President Donald Trump and the Republican leadership suffered a series of humiliating losses Tuesday, starting with the collapse of their Obamacare repeal efforts and culminating in the victory of Roy Moore—a pistol-waving Christian "theocrat" who believes communities in the United States are being overtaken by Sharia law—over the Trump- and McConnell-backed candidate Luther Strange in Alabama's special election primary.
"Roy Moore is a lawless bigot who defies clearly valid court orders. No need to euphemize about 'firebrand' or 'anti-establishment.'"
—Matt Yglesias, Vox
So humiliating was Moore's victory that Trump swiftly began deleting tweets he had sent over the past several days urging his supporters to turn out for Strange, who the president had taken to calling "Big Luther."
"ALABAMA, get out and vote for Luther Strange—he has proven to me that he will never let you down!" read one of the tweets that disappeared from the president's Twitter feed late Tuesday.
But despite Trump's best efforts, and despite the $15 million Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his allies dumped into the race, Moore emerged victorious by a substantial margin, prompting effusive celebration from Steve Bannon and others who boosted his campaign.
In 2003, Moore—then chief Justice of Alabama's Supreme Court—made national headlines for erecting a 5,280-pound monument of the 10 Commandments inside the state's judicial building, sparking a flood of lawsuits that ended with his removal from office.
Moore, once dubbed the "Ayatollah of Alabama" by the Southern Poverty Law Center, would later return to his post as chief justice in 2013, only to be suspended again three years later for ordering Alabama judges to continue enforcing the state's ban on same-sex marriage, despite the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in 2015 that legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states.
"Roy Moore epitomizes the contemporary politics of theocratic Christian dominionism in his attacks on separation of church and state and religious freedom."
—Frederick Clarkson, Political Research Associates
Moore has also suggested that the 9/11 attacks were God's way of punishing America for sinfulness, that former President Barack Obama was not born in the United States, and that Muslims should be barred from serving in Congress.
And even though Trump backed Strange in the primary, Moore has repeatedly expressed his admiration of the president's agenda and flaunted his slogan, "Make America Great Again." And as Bannon said at a pro-Moore rally last week, "We did not come here to defy Donald Trump—we came here to praise and honor him."
It is such support on the far right, along with Moore's outrageous political record, that is causing significant concern among rights groups, especially given that Moore is expected to prevail over his Democratic opponent Doug Jones in the general election in December.
"Roy Moore epitomizes the contemporary politics of theocratic Christian dominionism in his attacks on separation of church and state and religious freedom," concluded Frederick Clarkson, a senior fellow at the progressive think tank Political Research Associates. "Moore favors criminalizing abortion and homosexuality. He does not respect the authority of the U.S. Supreme Court to interpret the Constitution, and the federal courts to enforce civil rights laws. His views hark back to the time of massive resistance to civil rights for African Americans, when opponents invoked the notions of nullification and interposition—which basically meant that states could ignore federal actions."
Others argued that national media outlets should refrain from euphemistically calling Moore a "firebrand"—the label used by the New York Times—and opt instead for "lawless bigot" and "theocratic crackpot."
I move that political reporters be banned from referring to lawless theocratic crackpot Roy Moore as a "firebrand." Do I hear a second?— Charles P. Pierce (@CharlesPPierce) September 27, 2017
Roy Moore is a lawless bigot who defies clearly valid court orders. No need to euphemize about "firebrand" or "antiestablishment."— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) September 27, 2017