Democrats - especially those in traditionally red states like Idaho and Utah - continue to bask in the glow of one of theirs being elected to the U.S. Senate in blood red Alabama last week.. “If it can happen there,” the chant goes, “It can happen here.”
Not so fast, my frenzied friends. Not so fast.
While it was heartening to see that red blood turn a bit blue, there were some very important mitigating circumstances to consider. Circumstances that don’t exist in most states - especially in our far western neighborhoods.
For example, Black voters - who normally mark their Alabama ballots for a Dem - make up nearly half of the electorate in that state. The largely white legislature, in that heavily Republican state, has historically thrown roadblocks in minority pathways to the polls. Winner Doug Jones continually reminded Black audiences of that fact and it can realistically be assumed some of those voters, who made the narrow but winning difference, came from those determined to overcome such hurdles. A little show of strength, so to speak. Not the case - in large numbers - in our Northwest.
Then, there were the women. Yes, we have women in our neighborhood. But, many Republican women in Alabama had a major motivation - not traditionally found in other red states - to side with Democrats. And that was the well-publicized gross sexual history of their party nominee. Whatever they felt about his purely political unfitness for office, many women might likely have been overcome by anger about his immorality and lifelong abusive perversions regarding women - especially teens. Another mitigating factor for the Jones victory other states can’t truly replicate
Then, there was the Republican candidate himself. While a lot of unfit folk make it into elective office on a regular basis, never in my life have I seen one more deserving of outright repudiation and public condemnation. If you were to build a “candidate” from scratch, about the only despicable trait you could add to match Moore would be that of a serial killer. The guy has a previous lifetime history of rejection of most values the rest of us hold.
Twice fired from the Alabama Supreme Court for violating federal law and U.S. Supreme Court decisions, Moore made a mockery of his elected responsibilities. Openly flouting constitutional authority - while claiming his own nutcase supremacy in public office - should have kept him off any ballot for any public job. As much credence as you might give Jones’ efforts for the win, the lions’ share of blame for the loss must go to Moore. A well-demonstrated and uniquely gross personal history like Moore’s is not normally found in many elections.
Then, there’s this. The margin of victory was about 20,000 in an election in which 1,325,536 votes were cast. Add in the coincidently 20,000 known write-in votes plus a large number of traditional Alabama voters who stayed home rather than cast their usually GOP ballots for Moore and the outcome could have gone the other way. That means about one-in-two folks walking down a typical Alabama street voted for the loser. Or just didn’t vote.
Democrats in deep red states like Idaho and Utah have a right to be cheered by the Alabama outcome. Break open the bubbly and toast a brighter day. BUT, as you cheer this recent breakthrough, keep a good grasp on reality. The political winds in Alabama combined to create a very unusual storm.
While you may rejoice in the outcome and see an opportunity to slip past your traditionally conservative GOP opponent(s), none of you will face a candidate as repulsive as Roy Moore. It’s doubtful Steve Bannon or Donald Trump will visit your little red state with their political bile to motivate Republicans to cross over and back a Democrat. None of you have a large enough minority population to achieve what Black voters did in Alabama. Make a difference? Yes. Swing an election? No.
Nor are you likely to get major economic and organizational support from the DNC such as Jones did. Not unless you can construct a scenario like Moore who fomented a Republican voter rejection of their own candidate.
By all accounts, Dems are going into the 2018 campaign in better shape than their counterparts. At least for the moment. But, they can’t sit back and expect any different outcomes than they’ve previously seen.
Doug Jones worked his ass off for more than a year. Come up with a candidate who’ll work as hard. He attracted a top-level campaign team of professionals who cost more than Dems have typically been willing to spend on such talent. They’ll have to raise sums of money previously thought to be impossible. They’re going to need more volunteers than ever and those volunteers are going to have to work harder and longer than in the past.
But, most important - MOST important - you’re going to have to find your own “Roy Moores” for your Republican friends to walk away from.
The future of Democrats in deep red states is not entirely in your own hands. You better get started.