The loss of Mo Brook shows Trump’s grip on Alabama remains strong

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In the hours leading up to the chaos that descended on the Capitol on January 6, 2021, Representative Mo Brooks stood before the crowd just a few hundred meters from the Washington Monument and asked if they were willing to sacrifice their lives in the pursuit of freedom. . “Today is the day American patriots start taking names and kicking ass,” said the Alabama Republican, wearing a red MAGA “Fire Pelosi” baseball cap and bulletproof vest.

A few hours later, many of the attendees at the pro-Donald Trump rally at the Ellipse stormed the Capitol, surrounded lawmakers and broke through the building’s defenses for the first time since 1814. Soon after, Brooks joined more than 140 colleagues in voting against the certification. of Joe Biden’s victory. But Brooks’ actions earlier in the day infuriated many of his colleagues, prompting some of them to consider the rare step of expelling Brooks from the House. Brooks doubled down, calling for a national forensic audit of the election and upholding unsubstantiated claims that Antifa was partly to blame for the violence on January 6.

Still, 14 months later, Trump withdrew his support for Brooks to represent Alabama in the Senate, complaining that Brooks had “woken up” and had not sufficiently supported his Big Lie. Trump may actually be responding to Brooks by opening up a 44-point lead in the GOP primaries. In the end, the many times Brooks struggled to keep Trump appeased proved to be irrelevant.

That’s the fickle nature of having Trump leading the GOP: support is never permanent, whims dictate strategy, and grievances outweigh the evidence. However, he is one of the most powerful drivers of American politics at the moment. And nowhere is this more apparent than in Alabama, which has seen its Senate representation more often and, at times, more effectively decided by Trump than any other state.

A quick summary of Trump’s meddling in Alabama thus far: he uprooted his sitting senator to serve as attorney general, a tortured term that resulted in summary dismissal; he then entered a complicated and confusing race for the seat, which ended up in the hands of Democrats for the first time in more than 20 years; he successfully campaigned against the aforementioned attorney general’s attempt to return to the Senate; and then he endorsed and did not endorse Brooks before supporting his opponent, who on Tuesday night won the nomination and, with it, likely the Senate race.

In other words, Trump’s instinctive endorsements and his overwhelming need to be seen as a winner could have a bigger impact on Alabama’s voting patterns than any district in Huntsville, Birmingham or Montgomery. His influence provided a stark contrast Tuesday night with the result in Georgia, where Republican voters ignored Trump’s two-seat choices in the House. If Robert Penn Warren crowned the fictional Willie Stark as the king of an unspecified southern state, then the real-life kingmaker in Alabama could very well be Trump.

Alabama is, of course, a strange place for Trump to show his political acumen. A New Yorker who now calls West Palm Beach, Florida, his home, Trump always looks as out of place as possible when he passes through the state. Yet Republican voters cling to his every word.

Trump’s relevant political ties to the state date back to February 2016, when the then senator. Jeff Sessions became the first sitting senator to support his candidacy for president, just days before Alabama takes part in Super Tuesday. Sessions expanded his role as an informal campaign adviser and, as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, also helped Trump deliver on his promises about Supreme Court nominees — a move that helped Trump win over skeptical evangelicals who really didn’t like it all three times. – married the New Yorker, but saw potential in reshaping the Court to overturn abortion rights. For a time, Sessions even made the shortlist for Trump’s running mate.

When it came time for the president-elect to appoint an attorney general, Sessions was a good fit. Several of his senior advisers had already served on the transition team, including his executive director, who was Sessions’ chief of staff. And Sessions shared Trump’s views on immigration, a key ingredient that the Trump team believed would keep their coalition together. (Instead, Trump treated his first attorney general like a punching bag and ended up firing him.)

Sessions’ departure from the Senate in early 2017 opened the door for Luther Strange, then the state’s attorney general, who had previously said he planned to run for office whether he was nominated or not.

Trump had other thoughts. While Strange was a credible vote for Trump’s agenda and in no way contradicted the president, Trump still wasn’t sure he was the right choice. White House aides stepped in and convinced Trump to stick with Strange in the primaries and second round. Brooks, who was also running the race, was convinced that McConnell and his team had tricked Trump and said so. Still, in the second round, Strange fell short of Roy Moore, a former state Supreme Court justice whose record included installing the Ten Commandments in his courtroom and in his courtroom and instructing jurors to pray.

Republicans in Washington have warned against having anything to do with Moore, who had been accused of sexual assault and dating teenagers when he was 30. Trump endorsed Moore however and campaigned for him. Moore would lose to former civil rights attorney Doug Jones by 1.6 points in a state Trump had won a year earlier by 28 points.

When it came time for Jones to face re-election in 2020, Trump once again decided to play ball. He waited until the second round to throw his weight behind Tommy Tuberville, a retired football coach from Auburn, in his bet against Sessions. Trump’s former AG tried to make amends with Trump, but the president declined and worked to help Tuberville, who would later try to help Trump’s Big Lie prevail during his early days in the Senate.

Which brings us to this week’s second round. Initially, Trump sided with Brooks. After all, Brooks had embraced Trump’s paranoia about election fraud, even sleeping in his office on Capitol Hill to avoid going home, where he believed he was vulnerable to a deadly threat from those conspiring against the former president. His Twitter profile was “Mo Brooks – endorsed by President Trump” and his campaign literature called him “MAGA Mo”.

But as the aftermath of January 6 became clearer, Brooks began to waver in Trump’s eyes. Brooks dared to say it was time for Republicans to pass the 2020 election. He called certification on January 6, 2021, the final word on the election and said there was nothing Congress could do to “reinstate” Trump. , who continues to insist that it is still possible. Trump snatched the endorsement even when Brooks refused to testify to the panel he was investigating on Jan.

Brooks denied that he had “woken up” and was not wrong. Reportedly, he cheered the crowd on and in recent weeks has tried to get back in Trump’s good graces. When that failed, he attacked the former president as disloyal.

Trump didn’t blink. He endorsed Katie Britt, former chief of staff to Senator Richard Shelby, who is retiring. Britt and her husband wisely sought audiences with Trump, who seemed impressed by Britt’s husband, a former NFL player. Brooks and Britt fought to a tie during the May 24 primaries, leading up to Tuesday’s runoff, which Britt won by 26 points.

The results were not unexpected. Before becoming a MAGA-soaked critic of Trump, Brooks had bonded with Trump, mistakenly believing that loyalty would be rewarded. Brooks, by all accounts, ran an uneven campaign, while Britt — a Hill member turned lobbyist — ran as an outsider. At 40, she is the youngest woman in the Senate and could hold the position for decades. Which, of course, sounds pretty appealing if you’re a Trump interested in cementing a legacy or if you’re a Trump simply fueled by revenge.

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write to Philip Elliott at [email protected]

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