Doug Jones is the United States Senator-elect for the state of Alabama. A Democrat won in one of the reddest states in the union. A state that the leader of the Republican party, Trump, won by 25+ points. Many experts called the race a practical toss-up but always felt that this was Trump’s country and Roy Moore would win amid the allegations of sexual harassment and pedophilia. Well like the 2016 presidential debate the experts were wrong.
The last Democrat to win Alabama was Richard Shelby, in 1992. However, he later would switch parties two years into his second term. So, in essence, Doug Jones is the first true modern age democrat Alabama has had. The Democrats of Alabama’s past are inherently different from the Democrats of today.
To no one’s surprise, the Republicans tried to negate the severity of their loss by stating Roy Moore was too toxic of a candidate to win anyways. Too much baggage was on him anyways. Well, that is all true, but Trump did win an election last year. Moore and he were very similar candidates except for the pedophilia allegations. Both had sexual harassment allegations. Both had a history of racism. Both were incredibly divisive.
Establishment Republicans are trying to deflect from the reality that this loss is a huge warning sign. A sign that their embrace of Trump and reluctance to speak up against him is going to backfire in 2018. The signs are all in the polling data (CNN exit polls).
Firstly, black voters were incredibly energized. Black turnout eclipsed the 2012 presidential race (28% in 2012; 29% in 2017). You can look at that and dismiss the attention on the 1% uptick as nothing more than Democrats looking too hopeful. However, the fact of the matter is that this was a special election. Special elections usually have low turnout rates across pretty much all demographics so for it to eclipse the 28% from the 2012 Presidental election, which had an African-American presidential candidate, is impressive. Very impressive. This is very problematic for Republicans in any scenario.
Republicans will now have to be cautious in the reddest of states, but particularly, states with a lot of minority voters. States like Nevada and Arizona are not as impossible to win anymore if Democrats can galvanize minority voters, such as Hispanics.
Trump is also ruining the Republican brand. No Democrat since Richard Shelby has won election to the Senate in 25 years. With that in mind consider the fact that 47% of Alabama voters said they approved of the Democratic Party while 43% said the same of the Republican Party. Democrats are becoming more popular than Republicans in even the reddest of states.
Also, Trump is becoming ever so unpopular. President Trump won Alabama by 25+ points in 2016. Well in 2017 his disapproval rating is 48%. In Alabama! This is a state in where he coasted to an easy victory just a year ago.
This all spells doom for Republicans in swing states. Especially if the Democrats use the lessons of the 2016 Presidential Election in the 2018 mid-terms. Alabama was a good catalyst test for their strategy: less talk about Trump, more talk on solutions. Americans are growing ever more tired of the divisiveness of the political climate and are now just looking for people with solutions to our country’s problems. Reasons why Jones may have won moderates by 74% to Moore’s 25%.
The next few months will be interesting. Will we start to see President Donald Trump’s rhetoric change? Will John Kelly advise him that his tweets are doing him and his party a lot of harm? Who knows honestly. But I would not hold my breath on it. President Trump is not one of change. If there’s one thing we know about Trump is that he can be stubborn in his ways. That stubbornness may cost Republicans the majority in the Senate and House.
If the Republicans are hammered in 2018, questions will then be asked if whether Trump should run for re-election in 2020. At the end of the day though, all this as speculation. But if there’s one thing the 2016 election and the 2017 Alamaba Senate election told us is that we are living in an increasingly unpredictable world. 2018 and 2020 will really test America. It is anyone’s guess whether we will fail or pass.