Roy Moore speaks at the Values Voter Summit of the Family Research Council in October. (James Lawler Duggan/Reuters)

The Post’s blockbuster article on Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, the twice-booted judge whose incendiary rhetoric on gays and Muslims spurred a handful of elected Republicans to refuse to back him, found Moore allegedly engaged in sexual behavior with a 14-yr. old minor and pursued three others. “Moore pursued them when they were between the ages of 16 and 18 and he was in his early 30s, episodes they say they found flattering at the time, but troubling as they got older. None of the women say that Moore forced them into any sort of relationship or sexual contact.”

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) swiftly lowered the boom: “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.” Majority leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also weighed in. The Post reports:

“If these allegations are true, he must step aside,” McConnell said in a formal statement on behalf of all Republican senators.

Other Republican senators weighing in included Jeff Flake of Arizona, David Perdue of Georgia, John Thune of South Dakota, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Cory Gardner of Colorado, Richard C. Shelby of Alabama and Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania.

That formulation, however, leaves Moore room to claim the allegation are untrue and remain in the race. That’s precisely what Moore is doing — vehemently denying the accounts. Republicans may find it impossible to persuade Moore to withdraw; he is after all a fringe character who buys into whatever conspiracy theory fits his purpose. For now he’s sticking to the “fake news” line. In effect then, Republicans will be choosing to believe him over multiple witnesses if they do not withdraw support. Even if they do so, Moore’s name will remain on the ballot.

Moore, Stephen K. Bannon’s first endorsed candidate, was already thought to be in an unusually competitive race. Now his candidacy seems doomed, and the GOP is left without a viable “R” on the ballot.

On Nov. 13, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called on Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore to "step aside" after women accused him of sexual misconduct. "I believe the women," McConnell said. Moore denied the allegations. (The Washington Post)

This miserable state of affairs, in addition to the personal harm to the victims, would not have come about, of course, had the Republicans primary voters of Alabama rejected someone with overtly racists and extreme views whose contempt for the Constitution led to two dismissals from the bench. He quite simply should never have been the nominee, and Republicans who subsequently backed him were once more placing party over country and Constitution.

Bannon did not create Moore, but he found him and backed him, disregarding (embracing, even) Moore’s views. Bannon’s brand of incendiary politics and nihilism doesn’t believe in qualifications, experience or mental stability; the wackier the better. Perhaps this sordid episode will undercut his plan to run freakish candidates in GOP primaries.

The Republicans Party stumbles now from one crisis to the next, never learning that vetting candidates, demanding qualifications and rejecting bizarre characters is mandatory. The alternative is a trail of humiliating defeats. The impression of untrustworthy amateur is now firmly affixed to Trump’s GOP.

Once upon a time conservatives believed in a set of principles and understood the demands of governance. No more. The freak show that now plays out is the foreseeable consequence of a party that has abandoned standards, morphed into a cult of personality and chosen to curl up in the right-wing media bubble.