Because his name was not Roy Moore.
While it sounds overly simplistic, the primary reason Democrat Doug Jones stunned the political world in Alabama’s Dec. 12 special election for U.S. Senate was because he was not the other guy.
This is not to take anything away from Jones and the masterful campaign he ran, which primarily was about contrasting him to Moore and showing voters he was a decent alternative. But this campaign was always more about a candidate with high negatives and driving them even higher until enough voters said, “enough is enough.”
Truth is, Roy Moore is not a very attractive candidate. Except for success running for the Supreme Court, his record as a candidate leaves much to be desired. The first time he ever ran for public office (as a Democrat) in Etowah County, the voters did not elect him. When he ran against Governor Bob Riley in the Republican primary in 2006, he only got 33 percent of the vote. He ran again for governor in 2010 and came in last, losing to Bradley Byrne, Robert Bentley and Tim James.
Still, Alabama being Alabama, my gut told me that when the last vote was counted yesterday, Moore would squeeze out a win. (Maybe this was 50 years of watching Auburn play football coming out in me. Always hoping for one outcome, only to watch my team somehow snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.)
HOWEVER, in my own self-defense I felt many months ago that Jones had a fighting chance, simply because he was running against Moore. I even discussed this with a staunch Republican friend and he agreed with me.
At the end of the day, enough people grew weary of Moore’s overused routine to turn the tide. His cowboy hat, his leather vest, his little pistol, his horseback ride to go vote. And most especially, his very narrow worldview that recognizes no ideology except his own.
And we were certainly not impressed by his advisor, Steve Bannon. New York Republican Congressman Peter King called Bannon a “disheveled drunk who wandered on stage.” That is being kind.
Bannon is a blowhard, always the smartest person in the room in his mind, and a master of cheap shots. Obviously he envisioned himself as the Pied Piper who would lead Alabama rednecks to the promised land. He showed up in Midland City on the outskirts of Dothan preaching to the locals. Try as he might, he could no more relate to them than he could the ladies at a WMU pot luck supper. While we may have our shortcoming in the Heart of Dixie, one thing we can do is spot a phony. Except we once called them “carpetbaggers.”
Bannon needs to crawl back under his rock.
This election will be dissected and re-dissected for a long time. Probably even be studied my political science classes Numbers will show that African-American voters exceeded expected turnout in large cities and across the Black Belt. Numbers will show that Republican strongholds such as Shelby and Baldwin counties did not give Moore the margins he needed.
My inbox has overflowed in the last 24 hours as friends in Texas, South Carolina, Indiana, Nebraska, New York, Wisconsin, Florida and other states have checked in. To a person, they were pleased that Alabama put its best foot forward on Dec. 12.
To them Roy Moore was a shout out to days gone by.
And Doug Jones represented a path we have too often chosen to ignore.
Hopefully we have taken a very tentative first step.