With Doug Jones’ victory in Alabama, Democrats now have at least a plausible path to winning control of the U.S. Senate in the 2018 elections. It’s a difficult path to be sure, but it could happen.
The first step will be for Democrats to successfully defend all of their Senate incumbents next November. That’s not going to be easy because the list includes 10 running in states that voted for Donald Trump. But, the results from Alabama suggest that it could happen. If it does, all Democrats would need to win the Senate is to pick up a pair of GOP seats. And they definitely have a chance to do so in Arizona and Nevada.
The Alabama results indicate that Democrats might be positioned for a very strong midterm election. Especially notable was the strong African-American turnout that lifted Jones to victory. If minority voters remain engaged at similar levels next November, Republicans will have an enormous challenge on their hands.
Not only that, many Republicans chose to stay home rather than vote for Moore. If Republican turnout is depressed and minority turnout is up, the Democrats could win both Houses of Congress. And, if that wasn’t enough, nearly half of college educated white women in Alabama showed up and cast a vote for the Democrat.
If the same trends continue in 2018, it will be a nightmare election for the GOP.
While some would like to write off the stunning upset in Alabama to a flawed candidate who ran a terrible campaign, the Moore candidacy was really just the symptom of a much deeper problem: Republican voters have little trust or confidence in the Republican establishment.
It’s hard to blame them. After all, the establishment spent seven years collecting votes on a promise to repeal Obamacare. Voters gave the GOP control of Congress and the White House only to learn that the elected politicians didn’t really mean it. For many, that wasn’t really a surprise. It simply confirmed what they had seen before. Politicians are good at making promises but not so good on delivering.
Since GOP voters have come to see little value in sending traditional Republicans to Washington, they have become more and more attracted to people who will fight the status quo. Occasionally, that leads to a quality Senator like Mike Lee from Utah. More often, however, it leads to candidates like Roy Moore, Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock who lose elections that Republicans should win.
Establishment leaders are correct to point out that a more careful vetting process and thoughtful candidate selection would lead to more Republican victories. But that doesn’t mean they are blameless in the party’s Civil War. Quite the opposite, in fact; a health leadership would seek out quality candidates who can truly represent their voters, run a successful campaign, and then deliver on their promises.
Until the Republican leaders can change their tune and earn the trust of their voters, the party’s Civil War will continue. That will lead to losing other elections they should win, and quite possibly to the Democratic control of the United States Senate.