The defeat of Democrat Doug Jones in our United States Senate Seat is easy to explain. It is a Republican seat. Alabama is one of if not the most Republican states in America.
The nation is totally divided into clearly defined ideological tribes. You are either a right-wing conservative Republican or a left-wing liberal Democrat. There are very few true independent voters.
In Alabama there is an overwhelming majority of conservative Republicans. These two tribes vote a straight Republican ticket or a straight Democratic ticket. A good many just pull the straight ticket lever.
Jones never had a chance. Many of us, who are longtime political observers, were curious as to whether Jones would toe the liberal Democratic line when he got to Washington or moderate somewhat and try to throw the Republican conservatives a bone or two. He stuck true to his colors and philosophy. Doug Jones has always been a liberal national Democrat and he stayed true to his beliefs.
Having been an upfront political observer and participant of Alabama politics for the past 40 to 50 years, I have known most of the significant political players on the Alabama political stage during those years. Even though Doug Jones and I are around the same age and attended the University of Alabama, I never got to know him well. He was on the periphery as a party politician. He was always an ardent card-carrying loyal leader of the Democratic party. He was a stalwart Democrat when they were the majority party. Then when most folks left to become Republicans, he stayed and became more avid. He was a real Democrat.
Over the years, Jones never strayed from proudly espousing that he was a liberal national Democrat. He openly and ardently supported George McGovern, Walter Mondale, Joe Biden several times, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Jones is a true-blue, liberal, national Democrat. Most of us were surprised when he came out of his backroom political party role and private law practice to run for public office. He was shrewd enough to see the possibility that in a special election with a polarizing, tarnished candidate, he could squeak out a miraculous win in a special election to a U.S. Senate seat from Alabama as a Democrat.
Many of us watched the irascible demagogue George Wallace dominate Alabama politics. Wallace would make numerous Don Quixote forays into presidential politics, spitting out the message, “There ain’t a dimes worth of difference between the national Democratic and Republican parties,” and he was actually pretty close to right.
However, folks, I am here to tell you that today in 2020 there is a lot of difference, philosophically, in the national Democratic party of Bernie Sanders, Nancy Pelosi, Elizabeth Warren and Doug Jones and the national Republican party of Donald Trump, Mike Pence, Ted Cruz and Richard Shelby.
The chasm is deep and wide. Jones voted right down the line with his liberal Democratic colleagues. Even voting against Trump’s two conservative Supreme Court appointments for no reason other than they were conservative and Republican appointees.
The question is, would it have made any difference in Jones’ reelection chances had he compromised his liberal Democratic philosophy and voted with the Republican majority on some key votes? The answer is a resounding no. He would not have won with a “D” behind his name in a red Republican state in a presidential year, regardless. More than likely over 60% of the votes cast in the Heart of Dixie were straight Republican ticket voting.
Jones has to be respected for sticking to his principles. He is a good and honest man with a lot of character and integrity. He just thinks and believes differently than an overwhelming number of his fellow Alabamians. He stayed true to the old political maxim that you dance with the one that brung you. He got and spent $18 million dollars of left-wing money in his race against Roy Moore, mostly from California. He allied and voted with his California donors over his nearly three-year tenure. They figured he was their third senator so they rewarded him with $25 million this time. He was able to outspend Republican Tommy Tuberville $25 million to $7 million. Even with an ungodly amount of California money Jones could only garner 40% of the vote.
This race reaffirms the mantra and hard fact that winning the Republican nomination for a statewide office in Alabama is tantamount to election in the Heart of Dixie.
See you next week.
— Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the Alabama legislature.