There are lots of lessons to be learned from yesterday’s Alabama special election, and in the less-than-12 hours since Doug Jones stunned the country by defeating Roy Moore for the senate seat left vacant by Jeff Sessions, Twitter has become even more of a take blizzard than usual. Lots of liberals are calling it a repudiation of Trump. Lots of conservatives are calling it a repudiation of Harvey Weinstein. History hasn’t yet named the trend, but what we can know for absolute sure is that despite massive confirmed voter suppression efforts, black Alabamians — 144,000 of whom were eligible to vote for the first time after the recent repeal of a Jim Crow-era disenfranchisement law — tipped the scales in Jones’ favor.
While black Alabamians make up 26 percent of the population, they made up 28 percent of voters yesterday; turnout was especially strong in large black population centers like Birmingham and Montgomery. Yesterday afternoon, Birmingham City Councilor Sheila Tyson told Vox reporter Ella Nilsen: “The lines have been long, the parking lots jam-packed. These African American communities are turning up, and they are turning out.”
Over at The Atlantic, Vann R. Newkirk II broke it down like this: “These results demolish the pre-established media narrative about black voters in the state, and defy conventional wisdom. Black voters were informed and mobilized to go vote, and did so even in the face of significant barriers. I previously noted that Alabama is one of the hardest states in the country to vote — especially so for black voters, and that voter-suppression efforts could have had strong effects on black votes. Tuesday night’s returns are all the more remarkable because of the surge of turnout that appears to have taken place in spite of those very real barriers.”
Roy Moore’s support was unsurprisingly strong with white men and women, regardless of education or income, especially among older white people and white evangelicals.
The Washington Post‘s breakdown of yesterday’s voting demographics juxtaposed with the projected shift in the U.S.’s demographics over the next 30 years lays bare the attempts of legislators at state and national levels to suppress black voters and implement cruel immigration immigration policy for South American and Muslim countries. It’s not about crime and its not about terrorism. It’s about white supremacy, literally: Making sure white people stay in power by making sure people of color can’t vote.
Yesterday, however, all those Republican tactics failed.
It’s worth noting, of course, that this election didn’t happen in a vacuum. Doug Jones didn’t win a senate seat in Alabama against your average Republican opponent. If Roy Moore had been a racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic theocrat who’d been suspended from the Alabama Supreme Court more than once for refusing to follow the rule of law because of his crusade to legislate the Old Testament, it seems likely he’d have won in a landslide. It took multiple deeply reported accusations of sexual assault against teenage girls and the news that he’d been banned from a mall because of his predatory behavior for Jones to eek out a victory.
But at the end of the day, Moore didn’t win, and that’s a reason to be joyful; when you add that to November’s elections, where a record number of POC and trans folks rallied their way into office, it’s even a reason to hope. Democrats are ready to compete everywhere now, and the people who’ve been oppressed by the GOP their entire lives are ready to take office for themselves. It’s been a good month for real and symbolic victories.
Of course, Joy Reid always says it best: “Every so often it’s good to be reminded that that the good guy CAN win. What Doug Jones did in prosecuting those Klansmen was heroic. He is by far the better man-the better human being. And damned if he didn’t win in Alabama. Amazing. Black and New South/Millennial voters did it.”