The unthinkable has happened. A Democrat has won a Senate seat in Alabama.
On Tuesday evening, the political world was shattered with news that would have been completely unfathomable a year ago: a Democrat has won the Alabama Senate seat previously held by Jeff Sessions.
Faced with GOP candidate Roy Moore, who is accused of serially molesting teenage girls, believes gays should be arrested, has been critical of women’s suffrage, and said America has not been “great” since slavery ended, voters in one of the nation’s most right-wing states decided they had no choice but to put country over party.
Senator-elect Doug Jones, a former federal prosecutor, is best known for locking up the Klansmen who murdered four black girls in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. His career of law and order was the perfect foil to a candidate who was once banned from a mall for leering at children.
Jones’s victory is an earth-shattering blow to Donald Trump, who decided maintaining a Republican seat was worth embracing a pedophile, and banked on voters agreeing with him. It is also a blow to Senate Republicans, who have now lost a vote going into their desperate attempt to pass a giant tax break for billionaires, and who will now have a more difficult time maintaining their majority next year.
The race is also almost the perfect reverse of the 2010 Massachusetts Senate special election, in which Republicans rode a wave of Tea Party anger to nab a seat that was thought to be a sure thing for Democrats.
In a state where registered Republicans outnumber Democrats 2 to 1, and where voter suppression laws systematically exclude people who are not white and conservative, this victory would not have been possible without such a catastrophic train wreck of a candidate on the GOP side.
But Jones also deserves credit for his consistent message, record, and principles. He did not simply run as the “anti-Moore” candidate. He traveled the whole state, talking to voters about “kitchen table issues” and pledging to keep rural hospitals open for the poor. He gave the people of Alabama something to vote for, not just against.
Credit also goes to the minority activists who ran a relentless, targeted campaign to get out the vote in poor, black communities which are normally overlooked or ignored.
In the wake of this upset, it is time for Democrats to seize their moment, bring Trump’s hateful agenda to a grinding halt, and fight their way to a new majority in Congress.