As is now clear to most of America, Roy Moore won last night because a highly motivated, populist base showed its deep disdain for establishment politics.
As I wrote last week, “It’s a movement fueled by hard-working, patriotic Americans who embraced an American dream that’s turned into a nightmare, and they’re fed up. They’re tired of being told what to do, what to say, what to believe, and how to act.”
Donald Trump clearly gave voice to this movement a year ago, but the fascinating question of this election is what reenergized it in Alabama?
Was it more Luther Strange’s appointment by Robert Bentley, his association with Mitch McConnell, a combination of both, or is there an even deeper reason? Regarding the Bentley appointment, as State Rep. Paul Beckman told Yellowhammer six weeks ago:
Regarding the Bentley appointment, as State Rep. Paul Beckman told Yellowhammer six weeks ago:
Look, no one is saying this was illegal; it’s a matter of ethics. Luther’s office was in the middle of a criminal investigation of Bentley, so it just doesn’t look good for Bentley to turn around and appoint the man who’s investigating him. He took the appointment under questionable circumstances, and that took the decision out of the hands of the people. The undecided voters in this election represent a larger group than normal and I think that’s one reason why. You have to do what’s right and instead of waiting for it to play out, Luther created the stigma that now hangs over him.
The other theory is that Strange’s loss was more attributed to the fact that the Senate Leadership Fund—a PAC associated with a beleaguered Mitch McConnell—intervened on Luther’s behalf and that association was his undoing. McConnell is the face of the establishment, and this new American movement would rather sink that ship with a torpedo than polish its brass as it slowly submerges. The sooner the swamp is drained, the better.
While Strange’s association with both Bentley and McConnell played a part in Roy Moore’s victory, an even deeper factor was in play. What Moore’s campaign so masterfully architected was an emotional connection to members of America’s new populist movement—many of whom feel oppressed, forgotten, and unfairly targeted by leaders of a country they’ve believed in and fought for their entire lives. In other words, Moore’s campaign not only tied Luther Strange to the establishment; they brilliantly reflected to their base how Roy and his wife were under attack from that same establishment.
In so doing, Moore created a way for these socially conservative, fiercely independent voters to see themselves in his story.
The association they made is that Roy was under attack from the same status-quo politicians that they’re under attack from every day. This made sense to them on a very personal, emotional level—a level that affects their wallets and their worries. In this way, Roy Moore’s story found deep, personal resonance among an already-devoted base.
For frosting on the cake, this candidate had already shown that he’s willing to lose his job if it means removing the Ten Commandments from the courthouse, and if he’s under attack, you can better believe they will have his back. For this reason, it’s not a stretch to believe that these negative ads delivered Roy Moore’s victory on a silver platter. The hardworking, devoted people that comprise his voters despise being told what to do by elitists, and last night proved that’s exactly how they viewed this election.
While there’s no way to know what percentage of them turned out last month and again last night, the proof’s in the pudding, so it’s a safe bet that the number is extremely high. While the apathetic majority found better things to do, this unshakable base was going to the polls to vote for their champion, just as they will this fall.
The only question that now remains is, will Roy Moore’s campaign become a template for anti-establishment Republican candidates in the rest of the country or was it unique to Alabama? In other words, can Steve Bannon and the powerful Breitbart engine make Moore’s victory more about giving voice to everyday Americans that despise the establishment than about Robert Bentley and Alabama politics?
One thing is certain, Bannon and company are just getting started, and as of this morning, Roy Moore now has Donald Trump in his corner too. That’s a locomotive that’s not likely to be stopped, at least in Sweet Home Alabama.