Political Insider

An AJC blog about Atlanta politics, Georgia politics, Georgia and metro Atlanta election campaigns. Because all politics is local.

The Alabama lesson for Republicans: Bigotry trumps all other social issues


But if African-American voters, black women specifically, held the key to Democrat Doug Jones' victory in the Alabama senate race on Tuesday, then Republicans need to draw a different lesson from the results, a former Georgia GOP staffer is arguing:

Bigotry trumps all other social issues.

We’ll let the New York Times provide the underlying statistics:

According to CNN exit polling, 30 percent of the electorate was African-American, with 96 percent of them voting for Mr. Jones. (Mr. Jones’s backers had felt he needed to get north of 25 percent to have a shot to win.) A remarkable 98 percent of black women voters supported Mr. Jones. The share of black voters on Tuesday was higher than the share in 2008 and 2012, when Barack Obama was on the ballot.

Now let’s bring in Leo Smith and the Alabama autopsy he posted on Wednesday. Until this summer, Smith was in charge of minority engagement for the Republican Party of Georgia, one of a handful of African-Americans in GOP leadership. He was an unsuccessful candidate in the November contest to fill the District 6 state Senate seat vacated by Hunter Hill.

If African-Americans were in fact the deciding factor in Alabama, Smith argues, then Republicans must pay attention to what drove them to the polls. It wasn’t Moore’s habit, as a 30-year-old local prosecutor, of trolling the local mall for teenage girls. Writes Smith:

Democrats lauded Doug Jones’ record of fighting the KKK while Roy Moore fell into the trap of edifying America’s greatness during a period of slavery…. Roy Moore was more than willing to kick a cultural hornets nest by making a public statement that he would have ended the Constitution of the United States at the Tenth Amendment.

It was the Thirteenth Amendment, adopted after the Civil War, that abolished slavery one and for all. The Fifteenth Amendment guaranteed former slaves and their descendants the right to vote.

The meaning of Moore’s definition of an idyllic America wasn’t lost on Alabama’s black citizenry, according to Smith:

Bigotry is a scarlet letter that will trump any message you send, including alleged harassment of under-aged girls. Whether you attribute the disconnect to cultural style, miscommunication, or nefarious intent, more and more voters are looking for inclusive candidates.

Black Americans and a growing number of all demographics will not consider issues like abortion when they feel personally and socially negated by white conservative leaders. Even black conservative Christians who make personal acknowledgement of an amoral Democrat party question if the grass is greener on the Republican side.

What's more, Smith argues, is that the Republican tribe in Alabama was so silo-ed, so detached, they never saw the African-American surge coming.

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On Wednesday's edition of GPB's "Political Rewind," House Speaker David Ralston gave a telling answer when asked whether he likes the issues being laid out by Republican gubernatorial candidates: In short, Ralston said, he's not paying them much attention.  “I haven’t read very much of it. I get a lot of there campaign emails, I know there’s a fair amount of rhetoric," he said, adding that he hasn't delved into the policy details. Ralston is on notoriously icy terms with Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle. But he hasn't lined up with any of the other challengers yet, either. (Greg Bluestein)

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Meanwhile, one of the state's most popular elected Republicans indicated he was content to sit on the sidelines of the gubernatorial race for now. U.S. Sen. David Perdue said he does not plan to endorse a candidate before the Republican primary on May 22.

“In the presidential race last year, I stayed out of the race because I wanted to have access and influence with all the candidates, and we were afforded that. That’s what I’ve decided to do this time in the state race for governor," he told us Wednesday. "We’ve got some great candidates on the Republican side. The minute we get one of those people as our nominee I’ll be all in."

It's not just the race for governor that Perdue is avoiding. Last week, Attorney General Chris Carr distributed a list of federal office-holders who have endorsed his GOP bid for re-election next year. The list had the name of every Republican member of Congress -- except for that of Perdue. (Tamar Hallerman)

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Doug Jones used his victory speech in Alabama's U.S. Senate race on Tuesday to call upon Congress to extend funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program. Hours later, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams made a similar plea for the program, which is known as PeachCare in Georgia. She said state lawmakers "must be prepared to engage to protect our state's most vulnerable children, should Washington dysfunction deprive them of the health care access they need." (GB)

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At Larry Sabato’s Crystall Ball, Emory University political scientist Alan Abramowitz takes on the question of whether Republican gerrymandering of congressional lines can stave off a Democratic surge in November. The short answer, he says, is probably not:

Democrats will need a margin of at least four points on the generic ballot in order to win a majority of seats in the House in the 2018 midterm election. In recent weeks, Democrats have been averaging a lead of between eight and 10 points according to RealClearPolitics. …[T]hat large a lead on the generic ballot would predict a popular vote margin of around five points and a gain of between 30 and 33 seats in the House — enough to give Democrats a modest but clear majority.

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President Donald Trump signed a defense policy bill into law on Wednesday that could eventually open up Dobbins Air Reserve Base’s runways in Marietta to civilian traffic. We have more background here. (TH)

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Remember the argument that Democrats consorting with Republicans is a bad thing? That’s so Dec. 5. A Daily Report article on Atlanta Mayor-elect Keisha Lance Bottoms and the recount demanded by Mary Norwood includes this sentence:

Robert Highsmith Jr., a partner at Atlanta’s Holland & Knight whom Bottoms has retained to assist with issues associated with the recount, and another Bottoms lawyer, Decatur attorney R. Lawton Jordan III, could not be reached for comment.

Highsmith is a well-known Republican who once served as Gov. Sonny Perdue’s legal counsel. He’s also a close friend of Mayor Kasim Reed.

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The American Geophysical Union met in New Orleans on Wednesday. The Associated Press notes a particular academic paper that was presented about Hurricane Harvey:

While scientists say man-made climate change didn’t trigger Harvey, new studies calculate that a warmer, wetter world made it at least three times more likely that the stalled storm over Houston would flood the fourth most populous U.S. city. Researchers also said global warming often goosed aspects of two other destructive hurricanes this year, Irma and Maria.

The same paper calculated global warming made the rainfall from Harvey about 15 percent more intense.

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Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, is telling Washington something about U.S. Rep. Karen Handel, R-Roswell, that her constituents have long known. She's always had a big crush on Donny Osmond. (TH)

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U.S. Sen. David Perdue and his Georgia colleague Johnny Isakson were on hand Wednesday to introduce Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Elizabeth Branch during her Senate confirmation hearing. Our colleague Bill Rankin reports that Branch breezed through her hearing to become an Atlanta-based federal appeals court judge. (TH)


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About the Author

Jim Galloway is a three-decade veteran of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution who writes the Political Insider blog and column.