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A Political Earthquake In Virginia Thanks To A Single Vote

Virginia Daily Press Headline

Last month, Democrats scored big wins in Virginia last month when Democratic nominee Lt. Governor Ralph Northam defeated Republican nominee Ed Gillespie by a wider than expected margin in what turned out to be an election that also saw the Democratic nominees for Lt. Governor and Attorney General win their respective elections, giving Democrats all three statewide elected offices for the second time in four years. In addition to those wins at the top of the ticket, though, Democrats also surprised observers by scoring huge gains in the Virginia House of Delegates, where Republicans had held a strong majority for nearly two decades. When the smoke cleared shortly after the election, the GOP still had control of that body but only by the slimmest of margins and the fate of several seats was up in the air due to how close the margin was between the two candidates. Yesterday, though, the recount process ended in one district and it became official that the Republicans had lost majority control of the lower chamber of the state legislature, and it all happened because of a single vote.

The Democratic wave that rose on Election Day in Virginia last month delivered a final crash on the sand Tuesday when a Democratic challenger defeated a Republican incumbent by a single vote, leaving the Virginia House of Delegates evenly split between the two parties.

The victory by Shelly Simonds, a school board member in Newport News, was a civics lesson in every-vote-counts as she won 11,608 to 11,607 in a recount conducted by local election officials.

Ms. Simonds’s win means a 50-50 split in the State House, where Republicans had clung to a one-seat majority after losing 15 seats last month in a night of Democratic victories up and down the ballot, which were widely seen as a rebuke to President Trump. Republicans have controlled the House for 17 years.

“I just can’t believe it, but it sounds like it’s pretty solid,” an excited Ms. Simonds, speaking from a bar with the sounds of celebration in the background, told reporters on a conference call. She said she was in awe of the recount process, an example of what she called good government, in which there were no arguments between Democrats and Republican observers. “It was a beautiful thing to see democracy in action.”

The recount was a nail-biting exercise avidly followed on Twitter over five hours that began with the Republican incumbent, David Yancy, ahead by 10 votes.

Although results are not official until certified by a three-judge panel on Wednesday, state Democrats declared victory, and Republican leaders in the House congratulated Ms. Simonds. “There were no challenged ballots so nothing for the court to review,” leaders of the Democratic caucus said in a statement.

“Fifty-fifty is an unprecedented event in the 400-year history of the House of Delegates,” said David J. Toscano, the House Democratic leader.

Ms. Simonds’s single-vote victory will enter election annals along with rare other razor-thin majorities. In Mississippi last year, a State House race that ended in a tie was decided in favor of the Democrat by a drawing of straws, before being reversed by a Republican partisan challenge in the State Legislature.

Iowa has been known to use coin tosses to settle tied results in its presidential caucuses. In the 2000 presidential election, when a complicated paper ballot in Florida led officials to examine “hanging chads” with eyepieces and only 537 votes separated George W. Bush from Al Gore, the Supreme Court ultimately made the call a month after Election Day.

As the votes were recounted, results were updated precinct by precinct on a white board with felt marker. Several journalists reported the seesawing results live on Twitter, with Mr. Yancey’s 10-vote margin slowly eroding.

It was one of several recounts Democrats pursued after narrow Republican victories in House races on Election Day. Before Tuesday, the others had broken for Republicans, but Democrats are still contesting one race with an 82-vote margin in a district where 147 people received the wrong ballots. A lawsuit requesting a new election is in the courts. If the Democratic candidate, Joshua Cole, somehow ends up the victor, that would give his party a 51-49 majority in the House.

Still, the divided chamber was welcome news to Governor-elect Ralph Northam, a Democrat who as of January will not have to face Republican majorities in both houses of the General Assembly like his outgoing predecessor, Gov. Terry McAuliffe. Virginia Republicans narrowly control the State Senate, whose members were not on the ballot this year, 21 to 19.

It’s hard to understate just how big a deal this is for politics in Virginia. For nearly two decades, Republicans enjoyed strong control of the lower chamber of the House and either controlled or had a strong minority in the State Senate, giving them significant political power even when the Governor’s office was held by a Democrat. For many years, it was thought that the combination of favorable redistricting and the inertia of incumbency meant that it would be years before Democrats would be able to even make a dent in the GOP majority. Instead, it all came tumbling down in one election, and if the overall trend in Virginia is any indication, it’s likely to mean that the Commonwealth will become more and more of a Democratic state unless Republicans pull themselves back from the precipice they find themselves on thanks to their embrace of the mindless populism of the Tea Party, Donald Trump, and Corey Stewart, who nearly won the nomination for Governor on a platform that mimicked Donald Trump’s and is now a candidate for the nomination to take on Senator Tim Kaine in 2018.

Practically speaking, this 50-50 divide in the House, if it ends up being how things turn out, isn’t going to be easy to deal with. Much like in the Federal Government, there is no procedure for breaking a tie vote, which will make conducting even ordinary business difficult unless the parties are able to come up with some kind of power-sharing arrangement. The first order of business in January, for example, will be choosing a new Speaker, which is ordinarily a fairly simple process. That may not be the case in a chamber equally divided by the parties. Similar issues will likely come up with regard to things such as committee assignments and the question of who will control those committees as chairperson. Additionally, the first order of real legislative business will be to pass a budget, and that too will be more difficult with a tie in the House of Delegates. Finally, regardless of what happens in the House of Delegates, Republicans will continue to have a small majority in the State Senate until at least the 2019 elections.

In the end, Republicans and Democrats will have to find a way to work these issues out no matter how difficult it might be, but as I stated there’s no way to understate just how significant this is in terms of Virginia politics. And it all happened because of a single vote.

Update: As Steven Taylor notes, the race is now a tie due to the discovery of an uncounted ballot. The problem appears to be that there seems to be an obvious question regarding voter intent with regard to this ballot. This will no doubt lead to further litigation. In any case, if the ballot stands, then the race is now a tie and would be decided by a drawing of names purusant to Virginia law if that remains the case.

Photo of the front page of Daily Press (Charlottesville, Va.) via Kyle Griffin on Twitter.

 

 

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. michael reynolds says:

    I am very pleased to say that I had a hand in that, in a small way.

    About a year ago another kidlit guy reached out to me and said he was putting together a PAC and intended to go after state legislatures. We were hoping to reach 100k so I tossed in enough to put it over the top and brought in at least one other major donation. In the end we had a quarter of a million to play with.

    We put our money into flipping (successfully) the one Washington State seat necessary to flip that legislature blue. And we backed a slate of non-incumbent Dems in the Virginia legislature. Believe me, no one thought we’d actually flip Virginia. But here we are, with one race still outstanding.

    Sometimes politics really is about a single vote or a small contribution. I don’t recall ever spending 13 grand that gave me such satisfaction. I may even get back into producing political ads.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  2. george says:

    This is great.

    And for some reason that one vote decided it makes it even better for me – I suppose because I envision using it as an example for friends who can’t be bothered to vote.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  3. James Pearce says:

    So proud of so little.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 13

  4. John Peabody says:

    Just happy to see my hometown newspaper go worldwide thanks to OTB.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  5. JKB says:

    “a civics lesson in every-vote-counts”

    Also, a lesson that every bit of voter fraud must be prevented. When it can come down to one vote, then no amount of voter fraud can be overlooked.

    I remember back when the Dems lost the legislature in VA. One of the first things done by the Republicans was to reduce the car “tab” tax. Much to the chagrin of the Democrats.

    A couple years later, some VA Dems complained about all the money the Republicans had cost the state because now there were so may new cars on VA roads. They couldn’t comprehend that the new cars were a direct result of the lower taxes which incentivized Virginians to upgrade their old, polluting beaters they drove to avoid the annual cost of the tax. Reduce the tax and the citizens bought newer cars, got rid of the old polluting ones, with the newer ones having increased safety and better gas mileages. But to the Dems, they could only see all the money they missed out taking from the citizens.

    Now, we’ll get to see all the benefits citizens will gain from the tax reform just passed last night.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 16

  6. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @JKB:

    Now, we’ll get to see all the benefits citizens will gain from the tax reform just passed last night.

    For example? Could you list some of these benefits please?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  7. James Pearce says:

    @JKB:

    Also, a lesson that every bit of voter fraud must be prevented.

    Voter fraud is not a real thing.

    Also, consider this unlikely:

    we’ll get to see all the benefits citizens will gain from the tax reform just passed last night.

    You put the wolves in charge of the hen house and you think you’ll be eating omelettes? HAHAHAHAHA.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  8. Mister Bluster says:

    @michael reynolds:..I had a hand in that…
    Thank You Mask Man
    (NSFW)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  9. CSK says:

    Please release me from spam purgatory.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  10. reid says:

    @James Pearce: Not only is voter fraud not a real thing, but voter suppression often does have a substantial impact on voting. Strange how JKB didn’t mention that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  11. James Pearce says:

    Latest reports indicate this race is a tie and will be decided by lot.

    Meanwhile, Donald Trump is celebrating his tax cut on the steps outside the White House with all of his Republican supporters. Mike Pence reportedly whispered to him, “This is a big f’ing deal.” And Zucotti Park sits there empty….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  12. KM says:

    @James Pearce:

    So proud of so little.

    And you’re so disparaging of liberal effort lately. Why? This is what you’ve been touting these last few months: normal people going out and doing something instead celebrities being mouthpieces. Turns out you can turn red districts and states blue with some elbow grease.

    Is it because it wasn’t a dramatic landslide? What did you expect to happen on Republican home turf – a complete blowout? A basic rule of war is you don’t have to win, you need to not lose. That’s why they’re ramming as much through Congress as possible – Republicans are aware they are losing safe seats and districts that shouldn’t be in play. Dems might not be WINNING!!! like Trump brags about but small wins can be enough to turn the tide of battle and hopeless odds.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  13. James Pearce says:

    @reid:

    voter suppression often does have a substantial impact on voting.

    I understand that it does, but it shouldn’t.

    Anyone with an ID and an actual desire to vote will not be thwarted by “voter suppression” efforts.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 7

  14. SenyorDave says:

    @James Pearce: Let me guess. In the 1950’s you couldn’t understand why virtually no African Americans voted in the deep south. Why didn’t they just march down to their polling places and vote, it was their legal right?

    You are either clueless or an asshole, I’m betting on the latter.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  15. James Pearce says:

    @KM:

    And you’re so disparaging of liberal effort lately. Why? This is what you’ve been touting these last few months: normal people going out and doing something instead celebrities being mouthpieces. Turns out you can turn red districts and states blue with some elbow grease.

    But they didn’t turn this district. The Dem got a 1 vote advantage after a recount, and now they’re saying it’s a tie that will be decided by lot. Donald Trump is supposedly the most unpopular president EVER, hated by (and this part must be stressed) everyone we know, and yet……Dems can barely win an election??

    And I know, I know, it was in VA and “Dems can’t win in red states.”

    No, “Dems can’t win in red states” is part of the pathology that I’ve completely revolted against over the past year. That’s utter Clintonian bullshit. Dems can win in Texas and Alabama and Virginia and any other state they compete in. You think most Democrats really believe that?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

  16. KM says:

    @James Pearce :
    No, she won – and now they’re deciding it’s a tie because the ballot that was OK before is suddenly “iffy” by a 3 Republicans-only panel. Funny how that works – the ballot that was declared fine until it became clear she was going to win is suddenly not valid. It’s pretty damn clear they’re going to use every trick in the book to steal this from her. I’m not so naive to think the “lot” they chose would go her way.

    And yes, Trump is the most hated ever…. NATIONALLY. There are pockets in the country that think he’s the hottest shit since sliced bread. One of them happened to be Alabama where Jones squeaked by. This was another. That’s why we’re happy – we managed to get enough fans to flip on the home team to make a noticeable difference. You have a funny way of looking at victory. If it’s not a curb-stomp, it’s doesn’t really count. Cynicism like that is fatal to political motivation in the masses whereas the story about how the GOP stole an election with a freaking coin toss will resonate for some time. The GOP comes out of this one smelling to high heaven.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  17. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @James Pearce: Anyone with an ID and an actual desire to vote will not be thwarted by “voter suppression” efforts.

    Presidio County, Texas is 3,856 square miles, more than three times the size of Rhode Island, with a population of 6,856. It has one Drivers License office, in Presidio, That is the only location within the county to get a free Voter ID card, and it is only open on Wednesdays from 9:30 – 3:00, and is closed from 12:00 – 1:00 for lunch.

    In order to get a free Voter ID card, you need to obtain a birth certificate and a second acceptable form of identification / proof of citizenship. If you need a birth certificate, it cost $22.00 plus your application form has to be notarized and then mailed to Austin. You are ineligible to order the certificate online because in order to do that, you need to enter a valid ID # to prove to the state that you have a legal connection to the person whose birth certificate you are ordering.

    So, you are one of the people living in the desert. You either don’t have a car or you work for someone who makes scheduling time off difficult. You have to a) find a notary, which almost certainly means driving to Presidio or Marfa, b) get the day off and/or get a ride to a city an hour away to get that signed, c) come up with the money for gas, to pay the notary, and the $22 fee to get the birth certificate, plus possibly forgo a days worth of wages d) wait for it to arrive in the mail, e) find a ride and/or schedule a day off so you can get to Presidio an hour away between the hours of 9:30 – 12:00 and 1:30 – 3:00 on a Wednesday, f) hope that you didn’t miss anything or forget anything.

    And if you did forget something or miss something and you have to get a different document, then once you resolve that issue, now you have to repeat the a) getting time off, b) finding a ride, c) driving an hour and forgoing wages steps *again* and hopefully that time you’ve got everything right. And then if they find another thing wrong, repeat again.

    When my mom moved to Florida to Texas, it took her three months and about four visits for her to get her TX driver’s license. The first three times, they found a new unmet requirement that they hadn’t disclosed the time before. And she is retired, owns a car, has me to help her figure out how to order a marriage certificate from the State of CT, and we live in a county with a license office that is open five days per week.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  18. James Pearce says:

    @SenyorDave:

    In the 1950’s you couldn’t understand why virtually no African Americans voted in the deep south.

    I think you need to update your notions of both the deep south and African Americans.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 5

  19. James Pearce says:

    @KM:

    It’s pretty damn clear they’re going to use every trick in the book to steal this from her.

    Who’s they?

    @Gromitt Gunn: Presidio County, TX is 84% white. Sounds like they have some horrible ID policies that have NOTHING to do with suppressing the votes of black people and everything to do with being a rural, sparsely populated, and geographically isolated area. I imagine going to school or the grocery store is similarly difficult.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4

  20. Kylopod says:

    @James Pearce:

    Donald Trump is supposedly the most unpopular president EVER, hated by (and this part must be stressed) everyone we know, and yet……Dems can barely win an election??

    That’s some mighty spin you got there. Are you auditioning for Fox & Friends or something? Seriously.

    Let me put it simply. Nobody predicted Dems would come anywhere close to taking the Virginia House of Delegates. Nobody. Not you, not anyone else here, not a single pundit in America as far as I’m aware. The Republicans held an overwhelming lead, and the seats were heavily gerrymandered. As Doug here wrote a couple of days before the election:

    Additionally, Republicans have an overwhelming majority in the House of Delegates, the lower chamber of the Virginia legislature, and control the Virginia Senate by a narrow margin. Neither of these things is likely to be affected by the outcome of Tuesday’s election.

    On a broader level, Dems have been wildly overperforming in almost every election this year. In the six Congressional special elections this year, Dems outperformed the PVI of each seat by an average of 9 points. In state and local races the margin is even higher.

    Trump’s unpopularity is definitely having an effect to anyone who bothers to pay attention, but it does not magically give Dems the ability to win massive landslides everywhere. You can always choose to ignore the data and claim a party is doing badly because they haven’t met some arbitrary threshold you’ve set. (Reagan couldn’t manage to carry Minnesota? PA-THET-IC.) It doesn’t change the electoral implications, and it certainly doesn’t change the consequences of actually winning this much power.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  21. inhumans99 says:

    One of the comments under a Politico article joked that VA is now going to use rock, paper, scissors to decide who wins, and to further that suggestion…might I suggest the best two out of three.

    Sheesh, the GOP in VA will take the win if they get it but I suspect that even diehard GOPers in VA are cringing and more than slightly embarrassed that a hand written ballot with worse penmanship than my chcken scratch (which is 20 times worse than the neat pensmanship of my 9 year old niece) is the deciding factor. Not exactly a proud day in history if the VA GOP gets to keep their majority. The very definition of a “win” that deserves an asterisk mark next to it (same thing goes for Simonds, unfortunately she also gets the asterisk next to her name in the history books if she wins).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  22. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @James Pearce: Voting is a legal right of all citiizens, so any voter suppression is bad.

    Voter suppression in rural counties across the United States takes advantage of structural challenges like the ones faced in Presidio County to put as many obstacles in front of prospective voters as possible in legal ways that all individually make sense but that in combination create a structural effect of supressing the votes of people at lower socio-economic levels.

    Finally, if you think that the main voter suppression issue facing the border counties of Texas (and the southern half of Texas as a whole) is the disenfrancisement of black voters, and if you’re so bad at reading demographic data and looking at a map to honestly believe that 84% of Presidio County (or any county south of a line that runs from El Paso to Odessa to San Antonio to Houston) is Anglos, I don’t even know how to address that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  23. JKB says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    Well, German economists are forecasting that German investment in the US is going to increase creating jobs in the US instead of Germany because of this tax reform.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 5

  24. JKB says:

    @SenyorDave: Why didn’t they just march down to their polling places and vote, it was their legal right?

    Because of Democrats with their white hoods and willingness to lynch.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  25. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @James Pearce: Just like a broken window–no glass.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  26. James Pearce says:

    @Kylopod:

    Trump’s unpopularity is definitely having an effect to anyone who bothers to pay attention, but it does not magically give Dems the ability to win massive landslides everywhere.

    That’s so reassuring. He’s over here cutting taxes for rich people and inviting nuclear war. But maybe a Dem might win some seat in an unexpected place?

    Not impressed.

    @Gromitt Gunn:

    Voter suppression in rural counties across the United States takes advantage of structural challenges like the ones faced in Presidio County

    Look, I’m no voter suppression supporter, but I do live in the modern world.

    You need a photo ID to prove you’re old enough to buy alcohol and cigarettes and cough medicine, to cash a check, to get into the club, to rent a car or get a hotel room. You’re going to be asked for it when you rent an apartment or apply for a job.

    Yeah, no one’s making it easy, but it’s not that hard. Sometimes left wing notions about the capabilities of black people literally boggle my mind.

    And no, I didn’t that 84% only meant “Anglos.” It might mean Italians, Germans, Greeks, Hispanics, Ukrainians, and a whole bunch of other ethnicities that are NOT African American.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  27. James Pearce says:

    @JKB:

    Well, German economists are forecasting that German investment in the US is going to increase creating jobs in the US instead of Germany because of this tax reform.

    Yes, you can expect more foreign ownership of assets in the US thanks to this tax bill. You’d have to be a modern Republican to think that’s a good thing.

    (That was a good burn about Dems in white hoods, by the way.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  28. James Pearce says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’nint cracker:

    Just like a broken window–no glass.

    ???

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  29. george says:

    @Gromitt Gunn:

    Though a simple solution to that is to just have public health care, and allow the use of the health care card as voter ID. It should make both D’s and R’s happy.

    Yeah, I know, I’m dreaming.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  30. Kylopod says:

    @James Pearce:

    That’s so reassuring. He’s over here cutting taxes for rich people and inviting nuclear war. But maybe a Dem might win some seat in an unexpected place?

    A Dem didn’t just “win some seat in an unexpected place.” The Dems enjoyed their largest seat gain in the Virginia House of Delegates since 1899. Several of the seats that flipped weren’t even on anyone’s radar.

    Not impressed.

    Pardon me, but why should anyone care what impresses you? I give you a range of hard, concrete data, and you just sweep it all aside with a “Meh, not impressed” rejoinder. You’re like Mike Huckabee in that old SNL skit where he says “I’m not a math guy, I’m more of a miracle guy.” I’m talking math, and you’re talking miracles–which is striking given that having a pro-choice Dem win a Senate seat in Alabama, and having Dems enjoy their largest seat gain in a state legislature in over a century, are about the closest thing in politics to a miracle.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  31. James Pearce says:

    @Kylopod:

    I’m talking math, and you’re talking miracles–which is striking given that having a pro-choice Dem win a Senate seat in Alabama, and having Dems enjoy their largest seat gain in a state legislature in over a century, are about the closest thing in politics to a miracle.

    That these mundane, eminently accomplishable things are considered miracles is one of the reasons why I’m so down on Dems. I look at Alabama and think, so the Dems get all the liberals and all the black people? Why is it a miracle if they win a Senate seat? Isn’t that, like, what we should expect?

    And I’m not being pie in the sky here. Jeff Sessions ran unopposed in 2014. The Dems didn’t even try.

    How can there be a noble advance in the face of such an ignoble retreat?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  32. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @James Pearce: Again, you are fixated on black and white for some unknown reason, when voter suppression efforts throughout the history of our country have been focused on whoever is on the bottom rungs of the socio-economic ladder.

    Among the jurisdictions that have been subject to preclearance under the VRA are the entire states of Arizona, New Mexico, and Alaska, as well as parts of North and South Dakota. Most of the lawsuits brought against the state of Texas have been bought by LULAC or another similar Hispanic rights group, sometimes alone and sometimes in conjunction with the NAACP.

    The only person in this entire thread fixated on black people is you.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  33. Kylopod says:

    @James Pearce:

    That these mundane, eminently accomplishable things are considered miracles is one of the reasons why I’m so down on Dems.

    You’re proving my point. You’re engaging in a form of the Texas sharpshooter fallacy where a guy fires a gun and then draws a bullseye around wherever the bullet happens to land. You never bring any facts to support your theories about what’s “eminently accomplishable,” and you alter your criteria after the fact. For example, here is what you were writing before the Alabama election:

    I would bet that many African Americans, who are not nearly as ignorant or powerless as white people often think, do know there’s an election on Dec 12th; they’re just not that interested in it, considering it’s a contest between white dudes, neither of whom are going to do a damn thing for them…. Democrats will never win in the south until they come to appreciate that African American voters don’t want to vote for white saviors.

    The Dems did none of what you suggested, they continued with the strategy you claimed was doomed to fail, and not only did Doug Jones win, but with larger turnout from African Americans than either time Obama ran.

    Are you ready to revise your opinion in light of this outcome? Hardly. What you previously described as something Dems were unable to do is now “eminently accomplishable” and therefore not very impressive at all.

    There are smidgeons of truth in your argument about how Dems should try to compete more widely. The problem is that you refuse to recognize any limitations to what’s possible even with the best of efforts. If the allegations of sexual misconduct by Roy Moore had not come out, he’d almost certainly have been elected Senator–even though there are over a dozen other things that ought to have disqualified him from the office. While most conservatives stuck with Moore, a sizable minority defected to Jones–33% according to exit polls, more than twice the amount that supported Obama in 2008. Without them, Jones wouldn’t have stood a chance. African Americans and liberals could have come out in droves to support him, and it still would not have been sufficient.

    There is very little that can break through people’s partisan and ideological preferences. It’s the same reason why a Republican couldn’t beat Marion Barry in DC even after he’d done jail time for cocaine use. The race was much closer than usual for a DC mayoral race (56-42%, whereas the Democrat typically gets in the 70s or 80s there), but at the end of the day it’s just a matter of raw numbers: in a state or city where members of one party vastly outnumber members of the other party, any candidate from the latter group is by definition going to be facing a massive uphill battle no matter how good the turnout on their side and no matter how flawed their opponent is.

    So yes, it is a major accomplishment that Dems were able to win in Alabama. It depended on a stroke of good luck coming their way, but they took advantage of the opportunity about as skillfully as they could have, and without following any of your advice. Doesn’t that suggest that maybe they understand things a touch better than you’ve given them credit?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  34. James Pearce says:

    @Gromitt Gunn:

    The only person in this entire thread fixated on black people is you.

    Oh my god. I give up.

    Dude, it doesn’t matter what color they are. Democrats want to claim minorities as a constituency, but they’re not that interested in actually serving them. And I get it….it’s much easier to believe that all the minorities would vote Democrat if the Republicans weren’t suppressing their votes than it is to accept the reality, which is somewhat more complicated.

    @Kylopod:

    Are you ready to revise your opinion in light of this outcome?

    I am incredibly satisfied with the election of Doug Jones and I am glad that “F that white dude” or “it’s haaaaard to vote” did not win out.

    It seems they followed my advice after all….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  35. Kylopod says:

    @James Pearce:

    I am incredibly satisfied with the election of Doug Jones and I am glad that “F that white dude” or “it’s haaaaard to vote” did not win out.

    It seems they followed my advice after all….

    Nobody followed your advice. Your advice wasn’t directed at black voters, it was directed at the Democratic Party establishment for putting forth what you called “white savior” candidates, and you predicted that black voters wouldn’t flock to the polls to support a candidate they knew wasn’t going to do a damn thing for them. (Those two points in fact contradict each other, but let that pass.) Now that black voters did flock to the polls to support Jones, you claim credit for advice you never gave and for a prediction you never made.

    Why is it so hard for you to admit you were wrong in this instance? I’ve been wrong myself before. It’s not the end of the world. (For the record I also predicted a Moore win, though I was a lot more tentative about it than you were.) Instead, you refuse to revise your opinion in light of new facts, and you pretend like that’s what you were saying all along, when the opposite is true. You’ve made your “theories” so flexible that whatever happens confirms them; you’re never wrong because you’ve defined things so that you never can be wrong–which ironically makes your theories next to useless.

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  36. James Pearce says:

    @Kylopod:

    Why is it so hard for you to admit you were wrong in this instance?

    I would have lost my bet, but I don’t think I’m wrong.

    Alabama’s black voters demonstrated they’re not retarded or otherwise confused or stymied by modern photo ID requirements. They were not as racist as I expected them to be, but then again, it’s talking to white progressives that has me thinking RACE is at the forefront of everyone’s minds. I shoulda knew better.

    Is that what you wanted? A mea culpa?

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  37. Matt says:

    @James Pearce:

    Alabama’s black voters demonstrated they’re not retarded or otherwise confused or stymied by modern photo ID requirements

    How so? How did you come to the conclusion that no blacks were stymied at all simply because at least some blacks were able to vote?

    I mean really you could say the same thing about the Jim Crow era because some blacks were voting just fine right? Hell you could even argue that blacks had no right to complain during slavery because some had no problem living free.

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  38. Kylopod says:

    @James Pearce:

    Alabama’s black voters … were not as racist as I expected them to be, but then again, it’s talking to white progressives that has me thinking RACE is at the forefront of everyone’s minds.

    Really? You don’t think race had anything to do with a candidate who said America was better off when there were slaves? Who led a campaign against the removal of Jim Crow policies from Alabama’s state constitution? Whose opponent prosecuted the Klansmen involved in the 1960s church bombing? You pooh-poohed those elements before the election, but evidently they had more of an effect on black voters than you assumed.

    Of course the main reason for the high turnout from African Americans was that, unlike in previous elections, they were given a reason to believe their vote mattered. It was a case where the perception influenced the reality: first the accusations against Moore started to come in; then polls started showing a surprisingly competitive race; that in turn led to a narrative that the race was winnable for the Democrat; and that motivated Democratic voters to go to the polls. (There was a similar bandwagon effect going on, albeit under different circumstances, with the 2010 election of Scott Brown in the very blue state of Massachusetts.) None of that would have been possible if there hadn’t been a significant drop in Moore’s support among Republicans.

    It does suggest that Democrats should try to compete more widely and to try pushing the limits of where they think it’s possible to win. For example, I definitely think Democrats have a shot at Tennessee next year and maybe even Ted Cruz’s seat in Texas. They’ll probably fail, but I believe it’s worth the effort.

    Still, the circumstances that made the Alabama race winnable were unusual and unlikely to be repeated in other deep red states. Dems put up an excellent candidate and navigated the controversy perfectly, motivating the African American base while playing on white voters’ distaste for Moore, using messaging that you insisted would not work.

    After the 2016 election left the Democratic Party in tatters, an entire cottage industry has arisen about everything the party is supposedly doing wrong. It’s a great environment for people to push their pet theories without much evidence to support them, simply because at this point there are a lot of people willing to listen. The Dems didn’t need to win in Alabama or VHOD to gain back majorities in America, but the fact that they did suggests the Republican hegemony is cracking. It’s just possible that the Dems are finally getting their sh!t together without listening to all the Eeyores who proclaim the party is being doomed by its SJWs or Bernie-bots or neolibs or whichever other theory suits your fancy. In the end, these things are probably going to matter a lot less to helping Dems get back into power than we think. (What Dems end up doing with their power once they get it–now that’s another story.)

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  39. Kylopod says:

    @Matt:

    I mean really you could say the same thing about the Jim Crow era because some blacks were voting just fine right?

    Indeed. I recently read a book about the 1960 election, which revealed that Kennedy engaged in an almost insane needle-threading where he got tacitly involved in the campaign to get MLK freed from jail over a trumped-up traffic charge, but managed to make sure this information was released only to the African American press, so that most white Southerners weren’t aware of it. That way, he managed to win the black vote without losing the white bigot vote–which would probably be impossible today given the flow of information. And even though the vast majority of blacks at the time were disenfranchised, enough did manage to vote to make a difference in one of the closest elections in US history.

    Just because people succeed at something despite obstacles placed in their path doesn’t mean the obstacles aren’t real or that they don’t matter.

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  40. James Pearce says:

    @Matt:

    How did you come to the conclusion that no blacks were stymied at all simply because at least some blacks were able to vote?

    That wasn’t the point I was trying to make. This is the point: Stop making excuses.

    Republicans may twirl their mustaches and conspire to implement voter ID requirements, going, “That’ll get em for sure.” The proper response isn’t to go, “Ah, you got me for sure,” but rather to laugh at their pathetic attempt at oppression and get the ID and vote those bums out.

    I suspect that it’s things like this that are the true reason why a lot of people of color do not go out of their way to vote for Democrats. They speak a good game, but when push comes to shove….they fold like the laundry.

    It’s awesome that Doug Jones beat Roy Moore. Step 1 of 100 completed.

    It’s just possible that the Dems are finally getting their sh!t together without listening to all the Eeyores who proclaim the party is being doomed by its SJWs or Bernie-bots or neolibs or whichever other theory suits your fancy.

    See the link above. It’s possible that Dems are getting it together…but unlikely.

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  41. Matt says:

    @James Pearce: Yeah I totally agree that the Democrats in general need to find a backbone….

    There wasn’t much they could do outside of grand standing right now. The real work is to get more of them elected so they have the actual power to do something.

    @Kylopod: You would probably be amazed at how much people here in Texas hate Ted Cruz. He’s not even popular among Republican voters. I’ve had more than one conservative friend make disparaging comments about Ted.

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