Alabama voters picked former prosecutor Doug Jones over right-wing, Trump-endorsed Roy Moore as their next U.S. senator. Besides an historic upset in a Republican stronghold state, the loss of a Republican vote in the senate and the subsequent addition of a Democratic one could make for a serious roadblock for the Trump administration’s agenda of privatizing public goods, opening tax loopholes for wealthy donors and corporate buyers and dismantling the very social safety net made necessary by the greed of those same wealthy donors and corporations.
Voter analysis shows that this upset wasn’t the result of white, Republican voters in Alabama defecting over allegations that Moore pursued, harassed and assaulted underage women. Rather, it was because Black voters—especially women—and millennials turned out and overwhelmingly supported Jones.
Why? Because he campaigned on values and policies that resonate with these core constituents: access to affordable education, access to affordable healthcare, defending a woman’s right to choose, defending social safety net programs and opposing the Trump administration’s corporate agenda, in particular the tax plan. The upset, therefore, was a definite rebuttal of the Trump’s administration’s anti-poor, anti-minority, anti-women policies, and its appalling rhetoric. In urban areas, where Black and minority voters live, Moore was decidedly rejected. In Jefferson County, which includes Birmingham, Jones captured more than 68 percent of the vote. And in Madison County, home to Huntsville, Jones won 57 percent of the vote.
So when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s says he will not seat Senator-elect Doug Jones before the end of the session, he is directly denying the will of the voters in Alabama based purely on policy and ideology. McConnell’s insistence that Republican Luther Strange—the current, temporary Alabama senator—stay in the seat is a move designed to keep a reliable vote in the Senate for the Trump tax plan in the coming weeks despite the fact that the Alabama voters who picked Jones reject that plan. But this should come as no surprise, given the complete lack of integrity and decency exhibited by the GOP leaders who obviously care more about maintaining ideological control, wielding power and collecting donations from their bankrollers in the corporate oligarchy than they care about building a strong, prosperous and just country.
Republicans rammed through the Senate version of the Trump tax plan in the dead of night a few weeks ago with almost no time for senators to review the document. They even hand-wrote some of the edits in the margins. The committee reconciling the House and Senate versions of the bill could release its next version any day now and the Senate could vote as early as next Monday, December 18. Seating Jones is, therefore, a matter of extreme urgency.
In 2010, when Scott Brown won Ted Kennedy’s seat in a special election after Sen. Kennedy’s passing, then Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called Brown’s election a referendum on the ongoing congressional deliberation to pass health care legislation and argued that the Senate should not finish voting on health care legislation until Brown was seated. Then-Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid honored that request and decided not to hold a vote until the Senate had sworn Brown in.
Democratic Senator Jim Webb supported the move, saying “It is vital that we restore the respect of the American people in our system of government and in our leaders. To that end, I believe it would only be fair and prudent that we suspend further votes on health care legislation until Senator-elect Brown is seated.”
Meanwhile, Senate Republicans held a Supreme Court seat open for an entire year before the 2016 election just to prevent then-President Obama from appointing a judge to the bench. Now they want to rush through a vote before their majority shrinks. The hypocrisy is palpable. It seems only fair that the Senate should wait to take such an important vote until its newest member is seated, especially given the clear message of opposition those Alabama voters who will be most affected by the tax plan sent to Donald Trump about his corporate agenda and racist rhetoric.
Roy Moore is an alleged pedophile, and while some in his party refused to support him after women came forward to report how he had harassed and even assaulted them as teenagers, the Republican National Convention renewed its support for Moore by pointing to his policy positions. They made it about the issues, choosing to skirt around the moral character of the candidate.
Doug Jones ran on a pro-choice, pro health-care platform. He voiced his opposition to the Trump Tax Scam during the race. Republicans must now accept that voters did not just reject Moore’s appalling behavior, they rejected his policies. The Senate must not hold a final vote on the Trump tax scam until Alabama’s new senator is able to vote on it.
But, true to the GOP M.O., Roy Moore is refusing to concede, and the Alabama secretary of state will not certify the results until after Christmas or into the new year. The people of Alabama elected a Democrat to the Senate for the first time in 25 years. They deserve to have their voices heard, especially when sweeping legislation that will affect them and the rest of the country is at stake.
Edit: an earlier version of this piece misidentified Merrick Brian Garland as a “progressive” judge. While he was eminently qualified to fill the position, he would more accurately be described as a “centrist,” which was part of the reason then-President Obama nominated him—so that a reasonable GOP-controlled Senate would confirm him and most people could live with his decisions. Of course, we do not have a reasonable GOP-controlled Senate, which is still the point of this piece.