably bound with such matters.
In my mind, Jones’ position is so extreme that a vote for him is a vote for the greater of two evils by a wide margin. It’s hard to imagine much worse than the mass murder of innocents. That’s also not taking into consideration his many other views with which conservatives disagree.
Furthermore, there is no reason to think that Moore, as an old, married man, is still trying to have sex with teens. All the accusations target his early thirties before he was married. But Jones supports infanticide in utero today. Virtue-signaling Republicans condemning other Republicans for voting for Moore strike me as being more concerned about their own appearance than the seriousness of abortion and the mental state of someone supporting it.
Why are no Republicans or Democrats calling for Jones to step aside if not for the fact that they are really not that serious about the immorality of supporting infanticide in the womb? If Moore should step aside, so should Jones. Of course there is another alternative, one that I support: Elect Moore and support the Senate not giving him a seat. This would bring about another special election.
Never Voting for a Lesser Evil Means Never Voting
Even if the Senate didn’t expel Moore, from the conservative point of view, the main reason to vote for him over Jones is that he will favor better policies affecting millions of people. Both are terrible candidates, but we have a good idea how they will vote. Alabamans should’ve chosen Trump’s guy, Luther Strange, in the primaries. But Moore and Jones are the only two viable candidates left.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and others have raised the possibility of a write-in candidate. But none have emerged, and the establishment apparently didn’t care enough to put one forward. If you want someone to vote for policies that you think are better or best, Moore is it now; there are no other reasonable alternatives at this point.
French’s #NeverMoore and #NeverTrump stances fall prey to what philosophers call a reductio ad absurdum, an argument that reduces itself to absurdity. If one can’t vote for someone who is better (that is, less bad or less evil) or who is equally bad but has better policies, then one should opt out of politics and the voting process altogether! But since that’s not the case, the #Never_____ position fails. It’s that simple.
None of this means that one must embrace Moore, as French says, or defend pre-marital sex, or the practice of older men dating teenagers, or attempted rape, and the like. Moreover, one can condemn such actions while still voting for a candidate.
Get Real: Politics Is Never Pure
The sweeping argument against voting for Moore (or Trump) rests on the mistaken view that in voting one is expressing one’s faith or moral convictions in their totality—identifying oneself with everything about a candidate. But a vote is not an expression of agreement with everything about a candidate or a candidate’s views. In fact, the few pro-life Democrats who still exist will say the very same thing when they vote for Democrats.
I think most candidates are bad. I’m almost always voting for an arm to write a signature or push a button. Thus there’s no shame in voting for someone with whom you disagree, no matter how significant the disagreement, as long as you do so for the right reasons. Regret in having two lousy candidates to choose from is possible without having shame in picking one you think will do less harm to the nation.
Consider the similar case of Gen. George S. Patton in World War II. Patton was a known womanizer and adulterer. He was profane and foul-mouthed, often an embarrassment to his more well-behaved and refined chain of command. Thus it was no great surprise when he was temporarily relieved of command for slapping a shell-shocked soldier.
Patton was to his chain of command in many ways what Trump and Trumpians are to the establishment. But in a war—be it military or political—sometimes the profane is all you have left. So, it was again no shock when the military establishment held their collective noses and “voted” for Patton once again to lead the Third Army. In spite of his tremendous faults, he was not the enemy set on “fundamentally transforming” the freedom-loving republic of their ancestors.