In a Senate race that is too close to call, former U.S. attorney Democrat Doug Jones needs to motivate black Alabama voters enough to overcome Republican voter suppression during a special election, and that’s not an easy task.
More than 90% of likely black voters in Alabama are backing Jones.
Jones successfully prosecuted, in the early 2000s, Ku Klux Klan members who bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham in 1963. So when the Jones campaign sent out a flier pointing out – in a state with a history of lynching black men – that Republican Roy Moore would not be going to the Senate with all of these allegations of child sexual assault and molestation hanging over him if he were a black man, he had long ago earned his status as a civil rights hero.
Doug Jones campaign mailer (at home of African-American voter in Tuscaloosa): “Think a black man went after high school girls anyone would try to make him a senator?”…“It’s time to hold Roy Moore as accountable as anyone else.” pic.twitter.com/I6ZDHO6Bty
— Vaughn Hillyard (@VaughnHillyard) December 7, 2017
More than 300 African Americans in Alabama lost their lives to lynching between 1877 to 1950, according to the Montgomery-based Equal Justice Initiative.
“In the fall of 1933, Dennis Cross, a 50-year-old black man who was paralyzed from the waist down, was accused of sexually assaulting a white woman in Tuscaloosa,” the University of Alabama News Center wrote of a black man who was shot more than 20 times by “a mob of white men dressed as police officers.”
The mere accusation of sexual assault long motivated lynchings of black men, and yet here is white Republican Roy Moore, accused nine times by various women, often of sexually assaulting a young girl. This disparity in “criminal justice” is still apparent today and has motivated the Black Lives Matter movement.
But is this reminder enough to motivate the needed African American support in Alabama? This is a state with historical voter suppression of minorities.
The Washington Post determined in an analysis that “Alabama’s black population — 27 percent of the state overall — is concentrated in cities and the Black Belt in central Alabama. These areas vote strongly Democratic, while whiter parts of the state are strongly Republican.”
This means that a lot of Trump voters would have to not turn out, while the black population turns out in droves during a time of ongoing voter suppression in the state of Alabama.
… The state where Martin Luther King led the march from Selma that led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
As Vann R. Newkirk II of The Atlantic pointed out, “Alabama was one of the collection of Southern states that either passed or began enforcing new voter ID laws after the requirement for federal pre-clearance was effectively made null.” They also closed 31 DMV offices concentrated in the “black belt”, and “that of the 10 counties with the highest percentage of nonwhite voters, the state closed DMV offices in eight, and left them without offices entirely…”
The Los Angeles Times reported in September, “In response to a question from one of the only African Americans in the audience — who asked when Moore thought America was last “great” — Moore acknowledged the nation’s history of racial divisions, but said: “I think it was great at the time when families were united — even though we had slavery — they cared for one another…. Our families were strong, our country had a direction.”
Black families were not “united” under slavery. They were separated forcibly in this country after being stolen from their homeland and families in Africa. Our country did not have an aspirational direction under slavery; rather we are still trying to right our shameful history.
In 1965, Martin Luther King led a march that shed blood to fight for the right to vote, and now, five decades later in 2017, a white man who would have been lynched if he were black could very well win a seat in the U.S. Senate, in part due to deliberate suppression of the black vote.
What does it say about white voters in Alabama that they will support a many times over accused sexual assaulter of young girls over a Democrat? It says exactly what Donald Trump’s election says about the modern day Republican Party: It is devoid of values and decency. Republicans often think they’re voting for religious reasons, and yet they are allowing themselves to be cravenly used by the most evil of forces for whom there is no bottom.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.