In a striking repudiation of President Donald Trump, his former top strategist Steve Bannon—and, of course, Republican candidate Roy Moore himself—Democratic candidate Doug Jones claimed victory Tuesday night in Alabama’s hotly contested special election for the state’s open U.S. Senate seat.
“I have said throughout this campaign that I thought that Dec. 12 was going to be a historic day,” Jones declared in his victory speech to cheering room of supporters. “We have shown the country the way that we can be unified.”
“This historic win is more than just a crushing blow to Donald Trump’s agenda of bigotry, hate, and division. It’s also a powerful reminder that progressives can win anywhere and everywhere if we stand up for an inclusive populist political agenda and build campaigns that welcome, energize, and mobilize the new American majority of Black, brown, and progressive white voters.” —Charles Chamberlain, Democracy for AmericaDespite the Moore’s history of bigotry, outlandish religious extremism, and the credible accounts of sexual misconduct and assault levied against him by multiple women—both Trump and Bannon had campaigned aggressively on his behalf and said getting him to the Senate was vital for the president and the GOP in Congress to carry out their agenda.
Networks began calling the race for Jones shortly after 10 PM local time after it was clear that high voter turnout in key areas was the key in delivering a rare victory for a Democrat in a state that leans heavily Republican. But even with 100 percent of precincts reporting—with Jones winning 49.9 percent and Moore at 48.4 percent—as of this writing, Moore was still refusing to concede his defeat.
But as Jones was calling for a night of celebration and thanking his supporters, Trump’s most ardent backers and the GOP establishment didn’t wait to start pointing figures at one another, as Sean Hannity immediately said Senate Majority Mitch McConnell “deserves a lot of the blame” for Moore’s loss while a former aid to McConnell blasted Bannon “for showing [Republicans] how to lose the reddest state in the Union.”
Democrats, however, wanted to make sure it was on the record that it was the entirety of the Republican Party apparatus that ultimately backed Moore:
Donald Trump the Republican President and leader of the Republican Party and the Republican National Committee supported Roy Moore knowing he was a bigot and a child molester. Never ever ever forget that.
— Ben Rhodes (@brhodes) December 13, 2017
Meanwhile, the takeaway being offered by many progressives was that Jones’ win proves the base of support for Trump, and the political strategy espoused by Bannon, is not only flawed but seriously vulnerable:
Trump backed Luther Strange, and he went down; then backed his bird-of-a-feather friend Roy Moore, and he just went down. Don’t fear these people. They are beatable.
— Rep. Keith Ellison (@keithellison) December 13, 2017
Message tonight to every GOP member in congress:
If you think the President’s hold on your base will save you, think again.
— Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) December 13, 2017
Former NBA star and Alabama native Charles Barkley, who had campaigned hard for Jones in the days leading up to the election, suggested the victory is not so much a rebuke of Trump, but said it should be “a wake-up call for Democrats to do better for black people and poor white people.” Watch:
Former NBA player and Alabama native Charles Barkley: “This is a wake-up call for Democrats to do better for black people and poor white people” https://t.co/BiXxty27Gt
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) December 13, 2017
And Barkley wasn’t alone in sharing that sentiment and numerous voices acknowledged the importance of black turnout and coalition building in Tuesday’s victory.
Jones’s victory may finally teach @TheDemocrats to stop chasing voters who are gone forever, and to focus on black turnout.
— Jamil Smith (@JamilSmith) December 13, 2017
This is what the GOP has feared since the 1960s: Young white voters teaming up with African American voters. It’s happening in Alabama!
— Lindsay Beyerstein (@Beyerstein) December 13, 2017
“Make no mistake, this is a victory for the 50 state strategy, and it’s a victory led by the new American majority,” said Democracy for America’s executive director, Charles Chamberlain, in an email Tuesday night. “Black, brown, and millennial voters—and Black women in particular—turned out in historic numbers to send a Democratic candidate to the Senate from Alabama for the first time since 1992.”
“This historic win is more than just a crushing blow to Donald Trump’s agenda of bigotry, hate, and division,” Chamberlain continued. “It’s also a powerful reminder that progressives can win anywhere and everywhere if we stand up for an inclusive populist political agenda and build campaigns that welcome, energize, and mobilize the new American majority of Black, brown, and progressive white voters.”
And as the Progressive Change Campaign Committee said in a statement, “This shows what happens when Democrats compete everywhere.”