Roy Moore, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Alabama, has recovered his lead in the polls in recent days.
That is partly because there have been no new allegations of sexual misconduct, and there are new doubts about at least two of the allegations.
But it is also because some of the allegations went too far.
In lumping together legal conduct, such as claims that he dated women in their teens of legal age while he was in his thirties, with allegations of illegal sexual conduct, Moore’s critics provoked a backlash among male voters.
The evidence is clear in the polling data. JMC Analytics conducted a poll after the first accusations emerged last month, and found that Democrat Doug Jones was four points ahead. In that poll, “Moore was tied 47-47% among male voters and trailed 42-48% among women.”
When the firm polled voters after Thanksgiving, Moore still trailed among women by six points (44-50%), but had opened up a 54-37% lead among men, and led Jones by five overall.
It may be that men were more likely to distrust Moore’s accusers and trust his denials. But it also seems likely that at some point, the debate about Moore’s behavior crossed an invisible boundary, beyond which male voters began to feel that they themselves were being attacked.
Few could bear to stand with Moore when the issues were assault and underage sexual contact. But to the extent Moore was pilloried merely for being attracted, allegedly, to younger women when he was a bachelor, male voters may have felt he was being treated unfairly.
The past several weeks have seen ghastly revelations, on an almost daily basis, of horrific abuse by prominent men against women in Hollywood, the media, and politics. And the “#metoo” campaign that has emerged in the wake of these scandals has revealed just how common it is for women to experience sexual harassment. The painful discussions that Americans are having are long overdue, and will hopefully lead to effective solutions.
Yet it is also important to remember that most men are not predators. The typical “cisgender” heterosexual male has a healthy interest in sex, and may have a very active fantasy life, but has no interest in using force or intimidation to fulfill his desires. He wants to love a woman, and be loved in return.
Temptation haunts even the pious: as President Jimmy Carter once admitted, “I’ve looked on a lot of women with lust.” But men also pray for the strength to resist.
Men may also learn from their mistakes. Moore may have pursued some relationships that would be considered inappropriate by today’s standards, even if technically legal. But he seems to have built a decent and committed marriage. Many voters, and especially male voters, probably feel reluctant to condemn Moore for what may have happened forty years ago, when in the intervening years he has not been accused of any kind of sexual impropriety.
It is too early to declare that the current wave of revelations and investigations in our society has been overzealous. Apparently, we have not yet plumbed the depths of depravity in our supposedly elite institutions. There are names yet to be named, crimes yet to be charged.
Very few of the men who have been accused of misconduct have bothered to deny it, aside from Moore. We need to listen more closely to the victims — including the male victims.
But the Moore case is a warning against lumping the legal with the illegal, or the innocent with the guilty. Men want to be part of the solution, but if we feel we are being told our natural instincts must not only be controlled but eliminated, we will push back. And we should.
Though popular culture has put nearly every alternative sexuality on a pedestal, our civilization’s survival still depends on men pursuing women. We should channel that desire appropriately, not trash it.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.