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Roy Moore and the conscience of conservatives

E.J. Dionne Jr. on

Thanks to Bannon, we now know that this is no longer just a race between Moore and Democrat Doug Jones, a former U.S. attorney who, depending on the poll, is either slightly behind or slightly ahead. It is, in very large part, a decision by Republicans about who they are.

It is also an important choice for devoted Christians. Do they really want their faith defined by those who tried to justify Moore's alleged relationships with young teenagers by invoking the Holy Family and saying that Joseph was older than Mary (which, besides being absurd, is Biblically unfounded)? Or by arguing that an interest in young girls might be explained by a desire for "a large family," as a professor at Ouachita Baptist University wrote?

Do those saying such things not realize that they are helping to discredit the very tradition they claim to be defending? No atheist could inflict this much damage to the faith.

This is how haywire politics has gone in the Age of Trump.

Party loyalty can, it's true, be honorable if it is about the defense of principles, and Moore's backers say they are sticking with him to oppose abortion and multiply conservative judges.

But these rationales ring hollow given Moore's utterly unconservative claims as a judge that his theological predilections overrode the law and his lies about not profiting from his private charity, which suggest he is a charlatan exploiting the beliefs of his supporters for his own purposes.

 

Both Moore and Trump play on the feelings of marginalization experienced by many cultural conservatives. It would be salutary for such voters to declare that there are limits to how much they will allow themselves to be used by politicians whose words and deeds are so often at odds. If Moore is not the limiting case, there are no limits.

Moore's promoters, including Bannon, want to persuade Alabama Republicans that since a Jones triumph will be taken as a rebuke to Trump, they have an obligation to fall into line. But the long-term harm to the GOP from a Moore victory will be far greater than from one lost Senate seat. Bannon is right to cast the election as being about "honor and integrity." When it comes to these virtues, it is not a close call.

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E.J. Dionne's email address is ejdionne@washpost.com. Twitter: @EJDionne.

(c) 2017, Washington Post Writers Group

 

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