How is it that establishment Republicans continue to win primaries even after betraying their voters in spectacular fashion on the most important issues of our time?
The latest attempt from Mitch McConnell and Co. to distort the record of a conservative challenger in Alabama is a perfect example of their game of mendacity that has worked until now.
As Philip Wegmann of the Washington Examiner reported Wednesday, “In a new television spot, the Senate Leadership Fund — McConnell's super PAC — slams Brooks as a ‘career congressman’ who allied with Nancy Pelosi and Elizabeth Warren to ‘attack Donald Trump, trying to stop him.’”
Their ads are on behalf of Luther Strange, the appointed senator to temporarily fill the seat vacated by Jeff Sessions in Alabama. Strange was appointed by the disgraced former Gov. Robert Bentley and was already well known among the K Street crowd for years.
Obviously, Rep. Mo Brooks is one of the most conservative members of the House and only opposed Trump in the primary from the Right. Luther Strange is a McConnell yes-man who will help the Kentucky turtle obstruct the Trump agenda from the Left (or, at least, the agenda Trump campaigned on and the one embraced by voters).
In other words, Brooks supports “the Trump agenda” more than Trump and certainly more than Strange.
This is the modus operandi of McConnell and his allies. They know that they can’t run on the veracity of their views – in support of open borders, passing Democrat budgets, raising the debt ceiling unconditionally, and bailing out Obamacare … that would be too honest. More importantly, it would lose them every primary.
As such, they run to the “right” of true conservatives and dishonestly give voters the impression that the actual conservatives are the liberals.
Typically, conservative candidates have low name ID and are completely outgunned because they are not getting all that lobbyist cash precisely because they will actually fulfill their campaign promises. Therefore, this line of attack has been very successful in the past.
I’ve written numerous times about my experience backing conservative candidates in the primaries and going up against liberal Republicans or K Street Republicans who will run on our issues while defining our candidates as liberal. They do so while simultaneously promoting the Democrat agenda in Congress and getting money to put out conservative ads precisely because they are promoting an agenda antithetical to that message.
It is one of the reasons Rep. Tim Huelskamp lost his reelection last year and one of the reasons why I believe conservatives have no future in this party. One would think that after Republicans passed a Democrat budget despite control of all three branches and after they have embraced Obamacare – the ultimate act of political adultery – it would be easy to defeat most of these incumbents in a primary.
Yet, they will simply put on our jerseys in the primaries and use their superior firepower to paint our candidates as disloyal, so that they can score points for the other team after assuming office. Luther Strange has already run hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of dishonest ads portraying himself as the exact opposite of his beliefs.
McConnell’s allies are likely attacking Mo Brooks and not Roy Moore — the other major conservative opponent of Strange — for two reasons. First, Moore is way ahead and will likely earn his spot in the September runoff either way, so they must attack Brooks, who is threatening to box out the establishment from having a place in the second round.
More importantly, Moore is one of the few conservative champions who has ubiquitous name ID in the state. It’s hard to redefine him as anything but a conservative champion, whereas Brooks is still largely unknown outside his district. It’s the old “define your opponent before he can define himself trick.” (In full disclosure, I have endorsed Roy Moore as my number one choice in the primary but am fully supportive of Brooks.)
Fortunately for conservatives, the Alabama Senate race might prove to be the Waterloo of the McConnell campaign tactic.
Luther Strange is not just any banal or generic establishment R. Voters in the state view him as part of a corrupt bargain appointed by former Gov. Bentley before he was forced out of office. Worse, Bentley sought to push off the special election in order to give Strange more incumbency — a distinction we now see very forcefully guarded by McConnell and his allies.
Shortly before receiving the nod from Bentley, Luther Strange asked the state House to suspend the impeachment investigation into the disgraced governor (view Strange’s letter to the House Judiciary Committee chairman here). No amount of money spent on Strange’s behalf can rehabilitate his image with the voters.
Clearly, McConnell and Co. have made a big tactical mistake. Perhaps the best revenge against the establishment for their deceitful form of campaigning and for the endless acts of political adultery would be for Moore and Brooks to completely box them out of the runoff. Having a choice between those two candidates would be a prize conservatives have never enjoyed before.
If all races would boil down to these two choices rather than “the lesser of two evils,” we would have a different party and, indeed, a different country. One can only dream …
Editor's note: This piece has been updated to correct an inadvertent switch of the names "Mo Brooks" and "Roy Moore."
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.
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