Alabama politicians have tried to capitalize on the Donald Trump phenomenon for the last four years, usually by touting their Trump bona fides.
During the 2017 special election cycle, then-U.S. Senate candidate Luther Strange was featured in a series of billboards throughout Alabama touting his Trump endorsement. It was later capped off by a campaign appearance from Trump himself in Huntsville.
In 2018, then-Republican lieutenant gubernatorial hopeful Twinkle Cavanaugh was shown with Trump in a side-by-side image, which to me seemed to suggest the two were so alike on politics and policy that they were separated at birth.
In this last U.S. Senate election cycle, now-U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville successfully made his campaign about backing the Trump presidency.
He often said he wanted to take the stick out of Trump’s hand and give him a baseball bat while on the campaign trail. And for Tuberville, it worked.
While these candidates went out of their ways to back a president who enjoyed off-the-charts popularity among Alabama Republican voters, detractors would complain that allegiance to Trump should not be a sole criterion as a qualification for office.
“We need to talk about the issues, not the cult of Donald Trump!”
There was something to be said about that criticism. Lazy political consultants from outside the state seemed to gravitate to the low-hanging fruit offered by Trump’s popularity.
“It is simple — those rednecks in Alabama love their football, and they love their Trump!”
Trump has been out of office for nearly 10 months. He remains a factor in Alabama Republican politics, no doubt. And we will see how much he matters in Alabama’s U.S. Senate race, which features a surging Katie Britt and the Trump-endorsed U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks as the two frontrunners.
One lesson from the Virginia gubernatorial upset election earlier this month was a Republican can win without going all-in on the former commander-in-chief.
Despite the Democrat Terry McAuliffe trying to make the GOP Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin into Virginia’s version of Trump, Trump detractors now say, “Look, Trump’s diminished presence in this election means he is no longer relevant to GOP voters.”
Trump did have a diminished presence in the Virginia elections. However, Democrats and Never Trumpers got what they wanted — an election about issues. Certainly, buyer’s remorse for Joe Biden and the Democrat-led Congress played a role. In the end, it was the ideological fallacy that so-called government experts knew better for you than you, the individual.
In fact, McAuliffe’s statement that parents should show deference to the government-approved experts on education was a crushing blow to his bid to be governor again.
Social and cultural issues are back.
Isn’t this what we wanted? Enough of this cult of personality nonsense. We need to have debates about the issues!
What could come from this? It could be the relief we need from the intellectually bankrupt discussions about the culture and how one must comport themselves in an America where people are dictated how to act to conform to the expectations of the Black Lives Matter movement and other left-wing causes.
While Republican politicians and their consultants were trying to highlight their loyalties to Trump to win the favor of GOP voters, the left was using unfortunate oversteps by law enforcement around the country to incite a cultural revolution that would pave the way to power.
There was no effort to create a counternarrative. Corporate America, Big Tech and Big Media had all bought in, and the pushback against the left’s efforts to reshape American culture was too challenging to navigate.
“Just make it all about Trump. That’ll be much easier.”
Without Trump at the center of the stage, we are getting those discussions, and it turns out Republicans can at least win a general election on a non-Trump-centric effort.
Is it enough to win a Republican primary, especially in Alabama? Could a Republican candidate take Alabama’s public schools and make that a central focus of a winning campaign?
One Alabama lawmaker recently pointed out that there are “a lot of mad mamas out there.” Critical race theory, a religious adherence to what the so-called experts say about vaccines and masks, literacy and math standards have made public education a potential winning policy issue again.
The problem for Republicans is they often overpromise and underdeliver. Can Republicans roll back the Democratic Party’s dominance in the arena of public education?
Alabama lawmakers have had some success dating back to the 2010 Republican takeover. They have tried the conservative trick playbook of using school choice, charter schools, etc., as key issues with some success.
However, it will take a grander vision to improve public schools in Alabama. You can reward and penalize schools for successes and failures. But the failing school systems are still there.
There must be a significant attitude shift within the school systems that demands accountability.
The aftermath of Virginia may lead to a debate about the merits of that argument.
You wanted a debate about something beyond who can be the Trumpiest? Well, you now have it.
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