Common Sense And Decency Prevail In Alabama

Roy Moore, Accused Of Molesting A 14-Year Old Girl, Loses To Democrat Doug Jones In Deep Red Alabama

As we’ve been saying, you can’t win without winning. And this is a big win for Democrats (not to mention decency). For several reasons. The most important being it’s a win. Not almost a win. Not a narrower-than-expected loss. An honest-to-God win. A win that narrows Republicans’ margin in the Senate to 51-49.

Democrats showing they can still put wins together if they have the will. Yes, they had a terrible candidate to run against. At the same time, their candidate, Doug Jones, a really decent person, proved incredibly skillful and resilient. He did a lot of good old-fashioned campaigning, coupled with strong grass roots and door-to-door efforts. His campaign also took a lot of care to make sure it never appeared the candidate was co-opted by out-of-state interests: as we noted, national political figures and celebrities (except Joe Biden) didn’t really enter the picture until the last weekend, and charges from Trump and others that Jones was a “Pelosi puppet” simply didn’t stick.


Senator-Elect Doug Jones (D) Alabama


Jones won many large cities, and an overwhelming number of black voters, which was ultimately one of two keys to his victory. According to the Washington Post, Jones even did slightly better than Obama among African-Americans, with 96% of the vote (Obama got 95% in 2012).

Source: Washington Post


One thing that was thought to be essential to a Jones victory that didn’t really happen was white voters staying away from the polls. They came, and still mostly voted for Moore. (Although Jones got 30% of their vote compared to 15% for Obama). Despite the multiple allegations of unwanted sexual advances, Moore still won the vote of 2/3rds of white women.

The other key to Jones’ victory was the relatively small, but ultimately significant number of write-in votes. Enough that if you assume all the write-in votes would’ve supported any other Republican candidate, they would’ve tipped the election the other way (although the margin would’ve been very small). Alabama’s senior Senator, Republican Richard Shelby, revealed late in the race he’d written in a candidate because he “couldn’t vote for Roy Moore”, and that might’ve proven decisive.


Source: NY Times


Democrats can walk away with something to feel good about: a winning effort that now needs to be  turbo-charged for 2018. As Robert Costa in the Washington Post put it: “more than anything, there is joy”.

In his victory speech, Jones quoted Martin Luther King saying “The moral arc of this Universe is long, but it bends towards justice“. Let’s hope and pray and work for that.

Here’s some of Jones’ speech:

Moore didn’t have a concession speech, because he said he’s not conceding. His campaign manager preceded him on stage, telling his folks that any election in Alabama with a margin of victory of less than .5% is automatically subject to a recount. Except the margin is a lot more than .5%. Which left a lot of people scratching their heads…

Moore himself appeared bewildered and bedraggled, repeatedly implying that God would intervene: “Wait patiently for the Lord” he told his constituents.  You can watch the whole untidy mess here:

The result is clearly a blow to Steve Bannon who championed Moore as the first of many in his effort to get more Right-wing radicals elected to Congress. Will he have less success now of getting professional rabble-rousers nominated if Republican voters don’t see them as viable in general elections?


Moore and Steve Bannon


Establishment Republicans (not wildly popular themselves), definitely smell blood in the water. They are quickly attempting to close ranks around President Trump, while casting Moore and Bannon out. A perfect example is a statement from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s former Chief of Staff who now runs a Republican Super PAC. He said: “This is a brutal reminder that candidate quality matters regardless of where you are running. Not only did Steve Bannon cost us a critical Senate seat in one of the most Republican states in the country, but he also dragged the President of the United States into his fiasco.



Trump’s Initial Response? Surprising.

Here’s the President’s Tweet (coming shortly after major networks declared Jones the winner):

This came before Moore announced he was not conceding, which would indicate the two were not in communication.

Trump can no longer point to his perfect record in national elections as one of the major accomplishments of his first year in office.

And early this morning, Trump took a more predictable tack (exactly the one we predicted), pointing out that he actually predicted Moore would lose:

Regardless, can Trump now truly cleanse himself of his cynical embrace of a repugnant individual who was always a “loser” and now literally is?



The Gillibrand Tweet

Here’s the other Trump Tweet everyone’s talking about:

That led to a lot of debate, running the gamut from “is it sexist?”, “is it sexually suggestive?”, “did Trump just make the junior Senator from New York the front runner for Democratic nominee for President in 2020?”

Can we all agree it’s completely gratuitous regardless of what’s he’s actually talking about?

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said you’d read sexual innuendo into it “only if your mind is in the gutter“. Right.

You can watch that brief exchange with her here:

USA Today, which we’ve pointed out has suddenly gotten quite aggressive in its editorial page, published a scathing rebuke of Trump following this Tweet, saying “A president who would all but call Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand a whore is not fit to clean the toilets in the Barack Obama Presidential Library or to shine the shoes of George W. Bush“.


Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) NY


Several accounts described Trump as “counter-punching”. We don’t believe it’s counter-punching, we believe it’s hubris: and this could turn out to be a milestone for Trump. While his main motivation seems to be lashing out at Senator Gillibrand (who was widely praised and also criticized for hastening Al Franken’s resignation), the bigger message seems to be the President feels completely comfortable deriding one of the most significant topics of the day, in which he too is implicated, saying, in effect, he can’t be touched. Well, can he?



Trump’s Very “Special” Tax Plan Zips Through Congress

Now that Republicans have lost a seat in the Senate, watch for them to accelerate their efforts to pass tax reform before Doug Jones is seated, which means by the end of the year. Chances are they were going to do that anyway, but what was a self-imposed deadline is suddenly more hard and fast.

You probably haven’t heard much about the tax bill since Republicans in the House and Senate voted to take it to conference to iron out differences. That’s by design. While negotiators don’t formally meet until today, they’ve been working behind the scenes, (and also working to stay out of the spotlight). Roll Call says both groups of Republican legislators are optimistic they can walk into their meeting today with agreements on big issues already in place.  (Although as we saw with the last-minute scribbled notes in the Senate’s version of the tax bill, nothing’s final until the bill is passed).

And late last night several reports of solid progress in 3 key areas:


Chief House Tax Negotiator Kevin Brady (R) Texas. While we dislike the tax bill, we do respect him: this is not a job for the faint-hearted


Trump today will make what the White House called a “closing argument to the American people on tax reform”.  He’s also done a limited amount of cheerleading on Twitter:

And the President has already declared “[working families will] be making so much money you are not going to know what to do with it.”

But he’d better top even that, because every day that goes by, it becomes clearer why Republicans are  racing to get the thing through: people are increasingly waking up to the fact that it’s a huge tax break only for corporations and the rich. The middle class gets a hundred bucks or so thrown its way for a few years, courtesy of upper middle class taxpayers in blue states, and then even that disappears. USA Today, which is not typically known for having strong opinions on things, calls the tax plan “grossly unfair” and says it is something Republicans will live to “regret”.

Still, opposition hasn’t really mobilized the same way it did with health care over the summer. Are people too busy because of the holidays? Distracted? Or just adjusted to the “new normal”?



The Man Who Appointed Mueller Appears Before Some Conspiracy-Minded Representatives Today

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein set to testify in front of the House Judiciary Committee. And for some Republicans, he’s a lightning rod for their accusations of an anti-Trump bias among those investigating Trump/Russia ties. That’s because he appointed Special Counsel Robert Mueller, after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation. (Trump must be thinking what a deal: not only is he perpetually irritated with Sessions, the Senate seat Sessions held was just won by a Democrat!)

Even before Rosenstein’s said a word, Florida Republican Matt Gaetz, who’s on the committee, (and who got in Trump’s ear when he hitched a ride on Air Force One to Florida last week) says he sees “bias against the President…at the FBI’s and Justice Department’s highest levels”. He’s previously said Mueller is planning a “coup” in his view.


Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein



Quiet Diplomacy Leads To Progress On North Korea

The Guardian reporting Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says the U.S. is now ready to have talks with North Korea “without preconditions”, or actually just one: that North Korea hold off on further missile launches for some period of time. Exactly how long he did not specify. But that’s a big change: previously the U.S. said it’d only sit down with North Korea if they were willing to discuss giving up their nuclear program altogether.

We reported to you just a couple of days ago that North Korea, through channels, indicated they would be open to talks with the U.S.

Of course the big question is whether Trump will “big foot” Tillerson and undermine any progress he may make. Last time Tillerson made similar, though less generous overtures, Trump jumped in and stymied his efforts in a single Tweet, saying “I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man…”


North Korean rocket launch in late August