‘We dare defend our rights’: Alabama Republicans standing by Moore reflect state’s tradition of defiance

Embattled Senate candidate Roy Moore is pinning his hopes for victory on Alabama’s long-held tradition of sharp defiance to perceived threats from forces outside the state.

That rebellious spirit, which dates to long before the state’s segregationist Gov. George Wallace became a national figure in the 1960s by railing against the “central government” in Washington, has been apparent in recent days as top state GOP officials have closed ranks around Moore amid a stream of allegations of sexual misconduct against the Republican and calls by national party leaders for him to step aside.

Moore’s campaign has taken to repeating Alabama’s motto, written in Latin on the state coat of arms in 1923 and translated to “We dare defend our rights,” while Moore backers have repeatedly argued that their state has the right to decide its own fate in the Dec. 12 special election.

“Alabamians will be the ultimate jury in this election, not the media or those from afar,” said state party chairwoman Terry Lathan.

Gov. Kay Ivey (R) said Friday she would vote for Moore despite being bothered by the accusations against him because, “I believe in the Republican Party, what we stand for, and most important, we need to have a Republican in the United States Senate to vote on things like the Supreme Court justices.”

Similar sentiments are coming from local-level Republicans such as Steve Morgan, the vice chairman of the Bibb County GOP in rural central Alabama, who says he doesn’t know what to make of the allegations against Moore but is frustrated by the involvement of those who live outside of Alabama — starting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and other national leaders who have abandoned Moore.

“The people in Alabama don’t like to be told what to do,” said Morgan, 69, who did not support Moore in the GOP primary. 

“I never liked Roy Moore,” he continued. “But guess what? I’m voting for Roy Moore because I hate the stupidity that has invaded the Republican Party.”

Political tensions here have mounted over the past week as Moore’s candidacy has made Alabama the epicenter of a national debate about sexual assault, the future of the U.S. Senate, the fate of President Trump’s agenda and the direction of the Republican Party,

The Senate seat had widely been expected to remain in Republican hands when it was vacated by Jeff Sessions, who became attorney general. A GOP victory was expected even after Moore defeated the incumbent who had been appointed to replace Sessions, Sen. Luther Strange, who had the backing of Trump and other national party leaders.

Republican voters will have a decisive say in who wins. Nearly two-thirds of Alabama voters typically vote Republican, which means Democrats don’t have enough people to win statewide without Republicans either crossing over or staying home in protest.

But Moore faces a well-financed Democratic opponent, former prosecutor Doug Jones, who has tried to reach out to white Republicans with his own twist on the politics of defiance — including a television ad called “Honor” in which he narrates a Civil War battle involving a Confederate general from Alabama.