One of the biggest unreported election night stories is how a southern gentleman coasted back into a U.S. Senate seat completely unchallenged.
Senate Budget Committee ranking member Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) won re-election on Tuesday evening by unanimous consent from Alabamians. Nobody challenged him in either that state’s Republican primary or in the general election which just wrapped in November.
While critics of Sessions’ bold style of leadership may write it off as his simply being from a southern state that’s mostly Republican, that the Democrats didn’t even try to field a candidate just to make it a battle is noteworthy.
And it’s worth exploring why Sessions went uncontested, as he’s in line to become the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, and will thus wield enormous influence over the direction of the GOP heading into the next presidential cycle and beyond.
Conservative leaders say the reason Sessions won re-election without any effort to fight him from Republicans or Democrats—or any other party, like the libertarians—is because he is so popular in Alabama.
Rich Lowry, the editor of the National Review, told Breitbart News when reached by phone on Tuesday:
He’s up this time? I didn’t even know he was up; that shows you how unopposed he is. I can’t speak to specific politics in Alabama, but on a national level he’s extremely well-informed. He’s extremely energetic. He’s fearless. He’s proven himself year after year to be an absolutely indispensable outside voice and inside player on immigration and has really taken the lead in forwarding a populist-oriented agenda around that tone and around that issue. He’s really one of the most valuable senators we have, and I hope part of what’s going on in Alabama and that Alabama recognizes that.
Sessions is known in Washington, Alabama, and throughout the country as the biggest and most vocal opponent of amnesty for illegal aliens. He’s widely credited with derailing once-thought-to-be-certain efforts to pass an amnesty like the Senate’s “Gang of Eight” bill through both chambers of Congress, and has led—and pretty much won—the intellectual battle on all fronts against an amnesty and a massive increase in legal immigration.
The way he does it is he frames the issue through the lens of more than just border security. He fights amnesty on that front, and wins. But, more importantly, he battles tooth and nail over what he calls the “Masters of the Universe” immigration wishes—from CEOs, inside-the-beltway politicians, and big labor unions, among others with secondary motives looking for either cheap labor, more Democratic voters, more members, or having something else in mind than American workers’ best interests. He flips the entire argument by Democrats and the Institutional Left that Republicans and conservatives are in the tank of special interests by consistently and aggressively pointing out that what all Democrats—and some Republicans—want to do with immigration is, in fact, all a big favor to those special interests.
Republicans who embrace Sessions’ policies win big politically, or get closer to winning, when without them they wouldn’t stand a chance. Former Sen. Scott Brown, for instance, came within four points of unseating incumbent Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) in purplish-blue New Hampshire, as he zoned in on her support for jobs for illegal aliens over jobs for New Hampshire citizens. While he didn’t win on election day, he was much closer than any political prognosticator expected earlier in the year, when polls showed Brown down by double digits.
David Perdue, the next GOP U.S. Senator from Georgia, won handily on election night—avoiding the runoff that many pundits suspected would happen—by running hard on this issue, and Arkansas’ next GOP U.S. Senator, Tom Cotton, stomped outgoing Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) with it too.
Sessions endorsed and worked hard for all three of them, lending his intellectual firepower to each race—all while cruising to re-election in Alabama.
“Nobody runs against Jeff Sessions, because even symbolic candidates figure it’s not worth the effort. Sessions is that popular in Alabama,” Tucker Carlson, the editor-in-chief of The Daily Caller, added in an email. “What’s amazing is that he’s not much of a panderer, or even an especially good speaker. People like Sessions because he’s principled, which is kind of refreshing to see.”
What Carlson is getting at here is that Sessions is not like a Ted Cruz or a Rand Paul, each of whom led incredible floor speech efforts in 2013 and are known for pizzazz in their fiery and captivating messages. But despite those two stealing most headlines with their brazen speeches, Sessions is the one who spent the most time on the U.S. Senate floor in 2013. According to a review by the Los Angeles Times, Sessions spent 33 hours on the Senate floor that year—more than Cruz, Paul, or even now outgoing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Reid came in second place with 30 hours. Whenever Sessions is about to hit the Senate floor, his staff notifies pretty much everyone in the conservative movement with advisories—and it’s always worth watching, as he’s either making some kind of eloquent case against amnesty, debunking the political establishment’s logic on immigration, or carrying the GOP in a more conservative direction on his wheelhouse budget issues.
Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol told Breitbart News that Sessions has emerged as a leader on issues that affect America’s middle class—a demographic most Republicans admit they need to do a better job connecting with if they want to win big-picture elections.
“As I’ve watched him in recent years, I’ve been increasingly impressed by Sessions,” Kristol said. “It seems to me he’s gone from being a loyal conservative foot soldier to a true conservative leader, especially on issues relating to middle-class Americans.”
During those floor speeches, Sessions looks for ways to connect whatever issue he’s fighting for at the moment with the grassroots activists crucial to his causes—and with ordinary Americans whom he’s trying to win over.
Nationally syndicated radio host Laura Ingraham said Sessions’ win without any challenger whatsoever is because he opposes amnesty for illegal aliens and rejects the “Big Donor class demands” from Wall Street and Silicon Valley. It’s a serious challenge for the Republican Party moving forward: Reject the big donors, and win the voters? Or reject the voters and win the big donors? Sessions has argued for years that the GOP should abandon the donor class to focus its policies and messaging on connecting with voters. His argument is that if Republicans win over voters by fighting for just causes in policy and political battles, rather than pandering to high-dollar donors for campaign cash, they will win big-picture elections and get America back on the right track. Ingraham said:
Jeff Sessions ran unopposed because he actually fights for the issues the people are concerned about; he doesn’t cater to what the Big Didonor class demands. It was Sen. Sessions who resisted the Establishment push for amnesty after 2012. Can you imagine the weak position Republicans would be in today if they had gone the amnesty route? Sessions was right. They were wrong. If the Republicans followed more of the economic populist message of Jeff Sessions, they would grow the Republican Party among every demographic group. If Republicans go the way of big corporate lobbyists and dance to the tune of the overpaid consultancy class, they will receive the same shellacking that Dems received in 2014.
Back home in Alabama, Alabamians are beyond thrilled with Sessions’ performance in Washington. Zan Green, the founder of Alabama Tea Party group Rainy Day Patriots, said Sessions is a “patriot” and that other senators should strive to be more like him.
“Senator Jeff Sessions for all appearances is a man of good ole southern up bringing, a man that is Alabama, and a Patriot,” Green said in an email. “Jeff Sessions thinks first about America, not Jeff Sessions. He works as if he is in Washington to do a job that honors country. His actions are of someone that loves being a boy from Alabama and a Man that is American. He works as if he believes in Americans and America, not against them, not against our best interest. He is consistently conservative in his policies, his compass is true and his course straight. Senator Session’s stiff spine and bold voice is louder then dozens combined in the chamber of wimps in DC.”