Matt Bruenig: What Actually Happened in Alabama?

Yves here. While the plural of anecdote is not data, your humble blogger is nevertheless patting herself on the back for having repeatedly pointed out that the sea of Doug Jones signs in all or heavily white neighborhoods in Birmingham shortly before the Senate special election was significant.

And the post election emphasis on the black vote is more Democratic Party promoting its own strategy in the face of facts. 69% of Alabama’s population is white, per the Census Bureau. Interestingly, Matt Bruenig finds that blacks are overrepresented among voters relative to their representation in the population, although that may be the result of age-related factors.

In other words, while blacks turning out at high levels for a special election was important, there was no way Jones could win without significant support from whites. And as Brunig shows, the swing in the white vote was what was responsible for Jones’ win, contrary to that the Might Wurlitzer of orthodox opinion has been pumping out.

By Matt Bruenig, who writes about politics, the economy, and political theory, with a focus on issues that affect poor and working people. He has written for The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The Atlantic, The New Republic, The American Prospect, In These Times, Jacobin, Dissent, Salon, The Week, Gawker and at his home base of sorts: Demos’ Policy Shop. Follow him on Twitter: @mattbruenig. Originally published at his website

The overwhelming mainstream narrative of Doug Jones’s victory over Roy Moore in Alabama has been focused on black turnout. Here is the New York Times:

According to CNN exit polling, 30 percent of the electorate was African-American, with 96 percent of them voting for Mr. Jones. (Mr. Jones’s backers had felt he needed to get north of 25 percent to have a shot to win.) A remarkable 98 percent of black women voters supported Mr. Jones. The share of black voters on Tuesday was higher than the share in 2008 and 2012, when Barack Obama was on the ballot.

But if you actually look at the exit polling, it is pretty clear that the real story of Jones’s victory was not inordinate black turnout but rather inordinate white support for the Democratic candidate.

In the following table, I have compiled the black share of the electorate, black support for Democrats, and the election result for the 2008, 2012, and 2017 Alabama elections. These are the last three years in which this kind of exit polling exists and these are the exit polls the NYT references in the quotation above.

The black share of the electorate and black support for Democrats are virtually unchanged across the three elections, but the outcome in the last election is wildly different.

Here is the same table for white voters.

The white share of the electorate is virtually unchanged, but white support for the Democrat changes dramatically, rising all the way to 30 percent in the Jones-Moore election. This white swing towards the Democratic candidate is basically solely responsible for the fact that Jones won rather than losing by over 20 points, which is the typical outcome of a statewide Alabama election that features this level of black turnout.

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  1. The Rev Kev

    My own personal take, from 16,000 kilometers away, is not that it was a matter of black and white voters or rich and poor voters but something that is a bit more simpler and it is this. If you stand a reasonable, moderate candidate against a raging nut job, then the majority of the times the moderate will win. If you stand a vile, corrupt candidate up against a raging nut job, then there is an even chance that the raging nut job will win. Alabama is an example of the former and the US itself in 2016 an example of the later.

    1. WobblyTelomeres

      You are too kind. Truthfully, if Roy Moore hadn’t (allegedly) molested underage girls, he would have won. He would still be a raging nut job (or as Lambert describes him, a swivel-eyed loon).

      I think that the future of Alabama politics is controlled by white millennials, though. I certainly would like to see how Moore fared among that segment. From conversations with my sons and their friends, it appears the Republican party is widely recognized as a confederacy of contemptible dunces.

      1. digi_owl

        While i am glad to see sanity prevail, it worries me that allegations of a sexual nature is what it takes to get people to sit up and take notice.

        Even worse in that we are talking allegations, not a court delivered verdict of guilt.

        All this suggests that witch hunts still work in the modern day.

            1. ArcadiaMommy

              He has no business on a horse that’s for sure. I thought she was going to buck him off when he started yanking both reins (in different directions no less). No such luck tho.

                  1. ArcadiaMommy

                    I was told Sassy may be a Paso fino, a very fancy sort of horse (also very small….hmmmm….). They have a smooth gait that is good for inexperienced riders. Sadly I was also told that she may have “been gaited” where her tendons were surgically altered to force her into the smooth gait. :(
                    I looked up Dukakis in a tank – HAHAHAHA.

                    1. Saylor

                      The horse ‘minced’ it’s steps like a Paso Fino but I don’t believe that the Paso Finos have paint horse colorings. (I could be wrong. My experience was with Peruvian Pasos which do not have that coloring). Or it could be a cross. Kinda big for a Paso Fino, too small for a Missouri Fox Trotter.Either way, his riding ‘seat’ is terrible.

      2. Wukchumni

        “it appears the Republican party is widely recognized as a confederacy of contemptible dunces.”


      3. Tony Wright

        A Confederacy of Contemptible Dunces. I think you have nailed it, or them. Certainly more accurate than that arrogant moniker of GOP.
        I hope the acronym CCD takes off – maybe someone more social media active than myself should feed this into Trump’s twitter account……Just Sayin’

        1. Brian M

          I prefer “Hezbollah” to describe the GOP. Without the effective social welfare programs or often legitimate grievances, of course

    2. Samuel Conner

      A sad irony is that in 2016, many establishment Ds, including IIRC the Clintons themselves, were hoping for a DJT primary win on the theory that they would get the kind of result that Jones got this year.

      1. The Rev Kev

        Yeah to that. It’s like the old saying: Be careful what you wish for – you just might get it!

      2. digi_owl

        Complete with a late game attempt at a witch hunt aimed at the opposition candidate, that carried on even after the result were final.

        It is an ugly world when mere allegations of some behavior can be enough to turn the public against someone. It all reeks of McCarthyism.

      3. Phyllis Goodman

        The Clintons, or the Clinton campaign anyway, didn’t just “hope,” they actively worked for it, with their utterly cynical “Piped Piper strategy.”

    3. mpalomar

      Yes that sums it up. There is not much consolation in Moore’s narrow loss for those hoping the deep south in particular but the country in general might having shaken off its hallucinatory vision of what American governance should look like.

      How would a regional Bernie Sanders type candidate have done in Alabama in a general election against Moore? The NPR barber interview linked a few days ago raises the question by suggesting Jones was largely silent on the issues that mattered (to that man) and therefore how a more vocal advocate for the poor, public education, universal health care would have fared against Moore.

      1. MDS

        I’m not sure if that’s entirely fair, he was very vocal on access to healthcare (especially for lower income citizens) and made it really the core policy piece of his campaign. One of his other major policy pieces (job retraining) also for into that mold pretty nicely. He didn’t frame things as starkly as rich v poor, but had a pretty traditional (I.e., not neoliberal) democratic message.

        1. mpalomar

          That’s interesting and hopeful that a candidate might even try to push issues like single payer, pro union, anti right-to-work, $15 minimum wage and do even better against Moore.

          The NC story on Jones’ win put it this way, “Admittedly, this was more a vote against the horrorshow of Roy Moore than a strong endorsement for Jones, who didn’t stand for much beyond being the other guy.”

          I am likely unfairly judging Alabama and the deep south from another country and without the context of cable news and the MSM reporting, just assuming the standard Democratic Party line of saying little concrete on issues while inflating a giant, empty promise balloon of hope and change.

      2. Lambert Strether

        I think we need to broaden the focus from individual races to the success of the party as a whole. There’s no reason why a strong message even in a losing race won’t make other candidates in other races more successful.

        Of course, the consultants would hate that, because they’re paid to win races, not help the party (let alone the voters).

        1. whiteylockmandoubled

          Except, of course, they get paid over and over again even when they lose.

          Democratic consultants are like conservatism. They never fail. They can only be failed.

        2. mpalomar

          Yes but as you say that assumes another sort of politic than the US. How deeply corrupt it is and how salvageable are both debatable.
          Nader and Kucinich were strong messages in losing races, they were disappeared as was their message. The cleansing of the party after McGovern-Eagleton and the reanimation by Dr Frankenstein has led to among other things hard questions about the village itself.

        1. JBird

          Also having candidates who are decent human beings who actually care about all their constituents? That goes far with many. I think Sanders’ greatest asset was just that. One could agree or disagree with his policies, but it seems he would be working for the people rather than for himself and for the money.

        2. Harold

          I understand that former Alabama governor George Wallace, apart from his repellant racist demagoguery, was quite a New Dealer.

          1. JBird

            Wallace had some decent qualities, but yeah a big time racist ideologue; a New Dealer, but only for the whites, which was very common in the South. One of the reasons redlining started was that the New Deal money for buying houses would go only to whites and not to blacks. Or how Social Security had carve outs for some jobs that were mainly done by blacks, like field worker or maid. FDR needed Southern support to get his New Deal programs through, and those Southern politicos would not support programs giving aid to blacks, even if it would help whites.

            What made President Johnson different was that he supported, and managed to get passed programs for everyone. FDR became President just after the Nadir of race relations, which could be pegged to the 1920s, so he had a harder time trying to have the New Deal cover everyone.

          2. mpalomar

            Yes I’ve heard that as well but that raises the more disturbing question of who he was playing to; not the money like Clinton-Obama but tragically and more likely, the strange and fervid beliefs of the electorate.

        3. Pookah Harvey

          Jimmy Dore interviewed a Progressive that ran for the DNC chair. He has decided to run as a Republican and primary a Republican Representative in Ohio. The interesting thing is that he states his progressive ideas are accepted by everyday working Republicans much more readily once there is an “R” behind his name. This is an interesting concept. Should the Bernie people try to take over both parties?

          The big problem is Nader’s two headed snake, the two parties differ on only social issues and both essentially have a similar neo-liberal economic policy. What is needed is a new two headed snake where the contention could still be social issues but both parties agree on a progressive economic platform. It will be interesting to see how far this guy gets.

        1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

          My take is that even on the coattails of the most ridiculous, vile, juvenile, unhinged, terrifying, misogynistic, and stupid former TV salesman president, and with a racist accused pedophile as candidate, it was still a race.
          The contest between R’s and D’s is generally between something and nothing, in this case the D’s had some “something”, a reasonable candidate who knew how not to blow it. That is rarely the case. People listen to R’s and may only agree with 20% of what they say but vote for them anyway. Because when they listen to D’s they hear the most unintelligible and empty generalities and platitudes combined with the ever more divisive stuff about gender and race combined with “we’re not him!”. Yep, that’s right, you’re not him. You’re nothing. Nature abhors a vacuum.

    4. Amfortas the Hippie

      yeah. hope springs eternal,lol.
      see “Tea Party”.
      or anybody that won state office in Texas in the last 10-20 years or so.
      stupid and hateful is a growth industry.

  2. Mrs Smith

    Ah, thanks for this. I was actually wondering what the raw numbers were for voters of each race, since it looked odd that the white vote, while still overwhelmingly for the GOP, it seemed to me, made a significant shift over to the DEM side. Yes, a majority of white voters in Alabama still voted Republican, but not at nearly as high a percentage as usual.

    I am all for keeping the issues of voter suppression and gerrymandering at the top of the agenda (my home state of NC has a major problem with this as well), but I am annoyed that it’s become very easy for why pippo to excoriate ALL whites for being dumb Trump voters who vote against their own interests.

    1. mle detroit

      What was “why pippo” supposed to be? Whatever it is, “why pippo” is a very appealing substitute. ?

      1. DF

        I think “why pippo” is supposed to be a cheeky term for “White people”. I’ve usually seen it as “yt” or “yipipo” or something similar.

        1. fresno dan

          mle detroit
          December 16, 2017 at 10:44 am
          Using your suggested translation for “why pippo” to “white people” and inserting it into the sentence of question, it would read:
          “…but I am annoyed that it’s become very easy for white people to excoriate ALL whites for being dumb Trump voters who vote against their own interests.”

          That is beyond my understanding. Maybe it is suppose to be a euphemism for “white progressive?”

          1. Mrs Smith

            Ypippo is a term used quite a bit by PoC as a sort of derogatory term, and expression of exasperation for those who “just don’t get it,” and it’s often aimed at white women in particular for being oblivious adherents to second wave feminism, and never being sufficiently intersectional. I used my own version mostly to be cheeky about the subject of the story.

            The Root had an interesting article about Ypippo not being thankful enough for black Alabamians, which I would never comment on “publicly,” but their math was wonky, and failed to point out that in raw numbers, more African Americans in Alabama did vote DEM in the senate race, and more whites voted for the GOP candidate, but, it was in fact a significant percentage of white women who would traditionally vote GOP, who instead voted for the DEM that pushed Jones to a win.

            As I stated above, I think gerrymandering and voter suppression are important issues, and I’d like to see everyone who is eligible to vote, to actually be able to vote, so I’m not going to quibble about who “won” the victory in Alabama. Jones won, that’s great and everyone who made the effort to get out and vote for him should be acknowledged. It was a group effort.

              1. Amfortas the Hippie

                you’re chanelling Diogenes to perfection, of late.
                I, for one, would like to see less emphasis on such things…white(pink), black, brown, purple…we all gotta eat.
                we also all gotta feel like there’s some point to it all.
                Would that there were some large organisation that could help with things like that…
                I expect Mr Jones to be as banal and wishy-washy as the rest of them.
                I’ll bet a ripe tomato(in January) that we soon find him voting with repubs on some egregious betrayal of Lib/Prog Ideals.

  3. Wade Riddick

    This is a flawed reading of the data. Of course black turnout was heavy in 2008 and 2016. These were presidential elections – with an historic black candidate at the top of the ticket, no less. It’s very significant that an otherwise low turnout midterm got black turnout numbers up to that presidential level – and not even a midterm but a special election.

    You have to compare black turnout levels from other midterms to get comparable numbers. The midterm electorate tends to be whiter, wealthier and better educated. There’s simply less as stake and so the cost of voting looms relatively larger in the individual voter calculus. That cost is going to hit harder those who are poorer and relatively car-less.

    But the bottom line in a 2% margin victory is that every group is crucial to victory.

    The real story here is that 300,000-400,000 voters were disenfranchised. Convicted felons weren’t informed of their restored rights to vote. Voter I.D. wound up suppressing a number of voters too. (Funny how no one ever asks you to show an I.D. when you pay all those taxes. Whatever happened to no taxation without representation?)

    Most of those votes, if cast, would go to Doug Jones – maybe stretching his margin of victory to double digits. Even without Roy Moore on the ballot, a Democrat could be properly competitive if Jim Crow II were dealt with. Republicans cheat because it works.

    To those who say, well, Roy Moore won’t be on the ballot again so don’t get cocky, I say you’re right. He won’t. But Trump will, in some form or another. Trump had better take a look at what those educated whites just did in deep red Alabama. Imagine what they’re going to do in California and New York once they have their SALT and mortgage deductions capped and their kids in grad school get a massive tax hike.

    1. Notorious P.A.T.

      You’re certainly right that turnout level is higher in presidential election years, but I don’t believe that’s relevant here since this article looks at percentage of turnout.

      1. Whiteylockmandoubled

        Wayne Riddick is 100% correct. It’s political science malpractice to compare a 2017 special election to Presidential elections. The literature on turnout among low-income and African-American voting variations between presidential and off-year elections is so copious that it borders on cliche.

        The African-American turnout was very high. That made a big difference. And you can’t win elections in a state with a 69% white majority without some white people voting for you. Duh.

        The real issue is that you can’t draw a whole hell of a lot of conclusions from an election in which one of the candidates is an unrepentant serially-accused pedophile, who the entire opposition party and at least some of his own partisan colleagues have threatened not to seat.

        But Matt’s “analysis” here? Pure baloney.

      2. rpenm

        As a percentage, black turnout usually drops during midterms. As a percentage, black turnout dropped sharply in 2016. The recovery of black turnout for this midterm to Obama election levels is exceptional.

  4. Brendan

    Looks like you’re missing some of the article. But two questions:

    1) Why are you comparing the demographic breakdown of a special election to two general elections, and
    2) Why did you leave out 2016?

  5. Nick

    Matt makes a good point about the net white votes but obviously when it’s so close everything was necessary and that includes black turnout too. A better analysis would focus on vote #s as well which show that D turnout looked like a presidential year while R didn’t, by A LOT.

    Saw something good by 538 iirc where they say Jones over performed by about 30 pts, and broke that down between 10 pts due to national climate, 10 pts due to Jones widely known past (i.e. From pre scandal polling) and 10 due to the pedophilia scandal.

    My big takeaway is that dems should spend a ton to dig up this kind of dirt that sunk Moore. Kind of kidding but this was out there for decades just waiting to be known–and don’t forget Hastert! Other thing is for dsa/or et al to go super heavy in dem primaries so they end up riding the 2018 wave.

    1. a different chris

      I don’t necessarily want to see such a thing, but an anti-abortion/pro-war DSA candidate would have walked off this election. The South is still “Democratic”, in the FDR style way.

      Update: I really, really don’t want to see such a thing. But my point is the Democrats run away from their biggest strength in the South.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Yes, and I don’t think they even had to be pro war, just anti-abortion. A big % of voters in Alabama are one-issue, anti-abortion voters.

        1. fresno dan

          I think most reputable polls* show that about 60% of the US population believes abortion (or pro-choice) should be legal.
          I think the dems would be much more successful if they didn’t have a litmus test on abortion. As you say, Alabama is anti abortion – against a “normal” repub Jones is not going to be able to deflect from his pro-choice position. A dem not being pro choice in Alabama is not going to affect the national consensus. Its almost like dems don’t mind losing….


          and it would be interesting to know where many anti abortion voters are on other issues such as single payer. Just like so many shibboleths of the repubs were repudiated by Trump (Iraq, Bush, saving social security and medicare – and yes – SAYING versus doing are two different things) I wonder how many presumptions about anti abortion voters would not stand a real challenge. It wasn’t that long ago that pro labor anti abortion Catholics were overwhelmingly dems….maybe they would come back. Losing them certainly did not help the blue wall….

    2. John Zelnicker

      @Nick – Rumors of Roy Moore’s peccadilloes have been floating around for years, but none of the women were ready or willing to speak out. The #MeToo movement, I think, has allowed many women, all over the country, to finally feel that they might get a fair shake from speaking out, rather than being put through the wringer of disbelief and further harassment. It was only with the victim’s disclosures that this story could be exposed.

  6. Matthew Cunningham-Cook

    Yeah, generally a big fan of Matt’s but a better comparison to me would be 2010 or 2006 (last competitive offyear elections) than 2008 or 2012, which had heightened turnout because of Obama.

    1. Donald

      I keep seeing people say this, but it simply doesn’t refute Matt’s numbers. You could argue that both black turnout and a change in white voting patterns were crucial for the outcome. It was close. If blacks hadn’t turned out in whatever numbers they did, Moore wins. If whites hadn’t changed their voting pattern, Moore wins and wins big.

      1. RepubAnon

        That’s it: the Democrats need to push back against the “special interest” label pinned on them by the Republicans – and market themselves as the voice of the rest of us against the 0.1%. Pity they let Trump get there first in 2016, as Trump’s pledge to fight for the average guy against the “elites” is what gave Trump his loyal followers.

        The Democrats will have a tough sell on this: they’ve neglected the needs of the average citizen for too long, ruled by memories of the 1970s and 80s (Dukakis, George McGovern, etc…) Back then, the New Deal’s benefits had been so internalized by voters that they forgot what the Republicans would do to them if they regained power. Democrats running on New Deal principles lost to Republicans selling “you’re better than those people, so why should you pay taxes to support them?” Tired of losing elections, the Democrats went “Republican Lite.” Times have changed, so now it’s time to go back to fighting for fairness for everyone.

        NOTE: Throwing minorities and women under the bus to appeal to racists would merely brand the Democrats as untrustworthy sellouts. Democrats need instead to show how fairness for everyone actually helps everyone, and keeping government regulations for boardrooms rather than bedrooms restricts government to its proper sphere.

      2. rpenm

        White counties saw turnout around 55% of 2016 levels. Highly black counties saw turnout around 75% of 2016 levels. Both populations came out in higher numbers than the last Senate midterm in 2014, but it seems like one was more motivated than the other.

  7. Marco

    It’s unfortunate that the Bruenig / Tanden episode from 2016 has most lib trolls (at least on Twitter) standing by to tear his throat out for merely stating the obvious

    his tweet:
    “nothing troubles the lib mind more than when you tell them that women and people of color make up the majority of the republican party, even though it’s so obviously and demonstrably true”

    1. Notorious P.A.T.

      Heh, women make up the majority of almost everything, consisting of 51% of the population as they do.

  8. Potato Guy

    Rev Kev: is your information about the “nut job” solely based on the reports from the media? Or have you met the man, lived in Alabama, experienced the culture or measured the degree of commitment to their cultural beliefs?

    Having run for state level office, I understand the vitriol of the opposition. And having lived in Alabama, I understand the culture.

    Consider that a politician is a slippery character trying to appease many sides and influences. Whereas a fundamentalist Christian stands for something specific and that belief system is attacked.

    Perhaps the white voters didn’t want Alabama to be judged by the media and they chose the easiest path.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Hi. Even in the Antipodes we get news reports from places like Alabama as that election was so newsworthy. My take is what I have personally seen of clips of this bloke in action and most people here were singularly unimpressed. That man should really swap that pony he rides on for a thoroughbred or something that size by the way. And yes, I have horses here.
      And if an Aussie politician pulled out a gun in the middle of a rally here like More did there, the cops would probably arrest him after crash-tackling him. Granted politicians can take on the style of the people that they want to serve but I am willing to bet that the bulk majority of Alabamans are decent people that have never been accused of dealings with underage girls to the point that they have found themselves banned from a shopping mall. Alabama deserves better. Your Republicans there should have gone with a better candidate who would have almost certainly won that election in your state IMHO.

      1. FluffytheObeseCat

        And then there is Moore’s “charitable foundation”, through which he has been paying himself and family a decent salary for a few years, courtesy of politically like-minded donors. Most of whom are from Alabama, and who don’t themselves have anywhere near such nice salaries.

        Even by the standards of Deep South politics, the man is a skank, and many down there know it. The chickenhawk allegations were the cherry on top.

    2. a different chris

      Huh? I don’t think they care that much about “the media”, local, and the national media they basically abhor. I think they didn’t want to be judged by God and thus stayed home. Like they say, there isn’t a monolithic Evangelical group.

      It’s just in our awful system you are always stuck with only three choices, A, B, or abstain.

      1. justsayknow

        Please, don’t make the mistake of believing there is monolithic Alabama. Lots of bright creative caring people there. Hence the results of the election. And they do care about what people think of Alabamans. They have suffered for over fifty years the shame of Bull Connor, George Wallace and the Birmingham bombing. Ironic they have elected the man who successfully prosecuted some of the men guilty of killing four young girls instead of the prosecutor convincingly exposed as a molester of young girls. Alabama’s future is much brighter having done so. And we can thank the good people there.

    3. djrichard

      Perhaps the white voters didn’t want Alabama to be judged by the media and they chose the easiest path.

      That’s how it looks to me … the “concrete material benefit”. Perhaps it’s insurance for judgement day, so they can have the media be their advocates as well?

    1. flora

      Of course they will. I listened to a short snippet of Jones’ victory speech. In thanking his supporters he gave a strong shout out to his Dem political consultant.

      But the three people I need to acknowledge before I go any further, I have the greatest political consultant in the world in Joe Trippi. I know you’re tired of seeing my ads, but they were all Joe’s work and he showed me the way.

      Of course the Dem estab will draw the wrong conclusion, but it’s one that flatters their existing belief system.

  9. Ashburn

    Yes, I worry too that the Dems will draw the wrong lessons from Matt Bruenig’s piece above. We know that Hillary and Schumer’s attempt to mine white suburban Republican votes was a costly disaster. The unique circumstances of a very flawed candidate that repelled a small but significant number of white evangelical voters is not something that can easily be repeated. Black turnout in this special election–despite Republican voter suppression efforts–was a factor that CAN be repeated. Black voters are the most solidly reliable Democratic voters (for the moment) and every effort should be made by Democrats to encourage and reward them for turning out.

  10. Eureka Springs

    It’s way past time to end continuous ignoring of the super majority (what, 64 percent of the AL electorate?) who did not vote. Saying no confidence/none of the above on “election day” the only way they can.

    1. mpalomar

      Yes, the minutia parsing of the chicken intestines to tell us which fraction of the vote pushed a candidate over the top when 60% of voters don’t vote gets us only so far.
      The turnout for the Alabama primaries was in the teens.
      There is not one answer to why turnouts are so low but the undeniable result is that it serves TPTB extremely well.
      In another way a lot depends on the quality of the electorate, Gore Vidal said something like, ‘Half of the American public doesn’t read a newspaper and half doesn’t vote, we can only hope it’s the same half.’

  11. Lambert Strether

    > basically solely responsible

    “Basically solely” doesn’t mean “solely,” which is a good thing in this instance, since I distrust monocausal explanations. For example:

    The Jones campaign should probably send U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby a fruit basket for letting it be known that he would write-in another Republican rather than vote for Moore. Jones used footage of Shelby’s remarks in a TV ad. The result was that write-ins accounted for 1.7 percent of the vote, which is considered a very high percentage in any race; it was under 1 percent in the 2016 presidential race and that was considered unusually high. These 22,819 write-in votes are more than the 20,715 votes that separated Jones and Moore.

    Now, matters would not have fallen out as they did had Bruenig’s voters not voted as they did, so the above is mere quibbling with Bruenig’s thesis. And of course Bruenig’s thesis is a takedown of another monocausal explanation, much beloved by liberal Democrats.

    1. Plenue

      I would say solely is accurate. The margin of victory is so narrow that if enough black voters hadn’t bothered to vote, Moore would have still won. But the percentage who did vote is entirely within the range of variation of at least the last two election cycles. So there’s no reason really to think they weren’t going to show up to vote regardless of any last ditch Democratic outreach drive. So the deciding factor is the significant number of whites who voted for Jones (not to mention the rest of Moore’s 20 point lead that vanished and just didn’t vote at all after the child sex allegations came out).

  12. Plenue

    It’s too late, I fear. The narrative has already been established: the black cavalry swept in and saved both Alabama and the country from a Republican child diddler. Right after the results were in certain parts of the internet, especially on Twitter, were filled with comments to the effect of “I’m white, but seriously f–k white people”.

    Identity politics is a destructive mindworm.

      1. Plenue

        Surely it’s an effective tool because it dulls critical thinking and the ability to consider deeper underlying issues?

        1. JBird

          Yes, it can be used for that , but often the goal is to channel, and contain the thinking from or to whatever, not degrade. Using modern neoliberal economics as an example. The older 19th and early 20th century mainstream political economy were deeper, more comprehensive, and often better at explaining economics. It was also called political economy, and not just economics for that reason.

          There was a real financed campaign to narrow the focus on what we call economics today. Part of that effort was to label people very narrowly as just economic beings, which is what libertarianism is, and to label economic thought outside of it as socialism/communism, which is Stalinism, which is the gulag, which is bad thought. The economists studying this were just as intelligent, thoughtful, and incisive, but the idea, the worm of people=money=economics created a thought stop, or an an un-acknowledgment of anything else, the inability to even see anything else.

          I sometimes think some are against the masses getting any higher education because one is exposed to other ways of thinking, and believing. A student might never change their beliefs, but the mind is expanded for considering the possibilities and at looking at where others are coming from. Those mindworms are also more obvious, and less useful.

          So you could be ninety year blockhead, but if you are willing to listen, to think on what you are exposed to in college, your mind is expanded and strengthen. Which is perhaps the main goal of a liberal arts education. Even a very hard college education will still have some of the same effect.

          1. Plenue

            “The economists studying this were just as intelligent, thoughtful, and incisive, but the idea, the worm of people=money=economics created a thought stop, or an an un-acknowledgment of anything else, the inability to even see anything else.”

            So would you say identity politics is the same thing in reverse? Intelligent people looking at issues from every perspective but that of money and economics?

            1. JBird

              Yes, as it is used now. It can be very important, but what I have against identity politics as it is done today is that it is the first and last answer to everything. Many people can see, they just think one’s identity is paramount. MLK said it best when he talked about being judged for the content of their character rather than the color of their skin.

              Please keep in mind that the identity being used could anything. Your sex, gender, orientation, age, class, religion, anything.

              Today it’s skin color, tomorrow?

  13. Biph

    I have a couple of takeaways, first Moore was running well behind a typical Republican before the sexual misconduct allegations 6-10% ahead of Jones rather than the 15-20% one would expect. Second that this really does show a path for Dems to be competitive and even win in the deep south by carrying 1/4-1/3 of the white vote and holding on to 90% plus of the AA vote. A pro-life (with a sane position on birth control), pro-gun (though not necessarily pro-NRA) economic leftest could rack up a lot of votes in places like MS, AL, LA and SC. I doubt the DNC are smart enough to see this or even want to if they did, but maybe some qualified people with such a belief set will see it and run in Dem primaries for local, State and Federal offices.

    1. marym

      The “smart” Dem can remind the womenfolk that there’s always coat hangers. Well, and prison if they survive and get found out.

      1. Biph

        I’m pro-choice, but if the option is a pro-choice Dem who loses and a pro-life Dem who is Sanders like on the economy and can win I’ll take the latter.

  14. Don Lowell

    Dukakis moment: When I saw that tank pic my heart just sank. All other candidates have had this moment also.
    Gore: His body language at the debates. When he was creeping up on Bush I was saying Hit em George.

    Kerry: Saluting and saying Reporting for duty Sir: I thought OMG.

    Clinton of course is [Deplorables]. When she said that I thought its all over.

  15. whiteylockmandoubled

    Also, fwiw, telling people who are discriminated against every day, everywhere in the U.S. because of the color of their skin – including being locked in cages by the millions – that identity politics is a distracting mindworm may be a somewhat sub-optimal political message to begin building an effective class politics.

    1. Fiery Hunt


      Because identity politics has been working soooo well for those same “people who are discriminated against every day, everywhere in the U.S. because of the color of their skin – including being locked in cages by the millions “.

      The neoliberal “identity politics” of the last several decades (used by both R’s and D’s) is the reason we are the society we are now.

      I say we try judging people by their actions…I’m looking at you, Clintonista wing of the Democratic party!…not their virtue-signaling words.

      1. Plenue

        Racism is one of the manifestations of more fundamental factors. The point is to get people thinking in those terms, instead of the idiotic Ta-Nehisi Coates model where racism is just some wandering force of nature that exists in a vacuum.

        Because otherwise it’s used as a bludgeon to get people to vote for Democrats. “Vote for us, we aren’t racist.”, while the reality is they largely support the same policies that are so detrimental to black well being.

    2. JBird

      Since at least the late 1600s identity politics has been used to split up poor whites from blacks, Indians. There have been numerous attempts to organize across race, class, and in early days religion, which usually, but not always, failed. Often fatally.

      Pointing to the abuse suffered by blacks is necessary especially to push back on the latest conservative identity politics called the alt right. They, like many on the left do, damn people en masse because of a preconceived identity.

      People are people with individual Identities.

  16. nilavar

    I have never witnessed an issue subjected to over analyzed to an extreme aka much ado of NOTHING, if one observes that

    1. Only 35% of eligible Alabama voters participated in the voting!

    2. The ‘write-in candidate’ drew 22,000 votes vs the 21000 votes which put Mr. Jones over Moore!

    The result could have been easily other way around!

  17. Mattski

    This, like the Clinton loss, is perhaps too close an election to lay to any single factor. So while I find this analysis salutary, I don’t necessarily buy it as THE answer. Two others that I would suggest are crucial: the degree of the white vote that was dampened by the ugly news about a candidate it might otherwise have turned out for; and Shelby’s call for write-in. As I went to bed on the night, the number of write-in votes outweighed Jones’s margin.

    A side note: this article suggests that Moore’s church, and a number of Baptist churches, urge older men to cultivate very young brides:

  18. Altandmain

    The key takeaways are:

    1. Had the GOP elected someone slightly less awful, they would have defeated Doug Jones – the vote the GOP was reliant on usually simply stayed home
    2. The Democrats are taking the wrong lessons from this
    3. They may very well end up dangerously complacent in 2018 for the midterms and perhaps in 2020 as well
    4. The GOP never truly backed Moore at all – they were hesitant to do so
    5. Unless they deliver tangible economic benefits for white and black Alabama residents alike, the Democrats have little to offer
    6. There seems to be frustration and well justified anger, in my opinion, at both parties
    7. The mainstream media will spin this the way the plutocrats want
    8. It’s likely the Democrats will double down on identity politics as it is what what their donors want them to do

    It”s a sad situation. I think NC posted a few days ago the appalling situation African Americans faced.

    It’s hard not to compare the politics of America to the corruption that exists in much of the developing world, the massive inequality, the failing infrastructure, and the brutal police forces. Sadly both parties are in bed with the plutocracy and will make it all worse.

    Most people are taking the wrong lessons from this. Moore was barely defeated despite everything. It’s sad and infuriating because all of this corrupt politics has a dramatic impact on the living standards of society.

  19. Paul Hirschman

    So voters in Alabama have given the hapless Dems another chance to say–may even do– something meaningful. Any betting folks on this website?

  20. verifyfirst

    I don’t normally read the NC comments anymore–80% of comments are self-congratulatory snark these days. Surprised the moderators don’t keep that stuff out, it eliminates the utility the Comments section used to have.

    I scrolled through because I have been wondering–how did black voter turnout compare in the 2016 Presidential compared to 2012 and 2008, in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania?

    If 2016 was lower than the other two years, would having black turnout in 2016 at the earlier years’ levels have tipped those three states (which Trump won by a combined 70,000 votes–and thus won the electoral college) to Hillary?

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