The Republican party is about to face the Weinstein test

Roy Moore, the Republican nominee for senate in Alabama.
Roy Moore, the Republican nominee for senate in Alabama.
Image: AP Photo/Brynn Anderson
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

The Washington Post reports that judge Roy Moore, the Republican front-runner in Alabama’s senate race, romantically pursued several teenage girls when he was an assistant district attorney, and initiated a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old. He says the stories are “very definition of fake news.”

The women who told the Post their stories are part of a growing reckoning with the sexually abusive behavior of powerful men in the United States. Last month, multiple accounts of sexual abuse by producer Harvey Weinstein cost him his job and prompted a criminal investigation. Now, women and men coming forward to describe similar abuse have been taken more seriously than before. Powerful people have begun to face consequences across the entertainment and media industries.

Will the same thing happen in national politics?

For a long time, Republicans and Democrats alike looked the other way when faced with accounts of sexual harassment by leading figures, from Ted Kennedy and Bill Clinton, to Clarence Thomas and Donald Trump—in fact, accusations of sexual abuse by 16 different women failed to dissuade Americans from voting Trump into the Oval Office. But attitudes seem to be changing; #metoo stories recently forced a high-ranking Kentucky Republican to step down, as well as Democratic campaign operative in California. More will undoubtedly follow.

Republican leaders, who desperately want to increase their margin of votes in the senate, have already swallowed plenty of troubling rhetoric from Moore because he seemed likely to win the special election on Dec. 12. Moore has proposed Muslims be banned from public office, a violation of the constitution, and has twice been tossed from his position on the Alabama bench: Once for refusing to remove a monument to the ten commandments from his courtroom, and another time for enforcing a ban on same-sex marriage after it had been declared unconstitutional.

Now, Moore will be the highest-profile politician to face accounts of sexual molestation on the campaign trail since the Weinstein revelations. Breitbart, the conservative website operated by erstwhile Trump adviser Stephen Bannon, worked with Moore’s campaign to publish a story denying the accusations and characterizing the story as a smear. On the other hand, several Republican senators, including majority leader Mitch McConnell said that if the allegations are true, Moore should end his campaign. What will they do if he does not?