By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter
This changes things.
Oh, don’t think that I’m going to launch into some sappy love-fest over Doug Jones’ victory Tuesday night. (And it was a victory. Not even Bob Riley and Billy Canary could dig up 20,000-plus votes to save Roy Moore.)
Jones’ victory alone doesn’t deserve a love-fest. The people of Alabama did what they should have done — prevented an awful candidate from becoming their U.S. Senator. You don’t get a cookie for doing the things you’re supposed to do. But you can be proud of doing the right thing, and I am proud of the results.
Make no mistake about it, though, what happened Tuesday — and more importantly, the way it happened — could change Alabama forever.
For the better.
Because a bad candidate didn’t lose a race.
A bad candidate was beaten.
A bad Republican — and Lord knows we’ve got more than our share of those — was overrun by African American and motivated Democratic voters. He was overrun by disgruntled and fed-up liberals and moderate Dems and even a few old-school, moderate Republicans.
And dammit, that means something.
You can try to diminish it all you want by saying that this was a special circumstance, that the turnout was low, that the situation didn’t favor the Republican in some monumental way.
But that’s missing a much bigger picture.
The people of this state have dealt with a rather large spotlight directly on them for the past month. They have watched, mostly horrified, as their fellow Alabamians have given TV interviews on national networks and spewed forth some of the most ignorant nonsense this side of a Klan rally.
They heard the jokes and felt the sting of shame. And they got up and did something.
There are more Doug Jones yard signs around this state than there are Trump bumper stickers. The volunteers poured into neighborhoods all over Alabama to help get the masses out to vote. And efforts to register and encourage other voters made a key difference.
What’s that look like?
In the Democratic primary for this special election, Jones, who wasn’t really challenged, received 109,000 votes.
On Tuesday, he got 671,000.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, he was facing a deplorable candidate in Moore, who has spent the month fighting allegations of child molestation. But Jones was fighting that Republican in the reddest of the red states, with the full endorsement of the Republican president (who won the state with 62 percent of the vote) and the endorsement of Steve Bannon.
(Seriously, can we stop propping up Bannon as some sort of brilliant political strategist now, please? The guy’s a scam artist and opportunist. Nothing he said in this state made one bit of difference, because no one cares what he says, and Alabama isn’t alone in that regard.)
The Republican also got higher-than-expected turnout from GOP voters, who nearly doubled the primary totals.
And yet, there was Jones taking a bow at the end of the night.
Even with all the suppression efforts of black voters. Even with all of the gerrymandering. Even with an onslaught of misinformation from rightwing radio and Internet.
The Democrat won.
It didn’t happen by chance or by accident. It happened by action.
And now that you know it’s possible, imagine what else might possible. That state Legislature is filled with deplorable politicians who have no business serving on the buffet at Golden Corral, much less in the State House.
Imagine what a motivated voting bloc could do there.
The Governor chose the coward’s way out in this race, too, electing to put party over country and vote for Moore. Walt Maddox sure could use a motivated bunch of support next year.
Our state courts could also use a good dose of progressive policy, maybe a few Supreme Court justices who follow the laws instead of trying to write their own, maybe a few more female, black and Hispanic judges.
In a very short period of time, we could reshape this entire state, start moving it forward and never look back.
And all it would take is exactly what happened Tuesday night.