When more than 62 million Americans — including Alabama voters — got behind Donald Trump's message to make America great again, they latched onto a certain nostalgia.
“There is no more California,” said Cheryl Burns, 60, who was quoted in this Washington Post article after Trump's 2015 rally in Mobile. “It’s now international, lawless territory. Everything is up for grabs. Illegal aliens are murdering people there. People are being raped. Trump isn’t lying about anything — the rest of the country just hasn’t found out yet.”
Many of these voters longed for a United States when “family values” were synonymous with “American values” — particularly to voters from the conservative stronghold of Alabama.
“We have to return the knowledge of God and the Constitution of the United States to the United States Congress,” Moore said in his victory speech. “We have become a nation that has distanced ourselves from the very foundation.”
For Moore, returning “the knowledge of God” to Washington means very specific things — particularly when it comes to sexuality.
“Homosexual conduct should be illegal,” Moore told a journalist in 2005.
That statement came a decade before same-sex marriage was legalized, but his disapproval of homosexuality is not as uncommon as some unfamiliar with the Southern Baptist's supporters may think. The vast majority of Alabama voters — 86 percent — identify as Christian, and 49 percent as evangelical Protestants, according to the Pew Research Center. And nearly 60 percent of white evangelicals oppose same-sex marriage, according to the latest Pew poll.
Those stances have LGBT advocates worried, particularly in a state with such a storied history of discrimination.
“Given Roy Moore’s track record of flouting laws and attacking the civil rights of LGBTQ people across our state, we already know he won’t stand up for all Alabamians when it matters most,” Eva Kendrick, Alabama state director for the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group, said in a statement. “In the run up to December 12, we urge every fair-minded person across Alabama to say #NoMoore and reject the politics of bigotry and hate.”
Moore’s comments — and the support for them — show just how uninterested some Americans are in leaving some hallmarks of traditionalism in the past.
It was just 30 years ago that former segregationist George Wallace left the Alabama governor's mansion after the last of his four nonconsecutive terms in office.
After a campaign built on the cultural anxiety of white voters fearful that the civil rights movement would change Alabama as they knew it, Wallace promised that laws keeping black Americans from enjoying the rights held by whites would never come to pass.
Not only did segregation laws not last forever in the United States, but some of them began to fall two years later after Wallace's election. And Wallace himself changed as well.
“We thought [segregation] was in the best interests of all concerned. We were mistaken,” he said years after first being elected governor. “The Old South is gone.”
But is it really?
And Moore's lack of tolerance for America's increasing diversity extends to religion. He called Islam a “false religion” while campaigning and incorrectly suggested that there are U.S. “communities under sharia law right now.”
He also seemed to use ethnic slurs at one rally.
“Now we have blacks and whites fighting, reds and yellows fighting, Democrats and Republicans fighting, men and women fighting,” he said. His campaign said his words came from the song “Jesus Loves the Little Children.”
And he said Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) should not have been allowed in Congress, because of his Muslim faith.
“Islamic law is simply incompatible with our law,” Moore wrote in 2006. “In 1943, we would never have allowed a member of Congress to take their oath on ‘Mein Kampf,’ or someone in the 1950s to swear allegiance to the ‘Communist Manifesto.’ Congress has the authority and should act to prohibit Ellison from taking the congressional oath today!”
Moore's words about people of color, the LGBT community and Muslims feed into liberals' worst stereotypes about the GOP, wrote Ed Rogers, an Alabamian and a veteran of the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush White Houses.
“Liberals couldn’t be happier,” Rogers wrote. “Finally, there is a truly anti-gay, anti-woman, anti-Muslim, anti-everything elected Republican for all the world to see.”
It's not clear how Alabama voters may respond to what the world sees when they see Moore. Trump has endorsed him, and some well-known evangelical voters have gotten behind him, including Franklin Graham, president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and Focus on the Family founder James Dobson.
But many people on both sides of the aisle will be watching closely to see how Alabama, which is home to voters who still remember when laws made people who weren't white Christians second-class citizens, responds.