Roy Moore's Alabama Senate Primary Victory Boosts GOP Christian Extremists

Posted Oct. 4, 2017

MP3 Interview with Frederick Clarkson, senior fellow with Political Research Associates, conducted by Scott Harris


When Donald Trump campaigned on behalf of appointed Alabama Sen. Luther Strange in the state's Republican Senate primary, he knew that his guy would likely lose. His former chief strategist Stephen Bannon, along with his far-right website Breitbart and former GOP Vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin all supported Strange's opponent, Christian extremist Roy Moore, who won that race with nearly 55 percent of the vote. Moore is now the Republican nominee and front-runner to win the Senate seat vacated by Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions in a December special election against Democratic candidate Doug Jones.

Roy Moore was twice elected chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Cour, and twice removed from office for his refusal to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state Judicial Building and for defying a Supreme Court ruling invalidating Alabama's ban on same sex marriage. Roy Moore is well-known for his belief that biblical law supersedes U.S. law – and views that homosexuality should be a capital crime, Muslims should not be allowed to hold elected office and promotion of the conspiracy theory that President Barack Obama was a Muslim not born in the U.S.

Between The Lines' Scott Harris spoke with Frederick Clarkson, senior fellow with Political Research Associates, who discuss the significance of theocrat Roy Moore's GOP Senate primary victory in Alabama, the strength of the Christian right in today's Republican Party and the threat posed to secular democratic values. [Rush transcript]

FREDERICK CLARKSON: Roy Moore certainly sees the Constitution, the First Amendment, as a vehicle for Christianity. He doesn't view it appropriate for Muslims to hold office. He specifically denounced the seating of Keith Ellison, the first Muslim member of Congress. And most interestingly, he calls Islam a false religion. But yeah, he believes that homosexuality and abortion should be criminalized. And he also doesn't think that the U.S. Supreme Court has the authority to do the things that they've done with regard to abortion rights and marriage equality.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Fred, I would ask you what the significance of his victory in the Alabama Republican primary for this open Senate seat means. What is the importance for our listeners to know about this win that he had the other day?

FREDERICK CLARKSON: Well, there are a number of things. One is that he's demonstrated that the viability and the strength of the Christian Right both in terms of their ideological coherence and their organization strength. And in Roy Moore's case, the peculiar alliance that is clearly forming between what we've always understood to be the Christian Right and what we now know as the alt-right.

It's a disturbing coalition that clearly was catalyzed by Donald Trump, but it shows that the political strength is there, and it's populist in that Luther Strange, who was the incumbent Republican, was an established conservative, pro-business, supported by the Chamber-of-Commerce kind of politician. Exactly the kind of politician that Donald Trump had pledged to throw out. The people who elected Donald Trump still want to do that, and even though Roy Moore may seem whacky to some, he's an anti-establishment guy and that's good enough for them.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Fred, what does the "Republican establishment" think about Roy Moore? You hear a lot of commentary after this primary victory by Roy Moore that people like majority leader in the Senate Mitch McConnell were unhappy because they thought it would make it more difficult for mainstream candidates to win the general election in other states if Roy Moore-like candidates challenged incumbents in other places around the country.

FREDERICK CLARKSON: Well, I think he's absolutely right about that. I think the good news for the Republican party is that there really aren't any other Roy Moore-like candidates. There may be some tea party kinds of figures who are in the House, who might make a plausible run at the sitting senators like Jeff Flake in Arizona, but you know, Roy Moore is a one-of-a-kind character. And he's won statewide office twice. It's very hard to find anybody remotely like Roy Moore who has done that. He's been one of the best known and controversial politicians in the state for a couple of decades now.

And it may be that characters like that arise, but we haven't seen them yet.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Fred, I would ask you, as you look at Roy Moore and the extremist wing of Christian political activists that he represents, what kind of threat do you believe it presents to our Democratic values here in the United States, today in 2017?

FREDERICK CLARKSON: You know, if you were going to hold a popular referendum on these things, they would lose. But it's often the case that it's the best organized faction. The best organized minority that prevails in politics and if you look at Donald Trump and a lot of these characters like Roy Moore, they came to Washington not to preserve it and to build it, but to destroy it.

The way that we think about democracy and public life and the role of government, the broadest swath of us, really. People like Donald Trump and Roy Moore and Steve Bannon are more like each other than other than any of them are like mainstream Republicans and anybody to their left. This is a revolutionary faction who is trying to figure out how destabilize what we think of as democracy and particularly the role of the federal government in preserving and advancing democratic values. That's pretty much their stated mission. And Roy Moore, if he becomes a U.S. senator, will be in an unusual position to do it.

He can go in and filibuster and put holds on judicial and ambassadorial nominations as much as he wants to. And he can be a real wrecking ball.

Frederick Clarkson is co-founder of the blog, Talk To Action and author of "Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy." Find more commentary on Roy Moore's extremist religious views by visiting Political Research Associates' website at

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