By Ron Stubblefield, BNC Policy Volunteer
Last night, in what is considered by many to be a political upset, Doug Jones defeated Roy Moore in Alabama’s Special Election for the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by Jeff Sessions’ appointment to the position of Attorney General.
To understand why this upset came to be and its significance requires taking a look at the electoral data. As demonstrated by the exit polling data above, 74 percent of the White men who voted in this election supported Roy Moore. Meanwhile, 65 percent of White women supported Roy Moore. Had the election just been up to white Alabamians, this election would have been a landslide for Roy Moore.
This requires us to ask the question, with 65 percent of the voters supporting Roy Moore at these wide of margins, how did Doug Jones win?
Doug Jones won on the strength of the Black vote.
Specifically, 92 percent of Black men and 97 percent of the Black women who voted did so for Jones. If it was not for the black vote, Roy Moore would have won.
If it was not for the Black vote, the balance of GOP power in the Senate would not have been weakened. If it was not for the Black vote, a man who thought he was above the law, would be empowered to make the law. If it was not for the Black vote, an alleged pedophile who is against the civil and human rights of minorities, women, and LGBTQ+ members, would represent Alabama in the U.S. Senate.If it was not for the Black vote, the feeling of hope we have, for 2018 because of this win, would be replaced with more disappointment and disillusionment at a time we can ill-afford both. This is even more significant in light of Alabama’s voter suppression efforts, which were designed to curtail the power of the Black vote for the sole purpose of preventing outcomes such as the one we’ve seen last night.
The results of last night’s victory for Doug Jones has the following implications:
First, it is an unequivocal demonstration that Black America is the backbone of the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party cannot win without us. Moving forward, the Democratic Party must invest time and resources in the Black community if it is to win at all.
Second, the Democratic Party does not need to cater to the “white working class” to win in places in Alabama. What the Democratic Party needs to do is cater to an inclusive vision that includes and benefits Black Americans.
Third, Black America has the political strength to demand and obtain substantive policy advances for our communities. The GOP knows this, that is why they fight to suppress the vote while advancing the argument we have nothing to vote for. When we do not succumb to the intimidation and apathy attacks(which will increase as a result of Jones’ victory) and choose to fight, we can win. It is our duty to fight, and when we fulfill that duty, we win. Now let’s translate these electoral wins into long overdue policy advances. The only limit on this is our imagination if we allow it to be.
Further, any strategy for Democrats to win must include addressing racially motivated voter suppression tactics so that gerrymandering and voting intimidation is overcome, voting suppression efforts are punished and neutralized, and a new Voting Rights Act, if not an amendment, is instituted to ensure these racially motivated policies stemming from the 18th century never again occur in the 21st century and beyond. This starts with improving voter engagement related efforts. It ends with legally ending racially based gerrymandering and suppression.
Finally, any progressive movement that seeks to capture political power on the national scale needs to recognize that their movement must include Black people in their leadership, and must seriously cater to the needs of Black America. A progressive movement seeking to capture political power cannot do so under the sole banner of economic rights and marginalize issues of racism facing Black America as a subset of those rights that don’t affect “Ordinary Americans”.
Rather, a progressive movement seeking to capture political power must recognize that the civil rights Black Americans continue to fight for must be given the same credence as the economic rights laborers fight for, the same credence as reproductive rights women fight for, and the same credence as the rights fought for by the LGBTQ+ community. A progressive movement seeking to capture political power must become a new and true rainbow coalition where Blackness is a vibrant part of the color palate.
The lessons from the Jones victory are clear; the only outstanding question is will we learn from them. The future of our country depends on us answering this question in the affirmative.