[Photo Credit: AP Photo]
Democrat Doug Jones has edged out Republican Roy Moore in a bid for the US Senate. Deeply conservative Alabama has given Republicans the Senate seat since 1992, and the fiercely popular former state Chief Justice Roy Moore was to be no exception. Moore handily beat Trump-endorsed candidate Luther Strange in the Republican Primary runoff, and garnered exceptional support from conservatives who were turned off by Strange’s establishment background.
In addition, Moore was one of the candidates supported by former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, who has propped up ‘grassroots’ anti-establishment candidates to make primary challenges against incumbent establishment Republicans.
However, Moore’s campaign has been tainted with accusations of sexual misconduct, and despite denying these claims they have made an obvious impact on his performance in the election. Democrat Doug Jones is expected to take the seat with a 1.6 point margin win over Roy Moore, shrinking the Republican majority in the Senate to a mere 51 seats.
There are number of lessons to take away from this election. The first, and perhaps most obvious, is to never take a race for granted. Republicans in deep Red Alabama were complacent in this election. Democratic turnout for Doug Jones was almost as large as the turnout for then Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, whilst Republican turnout was not even close, with only half the numbers turning out for Roy Moore as did for President Trump.
An energised Democratic voting base after the allegations against Roy Moore, combined with a less-than-enthusiastic Republican base who thought the election was all but decided turned the odds for Jones this election.
On the topic of the allegations, ignoring their veracity for the time being, this election proves a well-timed barrage of accusations can bring a candidate down no matter the circumstances.
The left has tried the same strategy repeatedly against President Trump in his bid for the presidency, including the now infamous Access Hollywood tape, and while the allegations didn’t cost Trump the presidency in the end, they certainly damaged his campaign at the time. This election proves that, for the smaller guys, such tactics can sink an otherwise guaranteed win.
Troublingly, the effectiveness of such tactics means it is ever more important to keep a close eye on the authenticity of such claims. During this election, questions about the authenticity of the ‘yearbook’ that Roy Moore supposedly signed have come to light, and although largely ignored by mainstream media other than Fox, do pose questions for the impact such allegations have on the democratic process in the United States, if they can be used as weapons of political gain. Especially in the largely left-leaning mainstream media, presumptions of innocence are often discarded, and allegations are used as character assassination tools to bring down candidates that are dangerous to the left’s agenda.
A sliver of good news is that Alabama will always be Alabama, and with such a tight loss for a troubled candidate like Roy Moore, it is not as if the state has become a swing state overnight. However, Moore has proven to be too tainted by the allegations to rile up enough support to win even in Alabama, which wouldn’t have boded well for his longevity in the Senate even if he did edge out the victory today.
The Senate seat that Doug Jones will hold is up for election again in 2020, and assuming this time was an exception, it will likely fall back into Republican hands. Additionally, despite the anti-establishment base’s support for Moore, after the allegations made against him, there are growing numbers that believe it is probably better for the long run to have Moore lose this election, lest the allegations become substantiated and leave a permanent stain on Republicans in the Senate.
More importantly however, this reduces the current Republican majority in the Senate to a mere 51 seats, and with the presence of some Senators who regularly oppose President Trump’s agenda, it will become more difficult than ever to pass big pieces of legislation – a handicap that could eventually become an issue for him as he faces re-election in 2020.
This election then, while a win for the Democrats, was more a stinging defeat for Republicans. There is a underlying sentiment, thought rarely spoken, that President Trump’s election was the be all and end all of shattering the left’s control in today’s America, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. This election serves as a potent reminder to not become complacent with victory.