On Dec. 12, 2017, Democratic candidate Doug Jones won the Alabama senate seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Jones is the first Democratic senator serving Alabama since Richard Shelby switched his party affiliation to Republican in 1994.
If Democrats make major headway in Congress following the upcoming Nov. 6 midterm elections, Jones’ victory will be seen as a major turning point in the “blue wave” reshaping American politics.
The “blue wave” refers to the concept of Democrats achieving major political victories in the midterm election, perhaps to the point of retaking control of Congress. Confidence in the blue wave has been fueled by recent unexpected Democratic wins in states like Alabama, Missouri and Wisconsin.
Tennessee may turn out to be part of the blue wave. According to a recent poll by MTSU, former Democratic governor Phil Bredesen has a 10-point lead over Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn in the race for the Senate seat being vacated by Bob Corker. Nothing is certain, but Tennessee may soon be another red state represented by a Democratic senator.
If there is a blue wave coming – and that remains a big if, people may be tempted to attribute it to an ideological shift resulting from public perception of President Trump, his Cabinet and the culture surrounding his most outspoken supporters. However, distaste toward the “Trump effect” is hardly the only factor that led to recent political upsets favoring Democrats.
Doug Jones was lucky to have faced Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate race. Moore endorsed the birther conspiracy claiming that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States. He has said that Christianity should dictate public policy. Moore was suspended from his position as Alabama Chief Justice due to his attempts to oppose the Supreme Court’s 2014 ruling in favor of same-sex marriage.
Most importantly, Moore’s 2017 campaign was soured when nine women came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct. Three of those nine reported sexual assault, and two of those three were minors at the time of the alleged incidents.
All of that, and Doug Jones still only won by a margin of 50 percent to 48.3 percent.
Tennessee’s Marsha Blackburn is not quite as questionable as Roy Moore, but she has been through more than her fair share of controversies. It can be confidently said that Blackburn is in the pockets of the telecommunications industry. Companies like Comcast and AT&T have given Blackburn upward of $693,000 in campaign contributions. She opposes net neutrality and wishes to stop municipalities from developing broadband networks of their own. Blackburn also masterminded a bill that canceled incoming internet privacy regulations.
Though it would be unfair to peg Bredesen as a conservative, he is markedly less progressive than Doug Jones. Bredesen supports the death penalty, believes that Obamacare “needs fixing” and employs the typical red state Democrat strategy of avoiding certain issues such as abortion. I doubt he’d have a chance if he were much further to the left.
It seems to me that blue viability in red states depends upon a sliding scale between Democratic moderation and Republican corruption.
Perhaps President Trump’s greatest contribution to the blue wave will turn out to be his role in emboldening Republican leaders. Following Trump’s 2016 victory, I think Republicans have been increasingly confident in their ability to get morally questionable candidates elected.
But they may well have overplayed their hand. As indicated by movements like #MeToo, it seems that people are starting to hold public figures to greater moral accountability.
Even if Democrats do regain control of Congress following the midterm election, I believe their victories will reflect disgust with Republican candidates and leaders rather than a sudden American ideological shift.