The special Senatorial election in Alabama is over, and the era of the political earthquake continues. Voters in this reddest of red states, a year after elevating a clinically narcissistic, linguistically challenged, misogynistic Republican to the country’s highest office, decided for the first time in 25 years to send a Democrat to Washington. Both parties were quick to get on message about the result. Both messages are predictably laden with partisan spin, and are a sad indication that neither party has gotten the real message.
Republicans assured us that Doug Jones’s win was not a refutation of Donald Trump or his/their policies, and that Roy Moore would have won easily if not for a Democrat-orchestrated smear campaign. A more reasonable assessment might be that Alabama voters couldn’t stomach being represented by Moore, an accused sexual predator who also happens to be Elmer Gantry on steroids. His alleged mall-trolling aside, Moore is a disgusting anachronism even in the Deep South, and his loss was a gift to the Republican party at a time when its image is already layered in mud. Making the best of President Donald J. Trump has put the GOP on shaky moral and ethical ground, and having to support and defend Moore any longer would have stripped Republicans of any pretense of decency that might be left to them. They already seemed hellbent on stripping themselves of any vestige of fiscal conservatism by concocting a tax reform plan that drills a trillion-dollar hole in the concept of a balanced Federal budget. Has the Party of Lincoln become the party of misogyny and hypocrisy?
At the other end of Dream Street, Democrats are telling us that Jones’s victory is a referendum on all things Republican and the first falling rock of a liberal landslide that will return Congress to Dem control no later than 2020. To prepare for this glorious occasion, the party has initiated a Reform Convention the apparent goal of which is to codify more, not fewer, extreme planks in its platform. The Dems’ bewildering takeaway from the presidential election continues to be that Hillary Clinton was not liberal enough, and their response will be to anoint an aging, blustering European Socialist the party’s de facto standard-bearer. Even if Bernie Sanders doesn’t run in 2020, whoever the Democrats nominate will be mouthing his words. At a time when most Americans want to see more cordiality in Congress, the Democrats seem prepared to declare a full-blown class war. In a country that pollsters say is still moderately conservative, this approach may get headlines, but will it get votes? In his victory address Jones, a former US Attorney, sounded like a moderate Democrat. How will he fit into the Party of Bernie?
So as the world of politics as we thought we knew it provides yet another election night surprise, both Republicans and Democrats appear unable to see beyond their respective dogmas. As both camps retreat further from the political center, are voters to be stuck choosing between government by the Old Testament and take-no-prisoners Populism?
Hopefully not. A Centrist movement is gaining momentum nationwide, and every time the American electorate is presented with a lesser-of-two-evils choice by the two-party system, that movement gets a little stronger.
How much longer are we going to allow the political extremes to pick our candidates? I’ll bet that many Alabama Republicans are asking themselves that question right about now. And if the Bernie Revolution comes to fruition, many Democrats will be asking it as well.