Alabama Senate Loss Isn’t a Game-Changer

By Jeff Knox

(December 14, 2017) The dominant media industry is touting the election of a Democrat in Alabama’s special election as a shocking blow to the Trump administration and to Donald Trump personally.  They suggest that this really raises questions about Republicans’ ability to hold onto their narrow Senate majority in 2018, and basically proves that everyone really hates Donald Trump, and as long as he’s president, Republicans can’t win.  That may be wishful thinking.

Whether you believed the allegations against Moore were credible or not, this race wasn’t about politics or policies or even guilt or innocence.  This election was about credibility, and the voters of Alabama thought the accusers were more credible than Moore was, and they voted accordingly.

You might have noticed that sexual harassment became a big deal in recent weeks, and any credible accusation of sexual harassment, abuse, or other sexual misconduct is being taken much more seriously that it was just a few years ago – or even just a few months ago.

Had the accusations come out earlier, before the primaries, or at least before the deadline for replacing a candidate’s name on the ballot, the results may have been dramatically different.  As it was, Moore only lost by about one percentage point, and that’s pretty incredible given the gravity of the accusations and Moore’s clumsy response to them.

An establishment Republican would have easily won that seat, but a hard-line, anti-establishment Republican like Moore, would have won in a landslide, had it not been for the accusations.  So the fact that Moore lost only reflects on Trump to the extent that it was probably a bad idea for him to dive back into the race.

The really surprising statistic out of this race was the turnout of black voters, who turned out for white Democrat Doug Jones in greater numbers than turned out for Barack Obama in either of his elections.  That’s a pretty shocking statistic. It can only be explained by assuming that Obama and the Democrats basically ignored the heavily Republican state, making no serious effort at registering and turning out black voters, since they knew there was no way they could swing the state, while Jones’s team had a monumental outreach program into the black community, bringing in popular African American politicians and celebrities to get people involved.

But what does all of this mean to the balance in the Senate now and going forward?  Not much really. Republicans had a two-vote majority, 52-48, and now they have a one-vote majority, 51-49.  There was some faint hope that Republicans might be able to capture a filibuster-breaking supermajority of 60 seats.  That’s still a possibility, but losing an assumed-safe seat doesn’t help. Neither did having two Republican senators declare that they were retiring.  Incumbents usually have a significant advantage, so an open seat is never as good a bet.

There are 33 seats up for election next November, plus a special election for Al Franken’s seat.  Of those 33 Senate seats, 26 seats are currently held by Democrats (including two Independents who caucus and vote with the Democrats.

Those are pretty good odds for the Republicans, but it gets better.  Of the eight Republican-held seats up for election, seven are in states won handily by Donald Trump, as are 10 of the 25 Democrat-held seats.  If Republicans retain all of their current seats, they would have to win all 10 of those red-state Democrat seats. That’s a pretty tall order and there’s not much chance Republicans can pull it off.

The Arizona seat being vacated by Jeff Flake, would normally be a safe Republican bet, but the Democrats have fallen in behind an attractive candidate, while Republicans are building up to a what could be a bruising primary battle.  Nevada’s Republican-held seat is also in doubt. Hillary Clinton won the state, and Senator Dean Heller waffled on the Republican healthcare bill, managing to anger both Democrats and Republicans back home.

On the Democrat side, only five or six seats are at serious risk.  Republicans had better win at least a couple of those as a cushion for their tenuous majority.  In the end, we will probably see Republicans retaining their majority, but falling well short of a supermajority.

For GunVoters all of this means we will probably get more of the same going forward, with pro-rights legislation dead on arrival in the Senate, as Minority Leader Schumer (D-NY) will be sure to filibuster anything that is offered.

The only light of hope in the Senate is that the Democrats chose the “nuclear option” doing away with the 60-vote majority rule on cabinet and lower court appointees a few years ago.  Republicans followed suit on Supreme Court nominees this year, and that means that as long as Republicans have at least a 1-vote majority, or even a 50/50 split, with Vice President Pence casting the deciding vote, Trump can continue to appoint judges who abide by the Constitution.

But if Democrats manage to get 51 seats in 2018, all progress in the courts will run right into a brick wall.  I can easily see Schumer and company blocking all judicial appointments – especially any Supreme court nomination.  The majority in the Senate has total control over confirmation of judges and justices. That’s why a Republican Senate majority is important to GunVoters.

Both parties will be spending heavily on Senate races next year, because that control over judicial appointments is so crucial.  GunVoters need to be out in force to keep the Senate in nominally gun-friendly hands. We might not be able to get the legislation we want, but if we can’t get the courts back into Constitution-friendly hands, gun-friendly legislation won’t matter.

Get involved, and VOTE.