Opinion writer

Alabama GOP Senate nominee Roy Moore serves as a convenient dividing line. If Republicans cannot oppose a former state supreme court justice ousted twice from the bench who espouses rabidly anti-Muslim views and believes homosexuality should be criminalized, the GOP is truly headed for the ash heap of history. So how are they doing?

In certainly the most cringe-worthy move of his career, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), a former Texas Supreme Court justice, declared that he was “proud to offer my support to Judge Roy Moore for U.S. Senate. I look forward to working with him to pass legislation that will effect meaningful change for all Americans.” Was that really necessary? He is the No. 2 Republican in the Senate so it might have been too much to ask for a full-throated repudiation, but did he have to lather on the praise for such a reprehensible candidate?

In his home state, the Dallas Morning News editorial board blasted Cornyn:

Sen. John Cornyn’s endorsement this week of Roy Moore for the U.S. Senate from Alabama is a new low not just for the former jurist and ex-Texas attorney general, but for the party he claims to love. We had hoped, as many have, that Cornyn would stand against the tide of populist, nativist and exclusionary politics that have come to dominate the Republican Party in Texas and elsewhere. That hope has now been all but extinguished. …

If taking the right course wasn’t hard, it wouldn’t require courage. Besides, Cornyn’s embrace of Moore doesn’t just put party over principle. It puts power over party.

The Dallas News also blasted Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), who also gilded the lily by praising the twice-removed jurist for his “lifelong passion” for the Constitution. Blech! As the editorial board put it, “The junior senator has built his career on putting himself at the front of a movement that seeks to destroy what used to be the mainstream wing of the Republican Party.” Translation: What do you expect from the craven Ted Cruz?

However, a ray of sunshine peeked out from the gloom on the topic of Moore. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) announced he wouldn’t support Moore. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), who has talked and written in eloquent, principled terms about our democratic creed and was one of the few senators not to endorse Trump, took a small step forward, breaking his sabbatical from moral leadership. Maybe inspired by Flake’s eloquent call to defend democracy and not give in to the “new normal,” Sasse declared:

I think we’re getting a new kind of identity politics — of kind of, white backlash grievance, which isn’t surprising that the right would echo the left. It isn’t surprising if you don’t have principles — and it feels like these parties don’t have a lot of principles. And the Alabama Senate race looks just that crappy to me. . . .

You can’t have people running for office — I don’t know the particulars of what Moore has said — but as it’s been reported, you can’t have people running for office saying that being a Muslim would be a disqualification for being in Congress. The constitution is pretty dang clear about not having a religious litmus test.

Well, that’s a start. Now perhaps Flake and Sasse can join others in objecting to a tax plan that massively increases the debt or to insisting on hearings to explore the president’s receipt of foreign emoluments, conflicts of interest and self-enrichment.

So the question remains: Where are the rest of the GOP senators and members of Congress on Moore? Can they bestir themselves to oppose a man surely as unfit for the Senate as Donald Trump is for the presidency? Listen, congressmen and women and senators move in packs. After a couple act, you might get a bunch more to stand up against Moore. And then another batch, and so on. As belated and comparatively mild as Sasse’s statement was, it should be welcomed. The more independent-minded Republicans are willing to push back against Trump, the better their party and our country will be.