For the most part, Doug Jones has been a decent U.S. Senator for Alabama.
Republicans and conservatives would prefer he voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court back in 2018. We also would prefer he had not gone all-in on the abortion issue and at least approached it with a degree of nuance.
Once you get past the “D” next to his name and some of his left-of-center policy opinions (none of which, beyond judicial appointments, have been a factor), Jones has done well in representing the people of Alabama.
From here until November, it will be tricky for Jones as he faces an uphill climb to re-election. For the Birmingham Democrat to win a full six-year term, he’ll have to overcome straight-ticket Republican voters with President Donald Trump at the top of the ballot.
Over the next 10 months, Alabama’s junior Democrat U.S. Senator will have to convince a majority of Alabamians somehow not to vote a straight-ticket ballot and justify his vote against Kavanaugh. It might also help his effort if Republicans have a hard-fought battle in the selection of their nominee.
Jones will be the best-funded Democrat the GOP has faced in a statewide election in more than a decade. Being an incumbent U.S. Senator comes with many perks and privileges, one of which is the opportunity to fundraise.
This is where things become complicated for Jones. Jones’ unlikely 2017 special election win over Roy Moore has made him something of a folk hero for Democrats. However, his unwillingness to commit to voting for President Trump’s removal during an impeachment trial has made him a target of the institutional left.
During an interview last month on ABC’s “This Week,” Jones left open the possibility of him voting to acquit Trump.
“What I’m trying to do — because, quite frankly, I didn’t sit in front of the TV set the entire time the last two or three months — I have been trying to read this,” he said. “I have been trying to see if the dots get connected. If that is the case, I think it’s a serious matter. I think it’s an impeachable matter. But if those dots aren’t connected, and there are other explanations that I think are consistent with innocence, I will go that way, too.”
In the wake of those remarks, you saw a concerted public relations campaign to emphasize Jones’ non-committal on impeachment. That led to several national media outlets pointing it out and highlighting how upset some Democrats in Alabama would be if Jones did not go along with his party on Trump’s impeachment.
It’s not necessarily problematic for the impeachment effort. The conviction and removal of Trump from office was a long-shot proposition from the get-go. Jones’ vote is not going to make or break this endeavor.
Democrats do want to show a unified front in their quest to unseat Trump in 2020. National Democrats want to say Trump is so terrible and such a threat to the well-being of the country that even Doug Jones, the most vulnerable of vulnerable Democrats, had to put politics aside and vote for his removal.
Their Republican adversaries must be branded as Trump sycophants because no rational human being could support the big bad orange man who occupies the Oval Office.
If Democrats lose a few votes in the Senate, that branding becomes a little more complicated. That’s why you see what appears to be a behind-the-scenes push to steer Jones toward voting to remove Trump from office.
For Jones, it has other implications. As far as fundraising, big national Democrat donors inside the Beltway, Hollywood and on Wall Street will be reluctant to give money to a Democratic candidate who is not entirely on board with impeachment.
Pro-impeachment Democrats who want Jones’ vote want those donors to know he is wishy-washy on Trump’s removal. The calculus is it might pressure Jones to lean toward impeachment if it means more money for his re-election bid.
Consider this: Why are members of the media putting such a focus on what Doug Jones may or may not do regarding impeachment, and not Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who also might vote against conviction and removal?
Manchin will not be up for re-election until 2024.
For Republicans, it would be somewhat of a symbolic coup to swing a couple of Senate Democrats their way against impeachment. Jones’ vote only matters in how it is used in the overall impeachment narrative.
Either way, Jones has done the right thing to say he is keeping an open mind regarding impeachment. He is representing the interests of Alabama and re-election politics be damned — at least for now.
It does beg the question, though: How many voters in Alabama’s general election will be swayed one way or another based on the vote Jones casts for or against Trump’s removal?
Whatever the answer to that question is, it does not seem to be a factor in Doug Jones’ leanings on impeachment, and that is a good thing.
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