Senator-elect Doug Jones of Alabama
Senator-elect Doug Jones of Alabama

In a stun­ning upset, Demo­c­ra­t­ic U.S. Sen­ate hope­ful Doug Jones has pre­vailed in Alaba­ma’s spe­cial elec­tion to pick a suc­ces­sor to Attor­ney Gen­er­al Jeff Ses­sions, deal­ing Don­ald Trump, Steve Ban­non, and the Repub­li­can Par­ty a sting­ing defeat that will rever­ber­ate across the coun­try as 2018 approaches.

Senator-elect Doug Jones of Alabama
Sen­a­tor-elect Doug Jones of Alabama

Jones, six­ty-three, is an Alaba­ma native who attend­ed the Uni­ver­si­ty of Alaba­ma and Cum­ber­land School of Law at Sam­ford Uni­ver­si­ty pri­or to becom­ing a Unit­ed States Attor­ney. Jones is known for hav­ing suc­cess­ful­ly pros­e­cut­ed two mem­bers of the Ku Klux Klan who had per­pe­trat­ed the hor­rif­ic 16th Street Bap­tist Church bomb­ing, which trag­i­cal­ly result­ed in the deaths of four young black women.

“I am tru­ly over­whelmed. I am tru­ly, tru­ly over­whelmed,” said Jones in his vic­to­ry speech.

“But, you know, folks, and you have all heard me say this at one point or anoth­er in this cam­paign. I have always believed that the peo­ple of Alaba­ma have more in com­mon than to divide us. We have shown not just around the state of Alaba­ma but we have shown the coun­try the way that we can be unified.”

“Con­grat­u­la­tions to Doug Jones on a hard fought vic­to­ry,” read a tweet post­ed to Don­ald Trump’s account. “The write-in votes played a very big fac­tor, but a win is a win. The peo­ple of Alaba­ma are great, and the Repub­li­cans will have anoth­er shot at this seat in a very short peri­od of time. It nev­er ends!”

Sources close to Trump’s oper­a­tion are describ­ing Jones’ incred­i­ble vic­to­ry as a huge blow to Trump. “It’s dev­as­tat­ing for the pres­i­dent… this is an earth­quake… Vir­ginia but on steroids… the pres­i­dent has egg on his face,” the sources told Jim Acos­ta.

Exit polling sug­gests that a whop­ping 98% of black women vot­ed for Jones, while over 90% of black men also vot­ed for Jones.

Turn­ing out the black vote was a major objec­tive of Jones’ cam­paign, which sought to stitch togeth­er a win­ning coali­tion by appeal­ing to the Demo­c­ra­t­ic base in Alaba­ma while reach­ing out to bicon­cep­tu­als. That strat­e­gy appears to have paid off in a vic­to­ry that few pun­dits had imag­ined was even possible.

(Bicon­cep­tu­als, for those read­ers who have nev­er heard the term, are vot­ers who use both the pro­gres­sive and con­ser­v­a­tive val­ues sys­tem in dif­fer­ent areas of their polit­i­cal think­ing. Most Amer­i­can vot­ers are bicon­cep­tu­als to some degree.)

Jones was able to win despite his pro­gres­sive posi­tions on such issues as repro­duc­tive rights, which pun­dits had sug­gest­ed could sink Jones no mat­ter what else he did with his cam­paign. Tonight, though, they were proved wrong.

For much of the night, the count showed a tight race between Jones and his Repub­li­can oppo­nent Roy Moore, a mil­i­tant fun­da­men­tal­ist evan­gel­i­cal who was embraced by Don­ald Trump and Trump’s oper­a­tives despite cred­i­ble evi­dence that he is a sex­u­al preda­tor. But as the night wore on, Jones was able to erase Moore’s lead. He cur­rent­ly leads by over eight thou­sand votes.

Spe­cial Elec­tion for U.S. Sen­ate, Alabama
Results as of 8:30 PM Pacific
Doug Jones (Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­date): 643,626 votes (49.5%)
Roy Moore (Repub­li­can can­di­date): 635,076 votes (48.8%)
Total Write-Ins: 22,258 (1.7%)

If Jones’ lead holds and he goes to Wash­ing­ton, D.C., he will nar­row the Repub­li­cans’ U.S. Sen­ate major­i­ty to just fifty-one. Ses­sions’ unex­pired term runs through 2020, so he will not have to face vot­ers until the next pres­i­den­tial election.

Moore opt­ed not to con­cede, hold­ing out hope that he might even­tu­al­ly pre­vail and telling his sup­port­ers that “we know God is always in control.”

“The evening is not over yet,” argued a Moore cam­paign oper­a­tive.

“A lot of the votes are in but they’re not all in yet. You know there’s a law in Alaba­ma that requires a recount if a vote is with­in a half a per­cent… at this point, we do not have a final deci­sion on the out­come tonight.”

The Asso­ci­at­ed Press, Fox Noise Chan­nel, CNN, and oth­er net­works, how­ev­er, have called the race for Jones, hav­ing pro­ject­ed that he is almost cer­tain­ly the winner.

And Alaba­ma’s Repub­li­can Sec­re­tary of State John Mer­rill threw cold water on the notion that Moore could erase Jones’ lead, not­ing that absen­tee bal­lots have already been count­ed and mil­i­tary bal­lots could not affect the outcome.

Asked by CNN’s Jake Tap­per in a live appear­ance: “Do you expect any­thing oth­er than Mr. Jones being the next sen­a­tor from the state of Alaba­ma?”, Mer­rill respond­ed: “I would find that high­ly unlike­ly to occur, Jake.”

Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty lead­ers and pro­gres­sive activists were jubilant.

“Hope lives! Nev­er give up on this gor­geous mys­tery called Life. A Demo­c­rat from Alaba­ma? Hope lives,” tweet­ed Ava DuVer­nay.

“Tonight, Alaba­ma vot­ers elect­ed a sen­a­tor who’ll make them proud. And if Democ­rats can win in Alaba­ma, we can — and must — com­pete every­where. Onward!” tweet­ed Hillary Rod­ham Clin­ton after net­works called the race for Jones.

“Doug Jones. Thank you, Alaba­ma,” tweet­ed Joe Biden. “You’ve elect­ed a man of incred­i­ble integri­ty, grit, and char­ac­ter. A fight­er for work­ing class and mid­dle class Alabami­ans. He is going to make you proud in the Senate.”

“Doug Jones wins!! In spite of sup­pres­sion efforts. In spite of Trump. In spite of Ban­non. In spite of fear mon­ger­ing. Vir­ginia, New Jer­sey, Alaba­ma = trend. See you in 2018 —- in every race in every part of this great nation,” tweet­ed Eric Hold­er, who served for six years as Pres­i­dent Oba­ma’s Attor­ney General.

“Alaba­ma has demon­strat­ed that Amer­i­ca is bet­ter than Trump, and bet­ter than House and Sen­ate Repub­li­cans who have jumped into the swamp Trump has cre­at­ed,” added for­mer U.S. Sec­re­tary of Labor Robert Reich. “Con­grat­u­la­tions, Doug Jones. Con­grat­u­la­tions, Alaba­ma. Con­grat­u­la­tions, America.”

“By elect­ing Doug Jones, Alaba­ma reject­ed Roy Moore’s anti-woman, anti-Mus­lim, anti-immi­grant, Trump-backed, hate-filled agen­da,” tweet­ed the coor­di­na­tors of the nation­wide Indi­vis­i­ble move­ment.

“It’s been just over twen­ty years since a Demo­c­rat held a sen­ate seat in Alaba­ma,” not­ed Kyle Grif­fin. “How­ell Heflin was the last Demo­c­ra­t­ic sen­a­tor from Alaba­ma, leav­ing office in Jan­u­ary ’97. Coin­ci­den­tal­ly, Heflin men­tored Doug Jones while Jones worked with Heflin on the Judi­cia­ry Committee.”

“I’m real­ly just proud of the peo­ple of Alaba­ma,” Charles Barkley told ABC News. “They’ve been beat down for so long…They rose up tonight.”

“Doug Jones should be seat­ed imme­di­ate­ly — before we vote again on the tax bill,” opined Cal­i­for­nia Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tor Kamala Har­ris, reject­ing Mitch McConnel­l’s asser­tion that Jones’ swear­ing-in ought to wait. “Alaba­ma vot­ers deserve to have their voice heard in this fight,” she added.

The Nation­al Repub­li­can Sen­a­to­r­i­al Com­mit­tee, mean­while, embar­rassed itself by urg­ing Jones to pledge feal­ty to Mitch McConnell and join the Sen­ate Repub­li­can cau­cus. Basi­cal­ly, they are urg­ing Jones to com­mit an act of polit­i­cal treach­ery and turn his back on the very peo­ple who have pro­pelled him to vic­to­ry tonight.

What their state­ment demon­strates is that the Repub­li­cans still don’t under­stand who Doug Jones is or why his can­di­da­cy res­onat­ed with voters.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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