The conservative grassroots won a massive victory yesterday in Alabama when Judge Roy Moore crushed the candidate of the establishment, Luther Strange, in the GOP runoff election for US Senate. Moore was endorsed by many grassroots conservative leaders and groups, including my own – the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) – and was opposed by the entirety of the Republican establishment, led by Senator Mitch McConnell, who amassed tens of millions for appointed incumbent Luther Strange. President Trump and Vice President Pence endorsed Strange, and expended considerable political capital in campaigning for him.
Despite this, Roy Moore captured 55% of the vote last night. Talk about a wake-up call for Washington!
NOM strongly and vocally supported Judge Moore, the former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, producing a video in support of his candidacy and urging all our supporters to make a financial contribution to him. We also unleashed GOTV efforts for Moore among our supporters.
But we were by no means alone among conservative grassroots activists to support Judge Moore. His list of supporters included a “who’s who” of conservative leaders such as Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Ken Cuccinelli, Gary Bauer, Congressmen Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan, and many others. Even current and former members of the Trump administration supported Moore, such as Steve Bannon, Sebastian Gorka and Dr. Ben Carson.
The Moore vs. Strange race is a microcosm of the schism that exists between conservatives and establishment elites, but it is much more than that. It is an abject lesson that the core of conservativism is not wealthy Chamber of Commerce executives and country club Republicans. It’s grassroots people of faith, men and women who play by the rules, believe in God, subscribe to traditional values, and want leaders who will respect their views and act to uphold their values.
President Trump and the GOP in Washington owe their election to people of faith. Over 80% of evangelicals voted for Mr. Trump, as did 62% of Mormons and 52% of Catholics. Without the support of people of faith, Republicans would have been trounced.
Roy Moore is a beneficiary of the support of faith-based voters, because he earned our support as a champion for marriage, life and religious liberty. In fact, there has simply been no greater champion for marriage than Judge Moore. He’s been at the forefront of fighting for the truth of marriage his entire career in public service, and has continued the fight even in the face of tremendous push back from the elite and powerful. He will be a champion in the US Senate for the issues we care about.
In contrast, like so many other Republicans in Washington, Luther Strange said he agreed with us on our core positions, but he hasn’t done a thing to advance policy in the areas we care about. In fact, when the US Supreme Court illegitimately redefined marriage in contravention of the constitution, Strange called for lawsuits opposing gay marriage to be dismissed as “moot.” As Chief Justice, Judge Moore demanded that state probate judges enforce Alabama’s traditional marriage laws to the maximum extent possible.
Judge Moore now advances to the general election contest as the prohibitive favorite against Democrat Doug Jones. The media will attempt to portray the general election contest in December as one that Jones can win, but that is a farcical notion. Roy Moore will be in the US Senate by the end of the year.
The Moore election victory is a tremendous setback for establishment Republicans like Mitch McConnell who have failed to advance a conservative agenda in Washington. Moore’s win will likely result in numerous other incumbent Republicans facing grassroots challengers who are sick and tired of “all talk” establishment Republicans occupying office. Yesterday, Tennessee incumbent Bob Corker announced he would not run for reelection as he would have almost certainly faced an insurgent conservative challenger. We expect many others to follow suit, especially following Roy Moore’s thumping of Luther Strange.
The election results should also be a huge wake-up call to President Trump who candidly admitted that he may have made a mistake in endorsing Luther Strange over Roy Moore. That is an understatement! The results should send a clear message to Mr. Trump, Vice President Pence and the White House political team that they cannot ignore their base and expect that Mr. Trump’s force of personality can carry the day. President Trump needs to stand strong for – and actually enact – the conservative agenda that voters who elected him expect to become law.
There are two immediate things that Congressional leaders and President Trump can do to send a signal to grassroots conservatives that they understand the Moore victory and have learned from it.
First, Senator McConnell and Speaker Paul Ryan should introduce and pass the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) to protect people of faith from discrimination by the government over their support for marriage, life, religious liberty and similar core “values” issues. McConnell, Ryan and the entire Republican establishment endorsed FADA as a critical element of the 2016 GOP national platform. Judge Moore has also endorsed FADA, as has President Trump. Yet nine months since they took control of the federal government, Republicans in Congress have not yet introduced FADA, let alone passed it. By failing to act on FADA, GOP leaders are showing they care more about LGBT extremists who oppose the legislation – and who oppose them – than people of faith who support the legislation, and are responsible for their election.
Second, President Trump should immediately execute a comprehensive Executive Order to protect the religious liberty rights of people of faith as he has repeatedly promised he would do. Mr. Trump has twice walked away from signing a draft Executive Order that would prohibit the government from discriminating against people of faith who believe in marriage, life and other traditional values. In doing so, he’s sided with the extremist left, all of whom oppose him and many of whom want him to be impeached, and he’s abandoned the faith-based coalition that is responsible for his election.
The most important lessons that President Trump and Congressional leaders can learn from Roy Moore’s crushing victory are these: it’s not about force of personality; it’s about force of policy. It’s not about posturing, it’s about fulfilling promises. And it’s not about empty talk, it’s about delivering results.
Enacting FADA and issuing an Executive Order on religious liberty are tangible steps that Donald Trump, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell can and should take to show that they care about, and will address, the critical issues of concern to the people most responsible for putting them in office – people of faith.
Brian S. Brown is president of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM).
Views expressed in op-eds are not the views of The Daily Caller.