Support 110 years of independent journalism.

  1. World
13 December 2017

What does Doug Jones’s narrow win in Alabama mean for the Democrats’ future?

It has big consequences for the party’s hopes of taking control of the Senate.

By Stephen Bush

Doug Jones, a Democrat, has won the vacant Senate seat of Alabama, the first Democratic victory in a quarter-century in one of the United States’ reddest states, defeating Roy Moore, who had been repeatedly accused of sexual offences with young women and girls, including those as young as 14.

Jones narrowly defeated Moore, taking 49.9 per cent of the vote against 48.4 per cent. To give you an idea of the scale of the victory – the last time this seat was up for grabs, the Republican incumbent Jefferson Sessions won unopposed. It’s a reminder both of the astonishing scale of American, particularly GOP partisanship but that it does, at least, have limits.

Jones’s victory had two sources: differential abstention, with black voters turning out at a significantly higher rate than white ones, and a small but significant number of white voters making the direct switch from Republican to Democrat.

While the credible accusations leveled against the defeated Moore mean that this was a contest with a lot going on that will not be replicated at a nationwide level in the midterms in 2018, it has big consequences for Democratic hopes of taking control of the Senate.

The Democrats face a formidably difficult map in November, where they are defending 23 seats, many in red states, and attacking just eight. (A further two seats are held by independents, Angus King and Bernie Sanders, who caucus with the Democrats.)

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

Read more: This is a blow for Donald Trump – but Democrats can’t get carried away

Before last night, they needed to make three gains, a big ask given the historically Republican-leaning states they need to win. Just one of those eight Republican holds is in a state that the Democrats won in 2016, Nevada, and the next most plausible target, Arizona, they haven’t won at a presidential level since 1996 or at a Senate level since 1988. This gives you an idea of the scale of the challenge.

But in gaining Alabama the Democrats have turned their hopes of winning a Senate majority from an impossibility to a longshot, but plausible task. As someone famous once said: just rejoice at that news.

Content from our partners
<strong>What you need to know about private markets </strong>
Work isn't working: how to boost the nation's health and happiness
The dementia crisis: a call for action