Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee’s announcement last week that he will not seek reelection at the end of his term could be a sign that the pragmatic wing of the GOP continues to be in retreat. That’s bad for Republicans and bad for the country.
Corker is a staunch conservative, but a savvy politician, who reaches out to Democrats on common causes. “He is a conservative Republican, but I have found him a terrific partner to legislate with on areas where we agree,” Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) told the New York Times.
Corker chairs the Senate’s powerful Foreign Relations Committee. From that position, he joined Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), the top Democrat of the panel, in introducing the 2015 legislation to give Congress the right to review and affirm or reject the Iran nuclear deal. And in March they unveiled a bill to slap sanctions on Iran for its ballistic missile testing.
He was also one of the few leading Republicans willing to call the president out after Trump equated white supremacist marchers in Charlottesville with counter-protesters. And his words were stinging: “The president has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful,” Corker told reporters.
Corker’s announcement came on the same day that Republicans failed in another attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare. Some wonder whether Corker’s departure is being fed by frustration over his party’s inability to take advantage of its control of Congress and the White House.
Is Corker’s move going to make way for more Trump-like legislators to be elected? No one knows for sure. But hours after Corker’s announcement, Alabama Republicans picked Roy Moore as their candidate in a special election for the Senate seat once held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Moore is not a “pragmatic Republican,” but he stands a very good chance of winning the Senate seat in the general election.
Moore is known as the “Ten Commandments judge.” He is the guy who was twice removed as chief justice of his state’s supreme court for flouting federal law — once by refusing to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments he had commissioned, despite being ordered to do so by a federal court. Moore has declared that biblical law takes precedence over U.S. civil law. That will make it very difficult for him to swear to uphold the laws of the United States if he is elected.
In this coincidental exchange of Moore for Corker, we see a disturbing shift from what passes as the “center” to what is pretty clearly the fringe. That doesn’t bode well for Republicans hoping to govern, or for the majority of the public who constitute America’s middle — the true silent majority.