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Roy Moore has Republicans circling wagons against each other

By Clarence Page, Tribune Content Agency on

A lot of people are surprised to see so many religiously conservative Alabamians still sticking with Roy Moore, despite the ugly allegations against him. I'm not. I'm old enough to remember George Wallace, a master of playing the victim as he upheld a system of Jim Crow racial segregation that victimized others.

Wallace is most famous for literally standing in the schoolhouse door to prevent black students from entering the then all-white University of Alabama in June 1963. President John F. Kennedy federalized the Alabama National Guard, Wallace stepped aside and the university's first black students enrolled.

But the dramatic standoff launched Wallace into the national spotlight, thanks to television, and a new style of populist made-for-TV political stardom.

I have seen a lot of Wallace in the rise of President Donald Trump, although with an outer-borough New York accent and extraordinary hair. I often see even more of Wallace in Roy Moore, the Republican nominee in the 2017 special election to fill the United States Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions and currently held by Luther Strange.

Moore is the former Alabama state judge who first gained national attention for, among other oddities, being twice elected to the Alabama Supreme Court -- and twice removed from it, once for defying a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

Moore pulled off his primary victory against the party establishment by appealing to an old reflex that is long-standing in the South, although not, by any means, exclusive to it.

Call it the circle-the-wagons syndrome. When somebody is on the side of your tribe, you stick with them. Attacks by outsiders against them are an attack against you, by this emotionally fueled reasoning. So you stand by them, shoulder-to-shoulder, with a shared sense of embattled victimization against a seemingly hostile world.

Moore has a lot to feel embattled about. Like Wallace, he gained national notoriety by defying federal orders like a neo-Confederate Elmer Gantry in front of news cameras. In 2003, he refused a federal order to remove from the Alabama Supreme Court building a 5,280-pound granite monument of the Ten Commandments that he himself had commissioned.

A star was born: Roy Moore, "the Ten Commandments Judge," a national symbol of a religious lawyer who refused to let even the courts or the law get in the way of his interpretation of God's will.

Whether his supporters believed all that or not, many of them feel -- as many also say of the northerner Trump in this Trump-friendly state -- that Moore speaks to them and connects with their own sense of being disrespected by the mainstream media, the liberal establishment, etc., etc.

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(c) 2017 CLARENCE PAGE DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.





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