Uh huh. Try polling this again in 48 hours, after Republican voters have digested Moore’s big win, a round of Trump-led back-slapping among populists, and high-fives all around in conservative media. The numbers will turn pure party-line, or nearly so.
You can’t summarize the state of the GOP better than Lindsey Graham did in this quote: “I’ll have a hard time, quite frankly, keeping somebody in the body that I think molested a child, but we’ll see what happens.” A child-molester senator? Seems iffy, but Graham will get back to you.
More than six-in-10 voters (61 percent) — including a plurality of Republicans — think the Senate should expel the embattled Moore, who has been accused of pursuing and molesting teenage girls while in his 30s. That includes 77 percent of Democrats, 59 percent of independents and 45 percent of Republicans.
There’s also a gender gap, especially among Republicans, on the issue of expulsion. Half of female Republicans think the Senate should expel Moore, but just 39 percent of Republican men agree…
Most voters also believe the Republican National Committee was wrong to reinstate its support for Moore’s campaign, which came last week, after President Donald Trump endorsed Moore, despite the scandal. A 52 percent majority says the RNC did the wrong thing in supporting Moore, while only 20 percent say it was the right thing to back Moore.
Republican voters split 45/29 in favor of expulsion, which is a genuine surprise to me. Even so, rest assured that the Senate’s not expelling him. It was absurd from the jump to think that they might given how Republicans on the Hill have cowered repeatedly before Trump and his populist fans. The only X factor in Moore’s case is that Mitch McConnell despises him and wants to make an example of him before any other dubious Bannon-backed insurgents start pulling off upsets in the primaries next year. But ultimately McConnell is at the mercy of math. He’ll need 67 votes to oust Moore, which means more than a third of the GOP caucus even if all Democrats vote for expulsion. It won’t happen, especially with Trump rolling out the red carpet for the new senator and insisting publicly that, surely, all of his accusers must be lying.
And in fairness to Moore, why should they expel him? If you start booting senators for misdeeds they committed before entering the Senate, without any hard proof of the transgression, potentially all 100 are vulnerable. You’ll hear “the people have spoken” 8,000 times tomorrow in Moore’s defense but there’s something to it. The clowns in Washington all work for us; Alabamians will have considered Moore’s job application, including the allegations about chasing (and, in one case, assaulting) young girls. They’ll have decided to assume the risk of hiring him anyway. Who is Mitch McConnell to tell them they can’t? “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard,” said H.L. Mencken, famously. If America wants a kakistocracy, they shall have it, by gum.
Besides, it’ll be fun having Moore in Washington mixing with the rest of Congress. Domestic politics in the age of Trump is mostly theater anyway. What could be more theatrical than having an Elmer Gantry type from the deep south installed in the Senate to rail about criminalizing homosexuality? Watching his Republican colleagues interact him will be fascinating too. Some, like Flake, will shun him for moral reasons; others, like Mike Lee, will *want* to shun him but be left scratching their heads as to how much they want to offend populists in their home states. (Lee endorsed Moore after the primary runoff only to rescind his endorsement following the WaPo scandal story, remember.) Others, like Ted Cruz, will make nice with him to pander to their mutual evangelical populist bases but will keep him at arm’s length so as not to have to answer for it every time Moore says something outre. The mystery is whether anyone will become a full-fledged Moore pal. Maybe only the president.
As for Democrats, they’re treating this like it’s Christmas Eve.
In lieu of an exit question, a quote for your contemplation:
If Moore goes down, Nunberg said, it may be necessary for the Bannon-backed candidates who lose primaries next year to indulge in some retribution. “Perhaps the Bannon candidates should endorse the Democrat in the race,” he said, “so Mitch McConnell can see how that works out for him.”
They’d have every right to do so. The party’s headed for a split anyway and nothing would accelerate it as much as each faction supporting the election of Democrats over the other right-wing faction’s candidate, never mind that nearly all Republican Trump-skeptics held their noses and ultimately voted for him over Clinton last November. Today’s vote is a sort of re-run of last year’s election albeit with a less objectionable Democrat as that party’s nominee. Doug Jones is awful on abortion, sure, but all Democratic pols are awful on abortion, including Clinton. What would have happened on the right last fall if the Dems had nominated someone generic, like Jones or Tim Kaine, instead of the omni-objectionable Hillary? Alabama’s an imperfect venue to run that experiment since the state leans so decidedly red but the number of crossover votes Jones gets will give us a sense of how deep the right’s schism might run now.