Last night the political landscape was rocked when the Republicans lost a Senate seat in Alabama. This would normally be unthinkable in what is a reliably deep red state. But this was not a normal Senate race from the beginning.
When Jeff Sessions accepted the position of Attorney General in the Trump Administration he had about four years left in his term. It was up to the governor to appoint someone to fill his seat and Governor Bentley named his Lt. Governor, Luther Strange, to fill the seat until they could have a special election. This turned out to be the beginning of the downfall for Luther Strange. He is by all accounts a decent man and someone that would represent the interests of the people of Alabama very well. But Governor Bentley was already facing ethics charges and was eventually forced to step down. Luther Strange had called for a suspension of the impeachment of Bentley and many Republicans thought this was a quid-pro-quo arrangement that gave him the Senate seat. Most political leaders in the state dismissed this but it angered the far right of the party who wanted one of their own to take the seat.
When the primary was held for the Senate Seat Strange finished second to Roy Moore and in the runoff, was eventually defeated by Roy Moore. Moore has a strong following among the far right of the party and especially among evangelicals. Even with all of the sexual harassment and predatory charges surround him he came within two percentage points of winning an election. A quick look at the election map of Alabama shows that once again the same voting pattern that exists nationwide also exists in Alabama. Birmingham, the largest urban area in the state, delivered the win for Doug Jones. He piled up a massive vote advantage here and Moore was unable to overcome that total.
Roy Moore was going to become an albatross to all Republicans running in 2018 if he has won. It would have forced Mitch McConnell to take some form of action. They could have refused to seat him and eventually force a new election where another Republican would win but I have to believe that Moore would have run again and maybe prevail in a primary forcing another problem to be faced. More than likely they would have sent his case to the ethics committee and if they found sufficient evidence they could have voted to expel Moore. It would have been interesting to see how Democrats would have voted on that. They forced Sen. Franken to resign because he was hurting their political message by remaining in the Senate. Would they have voted to expel Moore and allow the Republicans to get back to equality on this talking point?
I want to be clear on one point. I did not support Roy Moore and would never support him. He has a long history of controversial actions. I believe that the law is the law and while he was on the State Supreme Court he decided that he was above the law. He refused to comply with an order to remove a Ten Commandments plaque in his courtroom. He was also holding a prayer before beginning each day in court. He has been quoted as saying he believes Christianity should be the basis for public laws. He was homophobic and held islamophobic views as well. He advised judges in Alabama not to issue same sex marriage licenses even after the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of same sex marriage. I am someone that believes in the rule of law in our society and if you don’t agree with the law get it changed but until then you obey it. For the few liberals that might read this blog post that means immigration laws have to be followed as well and sanctuary cities are flying in the face of the law. You cannot demand it on some issues and ignore it on others.
So, what does this mean going forward. First it means the Republicans have lost a seat in the Senate and now their majority is reduced to 51-49. With the diversity in the Republican members it makes passing certain things very tenuous. The Democrats have been voting in a monolithic bloc and Republicans have 4-5 Senators that can divert from the caucus position at any time. It will not have an impact on any of the votes the rest of December because Jones will not be certified and sworn in prior to the Senate adjourning for the year. The most amusing comment today has been Sen. Elizabeth Warren calling for him to be seated immediately. She seems to want to ignore all the normal procedures in place by every state in certifying an election and has also conveniently forgotten how her own state of Massachusetts delayed the certification of Scott Brown to ensure that ObamaCare was passed in the Senate. My guess is she has a hard time with real history and her own history.
The fact that Moore was in the general election is yet another sign of a problem the Republicans have in their party. The far right of the party has a disproportionate amount of power in the primaries and they keep nominating candidates that cannot win in general elections when it appears a Republican should win. In recent years, we have seen the likes of Sharon Angle in Nevada, Todd Aiken in Missouri and Richard Mourdock in Indiana. They need to address this problem and fix it quickly. This problem may appear on the other side in the coming elections. With the Bernie Sanders movement, still in strong force the ultra-left of the Democrat party may start forcing their candidates on to the ballot. The American public remains just right of center politically and that has not changed for many years. They have become just left of center on social issues but on monetary and government issues they move back to the right.
All of this tells me that we are in for more years of being a politically divided nation with both sides more interested in scoring points and winning elections than actually getting things done that benefit the American public.