The loss of the Alabama senate seat to a Democrat says a lot less about President Donald Trump than it does about the Republican Party leadership.

Articulately and unabashedly defend conservative principles or lose.

Conservative voters want Republican candidates to champion conservative positions and, once elected, to act on those principles.

The GOP leadership, regrettably, has gotten so good at playing it safe they no longer know how to lead.

We now have a Republican-controlled House and Senate that can't seem to cobble together a single legislative victory, filled though they are with "electable" people.

Often, they lose because they can't mobilize the base to get out and vote, whereupon they are both castigated by the press as "extremist" and defeated by the Democrat on the ticket. At which point, the GOP says, "Golly, we need someone who's even squishier on the issues."

Lather, rinse, repeat. How often do we have to watch this movie?

Too often. This was the backstory in Alabama.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the RNC backed establishment candidate Luther Strange for Jeff Sessions' vacated senate seat, over the more conservative candidate Mo Brooks. Strange was already tainted by the circumstances of his special appointment by the outgoing governor of Alabama, who resigned in a sex and financial scandal — that Strange was investigating as Alabama attorney general at the time. But Strange was viewed as more "electable." And a Republican seat in Alabama was always safe, right?

This inscrutable ignoring of the message voters sent the GOP in 2010, 2014 and 2016 set the stage for someone else to enter the primary race. Cue Judge Roy Moore and the predictable disaster on Dec. 12. It's a mark of how frustrated voters are with GOP leadership that so many would stand by Moore even as multiple credible allegations came in about his penchant for dating teen girls when he was in his 30s.

In 2016, Trump proved a broad cross-section of voters would rally behind someone who could both push back against the media and make a case for conservative principles. Trump has done a surprisingly good job emphasizing issues important to conservative and moderate voters.

In spite of Trump's victory, the GOP distances itself from the president, unable to distinguish the difference between personality and policy.

The pundits don't see it that way. National Review's editors wrote that Steve Bannon and Moore's supporters want to "tear down the GOP for fun and profit." I can't speak for Bannon, but what voters want is for Republicans to get in there and do something. We gave them the House; we gave them the Senate; we gave them the White House.

For heaven's sake — what are they waiting for?

It looks all-too likely the GOP will yet again learn the wrong lesson from Moore's embarrassing defeat and make two catastrophic mistakes.

The first would be to retreat to their familiar "electable" argument instead of backing a fearless conservative.

To do that will all but ensure even a hysterically leftist Democrat candidate would defeat a bland pabulum Republican.

The second mistake is a paralyzed and moribund Congress in 2018. If the GOP doesn't come out swinging and get things done legislatively early next year, they're setting the stage for primary challenges.

Don't say you weren't warned.

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Laura Hollis is a University of Notre Dame business and law professor. Her column is distributed by Creators Syndicate. The opinions are the writer’s.

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