Judge Roy Moore has announced his bid to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and the Washington establishment is doing its best to thwart him.
The day he resigned his position as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court on April 26, Moore launched his candidacy to be Alabama’s next senator.
Moore told Western Journalism that two things that distinguish him from his primary opponents — Sen. Luther Strange and Rep. Mo Brooks being the most prominent — are his military background and judicial service.
The West Point graduate and Vietnam War veteran proclaimed the day he entered the race, “Before we can make America great again, we’ve got to make America good again.”
His words are, of course, a reference to both President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan and the famous mid-19th century observer of American culture, Alexis de Tocqueville.
The Frenchman, after traveling extensively throughout the United States, contended that its form of government was not the source of America’s greatness, nor its fertile fields or material wealth, but rather the churches where “pulpits flame with righteousness.” That, de Tocqueville said, was “the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”
Moore has planted his standard on that ground, starting by posting a copy of the Ten Commandments in his courtroom as an Alabama circuit court judge in the 1990s and beginning each session with prayer.
The ACLU sued the judge, successfully ending the public prayers, but Moore succeeded in keeping his Ten Commandments on display.
In 2000, the judge bested the Republican establishment-favored candidate and became the chief justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court.
Months after taking his place on the bench, Moore had a Ten Commandments monument brought into the central rotunda of the state’s judicial building in Montgomery.
The monument included not only the Ten Commandments, but also cited the Declaration of Independence, with its justification for the formation of a new nation based on the authority of the “laws of nature and nature’s God.”
The two-and-half tons of granite also contained a quote from the pre-eminent legal treatise of the founding era, authored by Judge William Blackstone, which noted that laws of nature’s God are those revealed in Scripture.
“Upon these two foundations, the law of nature and the law of revelation, depend all human laws. That is to say, no human laws should be suffered to contradict these,” Blackstone wrote.
— George T Washington (@rhinonever) May 23, 2017
Moore told Western Journalism these two sources of law are included in the U.S. Code as the organic laws of the land, through the Declaration of Independence.
Once again, the ACLU stepped in and sued the then-chief justice. The case went to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, which ruled the very presence of the monument, though it had not been paid for by state funds, violated the First Amendment’s “no establishment of religion” clause.
Moore did not comply with the court’s order to remove it, saying it was unconstitutional, so the federal justices ruled the state of Alabama could face fines up to $5,000 per day until the monument was taken away.
When brought before a judicial ethics panel over the matter, Moore said that “to acknowledge God cannot be a violation of the Canons of Ethics. Without God there can be no ethics.”
In 2003, the panel ultimately ruled to have the chief justice removed from office. However, Moore staged a comeback in 2012, as Alabamans made him chief justice once again.
In his bids in 2000 and 2012, Moore beat his Republican opponents in the primary by more than 50 percent, negating the need for a runoff.
The chief justice made a stand on principle in 2016 when he refused to comply with the Supreme Court decision making same-sex marriage a constitutional right, thereby negating state laws in the matter, including Alabama’s.
Moore told Western Journalism the court’s ruling was a constitutional amendment in “the guise of interpretation.”
“The biggest misunderstanding” about the Constitution in our current day, he said, is “the courts think they can create rights.”
Moore noted that states certainly have the legal authority to define what marriage is under their laws, but the federal government does not, short of a constitutional amendment.
The chief justice directed lower court judges not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples as long as Alabama’s state constitution and laws defined marriage as between a man and a woman.
The liberal Southern Poverty Law Center filed an ethics complaint against Moore, and he was eventually suspended by a judicial ethics committee in September 2016 from serving as chief justice for the rest of his term, which ends in 2019.
Moore’s willingness to stand on constitutional principle has made him a “political folk hero in Alabama,” according to Quin Hillyer, a veteran national conservative columnist living in Mobile.
Hillyer believes Moore’s chances of winning in the primary August are very good, particularly given that special elections generally have lower voter turnout.
“Someone with an avid following and an established organization like Moore will get his vote out when others won’t,” Hillyer said.
The political observer added Moore’s chances of winning the general election in December are also strong, though the judge probably would not garner the same number of voters a generic Republican would because of some of his controversial positions. Still, “his stances on the sides of the various issues are more popular in Alabama than not,” Hillyer explained.
As in his previous judicial runs, Moore will be competing against the Republican Party’s choice, this time Luther Strange, who was appointed in February by then-Gov. Robert Bentley. The now-former governor was forced to resign two months later under threat of impeachment for allegedly using state funds to cover up a sex scandal.
Strange asked the Alabama House Judiciary Committee to suspend its impeachment investigation of Bentley last year, and then weeks later petitioned to be considered for the Senate appointment, AL.com reported.
Bentley, breaking with precedent, delayed the special election in order to give Strange more incumbency, according to Daniel Horowitz with the Conservative Review.
Despite being appointed to the position, the National Republican Senatorial Committee said it will treat Strange as an incumbent and put its full weight behind helping the appointee prevail against Moore and the other GOP candidates in the Aug. 15 primary.
The NRSC’s super PAC plans to spend $2.6 million in air time for Strange and has threatened any campaign vendors who help Moore or any other contender with being cut out from NRSC funding during the 2018 election cycle.
“We have made it very clear from the beginning that Sen. Luther Strange would be treated as an incumbent,” NRCS communications director Katie Martin told Politico. “It has also been a clear policy that we will not use vendors who work against our incumbents.”
Moore said that after the NRSC issued its threats, campaign consultant Axiom Strategies stopped working for him and went to work for Strange.
“We talk about draining the swamp. Well, it seems like the swamp has come to Alabama,” Moore said. “It seems like there’s an intention right now to buy this election and control the people of Alabama, force them to vote a certain way through political advertising.”
Moore has been outspent by multiples in his previous elections, so money may not be the decisive factor this time around, either.
For Moore, entering the race is a matter of standing on principle yet again.
“Politics is all about power, not principle,” he said of the current political landscape. “We need to go back to the principles of the Constitution and Declaration.”
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