Thank you, Alabama Republicans! Thank you for choosing a Senate candidate whose reactionary ravings and paranoid fictions make Donald Trump look semi-sane.
Seriously, could Democrats have ever imagined receiving a better gift than Roy Moore, the bat-crazy theocrat who has twice been dumped from his post on the Alabama Supreme Court? Democrats are always on the lookout for a right-wing poster child - and few Republicans fill the bill better than this loon from Toontown, who defies federal orders (refusing to recognize gay marriage), and who says (among other things) that lesbian mothers are “a crime against nature” and that 9/11 was God’s punishment for sodomy.
Moore, who won Tuesday night’s GOP primary (beating Trump’s candidate, incumbent Sen. Luther Strange) will probably defeat Democratic nominee Doug Jones in December’s special election, because we’re talking here about Alabama, where a Democrat hasn’t won a Senate race in the last quarter century. But so what. More importantly, he’ll resonate nationally - as a lawmaker who believes that “God’s laws are always superior to man’s laws” - and for Republicans, that’s bad news.
Karl Rove, the ex-Bush guru and party strategist, says it better than I can. Moore will be “the Todd Akin of 2017 and 2018 for every Republican on the ballot.” Akin, lest we forget, was the nut who won the Missouri Senate GOP primary in 2012 and lost a winnable election after he insisted that women can’t get pregnant from “legitimate rape,” because “the female body has ways to shut the whole thing down.”
Akin, with gleeful Democratic assistance, epitomized Republican extremism and alienated women from the party nationwide. Moore is potentially the same kind of nightmare. As Rove and others point out, the GOP can’t afford to get bogged down in God, gays, and rape. And Moore’s win last night may well prompt similar reactionary populists to come out of the woodwork to challenge establishment Republican candidates in ‘18 House and Senate primaries. That too bodes ill for the party’s battered image.
Katie Packer Beeson, a Republican strategist and deputy campaign manager for Romney-Ryan in 2012, laments that Moore “longs for the America we see on shows like ‘Leave it to Beaver.’ That show depicts a time when men were the heads of the house, women knew their place and children didn’t question, they just obeyed. A time when homosexuality was whispered about but never displayed publicly. A time when women didn’t pursue careers but stayed home, kept the house clean and had dinner on the table for their man.”
Beeson acknowledges that Trump won in 2016 with largely-white supporters who yearned for a yesteryear. But women and minorities are still ascendant in the electorate - and she warns that Moore will send the wrong message: “(He) seems to embrace a 1950s Baptist Sunday School view of America and demands that everyone subscribe to that vision or keep quiet. But this vision of America doesn’t make room for minorities, career minded independent women, gay people or others who were outside of the 1950 mainstream...A Republican party that is already carrying significant baggage brought on by the president cannot afford to reignite the culture wars with hateful, divisive rhetoric directed at those who disagree with them.”
Ousted White House aides Steve Bannon (the white nationalist extremist) and Sebastian Gorka (the guy with Hungarian anti-Semitic links) campaigned heavily for Moore, because they firmly believe that the Trump regime and the Republican Congress are too moderate. That should tell you plenty about today’s GOP. And it tells you plenty about Moore that not even Trump could stomach endorsing him.
The irony is that Moore shares Trump’s talent for concocting paranoid lies. Just to give you a flavor, here’s a recent exchange with a reporter:
Moore said, “There are communities under Sharia law right now in our country. Up in Illinois. Christian communities.”
The reporter naturally asked, “Which American communities are under Sharia law? When did they fall under Sharia law?”
Moore replied, “Well, there’s Sharia law, as I understand it, in Illinois, Indiana - up there. I don’t know.”
The reporter said, “That seems like an amazing claim for a Senate candidate to make.”
Moore replied, “Well, let me just put it this way - if they are, they are; if they’re not, they’re not.”
The reporter said, “I’d like to learn more about the communities in America you think are under Sharia law.”
Moore replied, “I was informed that there were. But if they’re not, it doesn’t matter...I don’t know if there are. I understand that there are some.”
Um, whacko? There are none.
So welcome to the latest devolution of the Republican party, where the Trumpkins unleashed by Trump are in the hunt for candidates who can out-Trump Trump. They actually think they’re doing Trump a favor, saving him from the Washington “swamp.”
Or perhaps, by saddling him with people like Roy Moore, they’ll all sink together.
Dick Polman is the national political columnist at NewsWorks/WHYY in Philadelphia (newsworks.org/polman) and a “Writer in Residence” at the University of Pennsylvania. Email him at email@example.com.