There is plenty of Republican hand-wringing and media gloating this morning over the dramatic loss of a Republican-held U.S. Senate seat in the deepest red Alabama yesterday — the first time since a conservative Democrat won in 24 years.
It is mostly much ado about nothing.
It had nothing to do with the very liberal Democrat running, Doug Jones, who was originally just a “D” set up as a lamb to the slaughter in a state Republicans typically win by 25 to 30 points. Trump won Alabama by 28 points.
It had everything to do with Republican Roy Moore being plagued by late accusations of sexual abuse 40 years ago and his own poor handling of the accusations. Republicans stayed home and Democrats were energized at the sudden and unexpected opportunity. Most importantly, the minority turnout was very large — undoubtedly the key to Jones’ victory and the only real concern for Republicans.
So as far as indicating any sort of wave election for Democrats in 2018, it is not remotely an indicator because of the universe of unique circumstances surrounding the race. Remember Moore lost statewide election twice before and was polling as the weakest of the Republican primary field when facing the Democrat in the general election — before the wave of debilitating accusations.
Moore loss insulates Trump on sexual misconduct accusations
One line of worries among Republicans is that last night’s election is going to give Democrats and the media more ammunition to go after President Trump, and that they will redouble their efforts on that front as the Russian “collusion” investigation seems to be faltering. Yes, Democrats will harp on it and the media will report it some, but it has no real legs without new “news.” Even the media requires news pegs — although they make them up sometimes nowadays.
No, the comparison between Trump and Moore is this: Both candidates had late and unconfirmed accusations of sexual misconduct against them before their elections. The Moore accusations seemed credible enough to enough Alabama voters that it flipped the election for the Democrat.
But voters had the same chance to weigh the accusations against Trump and found them less credible than Moore’s. Quite a bit less credible, and this was reflected in media coverage. Even the anti-Trump mainstream media could not find enough leverage in the accusations to keep them newsworthy in the 2016 general election.
With such accusations that are not only unconfirmed, but unconfirmable, the only jury available if a candidate or sitting official does not voluntarily step down, is the electorate. The electorate chose last night in Alabama against Moore. And it chose in November 2016 in favor of Trump. Democrats will try, but they will not get any real legs from rehashing what the voters already decided.
Knocking down talking head shibboleths
A second line of worries is that this could portend an anti-Trump, anti-Republican electoral wave. Naturally, the media is going off the deep end in trying to extrapolate yesterday’s election to the national stage because that is what they do and because it is an opportunity to attack Trump — and that is an opportunity they never miss.
Here are a few being spewn about last night and today in that regard which are almost too easily knocked down.
• The Alabama results are a direct rejection of Trump. Nonsense. Trump supported Moore’s Republican opponent in the primary, Luther Strange, and worked for him. He supported Moore at the last second and it was not the normal resounding Trump. His base knew he was not fond of Moore, only that he was a Republican in the tight Senate, and that was not adequate when weighed against the accusations.
So let’s be clear, there were zero issues involved in this campaign, just the sexual misconduct allegations against Moore. None of the Make America Great Again agenda was on ballot — not border control, not tax reform, not deregulation, not Obamacare repeal. None of it. So this really had very little to do with Trump or Doug Jones, and everything to do with what voters thought about the accusations against Moore.
• Alabama and Virginia show voters oppose what Trump is doing. More nonsense. Media commentators have been trying to create a “trend” starting with Virginia rejecting Republican Ed Gillespie in the governor’s race a few months ago because — again, late in the game — Trump supported Gillespie, an establishment Republican.
But Virginia is clearly a blue state now as the ever burgeoning D.C. area blossoms further into Northern Virginia and brings with it more Democrat voters, which is shown in statewide offices. Further, Hillary Clinton won Virginia by five points. She lost Alabama by 28 points. The two states are in no way comparable except on one point: Both Moore and Gillespie had previously lost statewide elections in their respective states and both had only tepid support from Trump. So there is no actual trend on this point.
• This could point to a wave election for Democrats in 2018. The most nonsense. Particularly in the Senate, the 2018 electoral map is overpoweringly in favor of Republicans, who may actually pick up a seat or two as they are defending only 10 seats while Democrats are defending 25 seats, including vulnerable seats in Indiana and Missouri.
Remember, this Senate seat in Alabama is only for two years, as that is what is left in the term of Jeff Sessions, who stepped down to become Trump’s Attorney General, creating this special election. The Virginia-Alabama trend talking point is a non-starter as Trump’s policies were not on the table.
However, Democrats will use the Alabama election to fundraise and to spur their base and build momentum. That is real. It will certainly be a weapon in the 2018 midterms to get out voters. The House could be at some risk of Republican loss, but that was already the case before Alabama because of the number of Republicans in vulnerable districts in a midterm election.
And minority voters were huge in Alabama, where they are a large percentage of the population. They turned out in almost record numbers as virtually every major black Democrat in the nation campaigned in the state, from Barack Obama and Joe Biden to Alabama sports stars such as NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley. This all undoubtedly goosed turnout.
That sort of intense focus is possible in the right circumstances in one race, but it not duplicatable nationally. Still Republicans need to do more of what Trump did in 2016 — go to black neighborhoods and tell them directly that the conservative agenda is better for them and their children and why. It is. Talk to them directly, and bypass the media filter.
The conservative message is still a winner with the American people.
Rod Thomson is an author, TV talking head and former journalist, and is Founder of The Revolutionary Act.