Turning the Tide

Assuming the apparent results of yesterday’s election in Alabama are certified, there’s reason to be hopeful. Yet it’s best not to let hope blind us to reality.

More than forty-eight percent of voters cast their ballots for a man, Roy Moore, whose philosophies are uniquely authoritarian and morally bankrupt. His deranged reliance on odd interpretations of the Bible’s most bizarre “directives” should have caused voters to reject him out of hand. He’s a maniacal fundamentalist untouched by reality. He longs for the days before the abolition of slavery.

Yet Moore came close to achieving half the vote. Black voter turnout, which almost equaled the turnout for Obama’s election, clearly pushed Doug Jones to victory. Was that a vote for Jones or a vote against Moore? I suspect it was more the latter than the former. It was a vote for protection rather than a vote for progress. And that was true for white voters, as well. People who voted for Jones did so in the context of a full-on frontal attack on civil liberties by his lunatic opponent. Many of them, perhaps most, shared Jones’ political perspectives to one degree or another, but one can’t help but think that a very large number of white voters cast their ballots in favor of Jones only to avoid having Moore as their senator. Many of those voters, I suspect, were Republicans who “bit the bullet” and chose someone with whom they bitterly disagree on substantive issues.

On the other hand, I suspect there were plenty of people who voted for Moore, not because they buy into his deranged evangelical vision of democracy (i.e., theocracy) but because they agree with his deeply conservative political principles. I suspect (and truly hope) that many of his voters felt sick to their stomachs when they cast their ballots for Moore, but felt that his political alignment with their own views outweighed his deviant ideas and behaviors.

If Jones (and Democrats across the country) are smart, they will use Republicans’ disdain for Moore as a means of opening the door to conversations that might start with this:

“We acknowledge that Doug Jones won his seat with the help of people who reject many of his positions. We acknowledge that he won in spite of some of his positions rather than because of them. And we realize that some people voted for Moore in spite of their disgust with some of his philosophies and his history because they concluded his representation of their political views outweighed their concerns.   Let’s talk about areas in which we can find common ground with both groups of voters. How can we respond to their concerns about representation? How can we demonstrate that we will actually listen to them? How can we remain steadfast on our underlying principles, yet make room for compromise and accommodation?”

The first step is to attempt to get the various factions of the Democratic Party to talk to one another and reach compromise so that the factions do not tear themselves and the party apart. The far left and more moderate and even right-leaning factions seem unwilling to take steps toward compromise. Unless that happens, the same thing that is happening to the Republican Party will happen to Democrats.

If we learn from mistakes made by others, we can avoid making those mistakes. Democrats should learn from Republicans.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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