"The only reason Democrats have a chance tonight is they had a real candidate even before it was clear that candidate had a shot. The same was true for Republicans in 2010 Massachusetts special election. If you don't compete, you can't win." -- Ezra Klein
Extraordinary. Remarkable. Unbelievable. But it almost didn't happen.
Doug Jones didn't have to run for the United States Senate.
On May 10, 2017, when Jones announced he was running, I doubt there was a single respectable political scientist or pundit who thought he had even a sliver of a shot at winning. Surely no one would have predicted a win. This was before Roy Moore was the opposing candidate. This was before the almost unimaginable, disgusting stories of pedophilia started surfacing.
Alabama hasn't sent a Democrat to the Senate since 1992 (that Democrat then switched parties two years later). The last time this senate seat was on the ballot, in 2014, Democrats could not get anyone to step up and run against then-Senator Jeff Sessions, and he went on to win with over 97% of the vote.
Alabama is not friendly territory for Democrats. There was a much higher likelihood that Jones would spend a lot of time and money losing (or losing embarrassingly) than winning. But Doug Jones chose an act of service -- an act of selflessness -- over taking the safe bet and sitting on the sidelines.
Doug Jones didn't need to do this. He has had a distinguished career, including a stint as the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama. He is best known for prosecuting the Ku Klux Klan members who murdered Addie Mae Collins, Carol Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Diane Wesley, four African American children. They were murdered in church.
Martin Luther King, Jr., speaking at a eulogy for the children, said this: "These children—unoffending, innocent, and beautiful—were the victims of one of the most vicious and tragic crimes ever perpetrated against humanity. And yet they died nobly. They are the martyred heroines of a holy crusade for freedom and human dignity."
Doug Jones put two of the murderers of those martyred heroines in prison.
Roy Moore, on the other hand, said that getting rid of all the amendments after the 10th Amendment, including the 13th Amendment, which ended slavery in America, would "eliminate many problems." He also said that America was great during the time of slavery.
Yes, really. And this is just a sliver of the disgusting beliefs Roy Moore holds. Moore is a self-righteous radical. Doug Jones, on the other hand, ran on a progressive platform, and on bringing people together. The contrast could not have been clearer.
As I watch the split screen on MSNBC tonight, with the Doug Jones election night party on the left (dancing, drinking, chanting, and big smiles), and Steve Kornacki anxiously clicking through the big board on the right, it strikes me that this night is everything that November 8th, 2016 was not -- at least for me.
Happiness. Vindication. Hope. This is a win worth celebrating.
I'm grateful for this win and the people who made it possible.
I'm grateful that an electorate -- in the most unlikely of places -- finally said enough is enough.
I'm grateful that Steve Bannon and Donald Trump were finally punished for choosing political expediency over doing the right thing.
I'm grateful to all the citizens in Alabama, particularly African American voters who overcame voter suppression, who made it to the polls.
And I'm grateful to Doug Jones, for doing the impossible.
There are many lessons to be learned from tonight, and they will be discussed in depth over the next few weeks. Many people and organizations, Democrats and Republicans, will try to twist these results to promote their own interests.
The lesson that sticks out to me, though, is that Doug Jones decided to take a leap of faith and put his name on the ballot -- before anyone thought a victory was possible. This remarkable night could not have happened if Doug Jones wasn't willing to lose. That's a powerful lesson.