He must have known what was coming. Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, a pillar of the cowardly GOP Establishment, announced he would not be running for re-election on Tuesday [Republican Sen. Corker announces he won’t seek re-election, by Richard Lardner and Erik Schelzig, Associated Press, September 26, 2017]. Corker’s departure is widely being interpreted as a sign of the Establishment’s inability to control the GOP base, as the election of President Trump, the rise of nationalism and the emergence of alternative media outlets (such as Breitbart and VDARE.com) make it harder for cuckservatives to keep Republican primary voters in line [Sen. Bob Corker’s retirement is notable for when it’s happening, by Amber Phillips, Washington Post, September 26, 2017]
And now, we have the ultimate proof in Alabama. Judge Roy Moore, one of the most persistent targets of the Southern Poverty Law Center, is now the Republican nominee for the Senate. And he defeated incumbent Senator Luther Strange despite Strange being endorsed by President Donald J. Trump himself.
Of course, Strange didn’t just have Trump in his corner. He also had Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell using his PAC to run negative ads against Moore, ads which conservative websites called “defamatory” and which cost many millions of dollars [McConnell’s Super PAC accused of ‘defaming ‘ Roy Moore, by Bob Unruh, WND, August 3, 2017] As a result, Judge Moore openly campaigned against his party’s own Senate leader during the primary, claiming a victory for him would mean the end of McConnell’s hapless leadership. [McConnell’s mortal enemy might soon be in his caucus, by Burgess Everett and Seung Min Kim, Politico, September 18, 2017]
However, and significantly, Moore never campaigned against President Trump himself. Yet Trump certainly gave Moore ample cause. He openly campaigned for Luther Strange, speaking with the incumbent Senator at a major rally, with Strange sporting a red MAGA hat [Alabama rally: Trump campaigns in last-ditch effort for Senate candidate Luther Strange, by Alex Pappas, Fox News, September 22, 2017]. Trump also said Moore would have a hard time beating the Democrats because they would pour in so much money. He even called Moore by the wrong first name [President Trump admits he doesn’t ‘know that much’ about Alabama Senate contender Roy Moore, gets his name wrong in interview, by Jason Silverstein, New York Daily News, September 25, 2017]
And yet, revealingly, Moore and his allies framed their insurgency against Trump’s wishes as an act of loyalty.
During a debate with Strange, Moore suggested President Trump was being “redirected” by Mitch McConnell and others who “will not support his [Trump’s] agenda” [Alabama Senate debate erupts over whether McConnell is manipulating Trump, by Alex Isenstadt and Daniel Strauss, Politico, September 21, 2017]
UKIP’s former leader Nigel Farage said “absolutely” that “the point is to help the president” by electing Roy Moore and suggested The Judge would help deliver on President Trump’s agenda [Brexit Hero Farage in Alabama: Judge Roy Moore ‘Not Going To Be Sucked Into The Swamp’ by Ian Mason, Breitbart, September 25, 2017]
Sarah Palin channeled Trump’s rhetoric by saying Moore would take on “DC’s swamp monsters” and “help Make America Great Again” [Sarah Palin endorses Judge Roy Moore for US Senate, by Randy DeSoto, Western Journalism, August 24, 2017]
Some of President Trump’s best-known advisors also backed Moore.
And most importantly, it shows how the populist and nationalist movement is larger than Trump himself.
Trump’s advisors seem to know this. In the Fox News interview referenced above, Dr. Gorka claimed “no one voted for Trump, we voted for his agenda.” And during his speech in support of Moore, Bannon referenced Jeff Sessions, not Trump, as the “spiritual father of the populist and nationalist movement.”
But does Trump himself know this? Already, the Main Stream Media is trying to present this as a devastating defeat for the president personally. The New York Times kvetched about Moore’s social views and sneered that his victory “demonstrated in stark terms the limits of Mr. Trump’s clout” [Roy Moore Wins Senate G.O.P. Runoff in Alabama, by Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, September 26, 2017]. Jason Le Miere at Newsweek suggested Trump had suffered his first major political defeat at the ballot box and hinted his political weakness could trigger his impeachment. [How Alabama Senate Election Results Could Trigger Trump’s Impeachment, September 26, 2017]
This wildly overstates the case. Trump had hedged his bets, suggesting at one point he made a “mistake” in endorsing Strange [Trump supports Strange, but says it may be “mistake,” Washington Post, September 25, 2017]. He also said he would “campaign like hell” for Moore if Moore won [Roy Moore: ‘I can’t wait’ for Trump to ‘campaign like hell’ for me, by Sean Langille, Washington Examiner, September 25, 2017].
It’s hardly a devastating defeat for President Trump when his supposed enemies are fanatically loyal to him and his “allies” can’t wait to stab him in the back.
But there is still a lesson for Trump. The Chamber of Commerce and Republican Establishment picked this fight to “shut down” Moore and show populists who was in charge. [Chamber of Commerce: ‘Shut Down’ Roy Moore & ‘Remind Bannon Who’s In Charge’ by Joel Pollak, Breitbart, September 24, 2017] They just got their answer. It’s not them.
Trump should seize on the narrative of his supposed opponents. He is unquestionably being given objectively poor political counsel by his aides—not surprising how utterly incompetent the Republican Establishment is when it comes to political strategy. [Steve Bannon: We Need A Review After This Alabama Race To See How Trump Came To Endorse Someone Like Luther Strange, by Allahpundit, Hot Air, September 26, 2017]
Tellingly, Trump in his messy intuitive way is already embarking on a movement to shore up his base by taking on the pro-Black Lives Matter and anti-American antics of the National Football League [Trump’s N.F.L. Critique a Calculated Attempt to Shore Up His Base, by Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman, New York Times, September 25, 2017]. But such symbolic fights are meaningless unless they are coupled with real action on trade and immigration policy.
Today, those who defeated Trump in the Republican army are still proclaiming their loyalty to their Commander-in-Chief. But Donald Trump, memes aside, is not a sovereign or just a symbol. He is a man who created a political movement—and that movement expects results. The movement he created, and which put him in office, is desperate for him to lead on an America First agenda.
If Trump does not give it results, the movement will eventually find a new leader. Roy Moore is almost certainly not that leader on a national scale. But in Alabama tonight, Moore proved he is stronger than the president himself.
Trump has given the Establishment Republicans their chance and they have failed him. It’s time for him to return to the people who have supported him from the very beginning.
James Kirkpatrick [Email him] is a Beltway veteran and a refugee from Conservatism Inc.