The news that the Republican National Committee is now fully embracing the candidacy of Roy Moore in the Senate race in Alabama elicited shock and horror among some political observers.
GOP pollster Matthew Dowd insisted that Republicans will now have "zero moral authority" to attack Democrats accused of sexual harassment. CNN's Chris Cillizza agreed, suggesting Republicans had put "winning at the core of what your party believes."
But what if Republican operatives are betting that President Donald Trump has so degraded our politics that there simply won't be any party-wide political price for embracing Moore? What if they turn out to be right about this?
Democrats, I'm told, are certainly going to try to hold the whole GOP - and Senate candidates in other races - accountable for the decision. In coming days, a Democrat tells me, it's likely we'll see state Democratic parties in places where there are contested Senate races doing the following:
--Calling on GOP Senate candidates to say whether they agree with the RNC's decision.
--Pressing GOP Senate candidates to say whether they will accept financial help or assistance with field operations from the RNC, now that it is fully embracing a man accused of multiple sexual advances on teenagers.
--Pressing GOP Senate candidates to say whether they are okay serving alongside Moore in the Senate, should he win on Dec. 12, and to say whether GOP leaders should try to get Moore removed. All of this could result in local media coverage and scrutiny of these candidates' stances.
The RNC has rejoined a fundraising agreement with Moore after pulling out of it several weeks ago. This was precipitated by Trump's full-throated endorsement of Moore Monday.
At the same time, The Washington Post reports, Republican senators remain wary of Moore, with some insisting he'll face an ethics probe if he wins. There is an understandable political rationale for this: Moore has already become an issue in other Senate races, with multiple Republican candidates coming under pressure to take a stand on his alleged sexual advances. Now that the RNC has officially embraced Moore, such pressure from Democrats will escalate.
It's true that multiple Democrats now stand accused of sexual harassment, and it's good that all of this is getting flushed into the open. But while the response of Democratic leaders has not been as quick and forceful as it should have been, they have called for resignations in several high-profile cases.
It's also true that Senate Republicans may still take action against Moore if he wins. But GOP leaders have taken to carefully modulating their language, suggesting that the outcome is now up to the voters of Alabama to decide.
And let's not forget that in addition to the multiple sexual allegations against Moore, he also has a history of racist and bigoted comments against gays, Muslims and even "reds and yellows." He is an unrepentant birther. He is lawless, having been removed from the bench for placing God's law above U.S. law. Republican candidates will be asked to comment on the fact that the RNC has now embraced him in spite of all these things.
In these areas, Moore mirrors Trump. Both have a long history of allegations of unwanted sexual advances, bigotry, birtherism and contempt for the rule of law. Moore, like Trump, has dismissed multiple sexual-misconduct charges - coming from women who are eminently believable - as part of a vast conspiracy against him. In this sense, Moore's efforts carry overtones of Trump's ongoing campaign to render empirically verifiable facts wholly impotent and irrelevant, and reduce even reasoned inquiry into what's merely credible to an object of tribal suspicion.
If certain Republicans are betting that in the Era of Trump, it's no biggie to embrace all of this in order to hold a Senate seat, then at bottom this is really a bet on the degree to which Trump has degraded our politics on all of these fronts.