Donald Trump may still be alive and kicking heads but Trumpism as a viable political ideology is about as healthy as Steve Bannon looks, writes Phil Quin
The defeat of Roy Moore in the Alabama special Senate race — to a pro abortion Democrat, no less — is the last nail in this particular iteration of reactionary conservatism’s already well-fastened coffin.
Alabama can’t be blamed merely on Moore being an accused pedophile. The most shocking result from the screeds of exit poll data that the President himself enjoys an approval rating in the heartland of the Confederacy of just 48 percent — not coincidentally, exactly Moore’s share of the vote. Make no mistake: this was as powerful a repudiation of Trump’s brand of politics as one could possibly fathom. He won Alabama with 62 percent of the vote 12 months ago, beating Hillary Clinton by a two-to-one margin.
The degradation of the basest part of the Trump base will be traumatising GOP honchos even as they breathe a sigh of relief they don’t have to manage Moore’s outlandish views on race, religion, and sexuality in the Senate.
Based on yesterday, the Democrats must be wondering whether to spend some resources in 2018 and 2020 on Alabama for the first time since the party controlled the south under Jim Crow. For their part, Republicans must be weighing up whether to invest resources in states that nobody in their right mind considered competitive until 10pm EST last night.
What’s more, Doug Jones’ path to victory was meticulously planned and executed in ways that should be replicable elsewhere. He needed to depress turnout in GOP strongholds and drive up the minority vote. It worked a treat. In fact, counties with a Democratic slew turned out in huge numbers, unusual for an off-year election, and many Republicans sat on their hands. Turnout in African American counties was roughly 70 percent of a presidential election year; in rural white counties, it barely cracked 50 percent. This is known among politicos as an ‘enthusiasm gap’, and it was a doozy in Alabama.
This was the exact same pattern in the recent gubernatorial race in Virginia where the GOP standard bearer was not prone to dating children, but also lost. When you add in the under the radar victories Democrats are clocking up in deep red pockets like Oklahoma, the conditions for an electoral tsunami next year could not be more favourably aligned for Democrats. If replicated in the midterms, these trends will result in a one-sided shellacking in the House of Representatives on such a scale even liberals will wince. Democrats seem assured of retaking the House Majority, and we now have a race which is far more of a competitive fight for the Senate than previously expected.
What does the Jones win mean in the short term? Not much. He won’t be sworn in until January, a cynical parliamentary trick to prevent him from voting on the tax reform bill that is within one or two votes of passage.
By 2018, Jones won’t have much sway in the Senate because the illustrious body will enter a period of pre-poll senescence whereby achieving nothing of note is a feature, not a bug, of their political strategy. With a reduced majority, Jones might make life harder when it comes to confirming nominees for thousands of unfilled federal jobs, but there is little indication Trump or his team are losing any sleep over that. Gutting the federal government and replacing it with an informal, unaccountable, rogue’s gallery of sycophants, plutocrats and BS artists is the Trump playbook. This is all going to plan. Losing Alabama — Alabama! — isn’t.
Now, Jones won by scoring huge margins among minorities, especially African American women — and by doing far better than anyone expected among suburban white women. This is The Help coalition that worked a treat in VA and now AL. Look out for a huge allocation of new resources by both sides into Georgia and the Carolinas. This is the Obama coalition with doctor’s wives attached. The Democrats should be fizzing.
As Republican strategist said on MSNBC this morning, the Jones win is one hell of an inflection point. “A coalition of the decent,” he said, have issued a “stunning repudiation” for Trump, Steve Bannon, whose shared nativist ideology will join communism on the ash heap of history. November 2018, next year’s midterms, he said, “will cleanse us of all this. This will be wiped away”.
By “this”, Schmidt means Trump and everything he stands for. Another Republican NeverTrumper, he brilliant and hilarious ad-man Rick Wilson, is crowdsourcing funds to produce a documentary called “Everything Trump Touches Dies”. He better hurry before there’s nothing left to perish.
For some time, I’ve taken the view this Trumpist aberration will rebound to our net benefit of humanity as long as he resists the urge to wipe us out first. Virginia and now Alabama make me more confident than ever that the long lens of history will see Trump — or his inevitable demise, to be precise — as not an enduring resurgence of populist feudalism, but as the instigator of a sustained liberal ascendancy.