SANDERS: True mountain climbers win election

Published 3:54 pm Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The journey was not just uphill; it was up mountain. I’m talking about the Dec. 12, 201,7 U.S. Senate special election in Alabama.

One side had virtually everything: history of success; a strong political party; the President of the United States; the support of Steve Bannon; and various other resources.

The only question was whether we would be mountain climbers.

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The history was powerful. The last time a Democrat was elected to the U.S. Senate in Alabama was 1992 some 25 years ago. We have had approximately ten U.S. Senatorial elections since that time. No Democrat has come close to winning. The history of U.S. Senate elections in Alabama was so powerful.

All but four or so Alabama statewide elections since 1998 have resulted in Republican victories. There is not a single Democrat in any statewide Alabama office. There are approximately 30 such offices. We have had at least 80 elections of statewide officials since the year 2000. Only four or so were Democrats. That’s 78-2 or 77-3. This is truly an extraordinary history of success by Alabama Republicans.

President Donald Trump carried Alabama by 28 percentage points (69-31), the second highest percentage of any state in the presidential election last year. It was a powerful demonstration of Republican success. And the President was very active in this election with tweets, public statements, robo calls and a rally a few miles from the Alabama border. The public support of the most powerful person in the world is almost overwhelming.

The Republican Party is extremely strong in Alabama. The Alabama Republican Party never wavered in its strong support of Roy Moore. Alabama’s Gov. Kay Ivey said that she had “no reason” to disbelieve the women who accused Moore of involvement with them when they were teenagers. One girl had been just 14 years old at the time. However, the governor still stated strongly that she was still going to vote for Moore. The Alabama Republican Party had plenty of people and plenty of money.

There was Steve Bannon who declares that his strategy helped Donald Trump to become President Donald Trump. He also helped Moore to win over Strange in the primary runoff.

On the other hand, the Democratic Party was very weak. It was weak because of too many losses over a long period of time. But the biggest reason for weakness was being extremely divided. In addition, the Democratic Party is financially bereft. It was not a great resource.

Some of us met. We agreed that Doug Jones was the senatorial candidate, but it was our election. The overall turnouts in the primary and primary runoff were dismal. We launched the Vote or Die initiative. It was not about any candidate but simply about getting out the vote. My wife Faya Rose Toure and John Zippert, president of Alabama New South Coalition, were elected as chairs of the initiative. We started very early. There was some controversy about the Vote or Die concept. However, a movement was forged.

I knew that I had to help. I had to do things that ran against my nature to help create a movement of voters. I stood at the Edmund Pettus Bridge with Vote or Die signs. I participated in other activities with Vote or Die signs. I placed many of my activities on Facebook and other social media. Many others participated in similar activities and also shared their expertise on social media. There was an official Vote or Die Facebook site. I may seem like I am bragging, but no one worked harder or more effectively on Vote or Die than Faya Rose Toure.

This high mountain was much too high for a few to climb. It required many mountain climbers. For a while we did not see any other climbers. Some of us were disappointed when Doug Jones campaign manager said the Vote or Die initiative was “too harsh.”

But other mountain climbers tackled the mountain as well. Down the stretch people came from across Alabama and around the country to help climb the high mountain. When some people see others climbing the high mountain, they join the climb. We all became mountain climbers.

It took every vote to win. It took every group to win. However, African Americans, came out in droves. We are just 25 percent of Alabama’s population but we were 30 percent of the voters. African American women were especially strong in turn out. They voted 98 percent for Doug Jones.

Over half of Senator-Elect Jones’ votes came from African Americans. We are all true mountain climbers.