For many voters in Alabama, the Senate election is more than an agonizing choice. It is an impossible one.
National attention has focused on half the dilemma. Roy Moore, the Republican candidate, is credibly accused of having been a sexual predator, including against girls. His defenders, all too many of them pastors, have been disgraceful: casting the victims as temptresses, excusing him on the basis of idle speculation that other politicians have been guilty of worse.
We have no reason to believe that the Democratic candidate, Doug Jones, is guilty of anything remotely as horrible. He appears to be a run-of-the-mill Democrat. His disqualifications are different in kind. If you take seriously the view that abortion is the unjust taking of human life, as many Alabamians do, then Jones’s position on it is a nearly insuperable barrier to voting for him.
Jones opposes legal protection for unborn children, even late in pregnancy (although he has tried to obfuscate his view). He gives every indication that in the Senate he would cast his votes on Supreme Court nominations so as to block states from being able to provide that protection.
If Republican voters merely disagreed with Jones on taxes or immigration or the minimum wage, as important as those issues are, it would be easier to overlook those disagreements and decide that Jones is preferable to Moore. As far as pro-lifers are concerned, though, Jones is wrong on our country’s premier human-rights issue.
It is because of Jones’s policy views, and especially his views on abortion, that many Republicans who are revolted by news reports about Moore are nevertheless considering voting for him. And it is because of evidence that Moore almost certainly serially abused young women that many Republicans who oppose abortion are considering voting for Jones.
From this perspective, the choice between Moore and Jones is a choice of evils. And those evils are incommensurable: They can’t be weighed against each other on a scale so that the lesser evil can be chosen.
The Alabama voter who seeks a candidate with pro-life views and at least average moral rectitude will find nobody on the Senate ballot who meets that description. The political parties have failed that voter. But he still has the power to write a new name on the ballot, and he ought to exercise it.
It seems to be too late to organize a write-in candidacy with a real shot of winning the seat — especially because Moore continues, Lord help us, to have some obdurate supporters. But it remains possible to cast a vote that formally rejects both the options the parties have put forward. I would suggest writing in William Pryor, formerly the state’s attorney general and now a federal appeals-court judge.
If you’re a voter in Alabama who can’t in good conscience vote for either of the party nominees, don’t try to overcome your conscience. One of these candidates is going to win the election, and your vote is infinitesimally likely to sway the outcome.
Let that winner triumph without your endorsement, and with your opposition registered. And let politicians in both parties know that you have minimum standards that are not up for negotiation.
Ramesh Ponnuru is a Bloomberg View columnist. He is a senior editor at National Review, visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and contributor to CBS News. Readers may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the The Lima News editorial board or Aim Media, owner of The Lima News.