Moore's voters rejected the political establishmentBy Jack Kitchin | 10/02/2017 10:48pm
Mitch McConnell does not lose often. Elected in 1984, he has held six consecutive terms in the United States Senate, making him the longest serving senator in Kentucky's history. He has held multiple positions in the senate leadership, including Senate Majority Whip, Senate Minority Leader, and his current position as Senate Majority Leader. He has sponsored numerous pieces of legislation, chaired senate committees, and even prevented the confirmation of a Supreme Court Justice nominee. However, Mitch McConnell did lose last Tuesday. That loss came in the form of the Alabama Republican Senate Primary.
It’s no secret that McConnell supported Luther Strange, former Alabama Attorney General, who was appointed senator to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ seat. Strange’s campaign was being funded by the Senate Leadership Fund (SLF), a Super PAC who’s mission statement is to maintain the Republican majority in the senate. The SLF was founded by individuals close to Senator McConnell and its current president, Steven Law, who once served as McConnell’s chief of staff. This was a powerful endorsement for Strange, to be sure, but not as powerful as the endorsement he received from President Trump.
Trump himself was open about his support for Strange’s campaign and even stumped for him last week before the runoff. Strange was sure to publicize this endorsement in order to appeal to Alabama voters, who voted for Trump in droves in both the 2016 Republican primary and the general election in November. No doubt, Strange believed that the Trump endorsement would be a valuable asset to his campaign. Strange, however, was ultimately defeated in the race against Roy Moore, the former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. In the end, Trump’s endorsement of Strange was not enough to overcome the current popular movement away from the political establishment.
Luther Strange, whether he would willfully admit it or not, has aligned himself with the political establishment. When he was Alabama Attorney General, Strange requested a delay in the impeachment proceedings against Governor Bentley shortly before the 2016 elections. It was Governor Bentley who, shortly after the elections, appointed Strange to serve in the Senate. Many elected officials as well as voters saw this as evidence of collusion between the two. These allegations have persisted and shaped the perception that Strange is a member of the political establishment. Upon arriving in Washington, Strange did little to curb this perception by associating himself with Majority Leader McConnell and the SLF.
Strange’s opponent, on the other hand, could be considered anything but an establishment politician. Roy Moore’s resume includes military service and Chief Justice on the Alabama Supreme Court. Moore’s terms as chief justice were marked with controversy and disapproval from political colleagues, most of it stemming from Moore’s basing his legal opinions on his religious beliefs. Moore was even suspended from the bench for a time after continuing to practice Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban after the Obergefell v. Hodges decision, which ruled that same-sex marriage was protected implicitly by the Fourteenth Amendment.
Due to the nature of President Trump’s election, many are calling the anti-establishment movement in American politics the “Trump Movement.” However, it appears that the anti-establishment sentiments travel beyond the election of our current president. It’s true that Trump campaigned on the idea that he had never held public office and that he could bring a new perspective to the White House. It’s also true that President Trump handily won over voters in Alabama. But if it were true that this movement is focused around President Trump, wouldn’t the same voters that elected him turn to the candidate he endorsed in the senate primary?
Highly controversial in nature, most career politicians chose to distance themselves from Roy Moore. However, their decision to do so is exactly what made Moore such a desirable choice in the senate primary. Recently, there has been a trend among voters to elect those who are considered outsiders. This is not by any means a new trend, but it has surfaced again recently in the United States, especially in states overlooked on the national stage, such as Alabama. Many Americans have expressed that they don’t feel as though their voices are being heard in Washington. The fact of the matter is, the anti-establishment movement has less to do with President Trump and more to do with Americans using their votes in order to ensure they are acknowledged. They are looking for fresh leadership in politics in the hope that perhaps it will give them a platform.
Abraham Lincoln once said, “God must love the common man, he made so many of them.” If career politicians continue to ignore the common people, they will place their faith, and therefore their many votes, in other leaders. Mitch McConnell may not lose often, but if he doesn't stop and take notice, he may find himself being ousted from the seat he may be taking for granted.