The Alabama Senate election shootout between Republican Roy Moore (and himself) is a reality showdown between conservatives and their conscience with no winner yet in sight.
You would think this is an easy one, but it's not. You'd assume this is only going one way, but it may not. You wish it to go away, but it will not.
The Republican-once-predator Roy Moore got all the right signals. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said his GOP colleagues would shun him. The national Republican committees, with their partisan hollers and their donor dollars, turned away from him. And the media? Well, let's just say they've enjoyed red letter days reporting, re-reporting and moralizing every morsel of the still-unfolding story.
All three represent the system, the refuse-to-be-bested status quo that was challenged with Trump-fueled fury last year.
Yet from Huntsville to Mobile, Montgomery to Dothan, a symbiotic cause-and-effect relationship is quietly changing this race.
The more Washington protests, the more Moore gains. The more the electoral choice shifts from child predator to party and principle protector, the higher Moore ascends. The more the media howls, the more Moore surges.
The Moore-bashing media alone may prove to be Judge Moore's greatest ally. That's because in the conservative foothills of Alabama, "the media" represents a liberal takeover of every America-blessed principle, every American-bleeding patriot, every American-protected freedom. They are perceived, in short, as a threat to the nation, living proof that a recent national poll equating white supremacists and media as equally hazardous to the nation's health was horrifyingly valid.
For its part, the Roy Moore campaign soldiers on, despite the chilling evidence eight women have produced against Moore with nary a credible refutation. Despite the feckless defense that no God-fearing man would ever do this (cue the 11,000 allegations against 4,392 Catholic priests). Despite every fiber in our body that screams this is wrong, he is wrong, and that surely these wrongs will be righted.
Undaunted by any of this, the Moore campaign message is focused and simple:
America will be imperiled if one more liberal Democrat (in this case Doug Jones) is elected to the United States Senate. The campaign narrative writes itself.
Jones is against everything sacred — the life of the unborn, the military, a balanced budget, the security of our borders, the security of our families, the Second Amendment, the First Amendment, even dollar sales at the Dollar Stores. In short, the fate of the free world hangs in the balance.
Of course, we're now learning there's more — so much more — as this challenge to conscience has proven partisan-blind with revelations of Sen. Al Franken's frolics and Rep. John Conyers' chauvinistic canoodles. The former has apologized in an attempt at redemption. The latter, the longest-serving member of Congress, seeks judgment from the same legislative body that was wholly complicit in hushing claims of harassment with fistfuls of taxpayer-funded payouts.
Historically, and I know this is a shocker, Congress has not been immune to such scandal.
Francis Scott Key's son was slain after an ill-timed dalliance with a congressional member's wife. Barney Frank, before Dodd-Frank became a trademark of regulation, was branded with dating a man who ran a male prostitution ring. On the right, former Rep. Mark Foley ran amok with male pages. On the left, former Rep. Mel Reynolds had inappropriate relations with children. And right up the middle came Rep. Wayne Hays who thought it terribly convenient to put his mistress on the congressional payroll.
So why is it that we are still conflicted with how to treat these transgressors? Can we condemn the unforgiveable while voting for the unpardonable? Do the means (a candidate who preys on women and children) justify the ends (elevating a reliable conservative to the nation's most important legislative body)?
For nearly four decades, in races from president of the United States all the way down to fifth grade class secretary, I've donned the dual hats of media consultant and personal confidante. That's because campaigns are open confessionals, where candidates are compelled to bare their souls as well as their ideas to an electorate demanding full disclosure.
When it comes to Roy Moore, the people of Alabama can now bare their souls in declaring what is acceptable, and what is not. They can show that party and ideology must always take a back seat to human decency.
They can proclaim to all that to safeguard the nation we must protect the moral firmament that sanctifies it.
Adam Goodman is a national Republican media consultant based in St. Petersburg and the first Edward R. Murrow Fellow at Tufts University's Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.