Doug Jones has become the first Democrat to win a Senate seat in the southern US state of Alabama in 25 years, narrowly defeating Republican Roy Moore. Political scientist Andrew Denison is not surprised at the outcome.
DW: How was it possible that a Democrat was elected to the US Senate in the very conservative state of Alabama?
Andrew Denison: I think it was a reaction to this particular candidate, Roy Moore, and to all of his misdemeanors and moral failings. But it was also a reaction to Donald Trump and the brutal style of politics that he has introduced. I think it was a reaction to racism — black voter turnout was partly responsible for Jones' victory. In the end, it shows that it can all become too much — even for people in places like Alabama — and people ultimately react by delivering unexpected electoral results.
President Trump endorsed Roy Moore, whereas some Republican leaders had distanced themselves from him. Would the result have been different if Moore had not been the candidate?
It certainly would have. Moore's character was the determining factor, thus, not only did we see a vote against Republicans, but also a vote by Republicans against this particular type of politics.
Was this an isolated case or is the Republican establishment as a whole beginning to turn on Trump?
That is the big question. But if we look at the sum total of reactions to Trump, a larger pattern begins to emerge. For instance in Congress. Although the Republicans control both houses now, that fact could change in the November election next year. Public opinion is shifting as well, then there's the role of the media and also the fact that a special prosecutor is going after Trump. Therefore, Alabama is part of an overall reaction to everything that people dislike about Trump.
Read more: Opinion: Trump's defeat is Alabama's victory
When Trump was elected, many observers were astonished that he won despite having alienated almost every minority group in the country, especially blacks and women. Based on numbers alone, that outcome would have seemed highly unlikely. It appears that Jones got many votes from blacks and women. Does that prove that a campaign geared against the interests of minorities can no longer be successful?
Well, it certainly can't in the long term. Of course that has a lot to do with voter turnout. It also has to do with the fact that in America an individual has a vote, but so does a state. That means that less densely populated states have a disproportionate amount of influence. And those states tend to be fundamentally conservative. All of those factors play a role. But in the long run, the political situation has to reflect the balance of power in the nation as a whole. And America is more progressive, optimistic, generous, welcoming, innovative, inclusive, young and female than Trump and the minority that currently have the say in Washington. As much as Trump and his followers were a reaction to Obama, Americans are now reacting to them.
Andrew Denison is a political scientist and director of the German-based foreign policy consultancy Transatlantic Networks.