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Alabama Senate Race Presents More Evidence Of A Deep GOP Divide


For the Republican Party, this was supposed to be a year of getting things done. The GOP controls the White House and Congress. And yet they are reaching right now for their first big legislative victory - a tax overhaul. And even that seems a little shaky, with several Republican senators expressing reservations now. This week, as well, the GOP lost a Senate seat in reliably red Alabama.


ROY MOORE: We've been painted in an unfavorable and unfaithful light.

GREENE: That is the voice of Roy Moore there, who lost the election. I want to bring in Chris Buskirk. He is in Phoenix, Ariz. He hosts a conservative radio talk show there. He's also the publisher of the site American Greatness. And he's come on our program a bunch of times. Hey, Chris, welcome back.

CHRIS BUSKIRK: Oh, thanks, David. How are you?

GREENE: I'm good. Thank you. It's been a week for your party, I think it's safe to say. I just wonder what listeners calling into your show are saying about that election loss in Alabama.

BUSKIRK: Well, today, I think they're going to be saying thank God it's Friday.



BUSKIRK: Oh, it's been it's been a week for sure. But, you know, this is what I love about call-in radio - is you get a feel for, I think, what the pulse is - at least of a certain part of the electorate. There's some consternation for sure. But, you know, what I keep hearing over and over again is not so much being upset with the president or even with Roy Moore. People understand that he's an unusual character - I'm being polite.


BUSKIRK: But there's a lot of antipathy being represented towards Mitch McConnell, towards congressional leadership - saying, gosh, can't these guys get their House in order? Can't they figure out how to recruit candidates that people want to support? And then can't they get behind them and support them all the way through the election, from the primary to the general? And there's concern about whether or not congressional Republicans can get it together and run effective campaigns in 2018.

GREENE: So, I mean, I - are you suggesting, though, that even people who were concerned about Roy Moore on the allegations of sexual abuse - I mean, even involving children - that they should have just gotten behind him because he was the Republican in the race?

BUSKIRK: Yeah, well, here's what I keep hearing. Again, and I think it's pretty sensible. And that's this - is that when people go into a voting booth, and they vote for a candidate of Congress or Senate or what have you, they are not necessarily endorsing the worst part of that person's life. People understand that these are flawed candidates. And they say, you know, let's let the process work itself out. If we've got to oust them in a couple of years, we'll oust them. If they've got to - in Roy Moore's case, I think I've heard a number of people say, if we want to put a Republican in there - if there's a Senate investigation - an ethics investigation that winds up deposing him from his seat, so be it, based on that. But they want to make sure that that seat represents the views of the people of Alabama. I mean, this is a state that voted for Donald Trump by 28 points. You know, Doug Jones is an anomaly there. I think the analog that keeps coming up is Scott Brown in Massachusetts.

GREENE: Well, and Democrat Doug Jones - you mentioned there - who's going to be in that Senate seat. I just want to ask you - you said that a lot of your listeners are going after Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader. You have, as well. You have an editorial that's being published today in The Washington Post saying that under the McConnell regime, too many Beltway Republicans continue to see the base of their own party as the problem. What do you mean?

BUSKIRK: Well, what I mean is that there is a pervasive view on the right. I think it's - I think, by the way, this is a problem on both sides. But there is a pervasive view that people in Washington should be allowed to do what they want to do and that they don't need to - they don't really need the bases of their own parties except at election time, when they need money and votes. And, you know, I can speak more - I think more authoritatively to what's going on the right.

But, you know, there is antipathy on the part of congressional leadership to their own base to the agenda that those people want to see - pro-citizen immigration policy, a change in trade policy, those sorts of things - where there's a lot of agreement on the part of voters. And Washington-based Republicans are saying, you know what? We hear you, but we're not going to do it anyway. We know better. Just listen to us. And this is part of the problem we have - a big disconnect between elites and between voters. And that's got to resolve itself over the next few election cycles one way or the other.

GREENE: Well, I know you've written about - that the party, you hope, will abandon some of the old slogans, like supply-side economics and fight more for working-class Americans. I just wonder - this current tax bill - and we should say President Trump is supporting it big-time. I mean doesn't that rely on the old supply-side beliefs? Do you wish Donald Trump would be doing more explicitly to help the working class?

BUSKIRK: Well, I wish - yeah, what I want is to see policies that are - that directly impact the middle class - things that can grow the size and scope of the middle class and things that can strengthen the foundations of the middle class. I think, overall, this tax bill is decent. I'm reminded that Reagan took three bites of the apple with tax reform. He had three different tax bills. So I'm saying, you know, I hope this passes. I think it will. And it's a good first step. But I think that there are targeted tax policies - for instance, a tax credit on employers for hiring American citizens, things that - that's one example - or a college tuition tax credit, things that would directly impact the middle class positively. I think that - I think Republicans would do well by the country and by themselves if they were to pass those sorts of things.

GREENE: We're sadly out of time. Chris Buskirk in Phoenix, thanks so much.

BUSKIRK: Thanks, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.