We’ve become used to some members of the Republican party disagreeing with Donald Trump over a few of the issues he holds forth on. Witness John McCain, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins diverging from the President on healthcare, most of the grandees on the appropriate way to touch a woman — or at least, to talk about touching women — and Jeff Flake on almost everything. But if there was one thing we could have expected the entire party to unite behind, it would have been a unifying view on accusations of serial sexual abuse of minors.
But then, Donald Trump is no ordinary president, no ordinary Republican. With a special election taking place in Alabama a little over two weeks from now, almost the entire Republican establishment has spoken out in condemnation of the party’s candidate for that election, Judge Roy Moore. Almost.
Trump’s activities on Twitter over the last week have focused on the usual targets — CNN, people of color who have criticized the President, and on one occasion, a slavish Trump follower whose Tweet the commander-in-chief had failed to accurately read. This morning, he changed it up a little with an attack on a candidate in the Alabama special election. But not Roy Moore, whose alleged activities have been condemned by Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Mike Pence and Ivanka Trump. The President instead turned his ire on Moore’s opponent, Doug Jones.
While Moore is accused of inappropriate relations with a number of adolescent girls while in his thirties — and his own denial of the accusations, per Vox, is spectacularly equivocal, considering their seriousness — Jones’ track record sounds a whole lot better than his opponent’s. It includes the successful prosecution of two men for the Ku Klux Klan’s 1963 bombing of a Birmingham church, which killed four young black girls. Moore, meanwhile, developed a reputation while on the Alabama Supreme Court for often being the only judge on the panel to side with the accused in cases of sexual crime.
In Trump’s mind this translates to Doug Jones being “soft on crime.” In the two-tweet rant sent this morning, Trump added that Jones was also weak on the border, bad for the military “AND WANTS TO RAISE TAXES TO THE SKY” (capitals are President’s own).
Are any of these accusations accurate? Well, Jones has stated his opposition to Trump’s pet project of a border wall, which does not automatically translate to being soft on the border, so much as being unconvinced that a wall of unspecified height will be the fix-all solution Trump believes. Jones is against the President’s proposed ban on transgender soldiers in the military, which means he doesn’t want to pull out existing, deployed servicemen and women. Moore’s wife, Kayla, has seized on these — essentially middle-of-the-road — positions to assert that the Democratic candidate is dangerously leftist.
A major plank of Jones’ opposition to the wall, incidentally, was the option to save the money that would be spent on any wall and allow a middle-class tax cut. Which doesn’t sound like raising taxes to the sky. Indeed, per Fox News, which in Sean Hannity carries just about the only mainstream media figure still supporting Moore, Jones recently audibly laughed at Kayla Moore’s accusation that he was “ultra-liberal”.
In coming out swinging at Jones, Trump is de facto lifting up Roy Moore as the only choice for the special election. With two weeks to go until the election, there is no chance of another candidate being placed on the ballot. Time is incredibly short to find a write-in candidate for whom to campaign, and we are in the very unlikely scenario where a Democrat is leading in the polls for a state that is habitually redder than the ketchup with which POTUS likes to douse his well-done steaks.
It’s become increasingly clear that Moore will not pull his name from the ballot, so any conservative who may put themselves forward as a potential write-in will face a split Republican vote. Perhaps the only thing that could prevent an unlikely upset in this race would be the thumbs-down from Trump himself, followed by Moore’s departure from the race. While Trump continues to pile in on Doug Moore while ignoring the Judge’s alleged misdeeds, the president could be digging himself into an ever-deeper legislative hole.