In 1986 (otherwise known as the year of Iran-Contra), President Ronald Reagan nominated Beauregard the Third to serve as a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama. During the Judiciary Committee hearings on his nomination, it became clear that Sessions suffered from a common conservative fear: namely, mouth-rape.
Like so many of his Republican brethren, Sessions was terrified of having things “rammed down his throat” by the NAACP, ACLU, or some “un-American” and “Communist-inspired” guy who might decide to attack his home with a small arsenal.
When it became clear that Jefferson Beauregard the Third was not only named for the president of the Confederacy and one its more more effective generals, but actually held the same beliefs in common with those two gentlemen, the Judiciary Committee declined to send his nomination to the floor. Alabama Senator Howell Heflin decided that Sessions was simply too racist to serve on the bench in Alabama, and so Reagan had to go back to the drawing board.
Of course, Sessions got his revenge by getting elected to the same Senate that had rejected him as a judge and then winning an appointment to the same Judiciary Committee that had declined to send his nomination to the floor. Keeping Alabama racism at bay is like trying to drown a cork, and Sessions soon defined himself as one of the most extreme and intemperate opponents of Latino immigration in this country’s power structure. He was also the first U.S. Senator to endorse Donald Trump, and that’s now paying dividends.
In the Senate, Jeff Sessions (R-AL) may not have been a backbencher, but his extreme positions on immigration relegated him to the fringe of his party during the 2013 immigration debate when many Republicans came out publicly in support of giving immigrants a chance to stay in the U.S. legally if not a path to citizenship. After the Republican National Committee’s autopsy report outlined the need to make inroads with Hispanic voters, Sessions’ positions were seen as a relic of the past. Now, he is smack dab in the middle of the Trump campaign…
…”He’s right now the congressional guy most connected to the campaign so right now if there is any question about anything we want to raise with the campaign, he’d probably be the guy you’d want to go through,” says Sen. John Thune (R-SD), a member of the GOP leadership team.
Something similar has happened over on the House side, where Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania and Rep. Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee have seen their profile and influence rise substantially as a result of their early endorsements of Trump.
Barletta rose to prominence as the mayor of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, where he enacted a series of local ordinances that were so anti-immigrant that they were ultimately ruled unconstitutional. His reward was a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives representing the Party of Lincoln.
Scott DesJarlais was recently dubbed “America’s worst congressman” by the National Review, and for once the Review had a good point.
In 2014, [DesJarlais] won his primary election by 38 votes after reports surfaced that DesJarlais, a doctor, “had sexual relationships with two patients, three coworkers and a drug representative.” It was reported that in one instance the anti-abortion advocate had encouraged one of the women he’d had a brief affair with to have an abortion.
I know that winning by 38 votes is not a lot, but is there anything a Republican can do besides agree to pay our bills on time that will get them beaten in a primary?
In any case, DesJarlais is no longer the House Republicans’ biggest embarrassment:
As establishment Republicans in Washington come around to a bombastic Trump, DesJarlais has emerged as a liaison between skeptics, the media and the Trump campaign, massaging fears that Trump is a loose cannon with promises that Trump is more reserved and thoughtful behind the scenes.
DesJarlais says he helped organize a meeting between the Freedom Caucus board and Trump’s campaign operative Paul Manafort last week. And before Trump met with House Speaker Paul Ryan last month, DesJarlais was one of a handful of members who sat down with the speaker and encouraged Ryan to unite behind the nominee.
As for Barletta, Talking Points Memo reports that he “now spends more time in the middle of the action and has sent his policy ideas over to Trump on immigration.”
If history is our guide, those ideas on immigration policy are probably unconstitutional.
So, we begin to see something take form, which is how the rise of Trump will change the Republican Party by empowering some of its worst people.
In this way, Trump’s campaign will do damage to our country even if he loses in a landslide.
And that’s not even considering what it will do to your neighbors who find ways to excuse Trump’s moral lapses and hate-baiting, thereby losing a tight grip on their moral compasses.