Elections have consequences, and the consequences of the 2017 special election are finally catching up with Alabama.
For the first time since he was sworn in, Sen. Doug Jones cast a consequential vote in the eyes of his constituents during his tenure thus far as U.S. Senator.
Last week, Jones was in the “no” column for the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh as Supreme Court associate justice.
When President Donald Trump nominated Kavanaugh, it wasn’t immediately clear Jones would wind up voting against him. It was thought that Jones, along with Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-North Dakota), Joe Donnelly (D-Indiana) and Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia), was in play.
In the end, it was only Manchin who crossed the aisle and voted for confirmation. Manchin’s vote made sense, as he faces an election in less than a month in a GOP-trending state that went for Trump in 2016.
Jones’ “no” vote wasn’t entirely unexpected. Most figured after women leveled allegations of sexual misconduct against now-Justice Kavanaugh (albeit unsubstantiated), the chances of getting a “yes” vote from Jones went from slim to nil.
Here’s the bottom line: He’s a Democrat. He’s doing Democrat things. He’s caucusing with Chuck Schumer and is in the party of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi.
Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), one of the most outspoken opponents of Kavanaugh’s confirmation during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, spent time in Alabama campaigning for Jones. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-California), another outspoken Kavanaugh opponent on the Senate Judiciary Committee, headlined a DSCC fundraiser for Jones.
It seemed highly unlikely Jones would go against all those who rallied for him in 2017.
In the end, it didn’t matter. Kavanaugh was confirmed. However, had both Alabama senators been “yes” votes, we might have avoided some of the dramatic, tense situations.
As they say, in a democracy you get the government you deserve and Alabamians as constituents got what they deserved.
Why be so mad at Jones? You (the collective “you”) elected him.
That 2017 special election win was undoubtedly bipartisan. Counties that were solid wins for Donald Trump in 2016 and had been solid-GOP before that went for Jones over Moore. Jones flipped Madison, Pickens, Tuscaloosa, Talladega, Chambers, Lee, Choctaw, Clarke, Conecuh, Butler, Barbour and “Sweet Home” Mobile counties last year.
That wasn’t a result of turnout alone. That required a certain number of Republican voters crossing over to cast a ballot for Jones.
It’s easy to fault the hijinks in the 2017 special election Republican primary. Some think had Steve Bannon not gotten involved, Alabama’s second U.S. Senate seat would now be occupied by a Republican.
How so? Would Luther Strange have won? Despite Donald Trump making a trip to Huntsville on Strange’s behalf and every country club Republican in Alabama backing “Big Luther,” was it Bannon who foiled these big plans? Not hardly.
Strange’s allies warned off other possible contenders who would have been better candidates than Strange and much better candidates than Roy Moore.
There’s enough blame to go around — ill-advised electioneering that backfired, a lousy candidate and an unprecedented national media onslaught never seen before in Alabama all had to do with Jones’ election win.
When this select group of crossover Republican voters voted for Jones, did they ever think about Supreme Court justice confirmations?
There was little to go on as far as a voting record for Jones, a former U.S. Attorney who made a name for himself prosecuting the 1963 16th Street Baptist Church bombing decades after the fact.
When he was candidate Doug Jones, was there any reason to believe he would have a judicial philosophy that was in line with the strict constructionist view held by most conservatives? Did this thought even cross the minds of voters, or was it just overwhelmed by the “Anybody But Roy Moore!” fixation?
Furthermore, is it even plausible that had Jones voted for Kavanaugh, in two years when Alabama goes to vote for U.S. Senate that it would have made a difference?
The 2020 Republican U.S. senatorial nominee is bound to bring up this moment in history in a contest against an incumbent Jones. Emotions won’t be running as hot then. Alabamians won’t be as motivated by a two-year-old SCOTUS nomination fight.
To think that he would be persuaded to go against his left-leaning instincts by an election more than two years away is foolish. He’s a Democrat who is doing Democratic things, and he was elected by a majority of Alabama voters on one given day.
Voting for Jones, or a “distinguished Republican write-in” as Democrat-turned-Republican Sen. Richard Shelby did, came with a price tag. The bill came due last week.
The good thing is, it didn’t break the bank and result in a denied confirmation for an otherwise qualified jurist.
Don’t get mad at Jones. As the old fable goes, when the scorpion asks a frog to carry it across a river, and the frog hesitates, afraid of being stung, the frog should have complied with that initial instinct.
Jones said he was his own man and not beholden to a political party, and there’s no reason to believe he wasn’t sincere when he said it.
As the fable continues, the frog agrees to transport the scorpion, but midway across the river the scorpion does indeed sting the frog, dooming them both. When the frog asks the scorpion why he stung him, the scorpion replies that it was in its nature to do so.
Jones might not have gone against what polling data told us about the sentiment of most Alabamians and voted against Kavanaugh for pure party loyalty. But as a Democrat, it was in his nature to do so, and you can’t fault him for that.