From Our Future
Before he became one of the great basketball players of his time, Charles Barkley was a son of the Alabama soil. He went home to help Doug Jones pull off his upset victory against Roy Moore in this week's special Senate election. Here's what he had to say on CNN after Jones was declared the winner:
"This is a wake-up call for Democrats. Democrats, I told Mr. Jones this, and I love Doug, they've taken the black vote and the poor vote for granted for a long time. It's time for them to get off their ass and start making life better for black folks and people who are poor. They've always had our votes and they have abused our votes ... This is a wake-up call for Democrats to do better for black people and poor white people."
Professional Democrats were not nearly as insightful. They overlook some of the most critical lessons of this election, including this one: They might not have won this election at all if Alabama Republicans like Richard Shelby had not encouraged voters to write in other names rather than vote for Roy Moore. As of this writing, the number of write-in votes is greater than Jones' margin of victory.
In other words, Democrats were rescued by a conservative Republican politician. How often is that likely to happen?
And instead of acknowledging this vote as a "wake-up call" for their party after a decade plagued by losses, however, centrist insiders are seizing on it as an opportunity to fortify their hold on an institution they're slowly strangling -- and to take cheap shots at the left.The Cornerstone
Charles Barkley is right: Black voters did play a critical role in Jones' victory. Without them, an accused pedophile would be preparing to assume one of the highest offices in the land. But this begs the question: Why did African American voters turn out in such heavy numbers, despite the barriers thrown in their way by Republicans eager to thwart democracy?
The answer is not yet entirely clear, but a clue can be found in an observation by Washington Post reporter Eugene Scott:
"More than two dozen black voters here said they did not feel inspired to show up for a candidate who they felt did not aggressively pursue their vote. They were moved to wait in line -- some people for hours -- with the goal of keeping Moore from winning."
Their antipathy for Moore certainly understandable. The defrocked judge commented in the runup to the election that the last time America was great was "at the time when families were united -- even though we had slavery -- they cared for one another. Our families were strong, our country had a direction."
He went on to say he thought all constitutional amendments except the first 10 should be repealed -- including the 13th Amendment, which outlawed slavery, and the 14th Amendment, which guaranteed citizenship and equal rights to former slaves. And Moore said he had doubts about President Obama's citizenship, echoing Donald Trump's racist "birther" theory.
African-American voters were also aware of the well-documented claims that Roy Moore sexually abused teenage girls, and they undoubtedly heard his bigoted remarks against Muslims and Jews. Black Alabamians turned out in impressive numbers to save the country from the scourge of a Sen. Roy Moore, and they undoubtedly did so for a number of reasons.
Thank you.The Poor Vote
Barkley is also right when he says this vote is a "wake-up call" for Democrats. They will not always have the good fortune to run against a candidate who reaches Moore's staggering levels of venality, ineptitude, and moral perversion.
Barkley's meaning couldn't have been clearer: Democrats can't take black voters, or poor voters of any race, for granted. They must offer concrete policies to improve their lives. There's not much time to waste, either, either in Alabama or nationwide.
More than 40 million Americans live in poverty, according to the Census Bureau. The U.S. has a higher rate of poverty than any other Western, developed country. And Philip Alston, the UN's Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, recently told a reporter that Alabama's sewage disposal conditions were the worst he'd seen in a developed country. As AL.com reported:
"On Thursday, Alston visited communities in the Black Belt's Butler and Lowndes counties, where residents often fall ill with ailments like E. Coli and hookworm -- a disease of extreme poverty long eradicated in most parts of the U.S. -- in part because they do not have consistently reliable access to clean drinking water that has not been tainted by raw sewage and other contaminants."
Jones carried that part of the state decisively. But how long can Democrats count on being rescued by the very people our government is failing?
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