Roy Moore is everything Democrats want voters to believe about the Republican Party
Tuesday's Republican runoff in Alabama is not a harbinger of things to come, or a window into the GOP's soul. But it is likely to crown a new Republican star, someone who will rapidly become familiar to Americans across the country. That is, if the Democrats get their way.
That's because if the polls are right, Roy Moore is going to win the runoff against Sen. Luther Strange, who was appointed to fill the seat vacated by Jeff Sessions when he became attorney general. Moore will then likely defeat Doug Jones, the capable, moderate candidate the Democrats have nominated. And then Moore will become a symbol of everything Democrats want people to believe the Republican Party is about.
That's because Roy Moore is a religious extremist of the highest order, someone who rails against sin with the fervor of a fundamentalist preacher and who believes his particular interpretation of the Bible supersedes the laws of this fallen world, including the Constitution of the United States. And he's probably going to be a United States senator.
You may already know Moore as the "Ten Commandments judge." He was elected chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court (and yes, this is a good example of why it's so insane that we elect judges in America, something they do almost nowhere else in the world), whereupon he installed a gigantic stone monument to the Ten Commandments in the courthouse. Ordered by a federal court to remove the 2.6-ton monument since it was a clear violation of the Constitution's Establishment Clause, Moore refused, a stand that eventually led to his removal from the court. Undeterred in his heavenly mission, Moore later ran to get his old job back, and won again. Then when the United States Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples could not be denied the right to marry, he ordered Alabama officials not to comply with the ruling, which led to him being removed from the bench again.
Moore has repeatedly made clear his belief that if the Bible conflicts with the laws of the United States, "God's laws are always superior to man's laws." He believes homosexuality should be illegal, and wrote in one case granting custody of three children to their father over their mother, who was a lesbian, that it is "abhorrent, immoral, detestable, a crime against nature, and a violation of the laws of nature and of nature's God." He makes no bones about his belief that the First Amendment's protections of freedom of religion don't apply to Muslims, and recently said that the Sept. 11 attacks might have been God's punishment on America because "we legalize sodomy" and "legitimize abortion." He also said in 2015 that "our government is infiltrated with communists," but now that Barack Obama is gone he may no longer believe that to be true.
All of which has some Republicans nervous about the possibility of Moore coming to Washington and sharing his colorful views, which Democrats will enthusiastically spread far and wide. "Roy Moore would be the Todd Akin of 2017 and 2018 for every Republican on the ballot," said Karl Rove, referring to the Republican Senate candidate who flamed out spectacularly in 2012 after musing that women can't get pregnant if they're raped because "if it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down."
Luther Strange himself has picked up this criticism, telling The Washington Examiner, "There are a lot of people that think my opponent would be a Todd Akin, an anchor around the neck of the party for the next couple years. I have to say, knowing him, that's probably a valid concern — it really is." It's hard to argue with that, which was undoubtedly a big part of the reason why Mitch McConnell and other Washington Republicans are so eager to see Strange beat back the challenge from Moore — McConnell's PAC is spending millions attacking Moore — and why they convinced President Trump to endorse Strange in the race.
But when the president went down to Alabama for a rally last week, he seemed less than enthusiastic about the man he had endorsed, as though he finally read something about the race and learned that Moore was scooping up Trump supporters by running against the Washington swamp. (In a weird sidelight to the race, ousted Trump aide Stephen Bannon is supporting Moore and has turned his Breitbart into essentially a pro-Moore propaganda organ). Trump's comments — including that "I might have made a mistake" in endorsing Strange — are neatly summarized in this brutal ad that has been airing in Alabama by forces supporting Moore:
I wouldn't be surprised if Trump's hedging is really because he's worried that if Moore wins, it'll be described as a loss for Trump, and he's getting ready to say that whatever happens this Tuesday was what he wanted all along. The chances that anyone will buy that are slim indeed, but more serious for Republicans than whether Trump gets to trumpet a win is the fact that we're going to be hearing a lot of Roy Moore's hateful ideas in the days to come.
Donald Trump may have proven in 2016 that there's still plenty of political power resting among America's angry old white men. But if the GOP wants to expand its appeal in a country getting more diverse every year, it doesn't help to have people like Roy Moore on TV all the time. And that's what they're probably going to get.