Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled Doug Jones bested Roy Moore in Tuesday’s senate race, although I’m not quite as surprised as most people that he did considering how unpopular Roy Moore is in Alabama (losing the primary the last two times he ran for Governor, and not even making the run-off in 2010). Sure, some people thought I was a fool for backing Moore over Luther Strange in the senate primary, but if Strange had been the Republican nominee, we would likely be looking at one more boring red-state Republican senator most people can’t name and who stays in office until he dies. [Not unlike Alabama’s other senator, Richard Shelby, who most Alabamians can’t even name or pick out of a line-up, despite him being in office for three decades.]
Still, I have to wonder if Democrats would’ve won even if Doug Jones had lost…
1. Mitch McConnell is thrilled Roy Moore lost and may want to lose the majority. At this point, is McConnell more worried about Democrats regaining the senate or Steve Bannon’s dark army overthrowing him? I’d say the latter. Honestly, I think he might prefer losing the senate majority, and go back to Republican’s default position: defense. Are they great at blocking anything meaningful from getting done? Absolutely. Are they even half as good at governing this nation? Hahahahaha. The longer Republicans are in control of all three branches of government, the less popular they are, and McConnell knows all too well that the Kochs and Mercers of the world are getting fed up with the GOP’s failure to enact their agenda, which is why they’ve started turning to Bannon in the first place. It’s not a coincidence that Moore seemed to be running against McConnell as much as he was Doug Jones. Literally saying he planned to make McConnell’s life “a living hell.”
2. And yet, he’ll use Moore as a cautionary tale in the 2018 primaries. Bannon has been trying to hold the “moderate Republican” line (which is at this point is only slightly to the right of Barry Goldwater) that far-right Republicans are unelectable in the 2018 primaries. He should be able to make that case a lot more effectively now than if Moore had won. Can’t you almost see that turkey neck saying “Well, sure, we’d love to have Kid Rock as our senate candidate in [Flyover State], but look at what happened to Roy Moore? Maybe we ought to go with one of my pre-approved candidates instead, what do you say GOP mouth breathers?”
3. Trump himself may even be relieved. It’s always dangerous trying to get inside Trump’s head and try to figure out his thinking, possibly because Trump himself rarely seems to know what he’ll be doing five minutes ahead of time. Still, Moore wasn’t so much an ally in his fight to be the last Republican populist standing, as he was a challenger for that mantle. Trump’s ideas on “populism” and even “nationalism” (terms he seems to scarcely understand) diverge mightily from Moore’s, rhetoric be damned. Inside White House reports claim that Trump mocks Mike Pence’s religion behind closed doors, and I’m not so sure he was fully on-board with Moore’s evangelical version of Sharia Law. Plus, he knows Moore is crazy and ambitious and meglomaniacal (all tendencies he can recognize in himself and others), and someone like that is more likely to turn on those above them than below them (where out of power Democrats are). He’s probably breathing a sigh of relief at Moore’s downfall, knowing it’ll take away at least one potential 2020 primary challenger and voice of dissent. Let’s not forget that Moore called himself an earlier version of Trump, and may resent someone else stealing his shtick. Trump has fashioned himself into the second coming of George Wallace, and Moore was an existential far-right threat for that mantle.
4. The GOP is all breathing a sigh of relief. Aside from Steve Bannon and a handful of out-of-power politicians (like Sarah Palin), the overwhelming majority of the GOP is breathing a sigh of relief right now. Not only can they avoid having their worst tendencies showcased (open bigotry, religious intolerance, sexual misconduct), but they can avoid the tricky dilemma over whether to seat Moore at all or not. Even if they had allowed him to be seated, it’s only a matter of time before a ticking bomb like Moore does something to be thrown out of office again. I mean, this is a man that even Ted Cruz would look at and say “quit the grandstanding.” In the long run, Doug Jones winning that seat is better for them too.