There are times when one late-night comic’s take on a particular issue, no matter how solid, just can’t truly encapsulate the top story of the day. In this political climate, of course, “top story” translates to “latest thing that feels like a dirty, rusty shard of scrap metal stuck under your eyelid.” Like someone who can only be described as “you know, like Donald Trump—but worse” winning a major election. That’s when you break out the late-night horrified joke anthology format—when an overtly racist, homophobic, Islamophobic, disgraced former judge who was removed from office (twice) for disobeying the rule of law becomes the likely next Republican senator from Alabama. How bad could such a person be? Well, let’s let people like Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah, and Seth Meyers bring us up to speed on one Roy Moore (R-AL).
Moore, a gun-totin’, horse-ridin, homosexual-hatin’ former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court (and, according to Colbert on The Late Show, “Westworld robot no one wants to have sex with”) was removed repeatedly from his position, once for refusing to remove a monument of the 10 commandments from government grounds, and once for refusing to honor the U.S. Supreme Court decision establishing marriage equality. In case there’s any question of Moore’s objection on the latter being based on some obscure point of law, Noah, on Wednesday’s Daily Show, played a clip of Moore, unprompted, equating homosexuality and bestiality, and proclaiming that “homosexual conduct” should be a jailable offense. Noting that the reporter in the clip had to point out to Moore that he had not brought up bestiality, like, at all, Noah pointed out, “If you have to bring up bestiality to win your argument, you’ve already lost.”
Okay, so there are plenty of anti-LGBTQ bigots in the Republican Party, but Moore can’t be, as, Meyers puts it on Late Night, “completely divorced from reality” all across the board, right? The good people of Alabama voted for him pretty overwhelmingly over Trump’s chosen candidate, Luther Strange, so he can’t be a total “troglodyte” (Colbert’s word), right? Well, there was the time Moore demanded that Muslim Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN) be drummed out of Congress because of his religion. And the speech where Moore referred to the racial tensions in America as, in part, “reds fighting yellows.” (Colbert wondered exactly where Moore lives that he sees West Side Story-style gangs of Native Americans and Asians having rumbles.) Or, during his campaign, when Moore whipped out a tiny but very real gun at a rally to show his love for the Second Amendment. Or, hey, how about the fact that Moore remains a dedicated “birther” when even Donald Trump has (at least publicly) distanced himself from that racist bullshit conspiracy theory? Or that instance when Moore claimed that 9/11 was the result of God punishing America for accepting homosexuals? Or when Moore proclaimed to a reporter that there are definitely, 100 per cent, for sure communities in America that live under the stultifying yoke of Sharia Law. (When pressed, Moore, taken aback that a journalist would ask the most obvious and necessary follow-up question, mumbled that he’d heard it was totally happening in “Illinois, Indiana, I don’t know.”)
Sure, Moore’s a theocratic, law-scoffing bigot, religious and otherwise, but maybe Alabama Republicans are responding to the man’s keen policy insights? Well, as Meyers shows in a hilariously horrifying radio interview, Moore lacks even the most rudimentary understanding of DACA, DAPA, or “DREAMers.” You remember, those immigration policies and terms that have been front page news for months and months so that even little white kids are asking their parents if their friends with brown skin from preschool are going to be hauled off and shipped to a country they’ve never known? Yeah, Moore gets super-tetchy that the flabbergasted (and admirably sarcastic) radio host expects him to know the most basic facts about one of the most divisive public policy issues in the nation. Great work, Alabama.
So what does it mean that a candidate who somehow manages to be simultaneously more openly bigoted and obviously less well informed than even Donald Trump defeated a candidate Trump supported? While only Alabamians can answer what the hell is going on in Alabama, each host had theories. Colbert told Trump to buck up and not “be ashamed the candidate you backed turned out to be a loser,” since his own supporters seems to be holding on just fine. Zing. Noah offered the sobering thought that Moore’s victory proves that a campaign based on literally nothing but old school racism indicates that “Trumpism can live on without Trump.” As for Meyers, Moore’s emergence as the likely next senator from Alabama after a campaign based on riling a white base through “spectacle and grievance” is simply the modern Republican Party laid bare. Or, as Meyers puts it, if not the “modern” Republican Party, then definitely and incontrovertibly, the “current” one.