The Ballad of Roy Moore

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Ironically, the pro-morality candidate in Alabama lost because so many voters there still care about morality.

Roy Moore’s loss in Alabama on Tuesday stems from the allegations of misconduct against him by several women when they were teen-agers. But the problem really came down to one accuser:  Leigh Corfman. Her lurid story (albeit from 38 years ago), specific details, corroborators, and presentation were hard to dismiss and hard to shake, despite Moore’s denials.

The result is a liberal Democrat who is an extremist supporter of abortion will be pro-life Alabama’s next U.S. senator.

But while it’s a victory for the Democrats, it’s also a victory for establishment Republicans, who were against Moore long before The Washington Post struck.

Judge Moore is an embarrassment to establishment Republicans largely because he believes in the principles they claim to stand for and he has been willing to fight for them. Washington Republicans who want no major changes in the way things are done are probably quietly celebrating.

For conservatives, the wrong lesson is that Moore was somehow too conservative. He is a constitutionalist willing to go to the mat for his principles, even unto being removed from high office, twice. That package was attractive enough in Alabama to win a statewide primary for U.S. Senate in September. In the general election race, he was up 11 percentage points when The Washington Post story broke on November 9. Even with the damaging story, he lost by a small margin. Without the story, he clearly would have won.

The real lesson for conservatives is to make more of an investment in media, and particularly in reporting of facts. Conservatives excel at generating opinion articles like this one. But we largely cede news reporting to big-city daily newspapers, which are all liberal.

The Washington Post’s story persuaded a lot of people in Alabama, including conservatives, that ugly allegations against Judge Moore were true. Even those who admire Moore and his career found the allegations troubling. Many likely Moore voters either wrote in another candidate or stayed home. That’s a credit to the time and effort the reporters put into the anti-Moore story and the skill the used to put it together. Even many people who dislike and distrust the mainstream media acknowledge the plausibility of the story.

But it’s also a tribute to how much The Washington Post – which loses a huge amount of money, by the way – was willing to spend on this story. According to the newspaper’s account, a reporter was in Alabama working on a story about Moore supporters – surely not designed to be friendly – when she heard rumblings about Moore from four decades ago. She and another full-time reporter spent three weeks digging up sources and facts and doing dozens of interviews. A third reporter’s byline is on the story, meaning she either contributed to the reporting or did a lot of the writing or both.

Why did The Washington Post invest so much in the story? The people who run the newspaper and work for the newspaper despise Roy Moore. That doesn’t mean they made up lies and spread them. It means that when they heard a version of events that interested them they pursued it to the hilt, and reported it in a persuasive fashion.

But reporting skill is not a uniquely liberal trait. Anyone with an inquisitive mind, street smarts, the ability to ask questions, and the willingness to work can do the same thing.

If conservatives believe that the truth is on our side, we ought to believe also that, on balance, the facts are on our side. And we ought to do more – and spend more – to try to get them.