What Did The Alabamans Say?
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
Doug Jones’s clear victory in the Alabama Senate race over Roy Moore has significant implications for the political future of the country. Jones’s win will be very important to the governance of the country for at least the next year, but his win demonstrates that American politics is changing. These changes are significant and will be dramatic, although change will not happen overnight.
Jones victory indicated something that all campaigns have always known, but this time it proved itself as rarely before. If you do not bring out your voters, you will not win; regardless of how good your candidate might be or how weak your opponent. Jones ran one of the most well organized and well-funded GOTV efforts in history. All of his supporters, all the undecided, and all the disenchanted were contacted. The size of the vote for Jones demonstrated that turnout can defy even a generation of tradition in the most solidly red state in the country. The voters of Alabama came out for Jones.
Admittedly, there were many anti-Moore, anti-Bannon, and anti-Trump voters who supported Jones; but they voted for a candidate who made them feel that he spoke to Alabama’s future and not to the status quo or to the past. The voters spoke for the New South which these Alabamans wanted to join.
The Jones victory signaled that Blacks are ready to emerge as a key and potent voting bloc even when they were not voting for Barack Obama or Jesse Jackson. Blacks in Alabama defied all the traditional voting traditions and came out in larger numbers yesterday than they did in the 2016 presidential election. (Traditionally, turnout for a special election is far lower than in a mid-term election and certainly in a presidential contest.)
The Black voters spoke to all Alabamans and to all Americans last night. They declared that they were a key voting bloc in American politics—even in Alabama. Their interests and concerned will be met or they will take their growing vote elsewhere; as will Latino votes in more and more red states including Texas and Arizona. Yesterday, Blacks announced in their turnout that they are a key voting component in any election. They made it very clear that they are no longer a minority, even in the South.
Jones’ win demonstrated that Americans will tolerate just so much of the polarizing rhetoric that had become acceptable in American politics. The majority of voters in Alabama demonstrated to the country that they would not permit the vulgar behavior and sexual harassment by public official to be normative. Americans are not becoming puritanical, but these voters were indicating that they will not tolerate the disregard and intolerance of others to continue without consequences.
How this will play for Bannon, the Republican Party, and the President remains to be seen. If they fail to heed the signals that rang out last night from the Deep South, they do so at their political peril. It might even be too late for the GOP.