Some Notes on Roy Moore’s Campaign

Sarah Palin uses Twitter to give her thoughts on Doug Jones’s apparent narrow victory in Alabama:

[1] Humbling night for GOP. Like him or not, Axelrod is right with his observation in Alabama: Jones focused on AL, didn’t get caught up in national winds or drama. (1/2)

[2] All politics is local – and personal – voters want and deserve candidates laser-focused on We the People on the local level! Lesson learned. – SP

Palin travelled to Alabama in September to campaign for Moore to win the nomination, where she spoke alongside Sebastian Gorka. Gorka is a less reflective mood, dismissing Jeff Flake’s comment that “decency wins” with the rejoinder that “Actually INFANTICIDE won”. Presumably this is an overheated and exaggerated reference to Jones’s views on abortion – but if this issue was more important than anything else, why then did he campaign against Trump’s initial preference Luther Strange, a solid anti-choice Republican who would almost certainly have won the election? Clearly, Gorka gambled on Moore due to wider ideological priorities – and lost (although Moore has not yet conceded, apparently).

Jones was also elected despite the exhortations of high-profile supporters. Restore Our Godly Heritage PAC organised a press conference in the wake of the sex allegations: Right Wing Watch noted that

Speakers included anti-abortion extremists like Flip Benham and Operation Save America‘s Rusty Thomas, long-time Religious Right fringe figures and like Alan Keyes and Gordon Klingenschmitt, right-wing internet personalities like Activist Mommy, local pastors, and even Janet Porter’s mom… Also speaking was Steve Hotze, a Texas activist who has been a major funder of Moore’s campaign, who Porter said had helped to organize the event.

One standout—both for being a non-Christian and for the intense ugliness of his anti-gay rhetoric—was Rabbi Noson Leiter, who denounced the “abomination” of marriage equality and “homosexualist gay terrorism and blackmail” and praised Moore for taking on “immoral Bible-hating millionaires” including “anti-god Republicans like McCain and Romney.” He said Noah’s flood “was triggered by societal recognition of same-gender marriage—so-called marriage.”

Moore also enjoyed the support of Jerry Falwell Jnr and Franklin Graham, as noted by The Hill. The two men had slightly different approaches: while Falwell stated that “I believe the judge is telling the truth” when it came to the sexual allegations against him, Graham was slightly more vague, talking in general terms about the “hypocrisy” of Moore critics and stating “I don’t know” in relation to the women’s accounts. Graham also said that he was “praying” for Moore – prayer here being public political theatre rather than private piety.

However, some prominent evangelical women took a different view: to its credit, CBN ran a fair piece under the headline “Evangelical Women Speak Out Against Roy Moore”, which noted comments from Beth Moore and Kay Warren, and drew attention to a Washington Post op-ed by Nancy French.

Moore’s campaign also introduced the nation and the world to several figures who spoke in the media on Moore’s behalf, but not necessarily to his advantage. Janet Porter, a veteran Christian Right activist from Ohio (previously blogged here) caused some offence by referring to an interviewer’s pregnancy in relation to Jones’s views on abortion (which she exaggerated) (1), while “evangelist and attorney” Trenton Garmon ineptly attempted to lighten the mood during an interview with Don Lemon by making merry over Lemon’s surname.

This, however, was just Garmon’s warm up, and a couple of days later he offered a defence of Moore’s alleged past dating practices which was widely described as “bizarre”. As Business Insider reported:

In an interview on MSNBC’s “Velshi and Ruhle”… host Stephanie Ruhle asked Garmon why Moore would need permission if the women he dated were not underage.

“Culturally speaking, I would say there’s differences,” Garmon said. “I looked up Ali’s background, there — wow, that’s awesome that you have got such a diverse background. It’s really cool to read through that.”

Ali Velshi is from Canada, although his family heritage is Asian-Kenyan.

Then, on the eve of the election, we were introduced to another Moore spokesperson, this time a former county commissioner named Ted Crockett. In a much-remarked interview with Jake Tapper, Crockett struggled to explain Moore’s views on homosexuality (specifically, what legal punishment Moore envisions), and he insisted that United States law means that only Christians who swear on the Bible can hold public office. When corrected on this point, Crockett was silent and literally slack-jawed for several seconds until Tapper did him a favour by wrapping things up. Garmon and Crockett’s amateurish incompetence was an extraordinary spectacle – was this really be best talent Moore had at his disposal? And if so, what does that say about Alabama more generally?

The campaign was not just an all-American affair, though: in September, none other than Nigel Farage took part in an event alongside Steve Bannon and Phil Robertson. Taking his lead from Breitbart (which is currently sourly noting a “Uniparty Victory” in Alabama), Moore described Farage on Twitter as “Brexit leader”

Footnote

(1) Porter was also criticised by Nancy French, who recalled an encounter from a decade ago. Given the ephemeral nature of Twitter, I’ll quote her thread in full:

Janet Porter, Roy Moore’s spokesperson, has been in the news for being – well – horrible. But I just realized I once ran into her… and remember it 10 years later. /1

The year was 2007. We walked into the @FRCAction’s so-called ‘Values Voter’ conference as ‘Evangelicals for Mitt,’ a grassroots organization that discussed the faith issue as it pertained to @MittRomney. /2 We wanted conservatives to rally around Mitt – even though our religions didn’t precisely line up – because he represented conservative values well (and other reasons). /3 The mostly evangelical crowd was frosty to us. Baptist preacher @GovMikeHuckabee slyly mocked Romney in his speech, ‘it’s important the language of Zion is a mother tongue [of the next GOP nominee], and not a recently acquired second language.’ /4 The crowd went wild. I went in expecting the sweet Christian ladies at church. But the Values Voters was full of mean, vitriolic people. Especially since we were advocating for a Mormon. /5

Huckabee advocates handed out fliers: ‘Do Not Compromise Your Values, with ‘your’ crossed out and replaced by ‘God’s.’ See, they had ‘deeply held religious beliefs’ (that just a few years later would have them shilling for a thrice married playboy @realDonaldTrump.) /6 Which brings me to the worst thing that happened at the VV conference. Romney won the straw poll (our little grassroots group had out-organized the other candidates’ teams) and the attendees were furious. /7 One lady – a Huckabee supporter, natch – stopped me on an elevator. ‘You should really support a Christian candidate.’ I began my normal speech about faith’s proper role in politics… /8 She cut me off by berating me, ending it with ‘Well, I can tell you just don’t love America.’ My husband @DavidAFrench was just days away from being deployed to Iraq, and I was very very emotional about him leaving me and our two children. /9 I was so angry I froze as she chastised me. ‘But my husband’s going to Iraq’ I said.

Unimpressed, this venomous lady kept yelling at me as she got back into the elevator and the doors closed. I could hear her yelling as the doors closed. /10 You’ve probably guessed the unhinged-lady-on-the-elevator-who-yelled-at-a-soldier’s-wife-for-not-loving-America was Janet Porter. /11 Stands to reason. In the twisted worldview of modern Values Voters – you can’t vote for a Mormon, but you can shill for a credibly accused pedophile. /12

I didn’t have the voice or emotional strength to stand up to that woman on that day, but I’ll say it loudly now: God’s Values include excusing pedophilia and overlooking sexual sin, @GovMikeHuckabee, @RealDonaldTrump, and Janet Porter. /13 Here’s a quote about children from a book Values Voters say they read: ‘It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble.’ Luke 17:2 /end

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