Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Populism, Experience Republicans Should Stop Running Firebrands

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Populism, Experience Republicans Should Stop Running Firebrands

Article excerpt

On Tuesday, Republican voters in Alabama held a runoff primary to nominate a U.S. Senate candidate to replace Jeff Sessions, now the attorney general. The contest, which pitted challenger Roy Moore against incumbent Luther Strange, was - to say the least - colorful. And it could have profound implications for the GOP.

Mr. Moore is the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, where he was a committed culture warrior. In 2003, he refused a federal court order to remove a monument to the Ten Commandments from the state judicial building. This ultimately led to his removal from office, but he won the position back in 2012 - only to be pushed out once again. That time it was because he refused to allow gay marriages in the state, despite the Supreme Court having legalized them.

Mr. Strange's elevation to the Senate was not without controversy. In December 2016, then-Gov. Robert Bentley selected Mr. Strange to replace Mr. Sessions. Mr. Bentley was at that point under investigation (on his way to resigning) for ethics and campaign-finance violations. Meanwhile, Mr. Strange was the attorney general of the state and had suggested just before the 2016 election that impeachment hearings for Mr. Bentley be delayed. It had the appearance of a quid pro quo - hardly an ideal situation under which to become a U.S. senator.

Republican establishmentarians naturally preferred Mr. Strange to Mr. Moore. It is not that they were worried that Mr. Moore could not win the general election; Alabama is one of the most Republican states in the country. The problem from their perspective was that they expected Mr. Moore would not be a reliable team player in their caucus. Moreover, he has a history of controversial remarks, which might embarrass the party. So, the party leaders were all-in for Mr. Strange, and persuaded President Donald Trump to endorse him as well.

Interestingly, Mr. Moore claimed to be the candidate of true Trumpism. He offered himself as the populist firebrand coming to Washington, D.C., to speak truth to power. And the more populist elements of the GOP - including Steve Bannon, Sarah Palin and Iowa Rep. …

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