Moore’s win conjures 2018 nightmare — for both parties [but a dream for America]
Author: Bourgeois September 28, 2017
Republicans might pad their majority — but with troublemakers who owe Mitch McConnell nothing.
Roy Moore’s win in Alabama’s Senate primary has raised the specter of a nightmare scenario for Democrats and Republicans: The GOP picks up a handful of seats next year, padding its Senate majority, but with candidates like Moore, who buck party leadership as often as they fall in line.
The Alabama race is the latest contest forcing both parties to take seriously candidates they once might have dismissed as unelectable. Early in 2016, several prominent Democrats exulted in Donald Trump’s meteoric rise, urging fellow liberals to support his nomination on the grounds that it would virtually guarantee a Republican defeat. Then he won the election.
Some Democrats similarly cheered Moore’s ascent, arguing that he’d be easier to take down in the December general election. But others are alarmed by the prospect of a Trump-inspired bloc in the Senate.
“All of us who saw the rise of Trump and thought, ‘Oh, this country could never elect somebody who brags about assaulting women and mocks the disabled and war veterans, we’re thinking differently now,” said Paul Begala, veteran Democratic strategist. Begala at one point rooted for Trump’s candidacy, attributing it to “the fact that the good Lord is a Democrat with a good sense of humor.”
“What do they say in recoveries? You have to hit bottom? I thought that, with Trump, they hit bottom,” Begala said of the GOP. “But, apparently not, because Moore is worse.”
Republicans have their own fears about a Sen. Moore. They agree not only that the GOP is likely to hold the Alabama seat, but that Moore’s primary victory will inspire a rash of anti-establishment candidates who sow chaos and would make Congress even more dysfunctional if they were to win an election. And party hands are no longer writing them off.
Rank-and-file Republicans, who spent more than $13 million to stop Moore, were startled by Tuesday’s results. They said they understood how candidates across the country could tap into the same anti-establishment fervor that helped Moore — who was twice removed from the state Supreme Court, once for refusing to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments — overpower Strange.
“The thing that Roy Moore really has, and everybody thinks it’s the Ten Commandments, it’s actually taking on The Man. And that’s kind of a bipartisan thing. That’s a Trump thing, that’s a Chris McDaniel thing,” said Jeff Roe, who served as Strange’s chief political consultant, referring to the Mississippi candidate who came within half a percentage point of unseating Sen. Thad Cochran in 2014.
No one is happier about the current state of affairs than the president’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon, who is lending aid and encouragement to renegade candidates across the country. On Monday, after speaking at a Moore rally, he dined with McDaniel and Mark Green, a prospective Senate candidate from Tennessee, at the Marriott resort in Point Clear, Alabama.
McDaniel is almost certain to challenge another Republican incumbent, Roger Wicker, next year, and Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker’s announcement on Tuesday that he plans to retire leaves the primary field in that statewide open. Green, a state senator, withdrew his nomination for Army secretary in May after news reports about his controversial views on gays and Muslims.
Bannon said on Wednesday that he was boarding a flight “out West” to meet with other candidates, though he declined to specify the exact location. Already, anti-establishment contenders are on the horizon, not only in Mississippi and Tennessee, but also in Arizona, Nevada, Michigan, and Maine.
“We’re going to war,” Bannon said in an interview. “This is not a pillow fight, this is a fight fight.”
In Arizona, Republican Sen. Jeff Flake is one of the cycle’s most vulnerable incumbents. He has lambasted Trump and been savaged by him in return, labeled “toxic,” “WEAK” and a “non-factor in [the] Senate.” The president has encouraged his primary opponent, Kelli Ward, who has won the financial backing of the hedge fund magnate Robert Mercer, one of the chief supporters of Trump’s presidential campaign.
In Nevada, the son of legendary UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, Danny, is challenging incumbent Sen. Dean Heller; in Michigan, the rebel rock star Kid Rock is entertaining a run; and Maine’s outspoken governor, Paul LePage, has not ruled out a bid against Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats.
Unlike the tea party candidates of 2010 and 2012, these candidates and potential candidates are not united by any coherent ideological vision. Moore, a conservative Christian who believes the dictates of the Bible supersede court orders, and Kid Rock, a vulgarian broadly opposed to federal entitlements, share little in common.
The tea partiers came to Washington and created the House Freedom Caucus, which now serves as a power center in the House, and, at least for a while, GOP Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah worked together as legislative allies in the upper chamber.
What binds today’s anti-establishment candidates together is simply their contempt for the powers that be, particularly Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is likely to become the primary victim if they storm Washington in 2018. That’s precisely what Bannon has in mind.
“We’re gonna make him so toxic. We’re basically gonna tell people: If McConnell endorses you, you’re finished … that’s gonna put the fear of God in everybody,” he said.
Perhaps, but Moore had a statewide following that some of the other potential challengers lack. And Strange had been in the Senate only since February, while some of the Republicans on the ballot next year have spent years in the job.
Still, some political onlookers are beginning to wonder what all of this could mean for the disrupter-in-chief, who is at once a symptom, an instigator and a victim of Washington’s dysfunction.
Republicans who battled Trump in last year’s GOP primary say the forces he unleashed may spin out of his control, stymieing his ability to push a legislative agenda through Congress and tarnishing his political legacy.
“Be careful what you wish for, and Trump is seeing this now. The anger of the voters is not necessarily focused or implemented in a smart way,” said [RINO] Terry Sullivan, who ran Sen. Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign. “You can start a revolution, but that doesn’t mean it’s gonna follow you. They got Robespierre in the end, too.”