In a stunning, though narrow, upset, Democrat Doug Jones won the Alabama Senate election last night, though as of 8 a.m., Moore has refused to concede and pushing for a recount given the “close” vote. The Republican Party has at last decided to dump him, though, calling the margin of about 21,000 votes too wide for a recount, and even 45 tweeted out congratulations to Doug Jones. Jones, who prosecuted the killers of the Birmingham Four, is the first Democrat elected to the Senate by Alabamans in 25 years.
Once again, Black voters did the right thing, with Black women voting at around 98 percent for Moore, according to exit polls. It is most remarkable that Black voters turned out disproportionately despite a history of voter suppression in the state which you can see GOP lawmakers discussing on this tape. The white vote numbers are astonishing to me, though, with 74 percent of men and 65 percent of women voting for Moore. The racial divide in this vote could hardly be starker. This Washington Post story lays out exit poll data by race, gender and education.
Speculation has begun about whether or not this vote indicates a serious enough dip in the Trump political brand to threaten Republicans in 2018. Republican pollster and communications expert Frank Luntz tweeted this last night.
But many Republicans believe that this election was nothing more than a referendum on Roy Moore, assuming that other Republican candidates won’t be accused by multiple women of child molestation. Moore is an extreme candidate in other ways too, advocating for outlawing homosexuality and banning Muslims from serving in Congress. His recent statement that life was better in the days before the Civil War was met with disgust (although he did say that it was better “even though we had slavery” not because we had slavery). In 2011, during a radio interview, he said that all the Constitutional Amendments after the 10th had caused all kinds of problems by restricting states rights. Those would include the amendments that ended slavery, guaranteed formerly enslaved people the vote and granted women the right to vote. A campaign spokesperson had to “clarify” recently that he doesn’t actually believe all those amendments should be rescinded.
For progressives, the last two months of special elections have been encouraging, pointing to the hard work that so many groups like Indivisible, Color of Change and the Working Families Party have been doing to elect better candidates. This rundown of last month’s election reveals a number of unexpected outcomes, including Danica Roem’s win in Virginia and the election of Larry Krasner, a civil rights and defense attorney who has defended Black Lives Matter as Philadelphia’s District Attorney. Democratic Socialists also won 11 races last month, mostly local. The next race to watch closely will be the Georgia Governor’s race, where Stacey Abrams has been running a lively and wide ranging campaign.
It’s too soon, though, to get complacent about the potential for turning Congress in 2018. Lots of things have to happen before then, including the Democratic Party investing in communities of color in ways they’ve been unable to muster in most elections; fighting the effects of Voter ID and the disenfranchisement of former prisoners; having actual good candidates. Widespread disgust with both major parties among the electorate will continue to fuel Independents and other third party bids for office.
The most encouraging thing about recent elections is the number of new people running for office. All politics starts local, and the school board races are as important as Congress and the White House.