We come not to bury Jeff Sessions but to see what we can learn from his decisive defeat. Long-respected, Sessions was trying to reclaim the Senate seat he had held for 20 years before becoming President Donald Trump’s ill-fated attorney general in 2017. But in a July 14 GOP primary runoff in Alabama, he was resoundingly trounced — by more than 20 percentage points — by former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville.
The result will be seen as a victory for Trump, who endorsed Tuberville due to his lingering deep hostility toward Sessions. The president appears to believe Sessions severely hampered much of his first three years in office by recusing himself from the Justice Department’s bogus Russia probe in one of his first acts as attorney general. Trump indeed has reason to be happy, but he should take little joy in helping Tuberville capture the GOP nod, making him the heavy favorite to topple Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) in November in the staunchly red state.
To many wary conservatives, Tuberville has all the makings of another RINO. In an August 2019 speech to a Republican audience, he seemed to go out of his way to espouse support for bringing in foreign workers to take American jobs. “There are people coming across the border that need jobs, okay, and we want them to come over here. We just need to know who’s here, okay?” Tuberville told the Shoals Republican Club. “Put the wall up, then we let them come in and become citizens like we all became citizens.”
Coasting on his endorsement from a president who remains wildly popular among Republican voters, Tuberville did little to clarify what he actually stands for beyond generic statements. Befitting an old football coach, Tuberville ran a safe and intentionally dull campaign, content to run out the clock in a game in which the star quarterback had given him a comfortable lead.
Out With the Old
The genuinely positive element that Trump should take out of Alabama is the compelling message that he can still rely on his base to be highly energized against Washington’s careerist politics. This, of course, bodes very well for him against D.C. lifer and presumptive Democrat presidential nominee Joe Biden.
Sessions ran as a strident America First candidate in his bid to reclaim office but could never recover from his troubled tenure as attorney general. Whereas political newcomer Tuberville was able to somewhat plausibly claim an “outsider” status, Sessions had to carry into the race establishment ties that date back to the 1970s. Sessions first became an assistant U.S. attorney in 1975 and was made a U.S. attorney in 1981. After serving 12 years in that role, he resigned in 1993. He then became Alabama attorney general in 1995 and two years later was elected to the U.S. Senate, where he remained until becoming Trump’s attorney general.
In short, Sessions is a government lifer in much the same manner as Biden. Although staking out a populist mantle while endorsing Trump’s 2016 campaign, many of the president’s loyalists evidently believe Sessions exposed his deep Potomac roots with his stunning recusal from the Russia probe.
In a devastating indictment of the move, fellow former U.S. attorney Joseph diGenova told Fox News at the time that Sessions “has told people that he doesn’t believe that people at the Department of Justice and the FBI are capable of the kinds of things they are being accused of.” When the chips were down, Sessions could not see networked Washington as the dire threat to the nation that tens of millions of Americans who voted Trump into the White House ardently believe it is.
Running Against the Swamp All Over Again
That in a nutshell is why Sessions lost. It should provide a shot in the arm to any uncomfortable Trump backers worried about polls that show Biden with a commanding lead in the 2020 race. Alabamans have demonstrated that Trump Nation is still burning to Drain the Swamp of the decades-old lumps of dry wood that occupy positions of power in our capital.
“I kind of want the new blood in, a little bit of change,” cattle farmer Bruce Alford told the Associated Press in explaining his vote for Tuberville. In his concession speech, Sessions seemed to grasp this sentiment fully. “The people of Alabama have spoken,” he said. “They want a fresh face, a new leader in Washington.”
Americans who opted for the ultimate change agent in 2016 still despise career politicians. Yet Democrats are running a quintessential Swamp Uniparty paragon in Biden, who first entered the U.S. Senate in the Nixon years. And those always-dubious poll numbers that showed a tottering, gaffe-prone Biden with an enormous lead are starting to narrow. A new Rasmussen Results poll has Trump trailing by only three percentage points, a seven-point swing in the span of a week. No conventions or debates between the two have been held yet.
If pro-Trump voters in Alabama could not forgive a man like Sessions, who performed many positive services during his time in office, for his soft approach to the Swamp, imagine how 2016 Trump supporters nationwide will react to a classic career insider like Biden in November. Running against a fossilized establishment ruling class catapulted Trump to the heights four years ago. He has every reason to believe it will see him through again in 2020.
Read more from Joe Schaeffer.