Policy is important, but so is character

Sam Rosenblatt, Opinions Co-Editor

The wave of sexual assault scandals surrounding prominent men in Hollywood and in Washington has reached a breaking point as Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore has found himself engulfed in controversy.

Moore has been accused of sexual assault and inappropriate behavior towards multiple women under the age of 18.

This controversy serves as a microcosm for the divide in the Republican Party among the populist right and the party’s establishment. Moore, a populist candidate, has blamed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Republican establishment, Democrats, and the media for creating this scandal. Accordingly, Moore has denied the allegations against him, and President Trump has expressed his support for Moore.

Moore faces off against Democratic candidate Doug Jones in a special election on December 12th to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s former seat. Should Jones win the election, he would be the first Democrat elected to a statewide office in Alabama in 25 years.

Republicans hold a slim majority of seats in the Senate and hope to increase this majority in the 2018 midterm elections, while Democrats hope to capitalize on anti-Trump sentiments throughout the country despite facing a difficult slate of seats up for grabs in 2018. The Alabama race will be a telling sign of whether Democrats can win in traditionally conservative areas in 2018, or if there is still a sizable gap between the parties.

This election is effectively a referendum on Trump’s policies, on real versus “fake” news, and on populist versus establishment politics. Moreover, this election is a referendum on the importance of character in political candidates.

Many people, regardless of whether they take issue with the allegations surrounding Moore, will inevitably vote for him because Moore will push conservative policies in Congress. Policy is undoubtedly important — possibly the most important aspect when casting a vote — but we must also weigh character when considering a political candidate.

Maybe the allegations against Moore are false. President Trump said that we “have to listen to him also,” that we cannot merely take these allegations as truth because Moore “totally denies it.”

Yet, judging by the volume of accusations against Moore, it’s unlikely that these stories were all fabricated. If so many people would construct a lie to bring down a political candidate, there isn’t something wrong with the news; there’s something wrong with our society. Sexual assault remains a major problem in our society, so creating rumors that hurt the credibility of the stories of actual victims would be sickening. Just days ago, a woman exemplified this behavior by providing the Washington Post with an unsubstantiated claim that she had a sexual relationship with Moore at age 15 and that Moore forced her to get an abortion. This woman was trying to catch the publication reporting “fake” news and fuel the fiery distrust that many Americans feel for mainstream media. However, the Washington Post researched and saw through the holes in the woman’s story, deciding not to publish it.

Assuming that these allegations are true, Alabama’s citizens should not vote for Moore in the upcoming election. While his political beliefs may align with many constituents, Moore clearly lacks a sound moral compass that our nation’s leaders — at least in theory — should have.

If Jones wins the election, Republicans might lose a valuable vote, but politicians should not be taken merely as a number, as a vote. Elected politicians represent not only our political beliefs, but they represent others’ visions of our states and ourselves as people. They become the model citizen for their state and carry their state’s reputation with everything they do. When people think of Massachusetts, they think of Elizabeth Warren. When people think of South Carolina, they think of Lindsey Graham. When people think of Alabama, they should not have to think of Roy Moore’s allegedly inappropriate behavior.

Such association has been one of the greatest complaints against President Trump, that his Twitter rants and name-calling are unbecoming of a position that should evoke our nation’s model citizen. Character should affect both sides of the aisle; for instance, Democratic voters must think long and hard before voting again for Minnesota Senator Al Franken after the revelation of his misconduct. Likewise, President Bill Clinton epitomized a lack of character with the Lewinsky scandal, and nearly lost his job because of it.

Ultimately, if Alabama residents view Moore as not only someone who will represent their voices but also as someone who will act as their state’s model citizen, then they should have no qualms about voting for him. On the other hand, if they have doubts about his character and view him only as another vote against Roe v. Wade and gun control and for repealing Obamacare, then they should think twice about their decision.

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