The big loser in Tuesday’s Alabama’s special Senate election was not the Republican Party. They had already lost weeks ago, the moment the Washington Post wrote their (carefully vetted, in this instance) exposé of the thirty-year-old sexual proclivities of Judge Roy Moore.
It was checkmate from the start. In this #MeToo era with politicians flying out the window as fast as you can say Conyers and Franken, the Republicans were damned if they did and damned if they didn’t — support Moore, that is. And Moore didn’t do himself any favors with an execrable performance during an interview with Sean Hannity shortly after the allegations. He was, to put it mildly, not ready for prime time. To be honest, Moore sounded pretty dopey, even if he was innocent, which he didn’t come close to proving.
In many ways, the Republicans are lucky not to have Moore to deal with in Congress. They can face obvious White House aspirant Kirsten Gillibrand and her merry band of hypocrites with a straight face.
No, the big loser Tuesday is Steve Bannon, the sometime movie producer cum finance expert cum political strategist that some claim put Donald Trump in office and then left the White House to better support the president from without, or so he said. In this instance — purportedly to do that, I guess — he went against Trump, who originally backed the more establishment candidate Luther Strange, to back one of Bannon’s own, Judge Moore.
Was it indeed to protect the president’s agenda? I would bet my house that Strange and Moore would vote the same way in the Senate ninety-nine times out of a hundred, as would just about any other Alabama Republican candidate you can think of. No, it was about power. For Bannon, Strange bore a Scarlet Letter — the support of Mitch McConnell.
While the mainstream media suffers from TDS (Trump Derangement Syndrome), Bannon suffers from MDS (McConnell Derangement Syndrome). He stomped around Alabama convincing anyone he could find that Strange was a shill for McConnell, whom Steve wanted out as majority leader at any cost. And any cost it was, because the result has been a hugely embarrassing and pointless defeat — with a ton of substantive issues left to suffer for it, the Senate teetering in the balance.
Now I’m not a huge McConnell fan. He has his pluses and minuses like everyone in and outside of Washington. He’s accomplished some things (Gorsuch) and failed at others (healthcare). But I’m not even sure the healthcare debacle was entirely his fault. As of now, I blame John McCain.
On the larger issue of the Swamp, yes, it absolutely should be drained. But we have to be careful who’s draining it — otherwise you have a Revolving Swamp, a particularly unattractive ride for some future Disneyland. You might even name that the Robespierre Ride as the revolution spins on and on until your head flies off.
We’re not quite there yet, but the tendency exists. The Tea Party had its problems with nominees in the past, that ditzy woman in Nevada who led to the reelection of Harry Reid being a notable example.
Nevertheless inside the GOP, there still seems to be a need to choose up sides, irrespective of the capabilities of the individuals within them. Trump himself seems able to escape that. He’s largely done a terrific job of choosing his cabinet. Some are establishment types, some less so. But most (with some exceptions) seem to be picked with surprising care.
We all might consider emulating the ecumenical pragmatism of those selections. Enough of this GOPe vs. alt-right blabla civil war. It just plays into the hands of the enemy and wastes time that could be better spent looking for solutions (and better candidates)..
My guess is that very few who actually voted for Moore really wanted him. It was a defensive vote. Otherwise he would have won. This is not the kind of man most of us would want in the U.S. Senate, sexual predator or not. Can’t we do better? (I know Bannon can. Come on, Steve.)
This Alabama defeat is a learning opportunity for the GOP, as was Virginia. They both must be taken seriously. Next year the real fight begins.
Roger L. Simon is an award-winning novelist, Academy Award-nominated screenwriter and co-founder of PJ Media.