Alabama elected a Democratic Senator Tuesday, for the first time in 25 years. The state is so deep red that the last Democrat to be elected, Richard Shelby in 1992, decided to become a Republican two years into his term. But on Tuesday, Democrat Doug Jones prevailed — and unlike Shelby, Jones is likely to stay a Democrat for a while.
Alabama electing a Democrat to the Senate is so outlandishly contrarian that it has people talking about whether 2018 will bring another “wave” election, where the pendulum swings in the opposite direction and dissatisfied voters rebel against the party in power and vote in droves for the other party. We’ve seen a number of “wave” elections in recent years, especially in midterm elections, and Democrats are hoping that Jones’ unlikely triumph in the Republican solid south presages a year in which Democrats sweep to power in the House, the Senate, and gubernatorial races across the country — including Ohio.
The question that can’t be answered just yet is whether the Alabama results represent a shift in voter perceptions of Republicans and Democrats generally — or whether it was really a one-off rejection of Roy Moore, the bizarre, deeply flawed Republican candidate who was accused of sexual misconduct and who has lots of other baggage on his resume. Did Alabamans who formerly have voted for Republicans vote for Jones because they decided that they now like the Democratic platform, or did they vote for Jones because they thought Moore would be an abject embarrassment to their state, or did they not vote at all, allowing the Alabama citizens who always vote for Democrats to carry the day in a low-turnout election? And if it is the latter scenario, is that brooding sense of malaise by Republican voters due to national issues — like the antics of our Tweeter-in-Chief — and likely to be displayed other states?
Of course, only time will tell. We don’t know yet who is going to be running in those House, Senate, and gubernatorial races that will be occurring next year, and the talk of a potential wave election may spur a counter-reaction by Republicans who become energized because they don’t want to see the party lose the House and Senate under any circumstances, whether they like and support Trump or find him to be a constant source of embarrassment.
I can’t speak for Alabama, having never set foot in that state, but I’m sensing a lot of unease and uncertainty in Ohio and other places I’ve visited — and while a lot of it involves Trump, a lot of it stems, too, from the sexual harassment allegations that have bedeviled both parties and a seemingly general sense of dissatisfaction with Democrats and Republicans alike. In such a volatile atmosphere, just about anything is possible.