Last week, disgraced former Alabama chief justice Roy Moore, twice removed from the bench for unethical conduct in violation of the judicial code of ethics, nevertheless easily won the Alabama special election GOP primary for U.S. Senate. Moore was supported the by far-the right fringe, in particular, white nationalist Stephen Bannon from Breitbart News and his billionaire financier Robert Mercer, who are waging a war on the GOP “establishment.”
Moore served as a columnist for years at the right-wing conspiracy site World Net Daily. Moore was a leading proponent of the “birther” conspiracy theory, which posited, without evidence, that former President Obama wasn’t born in the United States. Moore took exception to Rep. Keith Ellison’s (D-Minn.), a Muslim, taking his oath of office with his hand on the Quran. Moore questioned Ellison’s qualifications to be a member of Congress” because, he wrote, Islam is “directly contrary to the principles of the Constitution.” (The Constitution prohibits a religious test for office). Moore has argued on multiple occasions that America’s secular shift is responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks and recent “shootings and killings.” He regularly rails against abortion, and argued in 2005 footage reported by CNN that homosexuality should be illegal. Roy Moore’s five most controversial remarks.
Roy Moore has been a household name for years among the Christian Right nationalists who want a theocracy in America. Yet Senate Republicans are pretending that they don’t know anything about him. Senate Republicans have never heard of Roy Moore:
Senate Republicans say they know almost nothing about Roy Moore, their wildly controversial candidate in the Alabama special election. But they really, really want him to be elected to the Senate.
What about Moore’s history of racially insensitive comments? Haven’t heard anything. Homophobic remarks? Nada. Moore’s claim that some American communities are living under Sharia law? Crickets. Moore’s statement that 9/11 happened “because we’ve distanced ourselves from God”? Nothing for you on that. Moore’s assertion that Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison shouldn’t be allowed to serve in Congress because he’s a Muslim? We’ll get back to you. Moore saying Mitch McConnell should be replaced as Senate majority leader? Uhh, zip.
[T]he only thing that matters for party leaders is what Moore does from now on — not what he’s done before. And that he wins the Dec. 12 runoff against Democrat Doug Jones.
Only one Republican senator, Jeff Flake of Arizona, has had the courage to speak out against the controversial Roy Moore being the GOP nominee for senate. Jeff Flake says Republicans should speak out on Roy Moore’s past comments:
Sen. Jeff Flake said Republicans need to be more vocal in denouncing past comments from Roy Moore, the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate in Alabama[.]
“I think that when we disagree with something so fundamental like that, we ought to stand up and say, that’s not right, that’s not our party, that is not us,” the Arizona Republican told the Atlantic’s McCay Coppins at the Washington Ideas Forum in Washington, D.C.
Moore, who questioned whether former President Barack Obama was born in America as recently as December 2016 and wrote a December 2006 editorial suggesting Ellison should be prohibited from “taking the congressional oath” because of his religious beliefs, is already raising concerns among his potential future Senate colleagues.
Flake said he is “troubled” by some of Moore’s comments, which he said represent the opposite of the political civility Flake called for. Republicans should have been much more “forceful” in denouncing the “ugly conspiracy theory” about the president’s birthplace in the past, and should be forceful in voicing their criticisms of Moore’s theories today, he said.
“I think the same is true when somebody says that members of our body, the Congress, the House of Representatives, shouldn’t be there, and to try and apply a religious test, that’s not right, and Republicans out to stand up and say, that’s not right,” Flake said, to applause from the audience.
Flake, pressed as to whether he thinks Moore should be in the Senate, said it’s not up to him to decide, but said he and Republicans can and should publicly disagree with his positions.
Don’t give Senator Flake too much credit. He has served alongside another Christian Right nationalist who wants a theocracy in America, anti-abortion crusader Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), who got his start in the Arizona Right to Life organization and as president of the Arizona Christian Action Council. Franks has frequently made comments equally outrageous to anything Roy Moore has said and, to the best of my knowledge, Jeff Flake has never publicly criticized Franks’ comments. Moore is just politically expediant at the moment (and doesn’t serve alongside Flake).
Steve Benen argues that the Republican Party struggles to pass Roy Moore test:
We’re left with a party facing a test, which requires them to balance a sense of limits with an unquenchable thirst for tax breaks for rich people. So far, it’s a test the GOP is failing.
A reporter raised an interesting question at yesterday’s White House briefing, asking Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, “Are there any beliefs a candidate could hold, or actions a candidate can take that, that if he were still a Republican, the President would not endorse him?”
She responded that she won’t “get into every potential hypothetical that any potential candidate may or may not have over the course of the time,” which is a competent dodge, but the underlying question nevertheless deserves further consideration. Would the Republican Party’s leaders, including Donald Trump, support literally any U.S. Senate nominee, based solely on party affiliation and the desire to give the wealthy tax breaks?
Call me naïve, but I think there are probably lines the party wouldn’t cross. If primary voters nominated, say, David Duke to be the party’s Senate nominee, I imagine more than a few Republican officials would balk. [Point of fact, when David Duke was the GOP nominee for governor of Louisiana in 1991, President Gerge H. W. Bush “and other Republican leaders in Washington have repeatedly disavowed David Duke since the October primary, but none has been as harshly critical or has come as close to endorsing a vote for Edwin Edwards as President Bush did today.” Bush Denounces Duke As Racist and Charlatan.] If primary voters backed someone with a history of violent felonies, I suspect we’d see a similar reaction. [Donald Trump bragging about his being a serial sexual predator, not so much.]
The point, of course, is about what constitutes a bridge too far in contemporary GOP politics. Roy Moore believes he should be able to flout federal court rulings with impunity. [As Donald Trump is encouraging with the pardon of his “birther” pal, Sheriff Joe Arpaio.] He’s argued repeatedly that homosexuality should be a literal crime. He’s said religious minorities he doesn’t like are not entitled to equal protection under the law. He blamed Americans for 9/11 and suggested the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre was divine retribution for Americans’ wicked ways.
And really, I’m just scratching the surface here. We’re talking about a fringe radical who believes his radical religious beliefs supersede American laws. Americans have been confronted with theocrats before, but not theocrats who’ve earned major-party U.S. Senate nominations.*
If there is a limit in Republican politics, the question is whether Roy Moore’s brand of Christian nationalism exceeds it. So far, the answer appears to be, “Tax breaks for the wealthy matter more.”
That says at least as much about Moore’s Republican brethren as it does about Moore himself.
* I believe a strong case can be made for former U.S. senator and former governor of Kansas, Sam Brownback who, while a senator, wa involved in something of a scandal surrounding the C Street Center, Inc., owned by Christian-advocacy group The Fellowship. Brownback has always been an anti-abortion crusader supported by the Christian Right nationalists. Brownback was the only other governor to attend Texas Governor Rick Perry’s fundamentalist prayer event in August 2011. On July 26, 2017, the Trump White House issued a statement that Brownback would be nominated as the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom.