A win for sanity by @BloggersRUs

A win for sanity

by Tom Sullivan

Graphic: CNN

Stunning. Thunder clap. Seismic. Shocking. Devastating. To describe Democrat Doug Jones' narrow 1.5 percent win in Tuesday's Alabama special election for U.S. Senate, one could easily build a word cloud — not unlike the one Quinnipiac University generated from poll responses about the president. Only much more positive.

Frank Bruni is effusive this morning in the New York Times in his good riddance to Republican Roy Moore:

We saw decency in retreat. We saw common sense in decline. We saw a clique of unabashed plutocrats, Trump foremost among them, brazenly treating the federal government as a branding opportunity or a trough at which they could gorge. We saw a potent strain of authoritarianism jousting with the rule of law.

And we saw many Americans, including most Republican leaders, either endorsing or quietly putting up with this, to a point where we wondered if some corner had been turned forever.

It is early to tell whether America has rediscovered its soul, but the reflection of America a majority of Alabamians saw in Roy Moore was too ugly to endorse. And unnecessary to describe again here and ruin the mood.

For the first time in years, Democrats in Alabama felt they were living in "a battleground state in which their vote mattered."

The Intercept spoke with Dr. Joe Reed, head of the Alabama Democratic Conference, perhaps "the last true black party boss in the South." Reed would work on turning out his community. (It did, especially black women.) He'd leave making inroads with white voters to Jones. The day after Jones won the Democratic nomination, Reed outlined the message Jones would need to win:

“Now whatcha gotta do now,” he lectured Jones, “is get out on the road and tell Bubba and Cooter how important the Democratic Party is for them.”

He rattled off the names of long-dead Democratic congressmen and their accomplishments. “If he’s from around Huntsville, he oughta thank John Sparkman every day. If he got a student loan, he oughta thank Carl Elliott,” Reed said. “So go tell ’em what the Democratic Party has meant to them and meant to their parents.”

It is not clear this early in the post mortems how much Jones took that advice. So much attention was lavished on Moore's sexual proclivities. But it was a reminder that Democrats cannot win by anti-Trumpism alone. Overall, the party still lacks a compelling, accessible narrative for where they want to take the country.

In this race, Democrats had help from a massive black turnout that at 30 percent of all voters topped the Obama elections. But they had help as well from Republicans lacking the stomach to vote send an accused child molester to represent their state in the Senate.

Newsweek reports that write-in votes on Tuesday were larger than Jones' margin of victory:

With almost all of the votes counted, write-in votes numbered close to 23,000. Jones’ margin of victory, meanwhile, was a little under 21,000. Write-in votes made up just 0.12 percent of the vote when Jeff Sessions won re-election to the U.S. senate from Alabama in 2008 but represented 1.7 percent of the vote Tuesday. Thus, assuming the vast majority of those votes would otherwise have gone for Moore, write-in votes had a decisive impact.
With Alabama Republican Senator Richard Shelby declaring on Sunday he had written in a Republican other than Moore, and with fellow Alabamian, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, urging people to vote, just not for Moore, the jump in write-ins reflects a strong anyone-but-Moore vote among Republicans.

Moore is a singular figure, Democrats warned, and a phenomenon likely not to be repeated in 2018. Unless Trump supporters regain enough momentum at the urging of former White House advisor Steve Bannon to turn out for candidates as fringe as Moore in spring primaries, cooler heads may draw their party back to saner territory, creating less of a “crisis in the voting booth” for Republican voters in 2018.

On the bright side, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell won't have to hold a sham ethics investigation for Moore. He won't have to humiliate his caucus further. The White House will handle that. He may not even have much longer to worry about not-so-Breitbart Steve Bannon. Some Republicans last night were "dancing on his grave."

“I think Bannon made an ass of himself [tonight],” said Stu Stevens, former top strategist to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign.

Last night proved Democrats can win anywhere. Right now, potential candidates who might have seen the waters as unfavorable may be reconsidering a 2018 run. Too often, Democratic leaders have played a narrow game of putting all their chips on a few "winnable" races. The criteria for what is winnable got blown wide open last night.

Their biggest obstacle may be just showing up. You must be present to win.

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Request a copy of For The Win, my county-level election mechanics primer, at tom.bluecentury at gmail.