Beat Like a Rented Mule

Print This Post Print This Post

Think about those words for a moment. Those in the business of farming in Alabama take great pride, deservedly, in what they produce. They are very cognizant that in order to produce the crop or herd they have they must take great care of the tools of their trade. They must maintain their farm equipment and they must take great care of the animals used in the farming process. No respectable farmer would ever beat their own work animals. Those animals often become a “member” of the farmer’s family. That said, a phrase emerged years ago in Alabama parlance that when someone suffered an unexpected and devastating loss that they had been “beaten like a rented mule”. A rented mule does not hold the same level of respect nor receive the same care that a farmer’s own mule would receive. Those words seem appropriate in describing the devastating loss suffered by Senator Luther Strange in the Special Runoff Election held on September 26, 2017. Former Chief Justice Roy Moore has won the Republican nomination to the United States Senate by an estimated vote of 55% to 45% (262,204-218,066). Moore will face the Democrat nominee Doug Jones in a Special General Election on December 12, 2017.

For nearly all of Big Luther’s adult life his primary goal has been to serve in the United States Senate. With the appointment to the Senate by former Governor Robert Bentley Strange’s dream finally came true. Bentley then sweetened that dream by setting the Special Election to fill the remaining unexpired term to fall concurrently with the regularly scheduled Primaries and General Election in 2018. That would assure that there would be a large voter turnout that would presumably favor Big Luther. It would also allow a much longer period to pass in which it was hoped that any controversy over the appointment process might be minimized. With the resignation of Bentley and the assumption of the Governor’s Office by Lt. Governor Kay Ivey Big Luther’s dream became a nightmare. Governor Ivey moved the Special Election up to the second half of 2017. With a Special Election with only one race on the ballot turnout was sure to be very low. In fact the Primary vote saw approximately 18% of registered voters go to the polls. With the very energized voter base of Judge Moore sure to vote he became the prohibitive favorite and the Primary battle became one for second place.

Luther Strange has maintained from the very start that there was no deal with Bentley to suspend an investigation by the Attorney General’s Office. In fact, at the press conference announcing his appointment, he stated very plainly that there never was an investigation. In uttering those words Strange likely sealed his own fate. Former United States Representative Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts) once told a group of bankers that he always admonished new staffers in his office the following “Never write when you can speak and never speak when you can listen”. Had Big Luther never reinforced earlier “vague” comments about a possible investigation he might have been able to stem the tide. Unfortunately in the world of politics the often the truth does not matter. In politics perception becomes reality and the perception was that Bentley and Big Luther cut a deal for the appointment. Only Bentley and Luther will ever know, with absolute certainty, what the truth is. That will not change the results of the vote on September 26, 2017.

Big Luther’s lifelong dream of serving in the United States Senate has become a reality. A reality that will end in mid-December when either Roy Moore or Doug Jones is sworn in as Alabama’s new Senator. The winner of that Special General Election will serve until the people elect a Senator for a full term in 2020. Remember that 2020 will be a Presidential year and voter turnout will be at record levels. Narrow voter bases will not have the impact that was witnessed in the Special Primary and Runoff. Had Luther declined the appointment he would most likely have been a prohibitive favorite. He would have been able to tout his record as Attorney General without opponents questioning his motives. Luther was significantly ahead in fundraising and popularity until there was the perception of a “deal”. The refrain in Garth Brooks’ song “Thank God for Unanswered Prayers” comes to mind in thinking about the fate that Big Luther is facing:

Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers

Remember when you’re talkin’ to the man upstairs

That just because he doesn’t answer doesn’t mean he don’t care

Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers

The only problem with this sentiment is that God always answers prayers. Simply put, the answer is yes, no or maybe it is wait. Waiting is perhaps the toughest of those answers to deal with. Back in the day Mom would be in the kitchen for hours cooking a roast for Sunday dinner. She would put it in the oven for hours. The flavor was beyond description and it was so tender you could cut it with a fork. Today, as a wise lady once observed, we are dealing with “the microwave generation”. We find ourselves wanting things right now. We do not want to wait on anything. As we all know food prepared in a microwave oven is rarely as tender as the slow-cooked version.

The vote on September 26, 2017 was very painful for those who are not supporters of Judge Moore. Big Luther lost. The last time a President (Reagan) came to Alabama to campaign for an incumbent Senator (Denton), the incumbent lost. Perhaps there is a lesson here. Whatever the result of the December 12, 2017 Election, 2020 will be a very interesting race for the United States Senate.

The views and opinions contained in this report do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the clients of Public Strategies, LLC.