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It’s Not Just Scandal: Moore Lost In Alabama Because The GOP Agenda Is Toxically Unpopular

Republicans are now in trouble everywhere.

Senator-elect Doug Jones (Photo: Justin Sullivan/ Getty)

Senator-elect Doug Jones (Photo: Justin Sullivan/ Getty) 

The easy thing for Republicans to tell themselves after the stinging loss of a Senate seat in Alabama is that they only went down to defeat because the party had the misfortune to nominate someone accused of preying on teenage girls.

And there is something to that. But the Republican Party nominated a man accused of sexual misconduct to run for president in 2016, and that didn’t stop him from winning 62 percent of the vote in Alabama. Donald Trump didn’t just win Alabama a year ago — he won by a larger margin than Mitt Romney, John McCain, or George W. Bush. So while it’s undoubtedly true that the allegations played a role in the race, they hardly work as a comprehensive explanation of the outcome.

The larger issue is that the Republican Party is led by an unpopular president and unpopular congressional leaders who are pursuing an unpopular agenda, and it’s putting them in massive electoral peril.

Republicans have been ignoring warning signs all year

It is entirely normal for the party that occupies the White House to lose ground down ballot during midterm elections. That said, the GOP’s results in 2017 have really been quite bad:

Republicans in Washington are aware of all these facts, but seem, strangely, a bit indifferent to them. The experience of watching Trump — whom they all expected to lose as late as 7 o’clock on the evening of the 2016 election — triumphing against the odds has them dazzled. And the fact that in office, Trump, despite considerable speculation that he wouldn’t, has pursued a very orthodox Republican Party agenda has them pleased.

At the nexus of these two factors, they’ve decided to bank as many policy wins as they can and then hope to hit a stroke of good luck.

Republicans in Washington are aware of all these facts, but seem, strangely, a bit indifferent to them. The experience of watching Trump — whom they all expected to lose as late as 7 o’clock on the evening of the 2016 election — triumphing against the odds has them dazzled. And the fact that in office, Trump, despite considerable speculation that he wouldn’t, has pursued a very orthodox Republican Party agenda has them pleased.

At the nexus of these two factors, they’ve decided to bank as many policy wins as they can and then hope to hit a stroke of good luck.

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Matthew Yglesias

Matthew Yglesias co-founded Vox.com with Ezra Klein and Melissa Bell back in the spring of 2014. He's currently a senior correspondent focused on politics and economic policy, and co-hosts The Weeds podcast twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays.

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