Doug Jones defeated Roy Moore in Tuesday’s Alabama Senate race with the overwhelming support of black women voters, 98 percent of whom cast their ballots for the Democratic candidate.
According to CNN’s exit polls, only 35 percent of white women voted for Jones, with 63 percent of the voter bloc offering their support to Moore instead, who has been accused of pursuing inappropriate relationships with teen girls as an adult.
“Doug Jones would not have won today without the turnout we saw from African-American voters,” Symone D. Sanders, a Democratic strategist, told Newsweek. “Black women have been absolutely clear in their support for Democratic policies and Democratic candidates. It’s high time for Democrats … to invest in that effort.”
Sanders said it was the grassroots, on-the-ground efforts of Jones’s African-American supporters that helped bring black voters to the ballot box on Tuesday and push Jones across the finish line. But if Democrats want to carry their 2017 successes into the 2018 midterms, they can’t count on black women alone to carry the party.
“Black women have been attempting to save America since the dawn of time,” Sanders said. “That doesn’t mean we should allow the fate of America to be laid at the feet of black women—it has to be a multicultural effort.”
Still, others couldn’t help but notice the poetic justice of a Democrat with an upstanding record on civil rights winning in deep-red Alabama.
“It’s no coincidence that Selma, where blood was shed in the struggle for voting rights for Black people, pushed Doug Jones ahead for good,” Bernice King, Martin Luther King Jr.’s daughter, tweeted following Jones’s win. Selma, Alabama—the site of 1972’s “Bloody Sunday”—was among one of the Democratic candidate’s strongholds with black voters.
The Jones camp had tried to leverage the candidate’s civil rights record to appeal to African-American voters in the state. When he served as a prosecutor, Jones was responsible forconvicting members of the Ku Klux Klan who bombed a Birmingham, Alabama Baptist church and killed four young girls.
“I’m very humbled and honored to have played a part in the civil rights saga, if you will, many years after the fact,” Jones said during a campaign rally in Montgomery, Alabama, another famous site of the civil rights movement.
In the weeks leading up to Tuesday’s special election, many white women spoke out about why the allegations against Moore didn’t shake their support for the candidate. Some of them believed the women who had come forward with allegations against Moore were lying, while others openly admitted that whether or not the accusations were true would have no effect on their vote.
“My mother married at 15 and married a man 14 years older than her,” a woman named Kay Day said during a November press conference for Moore. “In that day, if you married someone that was 15 years older, it was common.”
“Even if it were so, that would not make me not vote for Judge Moore,” she added, referring to the allegations against him. “That is just not something that would make me discredit and ruin a man for the rest of his life.”
The disparity between black women and white women’s votes in Tuesday night’s race was a familiar one, for those who recall that 53 percent of white women voted for President Donald Trump in the 2016 election—even in the face of over a dozen allegations of sexual misconduct and an audio recording of Trump himself bragging about grabbing women’s genitals without their consent.
Every other demographic of American women overwhelmingly supported Hillary Clinton, including 94 percent of black women who voted for the Democratic nominee, who would have been the country’s first woman president.