First the snow, and now Jones wins. Santa, I need a heart defibrillator for Christmas.
The election of Doug Jones was quite a surprise to those of us accustomed to the forward advance of the Republican Party in the state. Mind you, we are likely now to wait for military votes and recounts and such, and that is Roy Moore’s right. But I think it is a very, very long shot to pick up 20,000 votes. Then again, Roy Moore is a very, very stubborn man. But pretty much, the party is over.
(By the way, it is a short victory; Jones will have to run for a full term in 2020. Against conventional Republican candidates, it may be a tougher road. Jones can purchase new drapes for the office, but I would buy them from JCPenney rather than waste money.)
Certainly, in this area of the state Moore was in no doubt, but I had noticed more Doug Jones signs than usual. I wondered if that was party organization as opposed to personal dedication. That may have been the case here in Walker County, where Moore won 11,909, or 72 percent, to 4,317, or 26 percent for Jones, with 259 write-in votes, or 2 percent. The totals were a landslide here, with only two boxes out of 46 going for Jones (Meadowsmith Library/Frisco, 339 to 362, and Westside Baptist, 320 to 155). Outside of Frisco, the closest boxes, which were Moore wins, were Twilley Town Church (170 to 121) and the absentees, 137 to 108. Everything else was a blowout for Moore.
So, in a way, was the county turnout at 35 percent; the state turnout will likely be that figure as well, compared to the 25 percent predicted by Secretary of State John Merrill. It should have been more than that, of course, but considering it was a single called election at Christmastime, it is somewhat amazing to yet. Keep in mind, Walker County turned out 27 percent for the August tax vote, which also included the Senate primary.
It is obvious some of the factors which gave Jones’ his overall win. African-Americans, who some felt would not be enthusiastic for Jones, apparently decided he was better than the alternative. According to CBS’ exit polls, black voters favored Jones 96 percent and they turned out at 28 percent, the level they came out at for Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election. Democrats in general turned out strong, coming out only 6 percentage points behind Republicans. Independents made up one in five voters, and they favored Jones, 52 percent to 43 percent. Jones got a third of the white vote, meaning he ate into Moore’s base some. He grabbed, as expected, younger voters and women, particularly as 98 percent of African-American women backed him.
Of course, there was also the fact that urban and suburban areas went for Jones in a big way, while the rural areas of the state went for Moore. (Northwest Alabama in general, as it usually does, went well for Moore.) Support for President Trump was divided in half among voters.
And then there were the more than 20,000 of write-in votes that could have, if combined, put Moore over the top. U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby’s lone stand in the party elite to say he couldn’t vote for Moore and he would write in a Republican could wind up being one of his major contributions to history, as he gave a way for moderates to say enough. I heard many people say they couldn’t vote for ether man, and I am sure some of them wound up doing a write-in.
But let us not forget the allegations against Moore of sexual abuse with young girls, not to mention unusual statements and actions that were defiant in nature. At the last minute, Moore released a video of him being interviewed by a young girl, of all things (when he kept the regular press at bay), and his wife then made statements that came off as patronizing to Jewish people. I think a majority of people said enough. It was a sign that the quality of a candidate, the ethics and history and stands — all of that does matter in the end; you can’t just stick a GOP label on them and expect them to win. I think the national embarrassment of the whole episode was enough that people felt they had to take a stand and turn out, even if they had to hold their nose on the other guy.
And it proved that Donald Trump nor Steve Bannon can just magically lift their staff and the people will walk into their version of the promised land. Actions, ethics, history and stands matter with them, too. Many obviously follow the president, but it doesn’t translate to votes, as both candidates he has supported in this election, including a more establishment version, have failed. Reports are abound that Bannon, who has still held some sway with the president, had a hand in getting Trump on board for Moore. Bannon obviously wanted to be a power broker after leaving the White House and he must have thought this was low hanging fruit.
He was wrong. Bannon will find, I think, his 15 minutes is ticking away. Trump finds himself at year’s end with failed agendas left and right, with a re-energized Democratic base and investigations now of not just the Russian matter (which could possibly take out his son-in-law) but a renewed emphasis on his own sexual history.
The #MeToo campaign, which now has added Roy Moore to its trophy collection, is finally zeroing in on the very, very top, and now it could get quite ugly. I have wondered at times why this has been delayed, but I think we are finally going to have that discussion.
Oh, and if comes to it, after the House approves impeachment charges, the impeachment trial is in the Senate. We have a long way to go to think about that, but if the GOP has losses in the 2018 elections, well, life could get interesting.
The congressional agenda will also be changing, of course. Now the Senate Republicans can only afford to lose one vote, with several moderate senators ready to buck at a moment’s notice. It seems likely now we will get tax reform (although it is such a mess the Republicans may live to regret it). Politico has indicated entitlements reform might be more endangered on the list, although infrastructure needs may be the one area everyone can rally around. Ironically enough, the reports the day after are that Jones might actually be more of a moderate Democrat who Republicans and Democrats will try to woo to their side on some matters, and who, as Politico said, “just might periodically find it in his interest to side with Republicans.” Could Shelby have known this when standing up against Moore, who rarely seems eager to cooperate with anyone from any party? Democrats might at least gain more leverage, I think, and perhaps it becomes more difficult to ram through legislation bypassing the committee system.
It also makes many Republicans in Washington even more nervous about the elections coming along. The rest of the nation is not like Alabama, folks — seats are usually more at play in times, and it is not unheard of to turn Democratic on a seat. And now, Red Rock Alabama just got a splash of blue, which is likely to set off a Chicken Little effect. The Trump movement may find it is not invincible.
And, it seems, Roy Moore was not either. The history and character of a man catches up to him, in time. Alabama, while divided, has apparently decided that its Christian witness and character must not be sacrificed for political principles, no matter how right they are. We must not set up the example that this type of behavior can be tolerated in the U.S. Senate; the possibility of voting political principles versus actual actions that have already taken place must be weighed properly. In the end, the lessor of two evils for us must weigh against those who have already committed unspeakable acts witnessed by many, not to mention other actions that have embarrassed us time and time again.
Moore has every right to recount the paper ballots, but he has lost all the moral ground he has had, and then some. Some of us are alone in our areas in saying that, but the state and the nation has spoke. We don’t feel so lonely today. In fact, we feel a little more hopeful for the human race after all, as the snows of our discontent seem to be melting in the sun. It is a good day for Alabama.
Ed Howell is the Daily Mountain Eagle’s news editor.