By: Nia Waller
Online Section Writer
Twitter exploded on Jan. 3, 2018 when Democrat Doug Jones beat Roy Moore for the Alabama Senate seat. In a state like Alabama that is traditionally red, Roy Moore should have seen an easy victory, but Moore’s race was littered with controversy. After announcing his Senate campaign, Moore was followed by several sexual allegations from various young women. Although many of our elected officials, even some in the highest offices, have still won elections with sexual assault allegations following them, Roy Moore’s case was special. Not only was he accused of dating young girls, Moore had been dismissed from two courts for what other judges interpreted as overstepping his bounds on religion stances. After being appointed as the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, Moore installed a 5,200 pound marble statue of the Ten Commandments in the state judicial building. After refusing to take it down, Moore would be unanimously voted off of the court after only two years of service. In 2012, Moore would be elected again to the bench, and ousted again quickly after. In 2016, he was accused of urging Alabama state court judges to defy the Supreme Court decision declaring the right for gay marriage.
Despite a career filled with controversies and failures, Moore found himself backed by the President of the United States, Donald Trump. So, how was Moore defeated? The answer is simple: black people, specifically black women. While immediate exit polls showed that Moore still won 68 percent of the white vote, black people came out overwhelmingly to cast their vote for Doug Jones. Black voters lifted Alabama out of a two decade-long Republican rule. Although black people are only 13 percent of the population in the United States, black people represent 25 percent of Alabama’s population. The Democratic Convention focused on getting the message out about Jones’s time as a crusader against white supremacy, he prosecuted the white men that committed the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church. Black voters were especially energized about keeping Roy Moore, a candidate who proudly referred to the period before the Civil War as “great,” even though we “had slavery,” out of Alabama office.
So, what exactly is the irony in all of this? Most of the Twitter reactions on the Jan. 3 were users “thanking” black women for getting Doug Jones elected. Although the Democratic public and the Democratic Convention does have black women to thank for a shiny new Senate seat, what exactly have politicians done for black people in Alabama, or other Senators elected largely by black vote done for black people lately?
The Democrats have historically relied greatly on the black vote to put and keep them in office. Democrats are practically promised the black vote, without ever doing anything in return. Although the NYPD has stayed in the news for the past decade for beating and even killing its black citizens, New York always clenched a Democratic Senate seat with the help of the black vote. Poverty in Michigan is exponentially linked to the horrible job market for black people and an education system that doesn’t help black kids, but Michigan has remained a blue state since 1992. This phenomenon isn’t just restricted to Senators. While the black population of Atlanta celebrated the election of Keisha Lance Bottoms, one of its many black Democratic mayors, one of her first new polices greatly increased police presence and gentrification in a city that had long asked for the opposite. We get them elected, and they do the bare minimum, or sometimes nothing at all for us.
The last Presidential election helped showcase just how powerful losing the black vote can be. With the divisive words of Donald Trump, the Democratic Party was absolutely certain that they could clinch a win with the help of the black vote in pivotal states like Michigan. When the results came in, narratives poured in about why black voters didn’t turnout for Hillary Clinton as willingly as they did for Barack Obama. The answer was simple: she didn’t align herself with them. Black voters weren’t willing to forgive statements about black men being “super predators,” or her general lack of any true ability to relate to black women or men. Black people are no longer supporting those who don’t truly support them. No, they won’t vote for Republicans, they just won’t vote.
If Doug Jones wants to keep his Senate seat, he has to keep the black vote. Keeping the black vote means supporting the struggling Historically Black Colleges and Universities in Alabama, fixing the classically broken Alabama justice system and fighting voter suppression that barred many black voters from polls. If Jones and other Democrats want to ‘thank’ black women, they need to do it in statutes, not statuses.