Roy Moore’s victory in the Alabama Republican run-off has been represented as a big loss for President Donald Trump and the Republican establishment, but that’s not really true. While the president did campaign on behalf of Luther Strange, the former Alabama attorney general appointed to fill Jeff Session’s seat when he became U.S. Attorney General, Mr. Moore appears as dedicated to the president’s worldview as anyone. In many ways, Mr. Moore is more Trumpian (nationalist, populist, unethical and happily offensive) than Mr. Strange ever was. He even won the endorsement of Stephen Bannon, the president’s former chief strategist.
No, the real loss suffered here is to the American people who, unless Democratic candidate Doug Jones pulls off a miracle in December, are going to have to deal with another crazy man in the U.S. Senate. He’s twice been taken off the bench for breaking the law, first by erecting a monument to the 10 Commandments inside the state’s judicial building when he was chief justice of the state’s top court, which was clearly in violation of the Constitution. Then he was suspended again last year (having been reelected to the bench in 2012) for violating judicial ethics multiple times — refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses and lobbying governors across the country to pass a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
Indeed, much of Mr. Moore’s career has been about putting his own religious views above the law and by his extremist beliefs generally. He has described Islam as a “false religion” and suggested the state remove children from the homes of same-sex parents. Sharia law is practiced in Illinois? Mr. Moore said it. The events of 9/11 were God’s punishment because of U.S. acceptance of gay rights and abortion? Ditto. Even by the standards of a state that supported George Wallace and his unabashed pro-Jim Crow stance, the 70-year-old is, as they say in the South, a piece of work.
It’s certainly no shock that Alabama might support such a person — his lopsided victory Tuesday was predicted by the polls — but his arrival in Washington will be one more dagger in the heart of any modest hope of bipartisanship in the Senate. One can no more imagine Mr. Moore negotiating with Democrats than one can picture him doing the catering for a local LGBT wedding. The world’s greatest deliberative body is about to get even less deliberative, and that’s bad news for anyone who wants to see Congress get anything of substance done.
This prevailing unwillingness to compromise was underscored this week by the announcement that Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker won’t be running for re-election next year. The two-term senator from Tennessee is essentially the opposite of Mr. Moore, conservative but thoughtful, supportive of President Trump but also sometimes critical. He isn’t centrist so much as a thinking person. Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin has already expressed his regrets, calling Mr. Corker a “consummate statesman and thoughtful policymaker” who believed that foreign policy should be conducted in a “bipartisan, sober, values-based manner.”
The Senate has survived demagogues. It has done so in the past and will do so again. But can the public long survive the gridlock that descends when so many in the governing party view compromise of any kind as failure? In this way, President Trump’s ascension is more a symptom of this political polarity than a cause. Move over, Mr. President, an even more bellicose and ideologically rigid, less politically correct figure is coming to town, and he has Mr. Bannon on speed dial, too.
And how will the far-right see this election result? As a victory over “establishment” Republicans who apparently aren’t angry and hateful enough for their constituents. We expect more extremist candidates to emerge from the woodwork between now and primary season next year. As Mr. Moore might say, God help us.
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