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"If these allegations are true…."
Numerous Republican Party leaders uttered those words or similar ones today in reaction to the Washington Post revelations about allegations of sexual improprieties by GOP nominee for U.S. Senate, former judge Roy Moore. To their credit, Senator John McCain most prominently and some other GOP officials called for Moore to withdraw his Senate candidacy. But they were the exceptions within their party today upon learning of the Post report.
Moore is a hero to the religious right movement in the U.S., without which the Republican Party doesn't have much of a base. Moore has long claimed a position of absolute moral standards and he became a highly controversial figure when he refused to remove a monument to the Ten Commandments outside his courtroom. To his devoted followers he is a deeply committed Christian man of un-doubtable personal morality. Many of them have responded to the Post story by attacking its veracity and Moore has uttered the Trumpian "fake news" line.
Anyone who read the Post story can only come away with one conclusion: it is a thoroughly documented, multiple-sourced expose that leaves no doubt as to the credibility of the charges. And thus, in the face of the multiple allegations including one of child sexual molestation, the weak qualifying statements of the many GOP officials today should come as a shock - except, they do not. And that is the tragedy here.
In the era of President Donald J. Trump, the standard for personal character in public life has fallen so low that we actually expect members of a political party to reflexively defend an accused fellow party candidate or to dissemble, lest they appear somehow disloyal to the party. Many expect nothing better from party officials any more. Even when the evidence is absolutely overwhelming it seems.
And thus we actually celebrate as heroic when a John McCain or other party leader utters words that should be obvious in the face of the revelations - the candidate is morally unfit to hold an office of public trust and should do the one honorable thing and step aside.
Many lost their capacity for shock when Trump carried the Electoral College after the release of the damning "Access Hollywood" tape. If the country willingly chooses to elect a person of such low character, then public office is suited to just about anyone, regardless of their personal conduct.
The country needs to demand a higher standard of conduct from those who seek an office of public trust. Here I agree with the past view of the religious right movement in the United States that moral character in public life matters. Citizens - young people especially - take their moral and ethical bearings from their surroundings. Leaders should take seriously their positions as role models, as they have an outsized influence on how others behave in their daily lives. To be clear though, the religious right movement no longer adheres to that viewpoint.
In the 1990s Bill Clinton era, religious conservatives by large margins responded in surveys that one has to be of high personal character to be qualified for public office. In 2016, only a minority of religious conservatives gave the same answer. Their moral principles had become situational: ethics and morality matter only when it suits their own political interests.
In 2016 prominent religious right leaders overlooked Donald Trump's character and supported him anyway for president. In many cases religious conservative leaders acknowledged that Trump was a flawed person, but his commitments to appointing pro-life judges to the federal courts and to pursue a religious conservative policy agenda were of greater import than one man's personal conduct. The issue of a vacancy on the Supreme Court was especially compelling to many religious conservatives.
As one put it to me - what is more important, the personal conduct of the presidential nominee or the effects of his policies on millions of people over the next four years if elected?
The calculation to support Trump, characterized by that question, removed the religious right from a position of making a claim to upholding the moral character of America to becoming no different than any other power-seeking interest group. The leap from that calculation to defending Roy Moore is not a very long one at all. That's how far the religious right and many in the GOP have fallen.
Rozell is dean of the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University in Virginia. His latest book is God at the Grassroots, 2016: The Christian Right in American Politics.
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Source : http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/light-trump-roy-moore-morality-public-life-matters-article-1.3622857