By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Alabama garnered national and global attention from the U.S. Senate special election which vaulted Doug Jones into the U.S. Senate. There are a number of winners and losers from this election.
The foremost winner is of course Doug Jones himself. Jones has had a stellar legal career. He has been a U.S. Attorney, an assistant U.S. attorney, a former aide to U.S. Senator Howell Heflin (D), the successful prosecutor of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombers, and he is recognized as one of the foremost legal minds in the profession with a who’s who list of corporate and institutional clients. He has had a stellar career; but now he is a Democrat rock star. He walked into the heart of Trump country in the deep south and emerged victorious. Nobody among Senate Democrats can match that accomplishment and the national press attention he has received gives him far wider popular name recognition than Senators who have served longer and have more political victories.
Social conservatives lost mightily and likely won’t ever recover from this defeat. Roy Moore was their champion. He denounced sodomy, abortion, same-sex marriage and urged America to “be good again.” If elected, Moore would have been in position to influence judicial nominations that will be interpreting the Constitution for the next three decades; now Jones will be and clearly that will impact future decisions on same-sex marriage, abortion, the Second Amendment, immigration, transexuals, the role of the government, etc. Only the President influences the future of the federal court system; than a “swing” Senator and now the GOP has just a one vote majority in the Senate. The social conservatives (most of them from rural Alabama ) defeated the business/establishment Republicans (most of them from the suburbs and cities) in the GOP Primary and then were largely abandoned by the GOP elites on election day in the general election.
The LBGTQ community was triumphant. Judge Roy Moore has been their nemesis for years; not just in Alabama but nationally as well. They contributed mightily to getting him removed from his position on the Alabama Supreme Court and now they helped defeat his Senate aspirations. Fewer and fewer preachers are denouncing sodomy from the pulpit and after Moore very few politicians will want to do it on the stump either and risk the wrath that they have been able to deliver to Moore.
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) ended the night in the loser category. Ivey was probably right to set the special election this year rather than leaving it for the next election cycle but she is being second guessed now over the decision. She also looked foolish when she said that she believed Roy’s accusers; but was still voting for Roy Moore and did not remove him from the ticket. The decision to schedule the state Senate District 26 special election on the same day as the U.S. Senate election now looms large as a potential contributing factor to why Republicans lost. She looked awkward through all of this and that the Republican Party lost a U.S. Senate seat just eight months into her tenure is an issue that may breathe new life into the campaigns of her many 2018 challengers.
The Black community in Alabama won. Republicans have ignored them, packed them into Black dominated legislative districts, and openly laughed at their complaints and problems. Republicans are not laughing today. The Black voters flexed their muscles all across Alabama. The polls all had Moore ahead by three to eight points; but that was assuming that Black voters stayed home like they did in the 2016 and 2014 elections. There was 44 percent voters turnout in Montgomery County, much of it generated by the SD26 race energy, versus 34 percent turnout across the state. Moore did not really have a outreach program to Black voters. If he had just gotten 22 percent of Black voters he would have easily beaten Jones. NBA and TV star Charles Barkley openly campaigned for Jones. President Barack H. Obama (D) did robo-calls for Jones. Jones campaigned on the last days with Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-Selma), Senator Corey Booker (D-New Jersey), and Deval Patrick (D-Massachusetts) while Moore made some inane comments about America being its greatest prior to the Civil War. That was twisted by his opponents to mean that America was greatest when we had slaves, a charge Moore let go unanswered. Black turnout flipped many reliably Republican counties blue and that should put fear in the hearts of everyone in the Republican Party.
Luther Strange managed to lose yet again. Luther should never have accepted that tainted appointment from Governor Robert Bentley (R). It is likely that Del Marsh or Mo Brooks could have beaten Moore in the Primary; but Luther used DC lobbyist dollars and Mitch McConnell to set up a runoff between him and Moore. Then he and his buddys spent millions trashing Moore even though every pollster, including Luther’s own tracking polls, had Moore winning the GOP runoff and emerging as the GOP nominee. Once he squandered a small fortune and whatever good will he had left in the state and LOST convincingly to Moore; Luther then petulantly refused to endorse Roy Moore. There are claims that GOP operatives created the whole underage women narrative and then one of them Tim Miller planted it with WAPO. Luther could have come out and publicly demanded that the RNC and RSLC support electing the Republican nominee; but no he either stayed out of it or undermined Moore from behind the scenes. Luther went from being a generally likable political figure to perhaps the most polarizing figure in GOP politics in Alabama, outside of Moore himself. Luther Strange managed not only to crash and burn his once promising political career, he took out a safe GOP Senate seat, imperil the President’s judicial nominees, and cost the GOP any chance to repeal and replace Obamacare.
The Alabama Democratic Party got a win. They have not won any statewide election since 2008 and really have not seen an energized Democratic base since that election. Party Chairwoman Nancy Worley largely remained behind the scenes; but she inherits an energized base, a new generation of grassroots Democratic organizers that are dedicated to progressive principles and ideas, and a Republican Party that appears divided and beaten down. Whether or not she and Democratic Candidates like Judge Sue Bell Cobb, James Fields and Walt Maddox can capitalize on this momentum is open to question.
President Donald J Trump (R) suffered a massive blow in this race. First he opposed Moore, then he embraced Moore, then he distanced himself from Moore, and then he finally embraced Moore again. Now he is distancing himself from Moore again; but he lost a reliable Senate vote in Luther Strange and a lot of Presidential prestige. His support arguably did as much to energize Black voters for Jones as it did conservative voters for Moore.
This was a big win for the ‘Washington Post’. The aging legacy newspaper has a big reputation; but a lot of that had become ancient history rather than current reality; until Amazon exec Jeff Bezos bought it for a discount a year ago. Moore was cruising toward what should have been an easy win, until WAPO got involved by dredging up women who claimed to have been previously involved with Moore. The move flipped the script on the election from Making America Great Again to what happened in 1979. I find that sort of gotcha journalism sleazy and unprofessional; but the Democrats got this Senate seat largely because of their efforts.
The biggest loser had to be Judge Roy Moore himself. If you run for office enough you will normally lose an election. There has to be a winner and there has to be a loser in any contest, and if you count the primaries, a lot of people lost in their bid to win back this Senate seat. Moore lost more than a cushy job. He has been called “pedophile”, “pervert”, “child molester”, and faced a level of national ridicule and scrutiny in his personal life that far more powerful men have never experienced. After 70 years of service in the Army, in the Vietnam War, as a prosecutor, as a judge, as Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice, as the head of his Foundation, as a father, a grandfather; whatever he does in this life Moore will always be best known for the two most serious accusations against him, that if true were one time incidents 38 and 40 years ago, and if not true amounted to slander. Few men and women would want for their lives on this Earth to be known for and judged by what they did in their darkest moments and certainly not for the worst lies their political enemies can concoct. Judge Moore lost an election; but he also lost his good name and reputation and that might not be fixable in this life. This kind of intensely personal attacks and charged negative political attacks is why many people do not want to go into politics.