Let Alabama be the inspiration Democrats sorely need

16 Dec 2017

For those not yet in a politically-induced coma, Donald Trump is President of the United States. Such a sentence might once have been made in jest, but for the last eleven months it has been a statement of harsh truth. And for a man with such incredibly small hands, Trump has managed to cram an impressive amount of misery, discrimination, confusion and incompetence into those eleven months.

 

Don’t schedule an appointment with your therapist just yet, however, as there is light at the end of what seems an inescapable tunnel.

 

Republican Roy Moore, consistently endorsed by President Trump in the incoherent cesspit that is his Twitter feed, was handed a surprising and deeply satisfying defeat by Democrat Doug Jones in Tuesday’s Alabama special election, winning 49.9% of the vote to his rival’s 48.4%. It was a close result, and not one many expected would be on the blue side’s favour.

 

In the happy wake of Alabama, we can draw two optimistic conclusions. First, that it is entirely possible to defeat bigoted sexual predators. Second, that there is still hope for the Democrats.

 

To the disappointment of Brenda from Bristol, America will soon be confronted by the unbridled excitement of the 2018 midterms, during which all 435 seats of the House of Representatives and 39 of the Senate will be up for grabs. This may be rather a turn-off for the politically indifferent, but for the nerds amongst us it is a prospect of the utmost excitement.

 

Thanks to Roy Moore’s defeat (words I absolutely delight in repeating), the Democrats now need only two additional seats to win a majority in the Senate. What seemed an amusing fantasy mere months ago is now a reachable goal.

 

Last year’s presidential implosion, during which Hillary Clinton achieved the remarkable feat of losing to a petulant reality TV star endorsed by the KKK, left the party in a state of complete shock. Their efforts since have not always been wholly encouraging.

 

Yet Doug Jones’ campaign was fought with confidence and spirit, the prospect of a man as hideous as Roy Moore riding his horse up to Capitol Hill spurring them on in the face of disappointing polling. They harnessed the anger many of us feel at the mere mention of Trump and rediscovered a quality vital to the success of any political party: self-confidence.

 

Candidates matter. Not every Democratic challenger will come up against an opponent as flawed as Moore. The party cannot afford to fund candidates of the same lacklustre calibre as Hillary Clinton, especially in traditionally red states, like Alabama, that are so crucial to the defeat of the GOP.

The heroes of Tuesday’s victory are black voters, as many as 96% of whom backed Doug Jones. Not since the election of Barack Obama in 2008 have black voters, particularly women, turned out in such force for a Democratic candidate. And few politicians of the last decade have had the star quality of Obama.

 

Even without Obama and his dad jokes, the Democrats still have a number of highly capable people within their ranks. Former Vice President Joe Biden is often talked of as a potential presidential candidate. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has shown herself to be a particularly powerful and effective critic of Trump. Last year Kamala Harris, also described as a possible presidential candidate, became only the second black woman to be elected to the Senate. Only a month ago, Danica Roem overcame an aggressively anti-LGBT+ Republican campaign in Virginia to become the first openly transgender person to serve in a state legislature.

 

Many accused last year’s Clinton-Kaine campaign of being an establishment stitch-up, Clinton’s surname rather unfairly being used against her. The Democrats now have the wealth of talent they need to shirk off that image and present a team representative of modern America.

 

Is there appetite to stand in next year’s midterms? Recent data suggests an emphatic yes. By June of this year over 200 Democratic candidates standing for the House have raised over $5,000, compared to just 28 Republicans. Money does not guarantee success in any campaign (something else you can ask Hillary), but it does at least show where the real energy lies.

 

So, the Democrats have money, momentum and the people necessary to utilise both. They are not exactly short on political ammunition, either.

 

The disturbing, orange-tinted phenomenon that is Donald Trump stopped being funny a long time ago. Barely one year into his presidency, and already he has stooped to a Richard ‘I am not a crook’ Nixon level of existence. If one ignores the reliable sages that are Fox News, he is currently wallowing in unprecedented unpopularity. Even his supporters, the people who stuck by him throughout various demonstrations of prejudice and idiocy, are said to be losing faith.

 

Alabama must mean more to America than a Lynyrd Skynyrd song. Doug Jones might have been lucky to have an opponent as repulsive as Roy Moore, but the two were still only separated by less than 2%. The Democrats have an enormous challenge ahead of them. They are two Senate seats, and twenty-four House seats, from taking control of Congress.

 

It is no small dream, but, should they take inspiration from the outstanding victory this week has granted them, they may well make a reality of it.

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