Last Sunday, Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union.” Asked about the Alabama Senate race, he said:

Well, I would rather see the Republican win, but I would hope that Republican would be a write-in.
I couldn’t vote for Roy Moore. I didn’t vote for Roy Moore. But I wrote in a distinguished Republican name. And I think a lot of people could do that. Will they do it? I’m not sure.
I don’t know what is going to happen. You know, as a Republican, I had to vote Republican. I wanted to vote Republican. I understand where the president’s coming from. I understand we would like to retain that seat in the U.S. Senate.
But I tell you what. I — there — there’s a time. There’s — we call it a tipping point. And I think so many accusations, so many cuts, so many drip, drip, drip, when it got to the 14-year-old story … that was enough for me. I said, I can’t vote for Roy Moore.

He effectively told his home-state voters that lifelong Republicans should feel comfortable abandoning Moore. Moreover, he gave them a mechanism by which to do so — a write-in candidate. Democrat Doug Jones won by a little more than 20,000 votes. The number of write-ins is thought to total about 22,800 votes. We’ll never know how many Republicans Shelby prompted to cast a write-in ballot — or stay home — but it’s not unreasonable to assume in a race as close as this one, Shelby played a critical, maybe even decisive, role in the outcome.

Shelby’s decision to go public was not without risks. The president and the Trumpian base could have turned on him, making him the scapegoat in their humiliating defeat. As  things have turned out, President Trump, Stephen K. Bannon and the far-right media will bear responsibility for bringing a character as repulsive as Moore to the brink of victory.

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In drawing a line he would not cross, Shelby set an example for other conservatives and demonstrated the moral vapidity of Moore defenders. His action does of course leave open the issue as to why the entire GOP should have supported and continues to support Trump, who was credibly accused by multiple women of sexual assault. But that’s an argument for another day.

The country should be grateful that Alabama voters stopped an accused child molester from entering the Senate. And for doing his part in putting decency and patriotism over tribalism, we can say, well done, Sen. Shelby.

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