Doug Jones’ Alabama Senate victory: Black voters, honesty, and shoe-leather campaigning

Alabama Senator-elect Doug Jones.

When you’re on the winning side in an election, you’re happy. If your candidate lost, you’re casting around for someone to blame. Media love to issue morning-after political analyses, assigning winners and losers. Let’s see if we can’t do the same.

Winners

Doug Jones. Obviously, the victor in the contest belongs at the top of the list in a race in which he was not expected to prevail. He’s got a great record: The former U.S. attorney racked up a big win against the Ku Klux Klan in the 1963 Birmingham church bombing that killed four girls. He was involved in the successful prosecution of abortion clinic bomber Eric Rudolph, the 1996 Olympic bomber. Throughout the campaign, he talked about issues that matter to Alabama: jobs, technology development, health care, the closure of rural hospitals.

Here’s what he said at his victory rally:

“At the end of the day, this entire race has been about dignity and respect. This campaign has been about the rule of law. This campaign has been about common courtesy and decency.”

Congratulations, Alabama, you picked someone who deserved to win.

Black voters. They make up 26 percent of the population of Alabama, but they were 30 percent of the special election electorate. Black men supported Doug Jones to the tune of 93 percent. Black women backed him with 98 percent of their vote. A majority of white voters backed Moore.

Maybe now the Democrats won’t take black voters for granted, and maybe now the media will treat them with a little more respect, interviewing them at least as often as they interview their favorite voter du jour, the white working class voter. From a story in The Root:

Black people saved your ass again, America. Because of black people, senators might be able to stop Congress from making it rain on the top 1 percent with the GOP billionaire tax plan. Because of black people, we might be able to stop Donald Trump from appointing Simon Cowell to the Supreme Court (Donald is a fan of the judging on American Idol, and Paula Abdul has that filthy Muslim name). Because of black people, we might finally be rid of the only white man in history suffering from acute ashiness—Steve Bannon. …

Somewhere, above the clouds, four little girls whose souls left their bodies 54 years ago are smiling. Maybe Denise McNair, Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley looked down at what another monster had done to other 14-year-olds and said: “Don’t worry, we got y’all.”

Mixed bag

The media. Kudos to The Washington Post for its dogged and thorough reporting on the women who were teenagers when they received unwanted sexual attention from Roy Moore when he was in his 30s. After Moore won the GOP primary, all media declared him a shoo-in until the sexual predator story broke.

But media basically ignored Doug Jones, and the coverage they gave his campaign was mostly slipshod. They kept repeating the mantra that his campaign wasn’t attracting enough black voters; that it was a lackluster campaign; that “Roy Moore has already won.” They were more interested in quoting Moore voters who were still backing the Republican candidate in the same way they can’t get enough of interviews with white voters who are still supporting Donald Trump. The day after the election, media were forced to scramble for stories with headlines like “Meet Democrat Doug Jones, Alabama’s senator-elect.”

Let’s take a look at Jones’ “lackluster campaign,” in a story from AL.com:

Over the past several months, Jones has visited every corner of Alabama and worked hard to earn people’s votes. He built a strong coalition of canvassers and phone bankers, deploying a strong get-out-the-vote operation such that Alabama Democrats haven’t seen in decades. He was willing to speak to any Alabamian, no matter their income, their faith or their race.

His victory speech showed his admirable desire and ability to embrace all Alabamians. Jones’s voter base represents the future of Alabama: an emerging coalition of black voters, LGBT activists, women and young voters. He won by offering these groups a vision that can help our state assert itself in the 21st century. …

And as we saw from Moore’s few campaign appearances, the Alabama Republican Party may be taking its voters for granted. We would all benefit from a better exchange of ideas, from politicians who court the broad center of the electorate rather than build a base that divides Alabama’s people. Jones offered a new path for Alabama’s leaders, Republican and Democrat. They should all walk it.

Here’s a message for the rest of the media: Egg, meet face. Next time around, how about a little more substance in the campaign coverage?

Losers

Donald Trump. Are you tired of all the losing yet? You plucked Republican Jeff Sessions from a safe Senate seat in Alabama to make him attorney general, a position where he lies and plays politics instead of upholding the law. You backed his appointed successor, Luther Strange, who lost to Roy Moore in the primary. Even after the Moore-as-teen-stalker stories, you went all in, exhorting supporters at a Florida rally to vote for Moore and recording a robo-call to remind voters that Republicans needed Moore’s vote for your agenda.

Like everything else this egotist does, the call was more about Trump than about Moore.

Republicans. After the Post stories broke, some in the GOP kept their distance, but the shameless quest to keep the Senate in Republican hands forced many to return to the fold. The Republican National Committee was back with funding — how’d that investment work out? Republicans’ backing of Moore and their reluctance to disown him will be hung around their necks in the 2018 midterm election.

Roy Moore. Talk about running an incompetent campaign. Moore was unfit for office even before he was kicked off the Alabama Supreme Court — twice. Add the sexual misconduct allegations; his questioning of all constitutional amendments after the 10th (meaning women and blacks couldn’t vote); his statements that families were better off when they took care of each other, even under slavery; and so much more. So instead of debating Jones or actually campaigning, he took time off the campaign trail, thinking he could coast to victory. He even took the weekend off before the special election to take in the Army-Navy game. Just concede and fade away, but don’t ride your horse into the sunset — Sassy deserves better.

Steve Bannon. New York Republican Peter King called on the Breitbart chief and former White House chief strategist to get out of national politics, saying he looked like a “disheveled drunk that wandered on to the national stage.” The media used to credit Bannon with being the brains behind Trump (talk about an oxymoron) or call him “President Bannon.” Oh, how the mighty white nationalists have fallen.

White evangelicals. Media, just drop this line of coverage. Black voters are also people of faith, as are LGBT folks, liberal Democrats, etc., etc. White evangelicals don’t own morality, and it’s time you started saying so out loud. They got so hung up on abortion that they were willing to excuse an alleged child molester.

So welcome to the Senate, Doug Jones. Let’s hope a few Senate Republicans have enough spine to scuttle the scam of a GOP tax bill before it can become law and Congress can take a more thorough look next year to do things the right way.

One Comment on “Doug Jones’ Alabama Senate victory: Black voters, honesty, and shoe-leather campaigning

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