I’m fortunate to have a few Constitutional gurus in my life. Some are people I know personally, others publish content online.
KrisAnne Hall is a lawyer who travels across America to teach and promote the United States Constitution. I am a firm believer in her general interpretation of the Supreme Law of the Land, and I support her efforts mightily.
One of Hall’s mottos is “Liberty over security, principle over party, and truth over personality.” I concur on all three accounts.
But what about policy vs. person? When choosing the legislature for your country, are personal character flaws that seem to have no bearing on the way an individual will govern important to take into consideration? Or should voting records and political philosophy be all that matters?
The Washington Post recently reported that about 40 years ago, Alabama Senate candidate Judge Roy Moore had sexual or nearly sexual encounters with several teenagers while he was in his early 30s. The worst of the allegations are that Moore temporarily dated a 14 year old girl, and that they kissed and touched over their underwear. The other accusers who have come forward were above 16, the legal age of consent in Alabama. There are no accounts of forcible rape (unless you automatically count statutory rape as forcible rape), full on intercourse, or anything more severe than touching the surface of the body. Moore has vehemently denied any illegal activity.
There is much to discuss here. First off, when two people tell contradicting stories, at least one person must be saying something untrue. Secondly, as the United States Constitution guarantees the right to presumption of innocence until guilt is proven, anything short of a conviction in a court of law leaves Moore a law-abiding citizen. The court of public opinion, however, is unburdened by these restraints. Third, at this point in the Alabama special election, it would take an incredible effort for Moore to step aside, for the GOP to nominate a new senate candidate, and for that candidate to campaign sufficiently enough to compete with the Democrat challengers. Considering the inconvenient political timing, is it fair to ask whether alleging an otherwise unknown, decades-old transgression by a lifelong public servant and public figure is politically motivated? Lastly, is it fair for the United States populace to judge 1970s Alabaman behavior by 2017 standards? Or is it possible that this was another time and another place, and applying today’s ethics to yesteryears’ is unfair?
Let’s assume the worst. Let’s say that Judge Roy Moore is lying about his personal life and subsequently calling his truth-telling accuser liar. Let’s say that allegations of misconduct ought to be believed. Let’s say that the victim has wanted to speak up about these instances for years, but has only now been able to muster up the courage. And let’s say that regardless of laws, locations, time periods, or anything other factors, what Roy Moore did was morally reprehensible and inexcusable.
What should the Alabama electorate do?
Alabama is as red as any state and has not had a Democrat serve as senator in 20 years. President Trump won over 62% of the vote there in the 2016 election. It seems safe to assume that Alabama favors the Republican agenda as the best means to promote their safety and prosperity.
If Alabama wants to be represented by a Republican, and if the only way to make sure that happens until the next senatorial election is to vote for an individual who has done something despicable and lied about it, would individual Alabamans be justified in casting their ballots for Roy Moore?
Analogies are often stupid. Here’s a very stupid one that illustrates what I’m alluding to:
You’re a member of a tribe of elves.
A tribe of dwarves is poised to topple your kingdom and enslave you and the other elves.
The only one who can stop the dwarves and save your tribe is a wizard name Roimore.
Roimore the wizard murdered your parents when you were a child and has been tormenting you about it ever since.
Do you accept Roimore’s help? Or do you succumb to the dwarves?
I told you it was stupid.
Electing a Democrat to the senate will not result in the enslavement of Alabama. Roy Moore is far from certain to affect US politics in a positive way for Alabama voters. And kissing a 14-year old girl is not as bad as mass murder.
Here’s a better analogy. Comedian Louis C.K. has been accused of sexual misconduct by several female comedians. Louis has admitted the stories are true and apologized. As a result, HBO and several other companies have parted ways with him and cancelled the releases of some of his upcoming projects.
As a fan of comedy and entertainment, this punishment seems counterproductive. Who deserves to be punished for Louis’s actions? Him or his fans? Does Louis’s behavior make his work less funny or enjoyable? It seems unfair that I lose the opportunity to enjoy Louis’s work because he did something wrong.
In Alabama, voters might be punishing themselves as much as if not more than Roy Moore if they decide not to vote for him. They would be choosing to be represented by someone who opposes their political agenda.
Part of what made me a Libertarian was losing faith in politicians, namely Barack Obama, whom I voted for twice. I learned that government is essentially a monopoly on force, that taxation is theft, and that power corrupts. Since then, I have focused on voting records and consistency in principles when choosing which politicians to support. Rand Paul, Thomas Massie, and Justin Amash, though not technically my representatives, never disappoint me, so I trust them to vote on bills and carry out the government’s duties.
If I found out that Rand Paul robbed a liquor store as a member of a black bloc protest 40 years ago, I would still be rooting for him next time he is up for reelection. Partially because people are not whom they were 40 years ago, and partially because having Rand in congress is, in my opinion, ultimately a force for good, I would still support him after the skeleton in his closet surfaced.
I am no fan of Roy Moore. As is the case with most non-Libertarians, I agree with some of his ideas (like anti-interventionism) and disagree with others (like using government to legislate morality).
But I would not blame any Alabama voter for supporting him, and I would not see it as an endorsement of his misconduct. They would be displaying rational self-interest in an imperfect, nuanced world.