Email #294: “unite and get to work”?

I was surprised to read that Roy Moore won the GOP Senate primary runoff election yesterday in Alabama. Moore was backed by President Trump’s former chief strategist and alt-right advocate Steve Bannon, while Luthor Strange was backed by the President himself. Strange was also backed by Senate majority leader McConnell, who raised $10 million in anti-Moore advertising. But money could not overcome Moore’s evangelical popularity. Moore is a former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, nationally known for his refusal to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from his courthouse. He said Tuesday night that he put his political future “in the hands of the Almighty.”

The division between President Trump and Steve Bannon is surprising since Bannon was so instrumental in the President’s election, drawing the same deep base of evangelical support that now supports Moore. Moore even claimed the President’s slogan and agenda. He said last night: “Together, we can make America great. Don’t let anybody in the press think that because he supported my opponent that I do not support him.”

I mention this because you have explained in the past that you need to placate your far-right constituents in order to prevent a primary challenger from winning your seat. You seem especially haunted by former House majority leader Eric Cantor’s loss to Tea Party candidate Dave Brat in 2014. Brat won the primary even though he raised only $206,000 for his campaign, while Cantor raised $5.4 million. And Brat’s congressional district 7 is less than an hour’s drive from ours. There’s a pick-up truck outside my house right now sporting a Dave Brat bumper sticker.

Given your fear of right-wing challengers like Brat and Moore, will you now adjust your public persona to further appeal to the evangelical extremists in our 6th district? While you have a solid record of opposing gay rights, Moore goes further. In a 2002 custody case, Moore ruled against a lesbian mother and in favor of her abusive ex-husband because he said being gay made her “an unfit parent.” Do you agree?

Moore also believes: “Homosexual behavior is crime against nature, an inherent evil, and an act so heinous that it defies one’s ability to describe it.” He says, “Homosexual conduct should be illegal.” Do you now agree with that opinion too?

Moore calls America a “Christian nation” and lists Islam among “false religions” and so “completely opposite with what our First Amendment stands for.” Do you agree that the freedom of religion rights codified in the First Amendment do not include Muslims?

Moore is concerned that “young people who attend public schools and universities in America today are being persecuted for their profession of faith in Christ.” Do you agree that the persecution of Christians in the U.S. is a major problem?

Moore also refers to Native Americans as “reds” and Asian Americans as “yellows.” Will you be adopting those terms now too? It may help you solidify a base of racist, anti-Muslim, homophobic voters in our district, especially now that the President appears to have lost control of the voting block that barely won him election in November.

Alternatively, you could move toward the center and attract the even larger pool of moderates and independents. Virginia is no Alabama. While Alabama elected President Trump by a margin of 28%, we supported Clinton by 5%. Instead of pandering to alt-right extremists, you could be championing a centrist agenda that actually fulfills your November 11th promise “to unite and get to work.”

Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an associate professor at W&L University, comics editor of Shenandoah, and series editor of Bloomsbury Critical Guides in Comics Studies. He has published two novels: School for Tricksters (SMU 2011) and Pretend I’m Not Here (HarperCollins 2002); and six books of scholarship: On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa 2015), Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury 2017), Superhero Thought Experiments (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Iowa 2019), Revising Fiction, Fact, and Faith (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Routledge 2020), Creating Comics (with Leigh Ann Beavers, Bloomsbury 2021), and The Comics Form (Bloomsbury forthcoming). His visual work appears in Ilanot Review, North American Review, Aquifer, and other journals.

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