The stunning conclusion to Alabama’s U.S. Senate race Tuesday was not only a triumph for Democrats and their candidate Doug Jones. It was a stand for decency and against Roy Moore, a bigoted man and accused sexual predator so distasteful that reliably Republican Alabama couldn’t bear to send him to Washington.
But Tuesday’s election results were also a message to Washington about at least one other Republican. An important Alabama number to digest today: President Donald Trump’s approval rating in Tuesday’s exit poll was 48 percent, a startling drop in a state he won with almost 63 percent of the vote just 13 months ago. Even more telling was that 93 percent of those who disapproved of Trump voted Democratic on Tuesday. With Democrats making up about 35 percent of Alabama voters, that means Republicans also lost a chunk of their own party, including college-educated suburban voters who consistently vote Republican.
It’s not a one-time, Moore-fueled phenomenon. In the Virginia governor’s race last month, 87 percent of voters who disapproved of Trump voted for Democrat and winner Ralph Northam, including swing voters in suburbs that had previously tilted red. In the New Jersey governor’s race, a similar dynamic helped propel Democrat Phil Murphy to an easy victory earlier last month.
Voters, including Republicans, are issuing a clear warning about the president and the party he leads. As with Moore in Alabama, Americans are recoiling at Trump, who demeans his office almost daily with tweets and casual lies. In both polls and elections, Americans are demonstrating they’re repulsed by the president’s frequent attacks on others, both with words and the ugly policies he advocates.
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But with both men, Republicans in Washington have largely underestimated the depth and breadth of the the country’s embarrassment. In the Alabama race, Republicans initially condemned Moore but largely backed off later so as not to offend far-right voters. With Trump, they are similarly cowed, no matter how the president tarnishes us all.
Instead, it’s voters who’ve raised their voices, again and again, by turning out in special elections across the country and giving Democrats support that far exceeds what Hillary Clinton received last November. The same could happen in 2018 elections, including in North Carolina, where Democrats could cut into Republican super-majorities in the N.C. House and Senate. Also up for grabs: Congressional seats such as the U.S. House 9th District, where incumbent Republican Robert Pittenger or challenger Mark Harris face a stiff general election battle against likely Democratic nominee Dan McCready.
And yet, Republicans in Washington are breathing sighs of relief today. They’re grateful they won’t have to deal with the stain of Roy Moore, and they’re certain that Tuesday’s result was just about the particularly awful Republican in the race.
Certainly, it was. But it also was about energized Democrats, particularly women and black voters, who have found their voices and are expressing their discontent in Alabama and elsewhere. It was about Republicans who are fed up with a party that has gone too far too often in supporting indecent people and ideas. It was about a wave, one that’s no longer just theoretical. Are Republicans paying attention?