Alabama Democrats should have a better chanceBy Chandler Gory | 09/04/2017 10:19pm
The ruby red state of Alabama is known for being a bastion of Republican support. On par with the last 10 elections, Donald Trump easily swept the state on Election Day 2016 with 62.1 percent of the vote, an overwhelming 28 points more than Democrat Hillary Clinton received. When all was said and done, Trump wracked up 1,318,255 total votes and all 9 electoral delegates. It was a typical Election Day in the heart of Dixie—Alabamians haven’t voted Democrat in a presidential election since Jimmy Carter in 1976.
Situated comfortably in the über-Conservative Bible Belt, Republicans in Alabama hold majorities in both houses of the state legislature, the governorship, both Senate seats and six of the seven House seats. Terri Sewell, the representative for the gerrymandered 7th District, is the lone Democrat in Alabama’s federal delegation—the literal bright blue dot in a big red state. But with the ongoing special election, another Alabama Democrat has suddenly found himself in the spotlight.
Doug Jones is running for the Senate seat recently abdicated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Alabama’s favorite son who held his seat for 20 years before joining the Executive Branch.
The special election made national news as the crowded Republican field grew hotly contested, with the race between the top three contenders—Sen. Luther Strange, Rep. Mo Brooks, and former-Justice Roy Moore—devolving into nasty attacks and accusations. The race was further catapulted into the spotlight when President Trump publicly endorsed Strange via Twitter.
But Strange isn’t the only candidate to receive some high-profile endorsements. Sewell, Vice President Biden and Rep. John Lewis all threw their support behind Jones, a strong Democrat with an impressive track record. As a Clinton-appointed U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, Jones successfully prosecuted Thomas Blanton and Bobby Cherry, two Ku Klux Klan members involved in the 1963 Birmingham church bombing that killed four girls but never faced justice.
For the first time in a long time, Alabama Democrats are feeling hopeful.
I don’t, however, share my fellow Democrats’ sentiment. I’m tenuously optimistic at best, though even optimistic may be too strong of a word. Doug Jones is an impressive candidate with good values and a dedication to doing the right thing. That’s a rare combination to find in politics these days, especially in Alabama.
Alabama is a state riddled with political corruption and controversy. Robert Bentley, Mike Hubbard, Roy Moore—all are high-profile politicians in important seats of power who were forced to step down or resign their positions. Robert Bentley’s epic fall from grace was embarrassing; Mike Hubbard’s was dismaying; and Roy Moore’s was downright ludicrous. It would serve Alabama well to elect someone like Doug Jones, a nice change of pace from the shady business of money laundering and extra-marital affairs.
Except Alabama is so entrenched in party politics that Doug Jones’ chances are slim to none. And sure, call me cynical, but I’ve lived in Alabama long enough (read: my whole life) to know that down here, it’s all God, guns, and a strong aversion to anything that resembles big government. There were an abysmal 165,093 total votes cast for a Democratic ballot in the Aug. 15 primary. That’s only slightly higher than the 164,572 votes Roy Moore received alone. I would say that the odds are most decidedly not in our favor.
It’s a fitting metaphor for the state of politics in the United States. We’re so focused on who’s a Democrat and who’s a Republican that we can’t recognize what’s in right front of us. At the end of the day, we’re all fighting for the same goals: A safer, more prosperous America, a country where the axiom “the land of the free and the home of the brave” is a reality and not just an exultant lyric of a song.
It’s a shame that someone like Doug Jones may never get a chance to work in Congress. Maybe if he came from a state like California or Massachusetts he’d have a chance. But like myself, Doug Jones is just another oxymoron: A Democrat from Alabama.