Yesterday the Republican Party in Alabama had a runoff election to decide their nominee to replace Jeff Sessions in the Senate. Luther Strange had been appointed to fill that post until a general election, which will be held in December. The two contenders were Judge Roy Moore, former chief of the Alabama Supreme Court, who had been removed by the federal justice system TWICE for violating the law, and of course, Strange.
Moore was by far the more flamboyant candidate who flouted U.S. Supreme Court rulings (hence his removal from office) and was recently shown at a rally brandishing a real pistol. Well, he said it was a pistol, but no self-respecting Southerner would be caught dead carrying anything that tiny. The 38 Smith and Wesson my daddy gave me when I was 18 years old would have put it to shame. But if there’s one thing Southerners like in their politics it’s entertainment. They attend political rallies with the same fervor they go to summer church camp revivals. It’s a way to get all wound up and forget about your problems.
Naturally, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell preferred that the more rational Luther Strange retain his Senate seat, and by some feat of magic, managed to persuade Donald Trump to endorse him in the runoff. That may have been a huge strategic mistake on his part. Trump’s personality fits far more closely to Moore’s and political positions on issues are meaningless as Trump never keeps them anyway. Plus his declining poll numbers demonstrate that he is becoming increasingly unpopular with voters. Then there is what has become known as the “Rick Wilson Rule” in politics, i.e, “everything Trump touches, dies.”
Trump came to Alabama last week to participate in a rally for Luther Strange. As someone who has been involved in Southern politics since the early 1970s, this one took the cake. Trump stood before the crowd and told them that it might have been a mistake for him to endorse Strange for the Senate seat. That’s one for the history books. Never, ever, has a president (or any major political figure for that matter) attended a rally for a candidate and said he had made a mistake endorsing him. Trump not only threw Strange under the bus at that rally, he drove the bus over him, and then backed up on him again.
But in the same rally, Trump encouraged the people to support Luther Strange in order to “send a message to Mitch McConnell.” Had he forgotten already that McConnell was the one who asked him to support Strange. What was the message he wanted them to send McConnell – “we love you?” My daddy was born and raised in Alabama and if he were still alive today he would know exactly what to say about Donald Trump. “That man,” daddy would say “is ate up with the dumb ass.”
Moore was also the choice of Steve Bannon and Breitbart News. And their headline today “Donald Trump: Roy Moore Will Help Make America Great Again” shows Trump wasting no time jumping on their bandwagon.
But hang in there folks, because as Yogi Berra said “It ain’t over til the fat lady sings.” There is still the final election in December. It’s true that Alabama has been a pretty consistent red state for decades (not counting Jimmy Carter) but there is a Democrat in the field as well. His name is Doug Jones and his credentials are pretty impressive. He is a former U.S. prosecutor who convicted the men who bombed the Birmingham church in 1963, killing four innocent children. Not everyone in Alabama is a gun-totin, pickemup driving, Confederate flag waving ignoramus.
And Moore makes the perfect target for Jones in the general election. The contrasts between the two could not be greater. And the election tide that Trump rode to victory in November is definitely changing. The media hasn’t covered it very much, but is a number of local state elections, Democrats have won traditional Republican seats that Trump carried by easy margins. One by one they are being picked off. It is not unreasonable to hope that this trend could continue in a state-wide contest.
Politics in the South can be unruly and unpredictable. That what makes it so much fun sometimes, and absolutely devastating at others. Trump will undoubtedly enthusiastically support Judge Moore in his Senate bid. He’s a nut job after Trump’s own heart. Let’s hope he campaigns for him up and down the state because – you know – the Rick Wilson Rule.