In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell – running out of viable options in his fight to keep Roy Moore out of his prestigious national party – said that even if Moore were to be elected, that wasn’t necessarily the end of the ballgame.
“The Supreme Court, in a case in 1969, said the act of seating someone – swearing them in – is limited to constitutional qualifications,” McConnell said.
We’re not going to pretend that Roy Moore’s campaign to take Alabama’s seat in the Senate is going as well as it might have, nor are we going to dismiss out of hand the disturbing accusations leveled against him by several women. But we will say that, no matter how this race turns out, the wishes of the voters of Alabama should be respected. If they choose to overlook the allegations against Moore – or to disbelieve them entirely – then that is their right. It is not up to Senate Republicans to declare their little Washington club off-limits to people with whom they don’t want to be associated with, and it is certainly not up to them to dream up some scheme through which they can deny Moore his rightfully won seat in the Senate.
McConnell is right that a senator, elected or not, must live up to constitutional qualifications. You can’t elect a popular dog to the Senate, for instance. You can’t elect a teenager. But we fail to see how Moore would be kept out of Congress’s upper chamber based on that Supreme Court ruling. There is not, as far as we can tell, anything in the Constitution that says – as Lindsay Graham has joked a couple of times – that if you’re banned from a mall, you’re also banned from the Senate.
And, of course, there is a dispute as to whether or not Moore ever was banned from that mall to begin with. Just as there is a dispute as to whether or not he ever signed that infamous yearbook. There’s a lot to this story that doesn’t quite add up, and it feels extremely wrong for Republicans to simply take every one of Moore’s accusers at their word. Not to engage in victim blaming, but some of these women…well, let’s just say that we wouldn’t trust them to hold our mail while we went on vacation.
McConnell is not the only Republican talking about taking extreme measures to keep Moore out of the Senate. Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, Jeff Young of Indiana, and good ol’ Jeff Flake of Arizona have all supported the idea of expelling Moore on moral and ethical grounds.
These Republicans may or may not be right about Moore’s moral character. But let’s suppose they are right. Let’s suppose that Moore is every bit the predatory sleazebag that these accusations make him out to be. Absent a criminal conviction – or an admission of guilt – we are left with only words. Let the people of Alabama be the final judges and juries on this matter. They have the facts in front of them, and they are more than capable of deciding what’s best for their state. If they choose to elect Moore, so be it. If they choose not to, so be it. Let them decide.
To do otherwise is to take a dangerous hammer to democracy. No matter what Moore’s ethical and moral sins – no matter how much Mitch McConnell may wish he were not the candidate – keeping him out of that Senate seat is not worth throwing away the fundamental trust of the American voter.