Thoughts on the Alabama Senate Special Election


Charlotte Goss, Opinion Editor

Who would have predicted that a special election for a vacant Senate seat from Alabama would garner such national attention? The appointment of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General in President Trump’s Administration never should have been a concern for the Republican Party. During the evening of election night, Tuesday, December 12, I was so certain of Republican Roy Moore’s victory that I was preemptively planning to write an article about what his election meant for the nation. I guess is served me right, for having no faith in a state with an abundance of it, I was proven wrong. It took about seven different sources confirming the results before I believed that Doug Jones had defeated Moore. A Democrat. In Alabama. It seemed nothing less than a miracle.

But should it even have been an issue. The alleged improper (or possibly illegal) actions committed by Roy Moore against underage girls, although having occurred approximately four decades ago, seemed to be disqualifying to enough people across the country. However, it was up to the three million registered voters in Alabama to make this decision. If Jones could garner enough of a turnout from the African-American community, he could pull off the upset. His campaign staff worked across the state – urban areas, college towns, and even the predominantly white, affluent suburbs. Celebrities such as former NBA star Charles Barkley and actress Uzo Aduba showed their support for Jones. While the voter turnout was strong (a 30% increase among African-Americans compared to the previous Senate race), it may have actually been Republicans who handed the election to the Democrat Jones, with over 23,000 of them choosing to write in a candidate instead of voting for either Jones or Moore. (The margin of victory for Jones was about 21,000).

At a time of heightened partisan politics, this comes as a refreshing change of attitude. Did the Alabama voters make this decision in order to stifle the partisanship? Or was it simply a call to hold elected officials accountable for their behavior? Could it simply be mounting displeasure with the Republican Party? While many Republicans will probably argue that Moore was a seriously flawed candidate, it was most likely a mix of all three. Whatever the reason, this result has left the Republican Party with a mere one vote advantage (51-49) in the Senate. This election was extremely divisive, even within the Republican Party, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to give his support to Moore. Some view this as a reflection on the president as well. While President Trump won Alabama with over 62% of the vote, this is a state racked with problems. It is one of the poorest states in the country, with struggling schools and poor health care. Alabama could also use an infusion of cash to improve its infrastructure. Many of the poorest voters in the state did support President Trump in the election, but will they do the same for Republicans in the 2018 midterm elections if they don’t see enough progress?

Republicans did not withdraw their support for the Party, they withdrew their support for Moore, as evidenced by the number of write-in votes. The number of accusations of misconduct by celebrities and elected officials continues to mount. Moore’s loss is more evidence of the need for reform and greater accountability from our politicians. This election may be framed as a defining moment in our nation’s history, an election that showed our true colors – red, white and blue. Holding our elected officials to a higher standard seems pretty patriotic to me.