Politics is a game of addition and subtraction. In Alabama on Tuesday, Democrats did the adding, turning out their voters in numbers well above expectations. Election officials had predicted a total turnout of 25 percent but instead got 40 percent, and a lot of those were supporters of U.S. Sen.-elect Doug Jones, D-Ala.
Black voters in particular turned out, exceeding participation levels when Barack Obama was on the ballot. They saw this as an opportunity, and more than that as a necessity in this environment, and they were right.
The subtractions came on the Republican side, where enthusiasm didn't match that of the Democrats and where a lot of people who usually vote Republican could not bring themselves to do so. A state that Donald Trump won by 28 percentage points just a year ago, a state where he reveled in his popularity and fully embraced Roy Moore, went blue, at least on this one night.
Women in particular turned against Moore and through him, against Trump. Jones carried Alabama women by an astounding 16 percentage points. Last month, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Virginia carried women by 22 points. I do not think that rising wave will recede by the 2018 midterms, now 330 days away.
Maybe most telling? In a race won by 21,000 votes, almost 23,000 people took the trouble to go to the polls in a one-race special election and cast a write-in protest vote. You have to think that the vast majority of those voters were traditional Republicans heartsick at the choice that their party had given them.
And while a Democratic statewide victory was indeed a rare event not likely to be repeated in Alabama any time soon, you don't need a Daniel to read the writing on the wall. According to CNN exit polls, Alabama voters under age 45 voted in favor of the Democrat by 23 percentage points. Again, that's in Alabama. A Republican Party that wants to compete for those voters in the future cannot look anything at all like this Republican Party, and I have no idea on earth how they're going to pull off that transformation.
Then again, not my problem.
Republicans do come out of this with a few silver linings. They may have lost a critical vote in the Senate, but they also won't have to deal with all the baggage crammed with dirty laundry that Moore would have dragged to Washington with him. They also got to witness the humbling of Steve Bannon, which I'm sure a lot of Washington Republicans enjoyed immensely, especially Mitch McConnell.
To a large degree, Moore had been Bannon's gift to the GOP, the embodiment of his vision to remake the party. He had endorsed and embraced Moore from the beginning, guiding him to victory in the primary over Luther Strange, the handpicked candidate of the GOP establishment. It was Bannon who kept conservative media, including stars such as Sean Hannity, in the Moore camp, and it was Bannon who dogged Donald Trump to endorse and campaign for him.
And in the end, the candidate whom Bannon nursed and nurtured to the nomination ended up losing in Alabama of all places, and that is a very hard thing to do.
As for Trump himself? He had endorsed Strange, and Alabama Republicans rejected the advice. He had then endorsed Moore, and last night Alabama voters again rejected the advice. After going oh for two, he celebrated his own wonderfulness.