The GOP's other escape hatch on Roy Moore

Earlier today I was reading Allahpundit’s article regarding Roy Moore’s inevitable resurgence in the polls, now boasting a 5 point lead in at least one survey. As we all know by now, there are some caveats attached to that which should go without saying. One poll can be an outlier or another witness comes forward… anything can change pretty much up to the final 24 hours. But just for the moment, let’s say that Moore’s lead is solid and he’s on his way to victory. Let’s game it out from there. What happens after the election dust settles?

What you’d like to see next largely depends on where you fall on the spectrum of Roy Moore support or disapproval. This really only counts for voters in Alabama at the moment, but a shift in control of that seat holds national implications so everyone can play this game. If you support Moore now and believe his denial of all charges, and if you supported him through his various court adventures, there’s no question. You’ll want him to win and stand firm, serving out his term in the Senate. If you have nothing in your heart but a desire for Moore to be gone, control of the Senate be damned, the path is equally clear. You would have rather seen him lose the election, either because Doug Jones outplayed him or the new write-in candidate siphoned off enough votes to make the difference. But we’re assuming he’s going to win here, so you can simply hope he will be ejected from the Senate by his new colleagues after an Ethics Committee investigation.

Handing that seat to the Democrats is categorically A Bad Thing in terms of the long game. But what’s better going forward next year… keeping him in the Senate or booting him? Regardless of their own numerous problems of the same sort with Franken, Conyers and God only knows who else by then, Democrats will still declare Moore’s presence in the upper chamber as proof of the GOP War on Women. Will Senate Republicans be satisfied with an answer consisting of shrugging their shoulders and saying the people have spoken so you can’t blame us?

Don’t laugh. It might work. Keep in mind that the Democrats’ colleagues over in the House had a member in 2010 who they had to drag into the well and censure for his numerous list of sins. And he not only got to keep his job, but stayed there until he retired of his own free will this January. (See: Rangle, Charlie.) Did he really have any overshadowing effect on subsequent elections? It doesn’t seem so, and I doubt Roy Moore will be a burning election issue for anyone else.

Alternatively, the GOP could play it safe and let the Senate Ethics Committee do their work, letting them know that they would support a move toward expulsion. In that case the Governor of Alabama could appoint someone else and the problem goes away until the next special election. (Unless Moore runs again, of course.)

But then both parties (and everyone else in the country, really) have an uncomfortable question to answer. Yes, the bar is a bit lower for both elections and Ethics Committee investigations than what’s required in a criminal trial, but is a set of accusations which are firmly and repeatedly denied by the accused and supported by no evidence stronger than whether or not you believe the accusers sufficient cause for removal? Even if we pretend that the statute of limitations didn’t exist, if you took the Roy Moore case to court with what we have right now I’d give you less than a 1% chance of bringing back a conviction. We’re starting down a fairly dark path at that point because what works once will be seen as justification for making it work again later. And again.

Either way, I’ll close by getting back to the big game picture. Roy Moore losing the election may taste like justice for some of you, but it’s something of a disaster for at least the next fourteen months in terms of the congressional wars to come. A Moore victory still leaves you with options after he’s sworn in, no matter which side you come down on. Call that a deal with the devil if you like, but none of these scenarios seem as bad as Doug Jones winning in my mind. At least not in the long run.