The Return of Judge Roy Moore

It didn’t get a lot of attention in all the talk about the GOP presidential primary, but down-ballot in Alabama, a very famous name reappeared. Roy Moore, the so-called “Ten Commandments Judge” deposed as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court in 2003 for defying a federal court order to remove a monument to the Decalogue from his courtroom, won the GOP nomination for his old judicial gig. He beat an appointed incumbent and a former state Attorney General, both of whom massively outspent him, narrowly winning a majority and thus avoiding a runoff.

While Moore did promise not to bring back his monument (which he carried around the country on a trailer for a while after he lost his gavel), he also attributed his victory to “God’s favor.” He was last on an Alabama ballot in 2010, when he finished a poor fourth in the GOP gubernatorial primary. After some appearances at various Tea Party functions, Moore actually announced a presidential campaign for 2012, soon abandoned for lack of interest and money.

Moore’s notoriety could give his Democratic opponent in November, Harry Lyon, a lift, though every member of the state Supreme Court is a Republican in that very conservative state. Students of southern politics may remember that mobilizing the business community to engineer a GOP takeover of Alabama’s once-famously-plaintiff-friendly court system was one of Karl Rove’s early projects. Ironically, the state’s business community was divided between Moore’s two primary opponents in the present race, giving this strange old man his opening.

In a fitting tribute to his rather old-school worldview, Moore rode a horse to the polls yesterday to cast his vote. Now he’s got a ticket to ride for real, and could soon be back on the bench dispensing his peculiar brand of theocratic justice–truly a man for our times, given what we are hearing on the GOP presidential campaign trail.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.