Democrats might be tempted to crack a smile at Roy Moore’s Tuesday night victory in Alabama’s GOP Senate primary runoff. The Republican base is so nuts that even President Trump’s late intervention could not persuade GOP primary voters to support sitting Sen. Luther Strange (R-Ala.), who is merely an extreme Trump supporter. Instead, they had to pick one of the most divisive figures in American politics to represent them.
This is an embarrassment for the GOP and a loss for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), whom the White House may shortly blame. If Moore wins the general election, the likely result would be even more chaos in the Senate, with McConnell even less able to marshal his caucus to pass Republican bills. That may not seem so bad to Democrats, for whom a gridlocked Senate may be preferable to a functional one at the moment. Alternatively, Moore’s fringe-ness could help Democratic candidate Doug Jones win the Senate seat that Jeff Sessions vacated to become attorney general.
In fact, no one should be happy about what occurred Tuesday night.
Moore is still almost certain to beat Jones. And, like Trump, Moore would make an unusually toxic addition to Washington. A man who brandished a revolver in one of his recent campaign rallies, Moore touts politics that are raw and identity-based, appealing to those who believe that conservative Christian religious culture should infuse the civic institutions that govern all of us.
Moore captured national attention with his campaigns for religious symbols on public property and against same-sex marriage. Support for the former and opposition to the latter are unremarkable in GOP circles. But Moore went much further than others who share his beliefs: As the chief of the Supreme Court of Alabama, he rejected federal court orders based on his apparent view that his personal religious convictions superseded the nation’s civil law. Moore’s refusal to distinguish the public interest from his private agenda was a brazen assault on the country’s core institutions, the likes of which even Trump has not matched. Civilized people do not get to decide which court rulings they follow. Moore’s empowerment will encourage zealotry and lawlessness.
Unburdened by a sense of responsibility or institutional tradition, Moore will have opportunity to use the considerable powers that individual senators possess to mangle the process of government. When votes will be needed to keep the government open, pass a budget or respond to a natural disaster, Moore is likely to join bomb-throwers such as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) in threatening counterproductive disruption if the country refuses to bend to his views. Once in the Senate, Moore is likely to remain there for many years, posing a unique challenge to whoever may run the chamber, Democrat or Republican, in the future.
Roy Moore stands for anarchy, disorder, disunity and conflict. His platform just got higher, and his power more considerable. Every minute he is in a position of national prominence, the country loses.