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Playing to Lose

In Alabama, the Democrats played to win, the Republicans played to lose, and both got what they wanted. The media had declared victory no matter the outcome, hoping for a Jones win but also salivating over the prospect of using Moore as the poster boy of the GOP for the next year. “It was a win-win,” they kept saying. But when Jones did finally win, that line was quickly abandoned and the rejoicing began.

Strangely, it took a long time for MSNBC to call the race for Jones. Fox had called it much earlier. So its gloating was tentative at first but then became a smugfest, one that is sure to last for days. The “big losers,” its guests intoned, were Moore, Trump, and Bannon while the winners were the Republicans who sought to lose.

The Moore race had occasioned an orgy of opportunism masquerading as high virtue, a spectacle that it is only going to intensify, with the scummy GOP consultant class, whose members routinely work for checkered candidates, pontificating about the race in the most self-righteous terms. The insufferable Steve Schmidt tops this list. He presents himself as the great conscience of the GOP. Never mind that he was a consultant to serial groper Arnold Schwarzenegger, who, unlike Moore, survived a late hit from the press (in the form of an investigative article by the Los Angeles Times), thanks in large part to the rescue efforts of the very GOP establishment that pretended to be so appalled by Moore.

That crowd never wanted Moore to win in the first place and found the abuse charges a convenient added reason to sabotage his campaign. Under a typhoon of negative media coverage, Moore, whose previous wins had been squeakers, needed all the help he could get. But the stupid party was too divided and dysfunctional to lend a hand. The Dems form a defensive circle around vulnerable candidates; the Republicans shoot theirs.

At first, the establishment Republicans just wanted to hand the seat to the Democrats. So they called for Moore to withdraw. But then McConnell’s total opposition changed to ambivalence when he deemed the race a matter for “the people of Alabama to decide.” Yet even that ambivalence couldn’t hold. In the crucial final days of the race, the establishment continued to signal its wish for Moore’s defeat in ways both large and small, from Senator Shelby telling the press that he couldn’t vote for Moore to Republicans pushing the story that once Moore arrived the ethics committee was going to pounce on him. Perhaps if Moore had had a Trumpian level of charisma, he could have survived the onslaught. But he didn’t have it, and his decision to leave the state on the weekend before the election punctuated the shakiness of his campaign.

At the very moment he needed the party to pull him across the finish line, it was nowhere to be found, with the exception of a few comments and tweets from Trump. Jones wildly outspent Moore.

The GOP establishment assumes Moore’s defeat will improve its image and standing. But it won’t. it will only increase the disgust of the rank-and-file for a resentful GOP ruling class that operates like a front for the Democrats. If you are going to take Vienna, take Vienna, said Napoleon. The base is sick and tired of a GOP establishment that never fights to win in that spirit — a collection of Beltway colluders who would prefer a pat on the head from the media to policy wins. Most of the establishment strategists who appear on TV haven’t won a race in years — a fact they conspicuously avoid advertising. But here’s one loss for which they will proudly take credit. And they will use it to try and con their way into new positions from which they can lose again.

George Neumayr
George Neumayr
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George Neumayr, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is co-author of No Higher Power: Obama’s War on Religious Freedom.
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