Democrats are heralding the victory of Doug Jones in the Alabama special election as a sure sign that Democrats can compete in red states. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, quite the opposite is true.
The fact that Doug Jones was only able to beat accused child molester, and unrepentant theocrat, Roy Moore by 1.5% of the vote speaks volumes. If Democrats actually had a winning message that appealed to Republicans and independents it would never have been so close.
If any other Republican had won the primary there never would have been a chance. No Democrat would argue with that statement, and that alone makes the case. Nonetheless, the point can be proven further by looking at past elections in Alabama.
For decades Republicans have won Senate elections in Alabama with ease
Alabama has been one of the darkest red states in the Union for more than twenty years. Republican Senators have been elected by double digit margins ever since incumbent Democrat Richard Shelby switched parties to run for reelection in 1998. Junior Senator Jeff Sessions won his seat as a Republican in 1996, but only by a seven point margin.
In 2008, during what many considered to be a Democrat wave election year, junior Senator Jeff Sessions won election to a third term with 1,305,383 votes. During the midterm election two years later, Senior Senator Richard Shelby won election to a fifth term with 967,861 votes.
Sessions vote total was significantly lower when he was elected to a fourth term in 2014, but only because he ran unopposed. Despite the lack of a Democratic opponent, 795,606 Alabamans went to the polls during that midterm election to cast their vote for him anyway.
On the other hand, Richard Shelby gained a few hundred thousand votes when he was elected to a six term in 2016. The senior Senator managed 1,335,104 votes as a result of the higher turnout in an election year.
Roy Moore lost the support of more than one third of Republicans
While it is generally not best to compare specific elections, it is fair to compare average vote totals over a twenty year period. Jeff Sessions averaged 919,997 votes over his four elections while Richard Shelby averaged 1,090,785 when he was elected as a Republican. Their combined average vote total comes out to 1,005,391.
Roy Moore only managed to win 650,436 votes. That’s more than a thirty five percent drop from the historical Republican average.
In other words, more than a third of Republicans who voted for Jeff Sessions or Richard Shelby chose not to vote for Roy Moore. Given the fact that Jones won fewer votes than his 2012 counterpart, it’s likely that those voters simply abstained from the election altogether.
With these facts taken into consideration, it’s clear that Doug Jones did not win the election, but rather that Roy Moore lost.
(Image via screenshot of Doug Jones giving a victory speech on election day.)