Democrats dodged a bullet in Alabama Senate race. But will they shoot themselves in the foot in 2018, 2020?

Miami Herald Editorial Board

Jones wins Alabama Senate race, issues challenge to future colleagues

Democrat Doug Jones won election for the U.S. Senate from Alabama, defeating Republican Roy Moore on Tuesday. Jones is an attorney and former prosecutor.
Up Next
Democrat Doug Jones won election for the U.S. Senate from Alabama, defeating Republican Roy Moore on Tuesday. Jones is an attorney and former prosecutor.

Now that the confetti has been swept away, the sighs of relief exhaled and dropped jaws scooped up off the floor, the lessons of Doug Jones’ stunning Senate victory in Alabama loom large —for Democrats.

Jones, indeed, pulled off an unlikely feat. He and his ardent supporters, including heavyweights imported from out of state, helped Alabama — and the nation — dodge a bullet, one poised to do real damage to this democracy. However, in the clear light of day, the Democratic Party needs to curb its enthusiasm. Jones, a former U.S. attorney who successfully prosecuted the KKK, beat the deeply flawed Roy Moore — who had seemed likely to crush Jones at the polls — by just 1 percent.

That razor-thin margin should sober the Dems right up.

Moore, who served as former chief justice of the Alabama’s Supreme Court — twice — and who was removed from the bench — twice — is a delusional misogynistic racist who somehow found a silver lining in slavery, is adamant that Muslims are unfit to serve in Congress and believes “homosexual conduct” should be illegal. In 2016, he was suspended for ordering probate judges to enforce Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban, though it was ruled unconstitutional.

He denies women’s credible stories that decades ago, he pursued and had sexual relationships with young teenage girls when he was a full-grown adult in his 30s — and a district attorney, no less. Even though the horror of it all made some prominent Republicans turn on him, the allegations never got enough traction to truly slow his campaign’s roll. Both President Trump and the Republican National Committee put principle on a shelf — again — and gave Moore their backing. Jones’ win is a setback for both.

Now comes the battle to install Jones in the Senate. Republicans don’t want to seat him until after the tax-bill vote, lacking confidence in its ability to withstand the scrutiny it deserves.

Then, for Democrats, comes the slog to the 2018 and 2020 elections. It won’t be easy for, unlike Republicans, they don’t have an obvious bench of young, but accomplished, up-and-comers. The Clintons, Pelosis and Schumers of the party just won’t exit the stage. And what’s their winning message?

They should expect Republicans to double down on voter suppression initiatives, un-American as they are. African-American voters — and especially black women, who also showed up strongly for Democrats in recent elections in Virginia and New Jersey — recognized a clear and present danger in Moore and propelled Jones across the finish line. That will only strengthen Republicans’ resolve to clamp down further with lies about fraud at the polls — in truth, it’s practically nonexistent — and legislative efforts to put hurdles between blacks and the voting booth. Black voters in Alabama, and across the nation, have every right to demand that those they elect tackle the enduring challenges of inequity on their behalf. The Dems have taken them for granted, and even shunned addressing them outright in their push to attract more working-class whites. The party neglects black voters at its peril, especially given the dearth of African Americans in party leadership.

In filling the seat Jeff Sessions left when he was appointed U.S. attorney general, Jones will serve only until 2020, when Trump is again on the ballot. Chances are, Jones won’t be facing a buffoon like Moore. One percent is a real close shave. Democrats need to get real.