The Walking Dead Limps On

by Jonah Goldberg

Okay, it’s been a few days, and I assume everyone who still cares about The Walking Dead — a shrinking group of people according to the ratings — is probably caught up. Still if you didn’t watch Sunday’s mid-season finale, you should probably skip this — and maybe the finale, too. I try to minimize Spoilers though.

On one of the first episodes of my podcast, David French said that one of his main problems with TWD is that the crew goes from being Seal Team Six to the Keystone Cops, sometimes in the same episode (or something close to that). That problem hasn’t ended – it’s intensified: Every episode, I expect to get mad at the characters for one stupid decision or another.

In fact, it’s hard for me not to have outright contempt for a lot of the characters, which is a bad place for a show to be. I’m not talking about the supporting players, or the villain, or the Trash People (don’t get me started); I mean the main characters. Sunday night’s show featured the death (presumably) of a major character. The network promoted this death as a huge blow to viewers, sort of like the death of Ned Stark in Game of Thrones. I suspect it will be greeted by many with relief.

But even if you’re angry to see the character go, the real problem is that the show is simply a hot mess. This is the case from the jumpy editing that always makes you feel like you missed last week’s episode for about the first 15 minutes of each show to the ridiculously inexplicable tactics and motivations of the characters to the tedious debates about morality.

Don’t get me wrong: I have no problem seeing people wrestle with moral dilemmas, but many of these moral dilemmas were weighty subjects in previous seasons, when the threat of the new world was fresh and unknown. By this point, the survivors should know who they are, what they’re willing to do, and stop whining about it. Such debates feel more like filler and laziness than attempting to entertain the audience.

The show is also inheriting many of Game of Thrones’s timeline problems, but these problems are far less forgivable for a show that’s supposed to be based in the real world (more or less). For instance, it seems like Maggie has been pregnant for several years now, and she still isn’t showing. Conversely, it’s supposed to be just a few years since the zombie apocalypse and the Trash People already have a dialect that seems like a cheap Star Trek rip off. I half expect the leader of Garbage Nation to start yelling, “Brain and brain, what is brain!?

Erik Kain makes a good case for firing the show runner (Explicit Spoilers), which I think makes sense. In the near term though, I have one concrete suggestion. Kill Negan. Kill him soon. Kill him painfully and move on. I think Jeffrey Dean Morgan is a great actor, but someone made a terrible decision in how he portrays Negan. The ideal villain is someone people love to hate. Negan isn’t that. People hate him, but that’s it. There’s no love. He’s annoying as Hell. I don’t mind his cruelty and all that. But his dialogue and mannerisms are simply unentertaining and unbelievable. It’s an incredible waste.

I’ll see the show through to the end, just as I did with Lost and Battlestar Galactica and Dexter — other shows that squandered the loyalty of their audiences. I’ve invested so much time, and I feel like I should write about it to the end. But it’s not a good sign that I am relieved it won’t be on again until February.

How Much Credit Should Alabama Republicans Get for Moore’s Defeat?

by Robert VerBruggen

I’m as relieved as anyone that Roy Moore will not be joining the Senate, and the conservatives who stayed home, wrote in a candidate, or voted for Doug Jones were a necessary ingredient in that outcome. But it’s also worth noting that the margin was just 1.5 percentage points. Most Republican voters pulled the lever for Moore.

One instructive exercise is to compare last night’s vote counts with those of the 2014 gubernatorial race, considering the overall totals were pretty similar — roughly 1.2 million then, 1.3 million yesterday. (Jeff Sessions was elected as a senator that year too, but ran unopposed.)

Alabama’s incumbent Republican governor, Robert Bentley, won 747,000 votes in 2014. Roy Moore won 650,000, or 87 percent of that number. For every eight Alabamians who voted Republican for governor in 2014, about seven Alabamians voted for Moore yesterday.

The 2014 Democratic candidate won just 427,000 votes, compared with 671,000 for Doug Jones, a 57 percent increase. Some of this is no doubt Republicans who switched — but increased Democratic turnout, especially among African Americans, seems to be a major factor.

Roy Moore would have won if he’d matched Bentley’s vote total; instead, he lost about 100,000 votes. But even 100,000 outright defections to the Democrats — i.e., ignoring the fact that many Republican voters likely stayed home and 23,000 people wrote in candidates — wouldn’t have been enough to close the 2014 gap. For that we need to thank Alabama Democrats for stepping up and making a special effort in a statewide race.

Senate and House GOP Make Tax Deal

by Jibran Khan

House and Senate GOP leadership have reached a preliminary deal on the tax bill. While the deal harmonizes provisions that have passed both the Senate and House, it is possible that it will raise the ire of some legislators who advocated a different direction for reform.

The new bill would reduce the corporate tax rate to 21 percent, rather than the original 20 percent, in order to fund a reduction of the top individual tax rate to 37 percent.

It also reduces the tax deduction for pass-through companies (the majority of businesses, which are taxed through the owners’ personal taxes) to 20 percent, down from 23 percent in the original bill. The effect of this change will be reduced somewhat by the change in top tax rate; this is because pass-through business taxes are essentially the individual rate minus the deduction, so in this case it would be 27 percent.

The mortgage interest deduction will be retained, though capped at $750,000. It is not clear whether the new bill will grandfather existing mortgages (as the House bill did) or eliminate the deduction for equity interest (as the Senate bill did).

A more detailed announcement should be coming later today.

What We Know about Al Franken’s Replacement

by Alexandra DeSanctis

The short answer: Not much. Minnesota governor Mark Dayton has announced that he will appoint current lieutenant governor Tina Smith to fill Senator Al Franken’s seat, after Franken promised to step down in the wake of several sexual-misconduct allegations against him. Smith will serve a one-year term, after which she will run in a special election to complete the last two years of Franken’s term.

Smith has been lieutenant governor of Minnesota since 2015 and before that served as Dayton’s chief of staff. According to the Mercury News, she managed Walter Mondale’s unsuccessful Senate campaign in Minnesota in 2002 and worked for Minneapolis mayor R. T. Rybak’s office before managing his campaign for governor. Smith also held a marketing position at General Mills, which is based in Minnesota, and founded her own public-relations firm.

She has had little time holding public office herself to give an indication of her political stances on most issues, although it’s reasonable to assume she’s fairly progressive, like Dayton and Franken. Interestingly, Smith served for several years as a vice president of Planned Parenthood’s affiliate covering Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

Meanwhile, Franken has not set an official date for his resignation.

Andrew Sullivan Sounds Off — On Everything

by Jamie Weinstein

My podcast interview with Andrew Sullivan is now up, and it’s a doozy. We get into just about everything, from why he thinks Donald Trump should be removed from office, to his criticism of the #MeToo movement, to a rather heated conversation about his view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

No matter your ideology, I suspect there are points you will be nodding in agreement with Sullivan and points where you will be screaming at the podcast in rage at him. 

Sullivan says, for example, that though he wants President Trump removed from office, he is fine with Mike Pence taking over. 

“I’m desperate for Mike Pence to take over,” he exclaimed. 

Though Joe Biden might be his preferred 2020 presidential candidate, he doesn’t think Biden could survive the scrutiny of the current #MeToo moment. 

“In this climate with men with their hands over everything, I mean the man is straight out of the 1950s,” Sullivan explains. “He’s grabbed more boobs and cupped more butts than I think anybody could imagine. It’s part of his charm, of course, that he’s so unreconstructed, and I would still vote for him.”

He also thinks the #MeToo movement has gone too far. 

“I just don’t think that Al Franken did anything that required him resigning from office,” he said. “I just think that was a disproportionate punishment for what seemed to be rather petty, if tawdry and kind of pathetic and not that admirable. But I don’t think it’s, ‘I have to resign from the US Senate for those reasons,’ especially not when we have a president who’s done far, far worse, bragged about it, and he’s still president.”

As for the gay rights movement, of which Sullivan has been on the forefront for decades, he thinks it’s almost outlived its purpose. 

“Generally speaking, my point of view is the whole point of a civil rights movement is to end. You’ve achieved certain things. You’re done. Now get on with your lives, ” he argued. “And I think it was one of the most controversial things I ever said in the gay community early on was my goal was to shut the gay rights movement down because we’ve succeeded. And I think we almost have, and I want to shut it down after that.”

Sullivan also discussed his friendship with Matt Drudge, whom he considers a “crazy genius.” And in case you are wondering, Sullivan is still a Trig Truther. “I do not believe her story about that [Sarah Palin’s] pregnancy,” he said. “I don’t. I defy anybody to believe it.”

There is so much more in the podcast. Give it a listen.

Uncommon Knowledge: The Second World Wars with Victor Davis Hanson, Part II

by Peter Robinson

Could the Axis powers have won? What are the counterfactuals for World War II? Find out in Part II of this episode as military historian, editor of Strategika, and Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow Victor Davis Hanson joins me to discuss his latest book, The Second World Wars.

If Hitler had not attacked Russia or the Japanese had not attacked Pearl Harbor, the USSR would have never turned on Germany and the United States would have never entered the war. Hanson argues that the leaders of the Axis powers overreached in their strategies, which ultimately caused their downfall. Hanson also explores the counterfactual surrounding the American commanders and the “what-ifs” that could have prevented American success in the war.

Victor Davis Hanson also reflects on his own family history and connections to World War II and how it shaped him as both a person and a scholar in his life today. He talks about his motivations to write his latest book, The Second World Wars, and how his family history and the current political climate inspired him to write it

Part I one the conversation is here.

The One Place Where the Feds Should Spend Money on Higher Ed

by George Leef

In a perfect world, the federal government would never have gotten into higher education and now that it has blundered in, would get completely out.

In our very imperfect world, however, we should look for ways of changing the federal role in higher education so it does less harm, or possibly even some good. And there is one (and I think only one) instance where more spending would be good — American History for Freedom grants. I discuss the AHF program in today’s Martin Center article.

The concept is to use federal grants to seed programs at our colleges and universities that would focus on our history and institutions from a traditional or classical-liberal perspective. Most students get a steady diet of progressive blather about what is wrong with America. Adding more programs that take something other than leftist views would increase diversity in a good way — diversity of thought.

That would be good for students and also good for the academic enterprise itself, since the intellectual monoculture that we find in many colleges is unhealthy. Professors never get any pushback against their statist ideas.

AHF is already in statute, but no funds were ever appropriated while President Obama was in charge, for obvious reasons. Now that he and his Department of Education minions are gone, there is a window of opportunity to fund AHF and start the grant process. There is no time to lose.

Re: ‘Why Claims of Unconscious Racism Fall Flat’

by Roger Clegg

Following up on my post Monday about a Heritage Foundation panel discussion on Thursday this week, here’s the link to the paper that Althea Nagai will be discussing at the event, “The Implicit Association Test: Flawed Science Tricks Americans into Believing They Are Unconscious Racists.” Its concluding paragraph:

Given the high probability of errors associated with the IAT, it should not be incorporated into public policies, such as hiring and university admissions, housing, banking, and government contracting, by law enforcement, in lawsuits, or in jury selection. Although it has been hailed by the media as uncovering a dark, secret side of the American psyche, numerous critics of the IAT have demonstrated that it simply cannot predict how test takers will act in the real world. The test fails to prove that we are a nation of unconscious racists.

You can RSVP or livestream here.

Staring Down the ‘Men of Violence’ over Jerusalem

by Douglas Murray

Last week, when President Trump announced that the U.S. would no longer participate in the pretense that Tel Aviv is the capital of Israel, dire predictions came forth. There were warnings of immediate violence, global blowback, and even of a third intifada.

All of the traditional Middle East photo-ops occurred. A tiny group of locals in Bethlehem were quick off the mark, immediately setting fire to some American flags they had stockpiled for just such an occasion. Those half-dozen people were soon on every news bulletin around the world. Similar scenes occurred elsewhere. Last Friday was meant to be a particular focal-point of the “rage” of the fabled Arab street. In fact, as even the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen admitted, there were more journalists hanging around the Damascus Gate last Friday than there were protestors.

Then on Monday morning, when a Bangladeshi immigrant’s pipe bomb went off early at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York, there were people who immediately seemed to want this to be blowback in New York for a D.C. announcement about Jerusalem. “New York terror bombing ‘carried out in retaliation to Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital’” ran one headline, using a pro-ISIS propaganda outfit as a source. It is almost as though part of the world wants the Palestinians to be more violent and angry than they are being and will be disappointed in them if they do not behave worse.

All of which adds to an already strange situation when it comes to international attitudes towards the Palestinians that centers on two oddities.

The first is the enormous inherent contradiction in the message that is given out about the Palestinians by their own supporters. It is the same internal contradiction which I have summed-up in the past as the “Say my religion is peaceful or I will kill you” problem. In the case of the Palestinians, the conundrum might be condensed as: “The Palestinian people only want peace, and if you don’t give it to them on precisely their terms, then they will burn everything down.”

One thing that is an absolute constant in all of this is the assumption that the Palestinians and their supporters cannot help themselves when it comes to helping themselves to a bit of extra-curricular violence. Other domestic and international events do not proceed in this manner. When Obamacare was passed, everybody recognized that there would be significant opposition from Republicans, but nobody suggested that Republicans might riot and burn things down. When Brexit negotiations get sticky, nobody warns the EU that British citizens living in Spain might be tempted to burn down the Costa del Sol if British negotiators don’t get their way. Yet supporters of the Palestinian cause constantly find themselves in the odd position of trying to persuade the world that the Palestinian peoples and their leadership just want peace, but that when the smallest thing doesn’t go their way, they resort to violence.

The second oddity within what has become the standard response to the Palestinians is that it continuously cedes to the men of violence the right to direct the political weather. It is the contention of various European governments — among others — that the Jerusalem move is “provocative.” Yet it seems to date (if attacks on Jews and anti-Semitic incidents in recent days in Sweden, Amsterdam, and London are anything to go by) that some “Europeans” are more provoked than the Palestinians. If the Palestinians don’t behave worse, then the charge that the American move is “provocative” will be proved wrong and the European stance on Jerusalem could be proved wrong with it.

In any case, as American and European governments should have learned by now, relying on the men of violence to dictate your policy positions one way or another is an unwise game to play. For if there is one lesson all of us ought to have learned from the last few decades, it is that there are people out there who will find absolutely anything offensive. One day it might be the U.S. president recognizing the realities on the ground in Jerusalem. The next, it might be an editorial decision at a small-circulation newspaper in Scandinavia. If you grant the mob the right to decide your nation’s editorial policies, then you’ll have to eventually cede to them a veto over your nation’s foreign policies. Last week’s decision stands on its own merits. But the fact that it has so far brought a markedly underwhelming response shows that the U.S. has stared down the men of violence and — for the time being at least — come out from the encounter on top.

The Howard Stern Guest in Chief

by Jay Nordlinger

Impromptus today brings you the usual mélange, to the extent there is a “usual”: Al Franken, Donald Trump, the opioid crisis, Russia, Syria, middle names, “Merry Christmas,” and more. But I would like to make a further point here in the Corner.

In my column, I quote one of the president’s tweets from yesterday:

Lightweight Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a total flunky for Chuck Schumer and someone who would come to my office “begging” for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them), is now in the ring fighting against Trump. Very disloyal to Bill & Crooked-USED!

A lot of people thought that Trump implied something vulgar in this tweet. (See, for example, this article.) Trump people replied, “No, no, get your minds out of the gutter! Our president couldn’t possibly be like that!”

I heard this same game early in the 2016 campaign, when Trump said of Megyn Kelly, “There was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her — wherever.”

Yeah, yeah. Trump has a very long record. He was a Howard Stern guest. Even in the presidency, he has the style of a Howard Stern guest (which millions of people thrill to, it’s true). He is often vulgar and nasty — a fact that every conservative would acknowledge, if Trump had a “D” after his name instead of an “R.”

I always thought that the Democrats were the ultimate tribalists. I saw this during the second term of Bill Clinton, especially. But they have competition, for sure.

Kirsten Gillibrand draws some interesting remarks. Remember when Harry Reid, the majority leader, called her “the hottest member”? I wonder whether the senator from New York was flattered. And whom would Harry vote for today?

The Math in Alabama Doesn’t Add Up to a State-Funded Recount

by Jim Geraghty

From the Wednesday morning edition of the Morning Jolt:

The Math in Alabama Doesn’t Add Up to a State-Funded Recount

Roy Moore did not give a concession speech last night. He’s not convinced he lost, and seems to think a state-funded automatic recount is still a possibility. That does not seem likely, based upon the initial tally.

Secretary of State John Merrill said it’s too soon to know whether the margin of victory by Doug Jones in Alabama’s special election on Tuesday will trigger the state’s automatic recount law.

State law calls for an automatic recount in a general election if a candidate wins by not more than 0.5 percent, unless the defeated candidate submits a waiver.

Merrill said it is doubtful the outcome of the state’s U.S. Senate race will change. “It would be very unlikely for that to occur,” Merrill said late Tuesday.

Overseas ballots, provisional ballots and possibly write-in ballots will have to be counted before a final margin is determined in Jones’ narrow win over Roy Moore.

The Associated Press reported that with all 2,220 precincts reporting, Jones received 671,151 votes, 50 percent, to Moore’s 650,436, 48.4 percent.

There were 22,819 write-in votes cast.

That’s a 1.6 percent margin, with 1,344,406 votes cast; Jones’ margin over Moore was 20,715 votes.

One half of one percent under the current total would be about 6,723; as you can see, Moore’s margin is three times the amount that triggers an automatic recount.

The state does not count write-in ballots that vote for someone ineligible for the office, so some write-ins will be tossed. But even if every write-in ballot voted for “Mickey Mouse” and was tossed out, Jones would have 50.7 percent to 49.2 percent… still a 1.5 percent margin.

Just to qualify for an automatic recount, Roy Moore would need as many write-ins dismissed as possible AND an unprecedented overwhelming margin of about 14,000 or so votes among overseas ballots and provisional ballots.

When Mike Huckabee is calling you out for acting like a sore loser, it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee. Huckabee on Twitter this morning: “Roy Moore won’t concede; says will wait on God to speak. God wasn’t registered to vote in AL but the ppl who voted did speak and it wasn’t close enough for recount. In elections everyone does NOT get a trophy. I know first hand but it’s best to exit with class.”

That doesn’t seem likely. The entire Moore operation has been about Moore and his ambitions. A better man would have recognized he was endangering the values and ideas he claimed to stand for and withdrawn from the race. A better man would have answered all questions about his interactions with all of his accusers in great detail from anyone who wanted to ask, not just stumbling on softballs from Sean Hannity. A better man would have at least remembered to congratulate his rival on a hard-fought race on Election Night.

A better man might have recognized that his own state party declared the race over. Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan conceded the race: “If Mr. Jones aligns himself with the liberal Democrats in Washington, Alabama voters will remember his choices in the 2020 U.S. Senate election. Now that this race has ended, may this holiday season of peace, love and hope resonate with everyone, regardless of one’s political affiliation.”

Keep in mind, Moore’s campaign could cover the costs of a statewide recount themselves. How long until his campaign starts asking for money for that?

The Alabama Senate Race Has Lessons for Populists and the Establishment

by Fred Bauer

Roy Moore’s loss on Tuesday underlines the significant possibility that both the establishment and populists might need to revise their electoral strategies.

One of the traditional strengths of the “establishment” is its ability to cut deals. Well, the GOP establishment might need to start thinking about how to cut some deals with the base of its own party. This might mean teaming up with some Tea Party–aligned politicians in order to block more unpredictable (and unelectable) radical outsiders.

Roy Moore always looked like he was going to make it past the first round of the GOP primary. However, rather than trying to ally with the populist-but-electable Mo Brooks, establishment-aligned forces such as the Senate Leadership Fund spent buckets of money attacking Brooks. Moreover, the establishment also convinced President Trump to endorse Luther Strange. The strategy was clear: Kneecap Brooks in order to have Strange cruise to victory in a Strange-Moore runoff. In the short term, it was successful. Polls taken between August 8 and 10 (before the Trump endorsement could be fully felt) had Strange ahead of Brooks by only a few points. By the August 15 primary, however, Brooks was decisively beaten. (Trump’s endorsement couldn’t lift Strange all the way to the nomination, but it did likely help him beat Brooks.)

However, as Tuesday’s results show, that strategy didn’t quite work out over the long term. Heading into 2018, the Republican establishment might at times need to compromise with populist upstarts. That might include supporting them in primaries or trying to offer them support for alternative races (for instance, there are a few open Republican-leaning House seats that Kelli Ward could run for).

Meanwhile, populists are going to need to start vetting their candidates more seriously. There were plenty of warning signs that Roy Moore would be a vulnerable candidate in the general election. Supporting someone just because they inspire “librul tears” can be a counterproductive electoral strategy. It also might not be the best political strategy. The fact that someone is shocking doesn’t mean he can draft legislation, persuade the body politic, or forge a legislative coalition. And it certainly doesn’t mean he can win elections.

While the Alabama Senate race was dominated by Roy Moore’s flaws, it also casts light on a bigger dynamic. So far in the Trump administration, Republicans have tried to govern through pushing unreformed, donorist policies while hoping that the president’s angry tweets will give a sufficient veneer of populism. Based on election results in Virginia and, now, Alabama, that strategy doesn’t seem to be working. Health-care reform and the tax bill have proven dramatically unpopular, and the president’s cultural feuds have helped dragged down his approval rating. The base grows increasingly irritated with a party that has not delivered on any populist legislative priorities, and swing voters are turning hard against a party that alternates between internecine warfare and the numb inertia of nostalgia. If the GOP can’t adopt more responsive policies and a more restrained tone, it might end up trading its 2016 political mandate for a frantic and sloppy waltz on the Titanic.

The Aftermath

by Jonah Goldberg

I’ll have more to say in the morning. But a few quick points.

1. I agree with Jim: It stinks to lose a Senate seat, but if ever there was a reason to do so, this was it.

2. Steve Bannon isn’t responsible for Roy Moore and neither is Mitch McConnell. The difference is that McConnell wanted nothing to do with Roy Moore for all the obvious reasons and Steve Bannon wanted to take credit for him! He wanted to take credit for Moore when it was clear Moore was a bigot, buffoon, and charlatan, and he wanted to take credit for Moore after Moore was credibly accused of being a child molester and jailbait fetishist. Bannon has an almost unblemished record of picking disastrous candidates on the theory that he knows what he’s doing. That theory is wrong.

3. Relatedly, one would hope that Republicans would now recognize how ridiculous it would be for them to continue acting like Mitch McConnell is the problem. McConnell is the single most important person for getting the “Trump agenda” passed, and declaring open war on him and backing fourth rate candidates is not just dumb, it actually hurts Trump more than it does McConnell.

4. One of the things I’m most interested in is to see who suddenly claims to have been troubled by Moore all along or thinks he may be guilty after all — without any new evidence coming in. Some people must feel shame having backed him, and others are no doubt eager to muddy the record by pretending they were scandalized from the get go.

5. I want to say one last thing, because for months I’ve been ridiculed by people for even suggesting Moore could lose and that nominating him was dumb:

I told you so.

Drawing the Wrong Lessons from Moore’s Defeat

by Michael Brendan Dougherty
Let's not get carried away

I know the first flush of victory is a little dizzying, but on social media I’m seeing some crazy suggestions about what Roy Moore’s loss means going forward: If this can happen in Alabama Democrats can win anywhere. And Republicans can lose everywhere! Doug Jones is a true progressive on abortion, immigration and a host of other issue. Therefore, Democrats can use their unity and be uncompromising. 

My own impressions are more modest. Alabama Republicans spared their party the shame of electing this creep to Congress. In backing Moore, Steve Bannon made a very reasonable bet–most of us expected Moore to win even after the revelations–but he lost this one.  

Everything else is over-reading the data. Are Dems more energized than a normal out-of-power party? I think that’s unproven. Jones may turn out to be their Scott Brown. Have Dems solved the issue of turning out black voters in the post-Obama era? Or was it that the Republican nominee was the sort of man who rhetorically denigrated the Constitutional Amendments that ended slavery? Will 2018 be a Democratic tsunami? I don’t know yet. I also think it would be a mistake for anyone to take Jones’ performance in Alabama today as any indicator of how Trump will perform in 2020. 

I’m not happy Jones won. But I’m happy the causes I hold dear won’t be disgraced further by Roy Moore’s presence in the Senate. For that, I thank the judgment of the many Alabama voters who did what I would have done in their place: abstained. 


Alabama Conservatives Made Their Stand

by David French

Let’s plainly state the reason why Roy Moore lost tonight. Alabama conservatives took a stand. By the tens of thousands they either stayed home, voted for other candidates, or — in some instances — voted for Doug Jones. To say that conservatives beat Roy Moore is not to take one thing away from Doug Jones. He ran a smart race, he mobilized Democrats, and his voters came to the polls in large numbers — large enough to win. But this is Alabama. He could have run the perfect race, and he still would have lost — if conservatives supported their party’s nominee.

Tonight, Alabama conservatives told Steve Bannon and, yes, Donald Trump that integrity matters. They told their party that some victories aren’t worth the cost. They declared that partisanship isn’t worth grotesque moral compromise. The deep South said no to Roy Moore’s bigotry. It said no to his ignorance and malice. 

To give you a sense of the magnitude of the conservative rebellion tonight, consider some numbers. Donald Trump won Alabama by 28 points. Jeff Sessions had such a hammerlock on this seat that he ran unopposed in 2014 — collecting more than 97 percent of the vote. The closest Senate election in a generation was a 19 point GOP victory in 2002. In other words, what happened tonight wasn’t the result of changed hearts and minds in a tiny few swing votes. It was a mass rebellion. 

Where do we go from here? The answers are obvious. Nominate conservatives with integrity. Retake the seat. Reject the vicious, malicious politics of men like Steve Bannon. Center the political fight around ideas and values that men and women are proud to vote for. In the meantime, Alabama conservatives have sent their message. May the GOP hear it loud and clear.

Steve Bannon Loses Alabama

by Theodore Kupfer

Steve Bannon didn’t draft Roy Moore as a candidate, nor was he the proximate cause of Moore’s win in the Republican primary. But Moore’s defeat tonight is nonetheless a signature loss for Bannon’s political project, the goal of which is to replace incumbent Republicans with insurgents just like Moore.

It is important not to overstate Bannon’s involvement in the Moore campaign. Moore has been a figure in Alabama politics for years, and Bannon arrived late in the Republican primary when Moore was already ahead. His most visible contribution to the Moore campaign was to order his writers to cheerlead from the sidelines as the molestation allegations piled up, a pathetic endeavor that accomplished little. Moore’s elevation as a candidate owes to several factors.

But one of those is the corrosive influence that Bannon exerts on a portion of the Right. His mission is to find ridiculous candidates and convince voters and donors they are legitimate; for years he has used his highly-trafficked site in an effort to do just that. Yet tonight, his ideal candidate lost a statewide election in Alabama. We already knew that a party made in Bannon’s image would be repulsive. Tonight we learned it is not even politically viable.

Good Riddance

by Kevin D. Williamson

So what have Steve Bannon and the rest of the half-bright moneyed dilettantes — and their talk-radio and cable-news cheerleaders — accomplished? With Roy Moore, Republicans gave up any plausible claim to being “constitutional conservatives” and to being the party of the rule of law, to say nothing of any claim to principle or meaningful moral standards . . . and they still lost. To borrow from A Man for All Seasons: It profits a man nothing if he lose his soul even if he gains the whole world — but Alabama?

And they didn’t even get Alabama.

(I like Alabama.)

Republicans have some time to get their act together and find a decent candidate to challenge Jones when he finishes up Sessions’s term. And Roy Moore, with his little hat and his little gun, can ride his little pony off into well-deserved obscurity — or worse.

It’s Never Fun to Lose a Senate Seat, But the GOP Dodged a Bullet

by Jim Geraghty

The populists are indeed miracle workers, they’ve managed to elect a Democrat in Alabama.

Roy Moore may very well have been the worst Senate nominee for any major party in American history. Even if you dismissed the allegations of him sexually pursuing teenagers in his 30s – and there was no compelling reason to believe Moore’s shifting denials –he managed to create appalling new controversies in almost every appearance.

He completely avoided the campaign trail in the final days, because he could not be trusted to speak to the public.

Despite the frustration of a 52-seat majority becoming a 51-seat majority, tonight’s result is in fact, a long-term victory for the Republican Party. Had Moore gone to the Senate, he would have faced a Senate Ethics Committee investigation. Had that investigation brought back anything less than a full exoneration, GOP senators would have faced the decision of whether to expel him. As is, Moore could be counted on to create new controversies every time he faced the cameras; every Republican would constantly be asked if they agreed with their fellow senator’s controversial contentions about “reds and yellows,” unnecessary Constitutional Amendments, the wisdom of Vladimir Putin, or whether America was the focus of evil in the modern world.

There is no reason for any Republican to listen to Steve Bannon on any candidate selection ever again.

You know who looks pretty smart tonight? Cory Gardner and the National Republican Senatorial Committee who understood that Roy Moore was politically toxic, even in Alabama.

“Tonight’s results are clear – the people of Alabama deemed Roy Moore unfit to serve in the U.S. Senate,” said NRSC Chairman Cory Gardner. “I hope Senator-elect Doug Jones will do the right thing and truly represent Alabama by choosing to vote with the Senate Republican Majority.”

Finally, I guess this means Al Franken has to go ahead with his resignation, huh?

Republican Options If Moore Wins

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Response To...

What Happens If Alabama Voters ...

Rich Lowry notes that a lot of people will say that “the voters have spoken” if Roy Moore wins, thus making it unnecessary to look into the allegations against him. I agree with the prediction–which tracks what Senator Collins has already said–but the sentiment is worth pushing against. The voters will have said that they prefer Moore to Doug Jones. If Moore wins the election, no decision by the Senate is going to make Jones the senator. Moreover, the voters will have said that they prefer Moore to Jones given the information they have. There are charges and counter-charges. If there is an Ethics Committee investigation, presumably its point will be to get to the bottom of it.

Republicans are also going to have decisions to make besides whether to investigate or expel Moore if he wins. Will they give him some of the majority’s committee slots? I gather that Democrats would be able to filibuster any resolution that gives him committee assignments (so I don’t think the process is quite as automatic as Lowry’s point 2 suggests).


Live Results: Alabama Special Election

by NR Staff

Courtesy of our friends at Decision Desk, here are the live results from Alabama’s special Senate election: