On Tuesday, September 26, Roy Moore, former Alabama State Supreme Court Chief Justice, defeated Luther Strange, former State Attorney General, to become the Republican nominee to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions, now the U.S. Attorney General. Moore will face his Democratic opponent, Doug Jones, in a December 12 vote.
The winner of that vote will serve as Senate for the remainder of Sessions’ term, through 2020.
What follows will be more concerned with Strange’s loss than with Moore’s win. For information about Moore’s career and his appeal, a reader may click here.
Under Alabama law, when a Senate seat becomes vacant, the Governor appoints an interim replacement, who fills the seat until a special election can be held. In February of this year, then Governor Robert Bentley asked his AG, Strange, to fill Sessions’ seat.
Senator Strange’s incumbent status didn’t do him much good in the voting, Tuesday, though. It was in a sense a taint, because at the time the Governor appointed Strange, Bentley was suffering the slings and arrows of a sex-and-corruption scandal. Two months later (in April), the Ethics Commission said there existed probable cause that Bentley had violated campaign finance as well as ethics laws. Five days after that announcement, Bentley resigned.
Despite that, Strange did have, or he seemed to have, one great advantage over Moore in this campaign. He had the support of President Donald Trump, who is wildly popular in Alabama.
Right Wing View
Much of the commentary in the hours since the results became known has focused on the reason Trump supported Strange, and took the chance of precisely this rebuke. Moore’s support comes from the folks who represented Donald Trump’s core voters early on in his Presidential campaign: evangelical Christians who are fervent nationalists and anti-elitists in the bargain.
Strange’s support, on the other hand, came from what John Carney, writing in Breitbart, calls the “political vehicles of the Republican political establishment.”
So, why did Trump support the establishment over Trumpism? There seem to be two hypotheses on the rightward side of social media. One view is that it is all Jared Kushner’s fault. The President is too uncritical of the advice his son-in-law gives him.
Conservative pundit extraordinaire Ann Coulter tweeted, “Kushner told Trump to fire Comey, hire Scaramucci and back Luther Strange. How much awful advice will Trump take?”
Another view is that this was an example of the Art of the Deal. Trump’s Presidency thus far has not coordinated well with the Republican leadership in the House and Senate. In order for that to change, Trump has to develop closer relations with the leaders there. As part of that effort, Trump supported their man in Alabama.
Left Wing View
Writers on the left can view a civil war among conservatives with a certain degree of satisfied detachment. Jim Newall, in Slate, adopts just that tone, and observes that “being an incumbent in an ineffective Congress went a long way to doing Luther Strange in.”
Many leftward writers like to see President Trump as the Viktor Frankenstein in this situation and Moore as the creature Trump charged up in his laboratory. Strange was supposed to be the trick Trump would use to control the Creature.
The vote, says The New Republic, is “ simultaneous rejection of Trump the man and an endorsement of Trumpian politics … marking an evolution in the nativist, anti-establishment movement that Trump kicked off two years ago and that now threatens to eclipse him.”
Likewise at Vox, Jeff Stein discusses the result at some length as a victory of Trumpism and a loss for Trump. By going all in for Strange, Trump has “inadvertently exposed the limits of his influence over Republican primary voters.”
Further, Moore is hardly likely to be a loyal member of the rank and file when he arrives in Washington. As he said in a fund-raising email during the campaign, “Judge Roy Moore in the U.S. Senate means the END of Mitch McConnell’s reign as Majority Leader.”
As for leftists: whatever satisfaction they take in the dissension in their enemies’ ranks is perhaps balanced by their dismay that an outlaw has prevailed, and will now likely end up in the U.S. Senate. The word “outlaw” in this instance comes from a distinguished Harvard Law professor, Lawrence Tribe, who tweeted thus: