On the night of Dec. 12, 2017, voters in Alabama and across the county were shocked— for the first time in twenty-five years, the state would send a Democratic senator to Washington.
Sen. Doug Jones’ victory, of course, came off the back of opponent Roy Moore’s scandal, involving his alleged rampant sexual abuse of teen girls, which was brought to light a month earlier. Aside from being ousted as a serial predator, Moore had always been guilty of a deeply polarizing, far-right agenda, habitually making racist remarks, as well as attacking the LGBT community and women’s rights. Moore had additionally expressed his undying love for Donald Trump, who, in turn, publicly supported the candidate during the race, which became yet another controversy that continually mars the presidency.
And although all of this should have been enough to dissuade Alabamians from casting their vote for Moore, the race was close. Incredibly close, with Jones defeating Moore by a margin of just 1.7 percent. But make no mistake, in one of the reddest states in the union, the outcome of this election was a clear-cut win, not only for Jones, but for the Democratic Party.
For just as Jones’ victory came off the back of the Moore scandal, it also followed the recent string of grassroots, progressive wins all of the country, but these were not won by just small percentages; just like the high-profile races in Virginia and New Jersey, so many of these victories were won handily. For example, in Fairfax County, where just a few months ago the Charlottesville protests rocked the nation, Karen Keys-Gamarra, a black woman, won a school board seat over Chris Grisafe, a Republican backed by the Ku Klux Klan. In an election that expected a maximum of 50,000 votes to be cast, 62,000 were, with Keys-Gamara winning by a whopping 20,000 vote margin.
Additionally, Emerge America, an organization that recruits and trains Democratic women to run for statewide and local office, experienced huge success across the South in 2017. Also in Virginia, Emerge alum flipped nine of 15 seat up for grabs in the Virginia House of Delegates—a diverse selection of women gained political power, including the first Latinas elected to that body, as well as one of the first Asian American women, as well as the first transgender woman to be elected to a state legislature ever.
The Blue Wave continues even in the Deep South, where in Georgia, Emerge boot camp alumna Deborah Gonzalez flipped a state House seat blue, ending the chamber’s Republican supermajority. And in the state’s Senate, Jen Jordan won a special election race, getting rid of the Republican supermajority in that chamber too. Excitement for progressive values has reached a fever pitch everywhere, which may be the only thing positive Donald Trump is responsible for. Last year, clearly, Democratic opposition naturally coalesced— and with a bang, united in distaste for Trump’s behavior and policies.
And just like Jones did in Alabama, many of these recent Democratic politicians in the South heavily emphasized economic, kitchen table issues that appeal to working Americans, such as affordable healthcare and jobs. With good reason too, considering that, according to Feeding America, the South has the highest rural-poverty rate of any region in the country at 25 percent. But ironically, just after Jones’ victory in the South, a massive tax overhaul was passed by Republican leadership, and as the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy notes, the cuts that would benefit Americans, nearly a third would go to the richest one percent in 2018, and by 2027 that fraction would rise to nearly half, blatantly ignoring the needs of their base.
November 2018 is just around the corner. Conservatives who are considering to run in the midterms should be scared, and if they aren’t, then they’re not listening.