No Time for Giddiness


Whew. My feeling was that yesterday's election in Alabama would send Roy Moore riding off to the Senate in spite of everything. Sometimes it is a delight and a relief to be proven wrong.

The latest tally I found showed Doug Jones with 49.92 percent of the vote to Moore's 48.38. The margin is not close enough to trigger an automatic recount, but not exactly overwhelming when looked at in terms of raw numbers. Nate Silver's analysis at FiveThirtyEight provides encouraging perspective from my point of view:

By the way we usually calculate these things, Alabama is 28 or 29 percentage points more Republican than the country as a whole, but Jones just won an election there by 1 or 2 points, representing a 30-point swing from the norm. (Republicans Shouldn’t Assume Roy Moore Was An Outlier)

Silver proposes three factors that contributed to Moore's defeat: the national political environment where a generic congressional ballot favors Democrats by 10 percent, Moore's problems as a candidate other than the allegations of sexual misconduct, and shifts in voter preferences and turnout patterns because of the allegations.

He goes on to compare the Jones shocker in red-state Alabama with Scott Brown's election to the Senate in red-state Massachusetts in January 2010 following Barack Obama's landslide Electoral College win in 2008. It makes for interesting reading.

It is worth noting that Donald Trump has only a 48 percent approval rating, with 48 percent disapproval, in Alabama, a state he won by 28 points in November 2016.

Further worth noting is Moore's refusal to concede as of this morning. Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, a Moore supporter, acknowledged it would be "difficult" for Moore to win at this point. He also said that the people of Alabama have spoken and made their voice heard loud and clear. I take heart in that while remaining uneasy about the possibility of shenanigans from the Moore-Bannon camp.

Democrats still face an uphill slog in the 2018 mid-terms and in 2020. It is incumbent on them to field strong candidates who speak to the concerns of their specific electorates while standing firm against the deplorable Republican agenda and articulating a viable Democratic alternative. There will be times and places where this is a challenge.

The welcome dawn of a new era where sexual harassment and assault have been brought into the open makes for another wild card. There is much strong feeling but not consensus. Some see particular cases as black and white where others see complexities and shadings. I do not know any better than anyone else how to reconcile these conflicting points of view or how to balance the ethical obligation to take seriously women who come forward about sexual misconduct with the ethical obligation for presumption of innocence and a fair hearing. But I think we should try. The subject is a minefield into which one steps with peril, with a door open to internecine conflict that would not serve our cause well.

Meantime, it is a pleasure to witness the convocation of the traditional circular firing squad as Republicans and conservatives dispense blame for the Moore fiasco. The Wall Street Journal and a herd of Republicans ranging from Rep. Peter King (NY) to Rich Lowry to Meghan McCain, daughter of John, gleefully bashed Steve Bannon, with McCain's tweet "Suck it, Bannon" a personal favorite, while Sean Hannity shoveled horse manure onto Mitch McConnell and NPR reported that Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner were included in the list of scapegoats by someone whose name escaped me.

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David Matthews

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