The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, and Carolyn Fiddler, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.
● AL-02: Good grief. Former Rep. Bobby Bright, who won a dark red Alabama seat as a Democrat in 2008, just announced a challenge to the woman who beat him two years later, Republican Rep. Martha Roby … in the GOP primary. In his lone term in Congress, Bright compiled one of the most conservative voting records of any Democrat in the House, so his party switch isn’t a real surprise. What is shocking, though, is that Bright kicked off his campaign at the headquarters of the Alabama Republican Party! Considering that he’s running against, you know, a Republican incumbent, that is deeply strange.
And while Roby found herself on the outs with extremists in 2016 after she called on Trump to step down from the GOP presidential ticket when the “Access Hollywood” tapes came to light, she’s served as a quiet team player ever since—even, to her shame, biting her tongue during the entire Roy Moore imbroglio. It’s therefore quite stunning that the very same establishment of which she’s been a loyal member would send a signal like this that they want her to get lost.
But Bright may not exactly be the right sort of fellow to deliver that message. Roby survived the general election in 2016 by a surprisingly tight 49-42 margin after furious right-wingers mounted a write-in campaign following her abandonment of Trump, who carried Alabama’s 2nd District by a far wider 65-33 spread. And even though Bright was on the far-right edge of the Democratic caucus, the fact still remains that he was a Democrat.
The experience of other similarly situated ex-Democrats is instructive. In Alabama’s 5th District, which is located at the other end of the state but is just as red, Rep. Parker Griffith sought to survive the same onslaught that felled Bright by switching parties while in office. But as we noted at the time, “to remain a member in good standing of the conservative movement, it isn’t enough just to vote a certain way.” Rather, there’s a much more stringent standard you need to adhere to:
You have to evidence a very particular tribal belonging—you need to hate the right people, be ignorant of the right facts, be fearful of the right bogeymen, and be arrogant about the whole enterprise. If you somehow fail this tribal litmus test, it doesn’t matter how right-wing you are ….
Griffith indeed failed this test, quite badly: He lost the Republican primary by a punishing 51-33 margin to now-Rep. Mo Brooks, and he later rejoined the Democratic Party. Just swap out “conservative movement” for “Trumpist faith” and Roby also came very close to failing this test, but it’s hard to see Bright turning in better marks.