DECEMBER 13, 2017
The dust was still settling on Wednesday from Democrat Doug Jones’ upset win in Tuesday’s Alabama election for the U.S. Senate seat once held by Atty. General Jeff Sessions.
While Democrats across the country were stunned and elated by Jones’ victory, fingers were being pointed in all directions among top Republicans as to why what seemed to be an easy win for them turned into a startling loss. Was it a defeat just for Judge Roy Moore, or was it a shocking rejection of Trumpism in this reddest of red states? By day’s end, the winners and losers from the suspenseful election result were becoming clearer and clearer.
Besides Doug Jones, here’s my takeaway on the Top 5 winners from Tuesday night’s election results:
The #MeToo Movement — Courageous women coming forward to tell their stories of being hit on (mostly as teens) by an aged 30-something Roy Moore galvanized many Alabama voters (especially GOP suburban women) to get out to the polls to stop Moore from earning a Senate seat. More importantly, their candor certainly illustrated the political power that women honestly relating their experiences are likely to have in upcoming political contests.
African-American Turnout — It was a common political truism that the huge number of African-American voters who cast their ballot for Brack Obama in 2008 and 2012 were steadfast for Obama only and not the Democratic Party in general. Indeed, when Hillary Clinton’s percentage of the black vote dropped in 2016, some pundits even went so far as to blame lack of African-American enthusiasm as the reason for her loss. But black Alabama voters came out in force for Doug Jones, a known and trusted quantity in the African-American community, matching the % of the vote that they gave to Obama and once again proving their importance to the Democratic Party..
The Alabama Democratic Party — What many outsiders saw as a moribund Democratic presence in Alabama (a Democrat had not been elected to the U.S. Senate in a quarter century) roared back to life with Jones’ win, and even some conservative pundits admitted that Jones’ ground game was far superior to Moore’s. Granted, a portion of that effectiveness came with the help of the Democratic National Committee, but Alabama Democrats (and those all over the South) should take heart that a winning get-out-the-vote campaign can be constructed from the ground up.
Sen. Cory Booker — In addition to reflecting voter discontent, the one thing that the three recent Democratic victories (gubernatorial wins by Phil Murphy in New Jersey and Ralph Northam in Virginia, as well as Jones’ Senate win) have in common is that the only national politician to campaign for each winner was Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ). No one’s saying that they won because Sen. Booker campaigned for them, but being a part of three winning Democratic campaigns can’t help but be an asset to a likely Democratic Presidential aspirant for 2020.
Sen. Richard Shelby — It may seem strange to cite a Republican as a winner in the Roy Moore debacle, but Sen. Shelby was a true profile in courage during this campaign. As Alabama’s senior senator (first elected as a Democrat in 1992 and switched to the GOP two years later), he might have been expected to endorse Moore, the winner of the GOP primary, but Shelby made a televised statement explicitly stating that he would not be voting for Moore and would write in the name of another Republican. His move was widely seen as a permission slip for moderate Republicans not to vote for Moore, which may have made the crucial difference in the state.
Besides Roy Moore, here are the big losers in Tuesday’s race:
Donald J. Trump — The President was a double loser in Alabama, having endorsed losing Republican incumbent Luther Strange in the GOP primary and only recently endorsing Moore in the general. Instead of just sitting out the endorsement game, Trump went all in on accused child molester Moore, which only revived the sexual harassment allegations that were raised by more than a dozen women during the campaign. Until this second loss, Trump had ruled the Republican Party by fear, but now it is clear that a politician like Shelby can not only stand up to Trump but be admired for it.
Steve Bannon — Trump’s former henchman, Bannon and his crusade to tear apart the Republican establishment hit a major speed bump, as Bannon backed Moore from the beginning of his campaign. Making four campaign appearances for Moore (including one on Election Eve), Bannon regularly took to the stage in his military jacket and disheveled hair, looking for all the world like Bobby Moynahan’s “SNL” character Drunk Uncle. Bannon has amassed a remarkable record of backing winning right-wing candidates in GOP primaries, who only go on to lose the general election. After this big Alabama loss, he is becoming extremely more irrelevant every day.
The Religious Right — One of the heroes of right-wing religious extremists, Moore was not just one of your run-of-the-mill pro-lifers. He strongly argued that homosexuality itself should be illegal and that Muslims should not be allowed to serve in Congress. What was perceived by those of us outside Alabama that the religious right had a stranglehold on the state’s politics might still be true for Republican primaries but is clearly no longer a sure thing for Alabama general elections.
Senate Republicans — This is more of a mixed verdict than a strict “loser” call, because the Senate GOP did manage to dodge a bullet by Moore’s loss — though they will probably still be asked about Moore in their reelection races over the next few years, they at least will not have to serve beside him and explain away his every stupid statement. However, the GOP majority is now down to two (51-49), shrinking its ability to pass bills or any part of Trump’s agenda. Now any time GOP Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski want to get together to torpedo a bill, they can.
Sassy — This is Roy Moore’s horse. Footage of Moore’s traditional ride to the polls on horseback exploded the Internet on Tuesday, as equestrians across the country mocked his terrible riding skills. Worse, Moore rode with two hands on the reins, pulling the bit into Sassy’s mouth, likely injuring the house. If only Sassy had bucked him off her back, it would have been an apt metaphor for the kind of day that Judge Roy Moore enjoyed on Tuesday.