Since when did Mitt Romney become the voice of reason in the Republican party? In August, he issued a withering rebuke of President Trump’s response to the Charlottesville riots, and now, he’s the only prominent member of the party who is unequivocally calling for Roy Moore’s resignation from politics.
You may remember Roy Moore as the Alabama Senate Candidate and Living Western B-Movie who once said he “didn’t know” if queer people should be put to death. Thursday, it became known that Moore had also been accused of sexually pursuing four women when they were teenagers and he was in his early 30s.
While other Republican leaders (ahem Mitch McConnell) have called for Moore’s withdrawal from the Senate race “if these allegations are true,” Romney hasn’t cast any doubt on Moore’s accusers. He tweeted Friday: “Innocent until proven guilty is for criminal convictions, not elections. I believe Leigh Corfman. Her account is too serious to ignore. Moore is unfit for office and should step aside.”
While it’s nice to hear a leader of an otherwise useless party deliver a respectful, powerful statement about sexual harassment, we must also remember that Romney and McConnell don’t really have a say in Moore’s fate. According to Alabama state law, it’s too late for Moore to remove his name from the ballot of next month’s special election, and even if he withdraws from the race, the people of Alabama can still vote him into office. So Romney and McConnell may just be saving face while knowing full well that it’s actually up to the Alabama public whether or not Moore gets elected to office. After all, how could we forget when Republican leaders publicly rebuked Trump in 2016 after accounts of his own sexual misconduct became public — but then immediately rescinded their criticism after Trump got elected and gifted them with more political power than they ever could have imagined? Who’s to say Romney and McConnell won’t “begrudgingly” accept Moore once he gets elected and becomes a populist parrot for extreme social conservatives? (They’ll also be sure to remind everyone that they spoke out against sexual harassment.)
And let’s never forget that Romney was one of Trump’s harshest critics until Trump invited Romney to lunch at Trump Tower last winter and dangled the Secretary of State position in his face. They were miraculously best buds after that. So let’s please not pretend that Romney, or any other Republican, has any semblance of a moral backbone.