Two days after Senator Steve Daines endorsed a bigoted conman for the U.S. Senate, the conman was credibly accused of having sexually assaulted an underage woman while in his 30s as part of a pattern of making “sexual or romantic overtures” to teenagers.
The derranged wing of the Republican Party leapt to defend Moore, arguing at various points that the assaults didn’t happen (because most women who claim assault and harassment are lying), that it was perfectly acceptable for Moore to have pursued the girls, and that he was acting like Joseph from the Bible, who might have married a teenaged Mary as an older man, but the few voices of reason left in the Republican Party were quick to condemn Moore. Senator John McCain made it clear that Moore should step down:
The allegations against Roy Moore are deeply disturbing and disqualifying. He should immediately step aside and allow the people of Alabama to elect a candidate they can be proud of.
Conservative Max Boot decried the sickness in a Republican Party so consumed with partisanship that it will work to elect anyone, no matter how horrific his actions have been:
I honestly did not think that any “conservatives” would stoop so low as to defend a pedophile. Wrong. There is no limit to how far they will go to win elections, no line they will not cross, no norms they will not transgress. There is a sickness in the land.
— Max Boot (@MaxBoot) November 10, 2017
But Montana’s junior Senator stood by the man he called a “principled conservative” just two days earlier, offering this weak statement:
These are very serious allegations and if true (emphasis mine) he should step down.
The “if true” in that statement reveals just how Senator Daines feels about women and rape culture. The Washington Post story about Moore today had 30 sources, meaning that Daines is taking the word of a man like Moore at the same value as that of 30 sources, including sexual assault survivors, none of whom sought out the press nor have any reason to go after Moore politically, and three reporters who worked weeks on the story.
Daines’s use of “if true” is more than a pair of weasel words used by a politician; they’re the sound of every man who refuses to believe that a woman will tell the truth about being assaulted. They’re the sound of a culture that permits vulnerable people to be victimized once and refuses to listen to them when they bravely come forward to tell stories that almost certainly have to bring them renewed pain.
The math for Daines is simple. It’s more important for him to get another solid vote for a tax cut that will personally benefit him than it is to stand up to a cruel bigot who has been credibly accused of sexual assault and harassment by more than one woman. It’s more important to Daines that a Republican get elected than it is to stand up against the cruel sociopaths who have sickened and threaten to destroy both the Republican Party and the republic itself.
And keep in mind Daines has said nothing to criticize those who are defending Moore or to offer support to the women who came forward. Nothing.
It’s hard not to remember an extra, galling irony in Daines’s refusal to do the obvious, right thing. Daines was elected to the Senate in 2014 largely because Republicans forced his opponent John Walsh out of the Senate race for the unimaginably immoral act of plagiarism. Today, while Alabama and national Republicans are attacking women who came forward to tell their stories, defending sexual pursuit of underage girls, promoting a culture that enables sexual assault to continue, and debasing the nation’s political discourse even further, Steve Daines is hedging and offering weak, weaselly words and hoping the press will just let him get away with it. Apparently, ethical standards are a bit less important to Senator Daines than when he was demonizing John Walsh just three years ago.
Certainly not an example of “principled conservative” values there, but hardly surprising from a man who continued to support Donald Trump after he boasted about sexually assaulting women and who voted to cut funding for the shelters that protect victims of sexual and domestic violence.
If it’s true that Steve Daines is still our Senator in after 2020, the shame will be on us, not him. He clearly is incapable of feeling it.