In addition to whining, hand-wringing and adopting a general state of denial (my personal plan), there are some practical things that individuals, the Republican Party and the Senate itself can do to both minimize the impact of Roy Moore’s possible election and send signals to the rest of the nation.
First, at the individual level, no one should think that he or she can go to work for Moore (if he becomes a senator) and somehow be serving the greater good. I meet a lot of young people who want to get their start in Washington, and that includes a lot of kids from my home state of Alabama. To them, I say, whom you work for matters. And just like in any other place, one job in Washington tends to credential you for the next job. But having Moore on your resume would be more of a blight than a useful credential. Having worked for Moore will be something you will always have to overcome. To say the least, working in Moore’s Senate office will not make anyone think you learned something useful or served the body politic in some meaningful way.
I draw an important distinction between those who might go to work as a Senate aide for Moore and those who are serving in the Trump administration. There is an important “guardrail” function that executive-branch public servants are providing. These appointees, from Vice President Pence to Schedule C employees in the agencies, are all playing a vital role in inhibiting President Trump’s worst biases and instincts and providing important management to the executive branch that has significant authority over American life and America’s future. But a senator’s main responsibility ultimately boils down to binary “yes” or “no” votes. And Moore will vote however he pleases, without any staff input. No one will be protecting the nation by working for Moore.
Next, the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) should withhold any support for Moore and his likely run for reelection in 2020. I assume the Republican National Committee (RNC) will go the way of Trump, but the NRSC is controlled by the Republican members of the Senate. Its rules are not written in stone. Moore could be excluded from any of the NRSC’s financial and political assistance. And frankly, it is in the NRSC’s own interest to exclude Moore. A lot of NRSC donors will withhold support if they think any of their money is going to support a Roy Moore campaign. Withholding financial support from Moore won’t deprive him of money so much as it will act as an important signal as to where an important force in the Republican Party stands. Likewise, no self-respecting member of the swamp infrastructure in Washington should participate in any fundraising for Moore.
Finally, while I don’t think the Senate could refuse to seat Moore, senators could keep him from serving on committees where much of the important work in Washington is done. Committee selection and membership are ultimately subject to a floor vote of the entire Senate. Republicans should vote unanimously to keep Moore from being on any committees. A Republican senator told me a few days ago that he had a terrible fear of Moore joining a committee that he serves on and potentially having his picture taken alongside Moore.
The fact is, if Moore wins in Alabama, Republicans in Washington will have several options to minimize the impact of his damaging presence until 2020. Doing so is in the interest of not just the Republican Party but also the country. Moore’s election won’t end the responsibility that Republican leaders will have to diminish the harm his election will cause.