Hey Democratic Party, Alabama Just Told You To Wake the F Up
If Democrats want to revive their party, they must reconsider the way they treat elections in the South. Jones’ election proved the South is not a lost cause and Democrats can’t afford to treat it as such.
When Jones pulled ahead by a small margin and cinched victory for the Democratic Party in this week’s highly anticipated Senate election, the nation was shocked that a state full of “deplorables” elected a Democrat. But Doug Jones was a Democrat running against a man accused of sexual harassment and assault. Why did it take the potential election of an accused pedophile and sex offender to make the Democratic Party seriously invest in a southern campaign? For decades Democrats considered a southern strategy as an impossibility. Historically red states are considered a lost cause. Democratic party leadership instead chooses to focus on races in urban areas, in states and districts with longstanding traditions of electing democrats. Little attention is paid to the “flyover states”, rural elections, and particularly the South, decidedly deemed a lost cause to democratic elites.
Who saved the Democratic Party in Alabama?
Analysis of the vote revealed something unsurprising. It was not the Republicans who chose Jones over Moore because of the accusations of sexual harassment and assault. Nor did the white Alabama Democrats turn the tide of the election – it was the black vote that won the election for the Democratic Party. According to the 2016 National Census, 26.8% of Alabama’s population is black. This demographic is relatively consistent across southern states, particularly those with roots in slavery. This significant minority, regularly alienated and under-valued by both parties, holds the key to a southern strategy with the potential to save southern politics from men like Roy Moore.
Democratic senate-elect Doug Jones undoubtedly has the black community to thank for his senate seat. 96% of black voters supported Jones, with an incredible 98% of black women choosing to support him. Conversely, Jones only drew the support of 27% of white men, and 35% of white women. These results are not altogether surprising, considering that in the 2016 Presidential election, 89% of black voters across the nation cast their ballot for Hillary Clinton, while only 37% percent of white voters did. However, black voter turnout in general declined after reaching a record high in the 2012 election.
Doug Jones earned respect fighting the KKK.
Jones recognized the role of the black community in his election during his victory speech, and the respect and love of Jones in the black community of Alabama was well earned. As US attorney for Alabama, Jones fought to reopen the case against several KKK members responsible for the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing of 1963 in Birmingham. The attack on innocent churchgoers ignited the Civil Rights Movement in Alabama. The case was later dropped by the FBI, and most of the men responsible walked free. In the late 90s, Jones spearheaded the movement to finally bring the killers to justice decades later, justice the community never believed would come. Unlike many Democrats who only seek the support of the black community near election time, Jones’ long record of service cemented the support of black voters.
A new South for Democrats?
All across the South, a third of the population is left voiceless and powerless in both local and national politics. The Alabama Senate election showed the importance of mobilizing this oft-neglected community. This is true not only for House and Senate elections, but local politics as well. Throughout the Deep South, Republicans are elected in what might as well be uncontested elections. Voter turnout is dismal, as everyone knows the results before voting day. Congressional elections and state legislative elections are characterized by startlingly lackluster efforts by Democrats who feel doomed in their districts.
Now a new fear has entered in a region where conservatism has never been questioned, but taken for granted. A Republican can lose in the Deep South.
Over the past several weeks we saw celebrities, political elites, and everyday citizens from across the country throw their support wholeheartedly behind Doug Jones in passionate campaigns motivated by the disgusting accusations Moore faced. But why should it take a sex offender to make the nation believe that Southern elections are relevant?
Democrats can draw many lessons from the 2017 Alabama Senate race. The most important is that if a Republican can be defeated in Alabama, the same can be done elsewhere. If Democrats want to succeed, they must invest more in Georgia, South Carolina, and other states where black voters, Hispanic voters, and even party democrats stay home from the polls with the belief that their participation is irrelevant.
Rather than rejoicing the defeat of Moore, Democrats ought to take the lessons of this election, and seriously reconsider the way they treat elections in the South. The South is not a lost cause, and should not be treated as such.