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.
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.
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.