Democrat Doug Jones won the 2017 Alabama senate race. Illustration by Zack Spanier | Mustang News

Chase Dean is a political science senior and Mustang News columnist. The views expressed in this column do not reflect the viewpoints and editorial coverage of Mustang News. 

The Alabama special election race between Democrat Doug Jones and Republican Roy Moore was one of the most watched senate races in recent years. The implications of this race are profound for both Democrats and Republicans in 2018, a crucial election year for both parties.

After Jeff Sessions became the attorney general, a special election was called for Dec. 12, 2017 to fill the vacancy of Sessions’ vacant Senate seat. After a tight race, Jones emerged victorious, defeating Moore by a margin of approximately 1.5 percent. Much of Jones’ success was attributed to factors such as the incredible turn-out rate of African American women, who voted 98 percent in favor of Jones. Additionally, the sexual assault allegations that came out against Moore drove down his popularity, giving an advantage to Jones.

After winning the presidency with a candidate who propelled himself to the position by spouting rhetoric full of racism and xenophobia, the Republican Party seemed mostly untouchable. However, the Alabama special election indicated that the Republican Party can no longer run similar candidates, even in deep red states once thought to be secure. Clearly, many voters care about the character of the candidate, based on polling numbers. When the sexual assault allegations came forth against Moore, there was a 9-point slip in the polling numbers in favor of Jones despite Moore having a strong advantage. This should and hopefully will send a message to Republicans that voters do actually care about the candidates’ character and perpetrators of sexual assault will no longer be tolerated in the 2018 political arena.

Democrats have every right to celebrate this monumental win but need to take the time to prepare for the 2018 elections. It seems there is a growing enthusiasm for Democrats across the country. Typically, Democrats have a better chance of winning with candidates close to center, but they should take advantage of this wave to run progressive candidates. The current Democratic base is eager to have more progressive candidates. Prominent figures like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren continue to rise in popularity. Additionally, the progressive platform in itself  resonates with many voters due to the inclusive nature of the beliefs and values such as the emphasis on social and economic justice.

While it may be a bit of a stretch to use what occurred in Alabama as a predictor for future races, I don’t think the implications should be ignored entirely. It seems Democrats are likely to take the House of Representatives back in 2018. Seeing Democrats have a 5-point lead in the generic ballot is evidence pointing in this direction, especially considering the substantial gap. As for the Senate, however, it seems it will more or less remain the same or at the very least be a much tougher battle for Democrats. If history is any indicator of how an election may swing, typically the party in the majority loses midterm elections, with the 2010 and 2014 elections serving as prime examples. In other words, the Republican Party should be concerned about the 2018 midterm election.

Nonetheless, Democrats and Republicans both have lessons to learn from the Alabama special election and should move swiftly to prepare for what lies ahead in 2018.

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