The Democrat victory in the Alabama Senate election reveals that deep political turmoil now faced by the GOP. The loss of a Republican senator now reduces the already hair-thin GOP majority to two votes over the Democrats. This means that all it takes to defeat nearly any major Republican legislation–which often divides votes along party lines–is two conservative Senators to defect. This puts huge pressure on the Republican tax plan, which has angered and confused many across the political spectrum and strikes even more as deeply unpopular.
The Alabama senate race was particularly important win for the Democrats beyond the political implications in Congress. First, it represented the first Democrat win in the state since 1992. Furthermore, it’s a lost seat in a deep red, deep southern state that up to this time had long been considered dominantly Republican. A final addition to the GOP political turmoil and win for Democrats is that President Donald Trump’s favored candidate, Roy Moore, was beaten, potentially signalling a break in the president’s political victories.
The political turmoil wrought by the election is also a function of non-political issues. Moore, the Republican candidate, was heavily attacked for alleged sexual harassment and assault by several women, with some claiming the attacks took place when they were in their teens and Moore was in his thirties.
The accusations forced members of the Republican party to decide whether they supported Moore, who was heavily endorsed by the president, or they chose to believe the women who accused Moore of those heinous acts and either support a Democrat or not vote for either party. And the soul searching, far from being over now that the election has passed, has only just begun for a party that is largely in flux since the election of Trump.
Aside from the deep political fissures that Moore presented, the loss of the Senate seat to a progressive Democrat means that the Republican tax plan cannot afford to lose more than one right-wing vote on its proposal. With Republican Senator Bob Corker a confirmed “no” on the vote, unless he changes his mind by the time the bill hits the floor as soon as next week, then only one flipped Republican is all it will take to sink the proposal.
If the Republican tax plan fails, then that will leave the White House without a single major legislative win in the first year of the Trump administration. Meanwhile, others are concerned that the Republican tax plan will mean trouble for the U.S. deficit.
“The Making of an Upset,” The Atlantic, December 13, 2017.
“Republicans, Closing In on Final Tax Bill, Aim for a Vote Next Week,” The New York Times, December 12, 2017.