A Look Back at the Remarkable Presidency of Jeff Sessions

AP Photo/G.M. Andrews
AP Photo/G.M. Andrews

In the just-completed 2024 presidential election, the Republican Party has won the White House for a third consecutive time—only the third instance in a century that the GOP has managed this feat.

So it’s worth pausing over the origins and causes of this political achievement—this Republican “triple play.” In particular, we might ask: What additional political force has given the GOP this newfound political muscle? After all, from 1992 to 2012, the GOP had lost four of six presidential elections—and five of six in the popular vote. And yet the Republican presidential victories of 2016, 2020, and 2024 cannot be denied: Even the Main Stream Media are now willing to concede that GOP strength is more than just “a blip.”

In fact, if we examine these Republican win streaks, we can identify some commonalities. In each instance, we can see that one political figure stands as decisive in building the Republican Party’s national strength. Way back in the 1920s, the key force for the GOP was President Calvin Coolidge, who inherited the wreckage of Warren G. Harding’s presidency in 1923 and won big in his own right in the 1924 election. In office, Coolidge was so popular that he bequeathed a strong Republican majority to his successor in 1928.

In the next GOP win streak, in the 1980s, the Republican main man was President Ronald Reagan. In the 1980 and 1984 presidential elections, the Gipper was the big winner, and his popularity helped George H.W. Bush win another thumping victory in 1988.

And most recently, in the Teens and Twenties, the undeniable architect of sustained Republican success was the 45th President, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III of Alabama. His victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016 was relatively close, and yet his re-election in 2020 was a landslide. And as we have just seen, President Sessions’ continued popularity made it easy for his anointed successor to hold the White House in 2024.

So yes, over the last eight years, President Sessions has indeed consolidated a new Republican majority. In particular, we can identify three pillars of strength:

First, by virtue of his long service to the Republican Party, he held the Republican base.

Second, by virtue of his strong stance on key issues of principle, he solidified the support of Tea Partiers and Constitutionalists. Crucially, he recaptured the allegiance of the United States Independence Party, the group of disaffected Republicans that had split from the GOP over the immigration issue.

Third, by virtue of his populist appeal, Sessions brought over a great many centrist Democrats, who were dissatisfied with former President Barack Obama but nevertheless fearful of most Republicans. Wits of the time said that Sessions was a “gateway drug” for wandering Democrats.

During the Obama years, Sessions, then in the US Senate, stood out. He was a solid conservative vote on virtually all issues, from taxes to guns to Life, yet nevertheless he took bold positions on immigration and globalization that jolted the open-borders libertarian hegemony that then prevailed within the GOP. As he said repeatedly, a truck driver is just as important as a billionaire. That is, protecting the jobs of ordinary Americans were just as much a priority as protecting the profits for venture capitalists. Indeed, Sessions showed his Southern spunk: He wasn’t afraid to mix it up with liberal Democratic billionaires. Ideological purists were horrified; ordinary Americans were delighted: Finally, someone in Washington was willing to fight for them.

Sessions thus pointed the way to a new and powerful kind of politics with broad national appeal: It was sometimes called “populism,” although others preferred to call it “Middle Class Conservatism.” For his part, Sessions eschewed labels; to him it was just common sense.

Yet by whatever name, Sessions’ brand of politics proved wildly popular in his home state of Alabama; in 2014, he was the only US Senator, in either party, who was unopposed for re-election. Moreover, Sessions’ message resonated to a larger audience than just the Yellowhammer State. His staunch opposition to Obama’s amnesties of 2014, 2015, and 2016 made him a national hero. Indeed, he was admired by many Democrats who could see that the rising tide of illegals flooding into the country was jeopardizing not only their wages at work but also their safety at home.

Thus Sessions emerged as an important national figure. And yet as we remember, during the Obama years, he was not only not generally seen as a future president, but he himself actively swatted down rumors that he might throw his hat in the ring.

Still, the presidential speculation about Sessions continued. In those years, GOP strategists were hungry for victory; after all, the Party had lost the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections by wide margins. Notably, Republican politicos knew all too well that their candidates in ’08 and ’12 had virtually no appeal to swing voters. And so many Republican thinkers came to believe that that a more populist message could bring disaffected Democrats—of the type who had once voted for Ronald Reagan—back into the Republican fold.

Yet for the most part, this Republican thinking was confined to the backrooms.

Then, in 2014 and 2015, came two sets of events that put Sessions’ presidential train in motion.

First, the Democrats discredited themselves on the related issues of homeland security and national security. As we remember, Obama’s amnesty of November 2014 triggered a rise in the crime rate. And the assassination of two New York City policemen in December 2014 crystallized public anxiety about the fate of the nation. And of course, the spectacular terrorist attacks of 2015—first in France, and then in America—only underscored the Obama administration’s flippant mishandling of American security. In the wake of these massacres, open borders seemed like an even worse idea.

As a result, in 2015, the “hourglass alliance” of the Democrats—the upstairs/downstairs alliance between George Soros-type billionaires and Al Sharpton-type street activists—had become untenable. Yes, the Soros-Sharpton entente, joined by a few ACLU types and multiculturalists, had worked in the past, but no longer; Sharpton became political poison. To put the matter bluntly, outraged and fearful Middle Americans had had enough of anti-cop liberalism.

In the words of one trenchant observer, Pat Buchanan, reacting to the NYPD murders:

Suddenly, the real America revealed itself, an America enraged at the cold-blooded assassinations of cops and disgusted with those who had pandered to anti-police protesters. And the America that revealed itself is not good news for the Democratic Party.

Yes, after 2015, the Obama-Pelosi-Reid Democrats were doomed—but it took a while for that to become evident.

The biggest hope for the Democrats, of course, was the Republicans: Even as the Democrats were falling apart, the GOP was in terrible disarray.

In particular, the hard feelings left over from the Speakership fight in January 2015 were slow to heal.

By one measure, House Speaker John Boehner was the weakest Speaker in a century-and-a-half; even so, after he secured the speakership, his lieutenants sought to punish those Republican dissidents who had sought to point out Boehner’s weakness. As a result, hard feelings within the Party became even harder.

Yet it was the issue of immigration that ultimately fractured the Republican coalition. As we have seen, immigration-related crime was on the rise in the US, but further inspiration for American anti-immigration activists came from across the Atlantic. Most profoundly, the success of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), breaking away from the Conservative Party in Britain, had emboldened the creation of a US Independence Party (USIP) to break away from the Republican Party in America.

Both of these upstart parties, UKIP and USIP, were premised around a simple idea: A great nation ought to control its own destiny and not bow down to the post-patriotic forces of open-borders globalism.

Indeed, an early indicator that the familiar big-business-oriented conservative governing model—emphasizing free immigration—was inadequate came in May 2015, when the Conservatives of British Prime Minister David Cameron were defeated for re-election. Analysts concluded that the biggest single factor in Cameron’s defeat was the defection of Tory voters to UKIP.

Still, back in America, in mid-2015, USIP seemed unimportant. In retrospect we can see that during this time, the forces of the American Sovereignty movement were quietly gathering their strength. And so USIP—at the time, more of a movement than a formal party—proved to be a powerful force in what became known as the “Immigration Wars.”

The first big battle came when Speaker Boehner, working with President Obama, tried to enact the notorious “Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2015.”

The second big battle came in 2016, when the frontrunner for the Republican nomination, Jeb Bush, was soundly defeated.  It was a humiliating end to the Bush presidential dynasty.

In the meantime, in early 2016, as President Obama launched the third of his amnesty programs, the public backlash against government-sponsored chaos had become a veritable tsunami.

Still, even in the first few months of 2016, there was no evidence that Sen. Sessions was the least bit interested in seeking the presidency. There were, of course, a great many Republicans in the race, although none of them seemed to catch fire.

In that same year, it became evident that USIP activists, deeply mistrustful of the Republican leadership, were intent on running a third-party candidate of their own in 2016. The USIP motto was simple: “Close the border. Build the fence. End of story.”

In fact, many Republican presidential hopefuls were squarely in favor of these Sovereigntist proposals. And yet they couldn’t speak for the Party as a whole, which still included a substantial “open borders” faction. And so, out of that mistrust of the GOP, support for USIP sprouted.

By the spring of 2016, Republicans faced an agonizing situation: A clear majority  in the country had decisively turned against the Democrats, and yet the Republicans were still in danger of losing the 2016 presidential election because USIP was draining away so many Republican votes.

The GOP thus faced the same situation that the British Conservatives had faced the year before: In Britain, the party elite was mostly pro-open-border, while the grassroots activists were pro-closed-border, and thus inclined to UKIP.

As we recall, the British Tories could not surmount this challenge from within, so they lost. Yet the American Republicans wanted to win—they really wanted to win. And it was evident that USIP was draining away Republican votes. And so, in their desperation, GOP pros came to recognize that they needed a bold stroke: They needed Jeff Sessions as the Republican nominee. Only Sessions could reunite the GOP and USIP.

So the Draft Sessions movement gained steam: Not since Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 had such a “draft” movement been so successful. The Republican Establishment was still suspicious of Sessions, but they were so hungry for victory that they were willing to overlook their differences. And the rank and file, of course, were quite happy with Sessions. It was a new kind of “fusionism”—a fusionism for the 21st century.

But what was most remarkable was Sessions’ ability to reach out both to USIP and to Democrats. His “One America” message resonated across the country. In the words of the famous poem:

When Sessions speaks, we rejoice
His is the wonderful voice
Of millions of grateful Americans
Who’ve made unity their choice.

Yes, that was the Sessions message: One nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. And for the nation as a whole, Sovereignty.

As we know, President Sessions was just like Senator Sessions. He was a rock-hard conservative on most issues, but he always looked out for America. It was that sort of conservative populism that made him a successful president. Indeed, as we now know, it is that sort of conservative populism that has transformed the country, as well as well as the Republican Party.

Thanks to our 45th President, America looks forward to the remainder of the 21st century. We are united, strong, safe, and free.


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