by COLIN MANGAN
On the night of December 12, 2017, Democrat and former prosecutor Doug Jones defeated twice-removed Chief Justice of Alabama Roy Moore in a highly contested Senate race. Senator-elect Jones and former judge Moore competed for the Senate seat that was left vacant by Attorney General Jeff Sessions after the former Senator took the position of Attorney-General under President Donald Trump in February 2017. Jeff Sessions’ seat is currently occupied by interim-Senator Luther Strange. Senator-electe Doug Jones will officially take office in January 2018. So what does this shocking upset mean for Democrats, Republicans, and this country as a whole?
Alabamans haven’t elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1992. That Senator was Richard Shelby, who became a Republican in 1994. Doug Jones is a former federal prosecutor, serving as the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama from 1997-2001. In 1998, Jones prosecuted Thomas Edwin Blanton Jr. and Bobby Frank Cherry, two members of the Ku Klux Klan, for their roles in the 1963 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. Former Alabama Democratic Party Chair, Giles Perkins, has described Jones as “a moderate, middle-of-the-road guy”. Jones supports abortion rights, a living wage, comprehensive action on climate change, and Obamacare. After it was announced that Jones won the election, he didn’t exactly give a victory speech. Instead, he promised to be as accessible as possible to his constituents and stressed the need for healing in the aftermath of the election. Jones seems to be a reliable vote for the Democrats on several core issues and seems to possess the modesty and frankness to serve the people of Alabama well. However, I would not call this a victory for the Democrats.
Although, Doug Jones’ campaign outspent Moore’s campaign by a ratio of 6:1, the main reason for Jones’ victory appears to be because of swing voters. Roy Moore won the white vote of Alabama, while Jones’ won the votes of minorities. In addition, about 1.5% of the people of Alabama casted write-in votes. Jones’ picked up just enough votes to win the election by a narrow 20,000 votes,
While the Democrats have been quick to declare this election a condemnation of bigotry and far-right politics, I’d argue otherwise. Doug Jones wasn’t elected because people favor him, his policies, or the Democratic Party. He was elected because the people of Alabama rejected Roy Moore; not because of Moore’s policies but because of Roy Moore himself. About 60% of Alabama voters are anti-abortion. Roy Moore has opposed abortion throughout his life. After the Washington Post reported Roy Moore’s affairs with underage girls, his approval rating plummeted. Several of his associates even confirmed these allegations, stating that his pursuit of underage women was “common knowledge”. My point is that the Democrats got lucky that the Republican’s candidate happened to be an accused child molester but scandal won’t always save the Democrats.
In order to win future seats, Democrats need to practice grassroots organizing. Democrats need to reach out to independents and Trump voters who are having buyer’s remorse. They can bring those voters back. The way they can do that is by reaching out to their constituents. Democrats also need to focus on energizing their base, so they can help bring these voters into the fold. The key to future victories for the Democrats isn’t by outspending the Republicans, it’s by building a coalition of energetic voters from all walks of life. In addition, Democrats need to establish what they believe in. One of the issues is that Democrats seem to be focused on being solely anti-Trump and aren’t establishing a clear message. Democrats need to start talking about what they are for, not just what they are against. If Democrats can build this coalition and galvanize their base, independent voters, and undecided voters, then they have a real chance at winning back the House and maybe the Senate in the 2018 mid-term elections, but because of where things are now, I find that unlikely.
This race also once again shows the GOP’s misogyny and hypocrisy. We are going through a much needed cultural revolution in our society. Across the country, people are changing the way they talk about sexual assault. From Harvey Weinstein to Al Franken to Matt Lauer, these once powerful men are finally facing the consequences of their actions. What’s interesting to me, though, is the Republican establishment’s refusal to condemn Moore in the wake of the allegations against him. Whenever it’s a Democrat such as Al Franken or John Conyers, Republicans demand their resignations. However, they stay silent whenever one of their own, such as Donald Trump or Roy Moore is accused of wrongdoing. They make sexual assault partisan and use it as a punchline to condemn their opponents, the Democrats. I suppose the GOP establishment is breathing a sigh of relief, knowing that they won’t have to deal with Roy Moore for the long term. But that’s not good. As citizens, we cannot tolerate this inaction. If Republican voters truly believe in the values that they claim to stand for, they must call out the GOP establishment for their silence and tell them to start putting country over party,
Although I am happy that the Democrats have now gained a seat in the Senate, I doubt any real change will come from this election. The Democrats are failing to learn from their mistakes, the Republicans will continue to push their agenda, Steve Bannon will continue to push for his brand of far-right politics, and Donald Trump will continue to tweet offensive statements about others.
However, if there is one thing that we can take away from this election, it is our attitude towards sexual assault. In our society, I truly believe that we are in a pivotal time. Women are finally coming out to address the issue of sexual assault. In recent months, countless figures, both in politics and in the media, are facing the consequences of their actions. Matt Lauer has been fired from NBC. Harvey Weinstein faces possible criminal indictment for his actions. Al Franken will be resigning from the Senate. Roy Moore must face the consequences of his actions. The allegations against him, no matter how long ago they were, can not just be swept under the rug. It is time for us, as a society, to reject misogyny and call out those not just those who practice it but those who also enable it.