Frustration and shame ― that’s the only way to describe how I feel when talk turns to the affection a lot of people in my native state, Alabama, feel for Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore. After all, what great vision has Moore articulated for the state other than apocalyptic brimstone-laced hysteria and blatant defiance of the nation’s laws?
Moore rode a hyperbolic Bible-thumping chariot of fire into positions of statewide judicial power two times. And despite his Taliban-like calls for religious law, threats to imprison homosexuals and other bonkers hell-fire damnation pronouncements, the majority of voters in the Alabama Republican primary cast their ballots for him to become the state’s next U.S senator—one of Alabama’s ambassadors to the world.
Now, The Washington Post is alleging that years ago, Roy Moore had inappropriate sexual contact with a 14-year-old girl. Naturally, that charge drew a slew of condemnations from some of the nation’s mainstream Republicans including Richard Shelby, Alabama’s elder-statesman in the U.S. senate.
But a number of local Alabama Republican leaders continue to support Moore, and in some cases, go out of their way to excuse the charges, even if they prove true.
State auditor Jim Ziegler flogged the religious horse and justified Moore’s alleged behavior when he said, “it did not involve sexual intercourse.”
Ziegler cited characters from the bible including Zachariah and Elizabeth. After all, “Zachariah was extremely old to marry Elizabeth and they became the parents of John the Baptist,” Ziegler said. “Also take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus.”
In Alabama, if you can successfully manipulate scripture to support your political goals, then real facts, laws and all around human rights be damned. You can ice the political cake by exploiting people’s fears, prejudices or their deep sense of mistrust of all things outside Alabama and the deep South, especially newspapers like The Washington Post.
Defiance runs deep among a large segment of the population in my homeland. “We dare defend our rights.” This is the state’s motto. It was that fundamental train of thought George Wallace latched onto when he stirred up white racists in the state and cruised into the governorship during the genesis of the civil rights movement.
Wallace had originally run for governor in 1958 as a moderate, and had even been endorsed by the NAACP. But he lost to John Patterson, a staunch segregationist, so later, Wallace told a friend he would “never be out-niggered again.”
Wallace won the race for governor of Alabama in 1963 proclaiming “Segregation forever,” and he grabbed even more power by promoting a paranoid narrative that cast the federal government as a scheming outside perpetrator while he was a fighter. The feds were the ones “stirring up trouble” among the black people of the state. The quintessential moment of Wallace’s defiance for all the world to see came when he tried to block black students, escorted by federal officials, from entering the University of Alabama—the infamous “stand at the schoolhouse door.”
Roy Moore took a similar path to power, but his tricks are based in narrow interpretations of scripture. In 2001 while he was chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, he exploited people’s faith through gimmicky antics when he placed a washing-machine-sized granite model of the “Ten Commandments” in the state judicial building’s rotunda. When a federal judge ordered it removed, Moore refused, and by 2003 he was fired. Moore was elected the head of the Alabama Supreme Court again in 2012, but by 2016 Moore was suspended after he defied federal law by ordering Alabama’s county judges to refuse to marry gay couples.
In June 2016, the Human Rights Campaign summed up the judge with a statement. Roy Moore “believes he is above the law, he believes he is above judicial ethics... Moore was tasked with upholding the law of the land when marriage equality was affirmed by the Supreme Court of the United States, and he defied that task, in the process harming loving, committed same-sex couples across Alabama for his own personal, discriminatory reasons.”
Although Roy Moore might seem like a defiant fighter to his sadly misinformed and feverishly dedicated base, in truth, he puts his own interests first. Roy Moore is a lady pistol waving self-serving hypocrite, a typical street preacher who found fame by challenging the law of the land. Today, he pads his family’s pockets in the name of the Lord through his tax-evading “charity”, the Foundation for Moral Law.
In his later years, George Wallace —wheelchair bound after an attempted assassination left him paralyzed— repented for his sins and sought the forgiveness of the black community for his shameful politics of the early 1960′s. Nonetheless, he and those who supported his platform went to their graves with the world beyond Alabama mostly remembering them as racists. Alabama Republican leaders who stand by Roy Moore will go to their graves knowing they were complicit in bringing abject shame upon the state of Alabama at a very crucial time in our nation’s history— if in fact, Roy Moore gets elected.
The vast majority of people in my native state care deeply about their state’s future and its image—despite the fact less than 20 percent of voters showed up to vote in the August senate primary and September Republican runoff. The state’s secretary of state has said he expects only 25 percent of voters to show up for the race between Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones. Alabamians who care must prove him wrong and turn shame into pride on December 12.