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The deeply troubling allegations against Roy Moore are not out of character for the Alabama Republican Senate candidate.
As of Monday, five women say Moore, who is running for the U.S. Senate in Alabama, engaged in sexual misconduct that ranges from pursuing underage teenage girls in his 30s to molesting a 14-year-old to attempted rape of a 16-year-old. Hell, he was basically banned from a mall for allegedly “cruising” teenage girls. These damning testimonials have sent shockwaves through the Republican Party, which has begun to abandon Moore, but they build upon Moore’s well-known history of outlandish, unacceptable behavior.
In fact, many in Alabama have known about his habit of befriending teenage girls for years. And yet, even though his numerous failings have long been public record, Moore has maintained a career in Alabama politics for decades.
Two large groups on the right—the Tea Party and evangelical Christians—feel like they are under siege, that their way of life is coming to an end. They hear it on Fox News and they hear it in the pulpit. Sadly, this gives them a high tolerance for people like Moore. His history of cloaking himself in nationalism and Christian fundamentalism has allowed Moore to escape the many demons in his past.
If you look at his previous behavior, and recognize that it hasn’t stopped him from reaching the heights of Alabama politics, there is little reason to believe this time will be any different.
1) Ten Commandments monument (2001)
In 2001, when he became chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, Judge Roy Moore ordered a 5,000-pound monument of the Ten Commandments placed in Alabama’s supreme court building. He was asked, and then ordered, to remove it. Moore doubled down on his support of the monument, leading to his removal from the bench by a judicial ethics panel. He would become a judge again in 2012, before being removed again in 2016 for refusing to uphold gay marriage laws.
Joshua Green’s 2005 Atlantic article, “Roy and His Rock,” in which the journalist follows Moore as he totes his monument around the country on a speaking tour, is a brilliant depiction of Moore’s enduring appeal among evangelicals. This passage below demonstrates Moore’s power with his evangelical base:
“When Moore defied a federal court order to remove the monument, supporters from across the country descended on Montgomery, taking up residence on the steps of the supreme-court building and praying, singing, threatening, blowing ram’s horns—all to protect God from the latest assault by the federal government.”
2) Islamophobia (2006)
After Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) became the first Muslim elected to Congress in 2006, and asked to be sworn in using the Quran, Moore penned an Islamophobic op-ed. In the piece, he wrote, “common sense alone dictates that in the midst of a war with Islamic terrorists we should not place someone in a position of great power who shares their doctrine.”
3) Pro-Life poetry (2007)
Moore considers himself a poet. His 2007 poem “America the Beautiful” contains this verse:
“America the Beautiful, or so you used to be,
Land of the Pilgrims’ pride, I’m glad they’re not here to see,
Babies piled in dumpsters, abortion on demand,
Oh, sweet land of liberty, your house is on the sand.”
4) Homophobia (2002, 2005, 2015)
In a 2005 interview, Moore stated that “homosexual conduct” should be outlawed. Several years earlier, Moore called homosexuality a “crime against nature” in a court decision. When the U.S. Supreme Court effectively legalized gay marriage nationwide in 2015, Moore said, “I think it will … literally cause the destruction of our country.”
5) Racism (2017)
“Now we have blacks and whites fighting, reds and yellows fighting, Democrats and Republicans fighting, men and women fighting. What’s going to unite us? What’s going to bring us back together? A president? A Congress? No. It’s going to be God,” Moore said during a September campaign speech.
In case you weren’t aware, “reds” and “yellows” are antiquated, racist, offensive terms that were historically used for Native Americans and Asians, respectively. Rather than apologizing (or even bothering to clarify what he was talking about), Moore’s campaign released a statement quoting the children’s song “Jesus Loves the Little Children,” calling the song “gospel” (It isn’t.)
6) Sharia Law (2017)
While on the campaign trail during the Alabama Senate primary, Moore asserted that some communities in Illinois live under Sharia Law. He made these comments to Vox reporter Jeff Stein, and when Stein asked Moore to name the communities he was speaking about, he said it “doesn’t matter.”
Why should we expect change?
Despite Moore’s history of disqualifying behavior, he has been elected Alabama’s chief justice twice, performed well in several gubernatorial primaries, and even mulled running for president. What reason do we have to believe the people of Alabama will abandon him now?
If you were surprised by people coming to Moore’s defense following allegations of pedophilia, you likely aren’t familiar with these voters. As evangelicals have seen their influence in America wane, they’ve been consistently willing to make excuses for candidates who commit crimes or otherwise shed any semblance of moral authority. Similarly, far-right Republicans who have been swayed by Fox News rhetoric that their country is being taken from them have made excuses for numerous officials who should have been disqualified. Newly elected Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.) and President Donald Trump are just the two latest examples of hypocrisy among these voters.
It is helpful to think of Tea Party Republicans and evangelicals as a “rump party.” They have little hope of ever holding a true majority (both George W. Bush and Trump lost the popular vote), and the fringe of the party will likely soon be relegated to history books. They know that shifting demographics have made them an endangered species of voter, and they are willing to accept “imperfect vessels” if it can deliver a last win or two. By this, they mean that they will overlook moral failings of candidates if they will implement the retrograde patriarchal policies that have kept them in power.
This has been the case for years, and why should the recent allegations against Moore change anything?
If Moore’s name makes it to the ballot Dec. 12—and that remains to be seen—don’t be shocked if he wins.
Brenden Gallagher is a politics reporter and cultural commentator. His work has been published by Motherboard, Complex, and VH1. He’s the co-founder of Beer Money Films, an indie production company. Based in Los Angeles, he works in television drama as a writers assistant.