Analysis: Roy Moore, Nancy Pelosi and the Legacy of 'Ends-Justify-the-Means' Tribalism

Posted: Nov 27, 2017 2:30 PM

In my post this morning, I took apart Nancy Pelosi's disastrous performance on Meet the Press -- during which she stood by her dogged defenses of credibly-accused rapist Bill Clinton, praised alleged sexual harasser John Conyers as an "icon," and declined to say if he should resign, or whether she believes the three women alleging misconduct.  At the conclusion of the piece, I wrote: "For journalists who cannot fathom why many conservatives would stand by a reckless sleaze like Roy Moore, look no further than this Nancy Pelosi interview.  Democrats -- openly, nakedly -- want one set of rules for themselves, and another for Republicans.  And they expect everybody else to play along.  Many people have seen enough, and are refusing to do so -- even if it means that both sides are now irreparably morally compromised." This line echoed something I tweeted yesterday, which went somewhat 'viral' Sunday into Monday:

This elicited a torrent of comments from liberals screaming at me for "defending a pedophile," as well as Moore supporters complaining that I've joined an anti-Moore pile-on because I'm a pawn of "the establishment," or whatever.  No, I'm piling on Moore because he deserves it.  As for the former group, it's absurd in the extreme to accuse me of apologizing for Roy Moore.  I wrote a piece explaining why I couldn't vote for him before the sexual allegations arose, then proceeded to describe why I find his accusers credible, while knocking down a number of bad and inaccurate defenses offered by his backers.  The above tweet was an analysis of why many conservatives are willing to tie themselves into knots to defend someone who doesn't merit defending.  Alas, it's proven rather challenging for some of the shrillest members of the left-wing outrage brigade to understand that diagnosing and explaining a mentality is not the same thing as endorsing it.  

I totally stand by the tweet because I think it's accurate.  Pelosi's interview with Chuck Todd was a clinic in partisan double standards, right down to her demand that everybody "move forward" when she was challenged on her party's precedent of protecting Bill Clinton at all costs, while laying the backlash against sexual misconduct at the feet of Donald Trump.  For years, many Republican voters looked on in disgust as Pelosi and friends exalted powerful figures like Clinton and Ted Kennedy as great champions of women, airbrushing grievous sins and demeaning accusers.  Legions of those voters have since decided to quit participating in what they see as an unfair game, wherein the 'rules' are stacked against one side.  In light of that larger phenomenon, this critique of my analysis is off the mark:

Conservatives didn't need to "predict" Pelosi's song and dance about Conyers. Her performance was right in line with the Democratic modus operandi for decades, including refusing to render judgments about repeat gropers.  My tweet did not refer to the various fig leaves and excuses being offered up by the relative handful of GOP officials who've stuck with Moore.  Those are merely narrow symptoms of a larger shift among many conservatives who've decided to embrace what they perceive (fairly or unfairly) as a cold-blooded Democratic ethos of prizing power over character.  If their cretins are shielded by their tribe, let's do the same with ours.  To be clear: Even though I'm able to identify and understand this view, I don't agree with it.  I don't think it's healthy for our republic if our ideological tribes are committed to an amoral, ends-justify-the-means approach to politics.  If winning is everything, virtually anything can be rationalized or justified.  

That's how political parties come to elect, defend, and even celebrate men like an accused serial predator, a candidate caught on tape bragging about how fame entitles him to grab women's genitals (with multiple women affirming that he did exactly that), a scion of privilege whose lethal and egregious conduct was conveniently whitewashed, an a twice-removed ex-judge who chased high school skirt as a thirty-something (and is accused of worse).  It all has the feel of a grimy race to the bottom, with each moral compromise being written off as a necessary evil to stop the other side from ruining the country.  They're terrible, so we must be as terrible as they are, because failing to do so is unilateral disarmament.  This is nihilism, and the destruction compounds itself with each downward twist.

Perhaps Democrats will sever ties with Bill Clinton and stop using him as a fundraising cash cow and an effective campaign surrogate.  Perhaps they'll deliver a blow far more serious than a committee-related wrist-slap to John Conyers.  Perhaps Republican voters in Alabama will determine that Roy Moore is a bridge too far, or GOP members will follow through on their threats to expel him from the Senate if he wins.  Reversing the 'character doesn't count' trend will take bipartisan commitment, with each party risking relinquishing power at inopportune moments.  Perhaps we've genuinely reached a cultural watershed, but I'm not holding my breath.  I'll leave you with Moore's latest ad:

Politically, it makes all the sense in the world to tie Doug Jones to Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, and to highlight the very different voting priorities that each candidate would bring to the office.  Independent of Moore's fundamental flaws, Jones is a radical abortion supporter and wildly out of step with Alabama values.  But dismissing the contemporaneously-corroborated allegations of nine women as "fake news" cooked up by the GOP establishment (wouldn't they have deployed this "scheme" before he won the primary?) just doesn't pass the smell test.  Asking the "why now?" question is reasonable (several women have answered it pretty convincingly, in my view), but the notion that serious dirt would inevitably have arisen earlier in his career simply isn't as dispositive as Moore's supporters might hope.  Repeat child rapist Dennis Hastert got re-elected every other year, cycle after cycle, en route to rising to Speaker of the House.