Editor's note: The following column originally appeared in The Hill newspaper and on TheHill.com.
You can’t get to ‘yes’ unless you ask.
So, President Trump and Senate Republicans, as leaders sworn to protect the U.S. Constitution, please walk away from Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore (R).
The man does not believe in the basis of our democracy, the Constitution.
He once tried to order federal judges to ignore the law of the land and deny marriage licenses to gay couples. He says a Muslim should not be allowed to serve in Congress, simply because of his or her religion.
And in blasphemy that should send Republicans through the roof, Moore blames America for the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. He said they were God’s punishment for the nation’s “perverseness and oppression.”
Moore stands in a line of repugnant GOP candidates, such as former Missouri Rep. Todd Akin. As a candidate for Senate in 2012, Akin claimed that a woman's body is able to distinguish between “legitimate rape” and illegitimate rape, and shut down pregnancies from “legitimate rape.”
Mitt Romney, the party’s 2012 presidential nominee, and the two top Senate Republicans, then-Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and his number two, Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), called on Akin to get out of the race.
But last week Moore got a warm welcome from the head of the GOP’s Senate campaign committee, Sen. Cory Gardner (Colo.). “We support him in keeping this seat in Republican hands,” said Gardner.
The critical difference for Republicans between Akin and Moore is that the party does not want to risk seeing its slim 52-48 majority reduced by one with a possible year-end vote on tax cuts approaching.
Moore’s support for the tax cut is not certain. Cutting the deficit is his priority and the current Republican plan will do the opposite.
There is a bigger picture here, however. Surely the GOP has bigger fish to fry than depending on Moore’s vote in support of a tax cut?
Is a legislative victory so important that it justifies promoting authoritarian government?
Moore’s outrageous statements invite ridicule from fair-minded Americans in all parties who believe in the nation’s founding principles — specifically, that there should be no government-sanctioned religion.
But to laugh at Moore’s attempts to undermine the Constitution is to dismiss the dangers his rhetoric poses.
A recent Huffington Post article revealed the depth of concern:
“A dangerous demagogue,” is how Rev. Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State has described Moore.
Larry Decker, head of the Secular Coalition of America, a group that stays out of politics, felt compelled to make an exception and oppose Moore.
Decker said in a statement that Moore has repeatedly “flaunted his disregard for the Constitution” by asserting “religious beliefs must take precedence over the law.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based group, also points to Moore’s disdain for the Constitution and history of “basing judicial opinions on his Biblical beliefs.”
Richard Cohen, president of the law center, has called Moore the “Ayatollah of Alabama,” suggesting that Moore’s goal of replacing the Constitution with the Christian bible is comparable with the view of Islamic extremists who would replace civil law with Sharia law based on the Quran.
But the man who needs to take the lead in repudiating Moore is Trump.
Trump rode a populist tide of rage to win the White House. He opened the door to dark forces in our politics with his vulgar talk about grabbing women by the genitals, and demonizing immigrants and Muslims.
Now he is in danger of being swallowed by the same anti-government populist wave. If Moore wins, he will unleash a tide of Republican candidates for House and Senate seats who care nothing about democracy and have no skill at governing.
Their penchant for waging culture wars and attacking the rule of law will break down the party’s unity on Capitol Hill and make it impossible to gather votes to pass Trump’s legislative agenda.
Recall that Moore’s key support in the primary race came from Steve Bannon, the president’s former top advisor.
Bannon wants to break apart the Republican Party to increase his power as the leader of a populist rebellion.
Moore is his instrument for throwing the GOP into a downward spiral of chaos.
The latest polling from JMC Analytics has Moore at 48 percent support with Democrat Doug Jones at 40 percent. Former Vice President Biden visited Alabama last week to campaign alongside Jones in Birmingham.
Jones is well-known for his years of service as a U.S. attorney and for prosecuting the perpetrators of the 1963 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing in Birmingham.
Both parties — Republican and Democratic — have a moral obligation to do everything they can to ensure Moore does not get to the Senate.
That is why McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund PAC spent $10 million to defeat Moore in the Alabama primary. Even Trump opposed Moore.
Now Trump, McConnell and the GOP are biting their tongues bloody because they are being told to be pragmatic and focus only on the possible loss of a Senate seat.
Donald Trump was the test case for this new era of shameless politics.
Trump energized dark forces in our politics. Now he has a special responsibility to bring them to heel.