In Alabama, Roy Moore’s Supporters Rail at Establishment Republicans (New Yorker)

In Alabama, Roy Moore’s Supporters Rail at Establishment Republicans

Last night, at Oak Hollow Farm, a former cotton plantation in Fairhope,
on Alabama’s Gulf Coast, Roy Moore and Steve Bannon spoke to a few
hundred of their most ardent followers. The event was free. The weather,
at first, was fine. The election to fill Jeff Sessions’s former Senate
seat, between the Republican Moore and the Democrat Doug Jones, was one
week away. Phil Robertson, a “Duck Dynasty” star, appeared here in
September, during the primary, to back Moore at his last
Bannon-headlined rally. At the time, Moore had yet to beat the
establishment Republican Luther Strange, or face the allegations of nine
women who say that Moore molested or assaulted them when they were teen-agers and Moore, now seventy, was in his thirties.

Mark Covington, a retired resident of Gulf Shores, nearby, arrived at
the rally early. A self-described “political junkie,” Covington had come
to volunteer. He explained to me why he’d moved to the area, from
Georgia, four years ago. “I thought, Well, let me check Fairhope. Eight
per cent minorities. Then I thought, What about Gulf Shores? One and a
half per cent. I said, ‘Hmm, getting better all the time.’ I checked
Orange Beach: one half per cent! I thought, Well, I’ll just take Gulf
Shores, what the hell. So that’s why I moved down here. I wanted to be
somewhere with mostly white folks.” He added, “I don’t aspire to be in
the Ku Klux Klan or anything. I’m not a white separatist or whatever you
call it. I just try to have some values I stick to. I’m conservative. I
watch Fox News.”

As for the allegations against Moore, which some prominent Republicans
have publicly acknowledged to be credible, Covington said, “Mitch
McConnell and a bunch of other deep-state RINOs come out and say, ‘Roy
Moore is not fit to be in the United States Senate.’ Shit, about half of
them aren’t fit to be up there!”

Roger Clark, a Roy Moore supporter, at the rally in Fairhope.

Photograph by William Mebane for The New Yorker

Rallygoers gathered in a barn at Oak Hollow Farm, a former cotton plantation.

Photograph by William Mebane for The New Yorker

Walking behind Covington were two retired women, Dorothy Basinger and
Suzanne Monica, members of the Baldwin County Republican Party who’d
also come to volunteer. “I’m against so many things that the Dems stand
for,” Basinger, who spent her career at General Motors, said, explaining
her support for Moore. “Abortion. Taxes, of course. Illegal immigration.
I’m with Trump all the way. Whatever he likes, I like.” She added, “We
feel like Judge Moore has been tried and convicted by Harvard blondes in
the media already. We think that’s terrible.” Monica nodded. “We weren’t
happy with the Republican National Committee backing off Moore,” she
said. “They left him out to dry when Jones started putting out those unfair ads.
The Jeff Sessions ad. The Shelby ad. The Ivana Trump ad, which hurt him
probably the worst.” The recent Iron Bowl and S.E.C. Championship games,
huge TV events in Alabama, were dominated by Jones, since, at the time,
the R.N.C. had withdrawn its funds from the race. (It has since restored
its support of Moore.)

Roger Clark and Robert Patton, wearing “Bikers for Trump” vests, leaned
against the six-thousand-square-foot barn where Moore and Bannon would
soon speak, watching the media gather. “You’ve got the liberal
establishment trying to shut down a man who’s been in politics all this
time and never had these allegations come up,” Clark said. “Then all of
a sudden you’re getting robocalls all over the state of Alabama asking
women to come forward.” Last month, some residents of the state received
recorded messages from a “Bernie Bernstein,”
supposedly a reporter at the Washington Post, offering money in
exchange for “damaging remarks” about Moore. (There is no such reporter.)
Clark, who’s in his fifties, said that he had never voted until Donald
Trump ran for President. “Never really liked a candidate,” he said. “The
people are taking the country back,” he added, “whether anybody likes it
or not.”

About sixty women, and a few men, gathered to protest Moore.

Photograph by William Mebane for The New Yorker

Protesters taped the names of Moore’s accusers across their mouths.

Photograph by William Mebane for The New Yorker

Around dusk, some sixty local women, dressed in burgundy capes and
bonnets, to resemble “breeders” from Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which was recently adapted for television,
appeared. Several had the names of Moore’s accusers written on pieces of
tape placed across their mouths. A few men were with them, holding
anti-Moore signs. “Someone has to draw a line in the sand, and we’re
doing that,” the group’s leader, Michele Walker Harmon, an ordained
Universalist minister who lives in nearby Elberta, told me. They were
denied entry to the venue, on the grounds that it was private property,
and were escorted by sheriff’s deputies to a public strip of cement
where they told arriving attendees to enjoy their “Nazi rally.” A man in
a large truck swerved toward the group at one point, yelling.

An African-American man stood alone on the grass outside the barn. He
introduced himself as Romeo Ryan. “Brother Moore, I’ve known him for
twenty-five years now,” he said. “I rap,” he added. “I’m a positive
rapper: ‘Rappin’ Romeo.’ ” He met Moore decades ago, outside a news
station in Birmingham. “The judge came walking up. A lady started
screaming and hollering at him. I watched to see how he’d react. It was
like he was talking to his own mother, trying to calm her down.” Ryan
was impressed. “From that day on, I’ve been his family, I guess you
could say. Every time he runs for something, I put a big old sign up in
the yard, and on my R.V.”

Ryan acknowledged being one of only a few African-Americans at the
rally. “A lot of them support Doug Jones up in Birmingham,” Ryan said.
“You know what he did by prosecuting that old man who used to be in the
Klan? That made a lot of people happy. Personally, I always wondered
what took him so long.” He added, “I think he was just laying a stone to
step on. Something to brag about.” Ryan said that Moore spoke in terms
that he respected. “When I listen to him talk, it’s like hearing Dr.
King talk. Or Abraham Lincoln talk. He talks that same kind of language:
about the Constitution, rights, stuff like that.”

Reverend William Owens, the founder and president of the Coalition of African-American Pastors, took the stage
inside, where a few hundred were gathered. “I marched in the
civil-rights movement with Dr. King,” he announced, to tepid applause.
“Those were some dark days. Today, sixty years later, I march for
Christian rights.” The applause grew. A young blond woman followed,
noting the endorsement Moore had received from “a doggone fine
President” and adding, “Why would you listen to the party of abortion on
demand?” Later, the crowd stood out of respect for Colonel Glenn
Frazier, a ninety-four-year-old survivor of the Bataan Death March and a Moore supporter,
sitting in the audience. Frazier had told me, earlier in the evening,
“I’m a Christian, and Judge Moore is absolutely the only thing that
we’ve got right now. I’m voting for America.”

“Why would you listen to the party of abortion on demand?” one speaker asked.

Photograph by William Mebane for The New Yorker

Steve Bannon, the former Trump adviser, railed against Republicans in Washington.

Photograph by William Mebane for The New Yorker

Bannon arrived late, and damp, walking in from a sudden downpour to
roaring approval. The former Trump adviser spoke for half an hour,
telling the crowd that “The days of just taking it silently are over.”
He insisted that the attacks on Moore were threats to the people
gathered. “If they can destroy Roy Moore, they can destroy you.” A
protester began yelling at one point. “Can the CNN producer keep it down
in the back,” Bannon said, eliciting laughter. He took a few swipes at
Jones and Democrats but spent more of his time extolling “economic
nationalism” and berating establishment Republicans, including “Flake”
(Jeff Flake, that is, the Arizona senator), “Willard” (the former
Presidential candidate Mitt Romney), and “Mitch” (as in McConnell).
Bannon seemed to take special pleasure in going after Romney, who has said that “Roy Moore in the U.S. Senate would be a stain on the GOP and on the nation.”

When Bannon ceded the stage to Moore, the judge thanked “Dr. Steve
Bannon,” perhaps confusing him with Dr. Sebastian Gorka, who has introduced Moore at previous rallies.
(Bannon does not have a doctorate or practice medicine.) A few minutes
into his speech, a young protester who’d made it inside the barn raised
a “#NoMoore” sign and began to shout. He was briskly pushed outside by
Moore supporters, at least one of whom, an elderly man, punched him in
the back of the head and broke his glasses. (The man later bragged to me
that he’d “broke them right off his head.”) Moore portrayed himself as a
protector of the innocent and the unborn. He did not directly address
the accusations that he molested and assaulted teen-age girls. He quoted
a great deal of scripture and compared the Senate’s establishment
figures to Christopher Columbus. “He didn’t know where he was going, and
when he left and went back home, he couldn’t say where he’d been,” Moore
said. “But he spent all the money.”

As the crowd dispersed and “Sweet Home Alabama” played, a young man
stood by himself outside. The rain had stopped. “We’re in the dragon’s
den,” he said. He told me that his name was Chad Harris, and that his
family has lived in the area for generations. “You see what Steve Bannon
said? He’s so full of shit,” Harris said. “He knows how to place the
labels where they need to be placed. Appeal to the emotions.” He called
Moore a “fucking coward” who wouldn’t address the allegations against
him or debate Jones on the issues. “Just scream ‘abortion’ 24/7, that’s
all that matters. Roy Moore is the poster child of every stereotypical
assumption that people make about Alabama.” He added, “I like coming to
these things to just be surrounded by it. This is American politics.
This is what happens. I’m not a fucking snowflake. If you want a battle,
bring it.”


via New Yorker

December 6, 2017 at 11:50AM