Wednesday, December 13, 2017


Yesterday Doug Jones beat Roy Moore, a man who never apologizes, never concedes a point to an opponent, and never admits error. Moore was backed by Steve Bannon, who has the same attitude toward those who disagree with him, and who takes the Breitbart #WAR mentality so seriously he defied the president he used to work for by not backing that president's candidate in the primary of this race. Bannon's support of Moore was also part of a #WAR against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the most powerful congressional Republican.

McConnell for his part, has declared #WAR on regular order in Congress, ramming through a tax bill with no effort to hold hearings or consult with Democrats. He nearly rammed through an Obamacare repeal the same way.

And then there's the president, who declares #WAR on someone every day on Twitter, and who has utterly rejected compromise and consultation as president, while making no effort to reach out to Democrats and independents in the general public. His favorite form of outreach to the public is a pseudo-campaign rally before a crowd made up exclusively of hardcore supporters.

In the past, Republicans -- no, not all of them (certainly not Newt Gingrich), but especially Republican presidents -- have tried to consolidate support by portraying their ideas as mainstream and pitching their message as conciliatory. This could be maddening -- "enhanced interrogation" was mainstream? -- but even while scoring victories over Democrats, these Republicans frequently tried to seem as if they weren't taunting Democrats. It was purely strategic, but it could be disarming: Our ideas are where the center lies. Won't you join us?

Trump, Moore, and Bannon dispense will all that. Legislatively, so does McConnell. They don't want to make converts. They just want to crush their enemies (including, at times, one another). The Bannon/Moore response to the pedophilia allegations was #WAR against the accusers and the press, even though the news stories were solid and the accusers believable.

Yesterday's results were a rejection of pedophilia, but they were also a rejection of #WAR politics. Some Alabama Republicans have been tired of Moore's culture-war absolutism for years; many of them stayed home or voted Jones or third party. Black voters turned out in large numbers, determined to return fire not just against Moore but against national Republicans. And those national Republicans fought among themselves, which made it impossible for them to formulate a unified strategy after the pedophilia allegations surfaced.

So maybe there's a limit to the effectiveness of #WAR. That's good. However, I don't believe that the GOP will accept this notion until after the polls close in 2018 or 2020, if then.

No comments: