I firmly believe that Americans who try to live up to the civic and social values they were taught as children outnumber those whose only values are winning and spite. If everyone voted, people like Mitch McConnell, Trey Gowdy, and Donald Trump would never hold public office.
That’s not what happens, though. Half of us, at most, vote in presidential elections; far fewer in state and municipal elections. With those lower numbers, racists and haters stand a better chance of winning. Our inaction has, effectively, made our majority a minority.
I’m enormously gratified to see Doug Jones win over the odious Roy Moore in yesterday’s Alabama special election. Values beat tribalism, but it was a squeaker. It shouldn’t have been as close as it was; if all Alabamians had turned out, Jones would have won by ten or more percentage points and there’d be no talk of recounts. I wish I could believe this small victory marks a turning point, but I can’t. Too many of us stay home on election day—and after the presidency was stolen from Hillary Clinton, who won it by a three million vote margin, who can blame us?
Black Alabamians put Jones over the top, in spite of gerrymandering and restrictive voter ID laws meant to keep them from the polls, and we owe them our thanks. I’d like to think Alabama women put up some kind of unified front against Moore, but then I think about all the women who voted for and still support Trump and I wonder if we can ever pin our hopes on women voting as a bloc.
I hope minority populations in other states are taking note of what happened in Alabama. I live in Arizona, a state with a huge Latino population. They could, if they wanted to, flip this traditionally conservative state from red to blue, a thought that must terrify the Republicans who run things now.
It’ll never happen under a Republican Congress, Justice Department, Presidency, or Supreme Court, but if Democrats ever get back in the driver’s seat we need to pass new voting rights legislation to mandate motor voter registration and mail-in ballots in all states while outlawing discriminatory voter ID laws and partisan gerrymandering. Oh, and get rid of the Electoral College. I don’t think there’s anything we can do to make all Americans vote, short of making voting mandatory (and even I wouldn’t go that far), but making it so that exercising our constitutional right to vote isn’t a struggle will help put the true majority of Americans back in charge.
These are my thoughts on a morning that dawned a little brighter than it did yesterday, before Alabama elected Doug Jones to the Senate.