Alabama! This is like losing an election where the electorate consists of your mother. It is one of the most incredible own-goals in American electoral history. It is the political equivalent of watching the captain of the Titanic deliberately steer the ship into an iceberg, while many of the passengers wildly cheer.
Well, I may be going a bit overboard. Republican leadership, the nominal captains of this particular ship, did not want Moore to run even before he was accused of molesting a 14-year old girl. When he was accused, they wanted him to withdraw. But they were powerless to stop a mutiny from folks shouting “burn it all down.”
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And hey, it burned. Welcome to Doug Jones, the first Democratic senator from the state of Alabama in a quarter century.
As Bloomberg’s Joshua Green reported, the man at the helm of this particular disaster is Steve Bannon, who remains a powerful thorn in the side of the Republican establishment despite being banished from the White House. His first mate was Sean Hannity, who was persuaded to keep Roy Moore’s candidacy alive when it was on life support. By the time November rolled around, Trump was offering full-throated support, and even the dread “beltway insiders” had restored his campaign funding.
And what can we learn from this? For Democrats, my advice is simple: Don’t get too excited. Yes, the schadenfreude is almost unbearably sweet. Yes, this will make it harder for Republicans to legislate next year. Yes, it will even make it easier for Democrats to retake the Senate in 2018. But the odds still favor Republicans, and Democrats are not going to hold onto Jones’ seat for very long. Moore was less popular in his state than a normal Republican before he was accused of being a child molester. Most of the Republican opponents in 2018 will not have such a political liability.
The second lesson is for the Trump-Moore faction of the Republican party: Your grievances with the party establishment may be justified, your decision to completely dismiss their political instincts is not. Next time they have concerns with nominating a guy who keeps getting kicked out of office because he thinks that he’s a law unto himself, maybe take them seriously.
Someone who doesn’t believe that the rules apply to him has a good chance of getting engulfed in a horrible scandal. There’s also a good chance that person will refuse to do the decent thing for the party when the scandal breaks.
President Donald Trump (Photo: WH.gov)