These really are wild times in American politics. A Democrat, Doug Jones, just won the Senate Race in Alabama. A Democrat hasn’t won a Senate seat in the Heart of Dixie since 1992 – and that was Richard Shelby, who was so conservative he then became a Republican, and still is the senior GOP Senator for Alabama.
The victory gives the Democrats a clean sweep in statewide elections in 2017. The party won the special elections in Virginia and New Jersey in November, and success in Alabama now gives them great momentum going into the mid-term elections of 2018. Trump can keep pointing at the economy and saying he is making America great again. The Democrats can keep pointing to what’s happened at the ballot since his inauguration and say he’s losing.
The reason Jones won is clear: his opponent was Roy Moore, who is accused of — and widely believed to have committed — sexual assault on girls as young as 14. But last night’s exit polls showed wider factors too — a large increase in the black vote for instance, seems a signal of a Democrat rally ahead of 2018. The American political map is changing dramatically.
The Democrat win in Alabama is a huge blow for President Donald Trump, who has risked substantial political capital by getting behind Moore’s candidacy despite the controversy. Trump, himself accused of sexual impropriety, decided to back Moore anyway. He recorded robocalls on his behalf. The funny part here is that, before Moore got the nomination, Trump went against his usual anti-establishment instincts and backed the more conventional GOP runner, Luther Strange. He was rumoured to have been furious when Moore beat Strange.
Trump’s circle will be quick to distance themselves from Moore, of course. And Republicans will be able to say, rightly, that they only lost because Moore was the candidate. But that might not be enough to stop the growing sense that, in the age of Trump, the Democrats are winning.