Last night, Doug Jones defeated Roy Moore in a special election to fill the US Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions. A few random thoughts.
1. You have to compete. The Dems’ biggest tactical mistake during the
Obama years was not fielding candidates. The reason Republicans dominate
local offices isn’t gerrymandering—it’s because they run for everything
from dogcatcher up. Dems will lose 90% of the races like this one—but
that means they’ll win 10%, which could be the balance of the Senate and
a few statehouses.
2. The anti-democratic mood of the GOP is
disturbing. Any time things don’t go their way, they violate norms.
McConnell says he’s not seating Jones until after the tax bill is voted
on. Moore didn’t concede. This follows the Supreme Court theft and
Trump’s threats to ignore the results if he lost. And of course Russia
et al. Great win, but wins no longer seem to carry the finality we
expect in democracies.
3. The core of the Democratic Party are
those who are most at risk from the policies of the GOP—which means
nonwhites, the impoverished and sick, the non-straight, and women. Doug
Jones is a Senator because of the black vote. I hope the incessant focus
on the blue-collar whites ends here. It’s great if that segment can be
attracted by progressive policies—some did vote Obama. But there’s this
sickness at the heart of American life that Trump and Bannon have
exploited. So long as the most important thing to voters is the
whiteness of the candidate’s skin, the Dems can’t pander. They just
can’t expect black and Latino voters to continue to carry a party that
remains racist-tolerant. (This is a controversial argument; I get that.)
4. Political gravity exists. When Trump won, it seemed to violate all
the rules of politics. Republicans in particular charged into 2017 with
the idea they had some kind of invulnerability shield. Moore was so
blasé about this election he didn’t bother to campaign the last few
days. But the rules still apply and Trump’s weird win was a flukey
situation that depended on a hundred things going his way.
Trump is no political savant. Whatever fairy dust Republicans thought he
might have had is gone. To review, he backed the loser in the primary,
then backed Moore. He backed Gillespie in VA (who lost). That’s going to
have repercussions in Congress. Republicans no longer have to fear
he’ll be able to target them in elections back home. GOP dysfunction
6. Bannon is screwed. The GOP is using this
election to throw him under the bus. They’ve been looking for a
convenient excuse to do so, and he gift-wrapped this stinker for them.
7. I know in my bones we’re going to have a reaction against #metoo,
but of all the forces that shaped this election, that was the greatest.
It used to be that being a pig carried no risks at all; now it will
clearly shave a few points off a margin. This little shaft of light
8. The Senate hangs in the balance. Dems have the
longest of shots to retake the Senate (they have to win in either NV or
AZ *and* defend all their own seats), but it’s a bit more plausible this
morning. And it really helps in terms of resources. They don’t have to
burn through funds trying to win in TX or TN for their 51st state. Those
are now just gravy.
9. The GOP is not a governing party. They’re
a collection of grievance candidates, anti-government radicals, and
big-money toadies. Their factions (firmly swamp vs drain-the-swamp) were
already irreconcilable. This makes things worse and gives the
(dwindling) non-insane moderate faction in the Senate a lot more power.
I’ll be watching to see whether this makes that atrocious tax package
more likely (because they have to rush it through for that elusive
“win”) or less likely (because there’s less cover for the Collinses and
McCains). Future legislation seems highly unlikely.
Very interesting moment in American politics.