Ala. congresswoman wins runoff turning on loyalty to Trump
By KIM CHANDLER and STEVE PEOPLES
Wednesday, July 18
MILLBROOK, Ala. (AP) — U.S. Rep. Martha Roby won Alabama’s Republican runoff, fighting through lingering fallout from her years-old criticism of then-candidate Donald Trump in a midterm contest that hinged on loyalty to the GOP president.
The four-term incumbent will now represent the GOP on the November ballot having defeated Bobby Bright, a former Democrat who tried to cast himself as the more authentic Trump ally in the low-turnout Republican contest.
The Trump White House was on Roby’s side.
“It’s been a true privilege to have the support of the White House through this campaign,” Roby told cheering supporters Tuesday night, her voice cracking with emotion at times. “I am so humbled that the people of Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District have again placed their trust and their confidence in me.”
Trump and Vice President Mike Pence endorsed the four-term incumbent in recent weeks. The vice president went further over the weekend and recorded robocalls distributed on her behalf saying she’s a reliable vote for the Trump agenda.
Some intervention was required after Roby angered Alabama Republicans in the closing days of the 2016 presidential election when she said Trump’s lewd comments about women — captured on an “Access Hollywood” tape — made him unacceptable as a candidate for president.
She spent much of the last two years trying to convince her constituents in Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District that she was sufficiently loyal to Trump.
On Wednesday, Trump credited himself for her win when tweeting his congratulations.
“My endorsement came appropriately late, but when it came the “flood gates” opened and you had the kind of landslide victory that you deserve. Enjoy!” he wrote.
Trump’s support did not guarantee a victory, of course, even in a deep-red district that overwhelmingly backed him two years ago. The president has a mixed record this primary season, having backed a handful of Republican candidates in friendly districts who ultimately lost.
The most noteworthy, perhaps, was Alabama’s own Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, who earned the president’s strong backing but suffered an embarrassing loss just eight months ago.
Voters indicated they were willing to move past Roby’s criticism of Trump.
Don Bascom, a retired mechanical engineer who lives in Prattville, said he generally supports the president, but he also shared Roby’s concerns about him in 2016. He voted for the congresswoman on Tuesday.
“I think she has done a good job. She’s an incumbent so to some degree she’s proven herself,” he said. “One of the criticisms I’ve heard of her is that she simply couldn’t vote for Trump when he ran, and to be honest, I couldn’t either because of the way he treats people.”
Deborah Gilliam, a registered nurse from Millbrook, said she too was bothered by Roby’s comments about Trump, but she ultimately voted for her. She said she felt uneasy with Bright’s party switch.
“It was a toss-up,” Gilliam said. “I’ll give her one more chance.”
Roby faced the runoff test because she earned only 39 percent of the vote in the first primary contest back in June. Bright was the second-place finisher.
Despite her past criticism of Trump, the White House eventually emerged as Roby’s most powerful backer.
Trump called Roby a “reliable vote for our Make America Great Again Agenda” on Twitter and bashed Bright as “a recent Nancy Pelosi voting Democrat.”
The president was referring to Bright’s support of Pelosi’s bid to become House speaker when he was a Democrat in Congress.
Roby made clear she would return the favor should she win re-election in November, as widely expected in heavily Republican state. She’ll face Democrat Tabitha Isner, a political newcomer.
“It has been a great privilege to be a part of the conservative momentum and to work alongside my colleagues in Congress and the Trump administration,” Roby told supporters Tuesday night. “I am ready to continue the fight.”
Peoples reported from New York.
Sign up for “Politics in Focus,” a weekly newsletter showcasing the AP’s best political reporting from across the United States leading up to the 2018 midterm elections: http://apne.ws/3Gzcraw
Opinion: How Political Polarization Affects the Supreme Court
By Trevor Burrus
How much can a Supreme Court ignore public opinion in a polarized nation? With the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, that question has become more pressing. Assuming he’s confirmed, a court with Justice Kavanaugh rather than Justice Anthony Kennedy is going to be more conservative, but not much more. While it’s possible that some long-standing precedents are on the chopping block, our current political polarization will help stay the court’s hand from being too disruptive.
Supreme Court justices understand the somewhat precarious place the court inhabits in our constitutional system. If its judgments are to be enforced, the court depends upon respect from the legislative and executive branches and broad support from the public. In the words of Alexander Hamilton, writing in the “Federalist Papers,” the judiciary has neither “the sword or the purse” and it “must ultimately depend upon the aid of the executive arm even for the efficacy of its judgments.”
Throughout American history, Supreme Court justices, and particularly chief justices, have been sensitive to public opinion. While many would argue they shouldn’t be, the court ignores public opinion at its own peril. Without sword or purse to enforce its rulings, how will the people react if a Supreme Court decision undermines their deeply held convictions?
That question was put to the test in 1954, when the Supreme Court decided the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education and all hell broke loose. America was polarized then too, with the Southern states being much more in favor of segregation than the Northern ones. When the Supreme Court announced its ruling, the resistance began almost immediately. Gov. Orval Faubus of Arkansas called out the Arkansas National Guard to help block nine African-American children from entering a high school. In response, President Dwight Eisenhower sent the 101st Airborne to Little Rock to escort the children into school. It was a true constitutional crisis, the likes of which had not been seen since the Civil War.
Chief Justice Earl Warren was aware of the dangers of striking down school segregation. Fearing that any dissenting vote would embolden a resisting South, Warren worked behind the scenes with Justices Hugo Black and Felix Frankfurter to ensure a unanimous ruling. Warren visited Justice Robert Jackson in the hospital, where he was after suffering a heart attack, to persuade him not to file a separate opinion. Only Justice Stanley Forman Reed was left, and Warren told him, “Stan, you’re all by yourself in this now.” Reed ultimately joined the opinion, and Jackson left the hospital on the day the opinion was announced so the court could present a united front.
Like Earl Warren, Chief Justice John Roberts is deeply concerned with his court’s respect and legitimacy. His crucial vote upholding the Affordable Care Act can be seen in that light, as can his numerous opinions seeking to unite the broadest consensus of justices on the narrowest grounds. In doing so, he often crosses ideological lines, as he did this term in Carpenter v. United States, when he was joined by the four “liberal” justices in striking down the warrantless acquisition of cell-site location data.
If confirmed, Justice Kavanaugh is likely to have the same concerns as Roberts. Like Roberts, Kavanaugh has had a long career in high-level Republican legal positions. He is a consummate insider, and he understands the political game needs to be played with honor and due respect for our constitutional system.
That respect entails understanding the difficult job Congress has been given, especially in our polarized political climate. Cobbling together legislative fixes to our myriad problems takes a lot of time, and a Roberts Supreme Court with Justice Kavanaugh is unlikely to disrupt Congress’s work unless the Constitution clearly requires it.
The same goes for contentious social issues like abortion and gay marriage. The court will not undo its 2015 gay marriage decision; it’s simply too disruptive to invalidate hundreds of thousands of marriages, if not more, as well as to throw into chaos tax statuses, property ownership and inheritances. Similarly, a decision overturning Roe v. Wade would significantly shift public opinion against the court — 57 percent currently support legal abortion.
Neither Chief Justice Roberts nor a Justice Kavanaugh wants to see the Supreme Court’s approval rating reach Congress’s low levels —18 percent in April. While Congress can weather such abysmal numbers, such broad disapproval would do lasting damage to the court, and that’s a legacy no one wants.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Trevor Burrus is a research fellow in the Cato Institute’s Robert A. Levy Center for Constitutional Studies, as well as managing editor of the Cato Supreme Court Review. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.