Some guys are indispensable. Talent is unique; and sometimes a person is simply irreplaceable. Some guys (guys) know that they’re the meal ticket, the vessel for the ambitions of a whole team of people, or a whole population, or constituency.
That’s when they’re dangerous. Like one of Jenny Holzer’s “Truisms”:
ABUSE OF POWER COMES AS NO SURPRISE
The seemingly indispensable men — Weinstein, Spacey, Halperin, Wieseltier, and now Roy Moore — leveraged their status to access women and girls as sexual playthings, or to try to get away with it. They did it, because they could.
Once we’ve hitched ourselves to a leader, he is the only one that can deliver the goods for us. That dependency invokes rationalization and willful blindness. It’s not loyalty to the person, per se; sometimes we actively detest the abuser. The worse he is, the more we are willing to view him purely instrumentally: As long as he delivers the legislation, the votes, the hits, the jobs, the money, the power … he must be humored and maintained. It’s not really about him, not mostly. It’s about us and what we get from him.
So we aim our ire towards the accuser(s) — or, if we can’t stomach that, towards blaming the messenger (the media), and our opponents: Those who would gain from our leader’s failure. In politics, the binary choice of an election can make for an orgy of pernicious rationalization. It’s a constant existential battle, and the foe must never be allowed to prevail.
I have to add Bill Clinton to the above list, as uncomfortable as that is for many of us. The accusations against him are not new, but their salience perhaps is. There’s no getting around it: Some of those accusations are credible. Maybe we enjoy the “Big Dog’s” charm and intellect; as President we certainly were reliant on him to hold back a flood of Gingrichian policy malice (with mixed results). His accusers were assisted by right wing ideological outfits, who hunted down the claims as a means to a political end. None of this means that every last part of every accusation has no truth; “bad people” sometimes have a point. Surely if such claims were made against a prominent Democrat now, they would sink his candidacy. But what if they came out in, say, September of 2020? The stakes would be higher to stand on principle, wouldn’t they?
(Sidenote: As his serially-betrayed wife, and just as a close family member, Hillary is mostly exempt from criticism for the fallout of Bill’s behavior. That’s just another way an abuser victimizes the people around him: He betrays them and then ruins their reputations, too. No: It’s on him.)
If Alabama is represented by a Democrat for the next three years, that would be an almost unprecedented shocker — bigger than Brown-defeats-Coakley. It might well affect the GOP’s ability to pass its major priorities, which are, first last and always: a.) Tax cuts for the wealthy, and b.) control of the judicial branch. Apparently ax cuts and ending abortion are worth tolerating a little pedophilia for many Alabama Republicans. Even now, after the allegations against Moore, the polls are tied. Tied: 46% prefer a civil rights hero; 46% prefer a child molester. That’s cognitive dissonance for you. But voters are pretty bloody-minded about their choices: Moore is there to do things (mean and stupid things, namely) — not just sit there and be honorable.
So does it matter when we have truly morally-damaged leadership? We surely don’t expect perfection: The examples of Presidents Obama and Carter (say) are rare. On the other hand, Trump is a vicious, raw-racist bully, and kids and adults around the country pick up that vibe. We see Alabama institutional Republicans (county chairs, state reps and so forth) explicitly excusing Moore’s molestation of a 14 year old; will people pick up on that approval? How many other illegal, predatory “Joseph-and-Mary” situations will we see as a result?
If Alabama voters elect Moore, that’s a lose-lose for everyone. We’ll get the consequences of his lawless, delusional, and brutal ideology in the Senate; and the GOP will be forever associated with a child molester. If McConnell and Ryan accommodate Moore in the slightest, we Democrats will make damn sure everyone knows it. I’m not aware of a situation where you can change Election Day because you might lose an election, but apparently Alabama Republicans may try it out of shame.
Who knows — we may see Alabama itself changing as voters engage in some self-reflection. The ideological fever that gives rise to Moore in the first place is what might permit him to remain in public life — to everyone’s detriment and embarrassment. There’s no time like the present to think: How far is too far? Have we just gone off the edge entirely? What dignity is this vote going to cost me? Maybe I haven’t been thinking about this right. Everyone’s looking at you, Alabama. You can step back from the brink.