The last time Alabama elected a Democrat before Doug Jones was Richard Shelby in 1986. Less than a decade later, he switched to the Republican Party after the GOP captured control of Congress for the first time in 40 years.
Doug Jones’s defeat of Roy Moore in Alabama doesn’t mean much for the national GOP in the 2018 elections. It was not a bellwether election. That said, Republicans have to offer better candidates, or they’ll continue to lose elections they should win.
The GOP must take a firm stand against Steve Bannon. The man has no intention of building a winning coalition. He’s all about offering up toxic candidates who might win primaries with a plurality of votes but lose in the general election. Alabama was the first test for Bannon, and he failed.
For his part, Bannon doesn’t care. He sees it as a win no matter what. Charles Cooke of National Review tweeted, “Bannon’s is a non-falsifiable theory. If he wins, he’s right. If he loses, he’s right. If his guy prevails, his finger was on the pulse; if his guy goes down, he was sabotaged.”
In the wake of Moore’s loss, Trump’s base supporters (who are also Bannon supporters) were blaming Mitch McConnell, #NeverTrump and Shelby, who refused to support Moore. Hardcore Trump supporters like Dinesh D’Souza started floating unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about tampered votes. Everybody received blame except Moore.
None of them bothered to ponder the possibility that Moore lost because of credible accusations made against him that include the sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl when Moore was 32 years old.
Bannon now moves on to Arizona where he will try to get Kelli Ward elected to what will be an open Senate seat due to Sen. Jeff Flake’s retirement at the end of his current term. This is hardly confidence-inspiring.
Ward last ran and lost to Sen. John McCain in a 2016 primary race. Ward said John McCain was “directly responsible for the rise of ISIS.” In another moment of absurdity, Ward called on McCain to resign immediately after his cancer diagnosis, angling for Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey to appoint her as a replacement.
Former U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm also enjoys the backing and support of Bannon. Grimm is yet another pernicious candidate. He was convicted on federal tax fraud charges and served seven months in prison.
Republicans ought to concern themselves with the fact that Bannon still has tremendous sway with President Donald Trump. There’s no doubt Bannon pushed Trump to back Moore, and the president did, despite the sexual assault allegations. Trump then directed the Republican National Committee, which had pulled resources from the state, to dive back in and support Moore. As long as Bannon has access to Trump, we can expect Trump to support Bannon-backed candidates.
Republicans have to ask themselves if the long-term damage Bannon does to the party is worth the mere possibility of short-term gains. Despite economic numbers any president would want (high GDP, low unemployment and a soaring stock market), Trump’s average job approval at the conservative website RealClearPolitics sits at an appalling 37 percent.
Republican officeholders should stop waiting until they’re heading out the door to speak up.
If they don’t want their party turned over to the likes of a Steve Bannon, they have to stand up now and tell him and his candidates that they’re not welcome in the GOP – or the party risks being the minority party for a long time.