The December 12th Alabama Senate special election is the latest contest to be called a “referendum” on American President Donald Trump. Democrat candidate Doug Jones is neck and neck with evangelical Christian favorite and accused sexual predator Roy Moore. Given the Republicans’ slim, 2-vote majority in the Senate, a Moore loss would severely cramp Trump’s ability to govern. That’s why, notwithstanding the many harassment accusations following the Commander -in-Chief himself, he has decided to actively support the gun-toting Republican.
Widely known, but consistently unstated by the pundits and experts; the key to the election will be the Alabama Black voters, who make up 25% of the electorate in the state. With a strong turnout in the ‘hood (the Alabama ‘hood is predominantly rural), the Democrats can win back the Alabama Senate, the House, and the Presidency – in that order. But when Black enthusiasm is weak, the voting dynamics shift to favor Trump and company. This should be the message of Election Day 2017.
But will it be?
Consider earlier this year, when the Democrats lost 4 tight special Congressional races, each of which was called – before the losses – a “referendum” on Trump. Clearly, Kansas and Montana are reliably Trump red states. But Georgia and South Carolina were winnable in theory. These races included Karen Holder vs. John Ossofin of Georgia, which turned out to be the most expensive race in congressional history; $50 million in special interest money and 1% investments produced a Republican victory. Democrat hopes were looking bleak.
That’s why the Democrats’ best electoral news of the year was the Virginia Governor’s race, where Ralph Northam beat Ed Gillespie, former Republican National Committee chair. That victory was created by large voter turnout in the northern Virginia suburbs, the close-to-Washington areas populated by Black federal government employees.
The Democrats are hoping that a similar outpouring of support will propel Doug Jones to a victory. He would be the first Democrat Senator from Alabama on a number of decades. His path to victory is simple. Heavy Black support from Birmingham, Mobile, and Montgomery. Similar turnout from the Black Belt plantation areas – this is Jones’ only realistic hope.
In this last night of campaigning, Montgomery Congresswomen Terri Sewell, who is a Congressional Black Caucus and Democratic National Committee member is working hard to turn out the Black vote for less-than-spectacular candidate Jones. His main attraction is his opposition to Trump and Moore. Yesterday, New Jersey Senator Corey Booker was in the state to campaign. By tomorrow night, we’ll know if the Black vote has once again saved the Democrats’ bacon.
Will that be enough to force acknowledgment of the pivotal role played by Blacks in the future of the Democratic Party? Will Blacks get the “juice” accorded to Trump’s base supporters in the Republican Party? It’s anyone’s guess.
Think back to the Hillary Clinton defeat in November 2016. Instead of blaming herself, excuse number one was a claimed “lack of support” from Black voters. She actually thought that she was entitled to the same turnout and enthusiasm given to Barack Obama. Conveniently ignored was the rejection of Clinton by the college-educated white female voter, who preferred Trump’s misogyny to her calls for sisterhood.
And remember also the widespread calls to reach out to and understand the concerns of the Trump redneck base. Many a Democrat would love to trade the Black vote for a chance to romance the misunderstood xenophobic tea party supporter.
Until Black voters understand and control the considerable power they possess, we’ll continue to empower others at our own economic and political peril.