The much-anticipated special election for U.S. Senator in Alabama, pitting ultra-right, God-fearing Republican Roy Moore against Doug Jones, a Democrat President Donald Trump and his former chief strategist Steve Bannon warned would be a puppet controlled by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York if elected, ended Tuesday night with a small but decidedly big bang for the underdog candidate.
The whimper many feared would happen if voters who turned out in overwhelming numbers to vote for Trump over Hillary Clinton last year decided to embrace their party’s scandal ridden choice to replace former Alabama U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions – who migrated to become America’s attorney general – didn’t happen as many polls and pundits had suggested might happen, if Alabama voters decided to show the nation they, not outsiders, were in charge of their political future.
For the first time in twenty-five years, Deep South State Alabama elected a Democrat, and a so-called liberal one at that, if Jones’ support for abortion was any litmus test on how the strong Christian electorate would react to him versus how they reacted to Moore’s scandalous past that included inappropriate and unwanted sexual behavior with underage girls, eight of whom braved the political waters and stepped out of the shadows of decades past to tell their tales.
By the wee hours of Wednesday morning, Roy Moore turned out to be far less than voters could stomach, even with overt support from Trump and Bannon in the waning days of the election.
“We have shown not just around the state of Alabama, but we have shown the country the way – that we can be unified,” Jones, who once prosecuted two Ku Klux Klansmen in a deadly church bombing, said from Birmingham, the AP reported. “I think that I have been waiting all my life, and now I just don’t know what the hell to say.”
Meanwhile, Moore wasn’t conceding to Jones, far from it. Moore and his campaign manager both raised the possibility of a recount, referring media to speak with Alabama Secretary of State John H. Merrill about the process going forward to certify the vote. As early as Dec. 26th but no later than Jan. 3, Merrill said tonight’s vote would be certified. Moore and his supporters noted that Alabama state law calls for a recount if the margin of victory is less than one-half of one percentage point. Jones led by triple that amount with 1.5 points after all precincts reported. Moore lost to Jones by more than 20,000 votes.
“It’s not over,” Moore said, the AP reported. The twice removed state Supreme Court chief justice added, “We know that God is still in control.” If God is in control as Moore said, God removed Moore from leading the court after the gun-totting alt-right candidate refused to remove a boulder-sized Ten Commandments monument at the state court building. God subsequently suspended Moore permanently for advocating that state probate judges refuse marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said Alabama voters “sent a loud and clear message to Donald Trump and the Republican Party: You can’t call yourself the party of family values as long as you’re willing to accept vile men like Roy Moore as members.”
If Jones is sworn-in, as he is expected to be after votes are certified and Moore realizes the law for recounts isn’t on his side, the tally in the Senate will be 51 Republicans to 49 Democrats. With one seat less, it only takes two wayward Republicans like Olympia Snow of Maine or Jeff Flake of Arizona to turn a GOP victory into a Democrat win if they bolt their ranks. Several bills have already been passed when two Republicans left their caucus, allowing Vice President Mike Pence to break a 50-50 tie as only the second in command can do.
With only one vote to spare now with Jones’ election, Democrats have reason to believe that the worst bills sent to Trump by the House of Representatives, where Republicans hold a firm grip on the majority, can be scuttled as senators up for reelection next year consider their options in light of Trump’s failure in Alabama Tuesday and their losses in Virginia a couple weeks ago.
A bad vote by some Republicans on a big bill that includes tax cuts for the wealthy and attacks on Medicare and Medicaid is even more worrisome, if voters who want and like these popular programs don’t want to see them turn into sacrificial lambs so GOP lawmakers can balance out their trillion-dollar-plus addition to the national debt.
Watching from Ohio, where U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown hails from, Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan was as happy as any Democratic could be.
“Make no mistake: We shocked the world tonight,” he said via email. “Together, we proved that when we stand for respect, dignity, and economic opportunity for ALL, we can win ANYWHERE in America.”
Ryan, who traveled to Alabama to campaign for Jones, said Democrats in 2018 have to “win EVERYWHERE to take back the House, hold Trump accountable, and enact an agenda that works for working people.”