With both the courts and Alabama election officials briskly dismissing Roy Moore’s empty allegations of “voter fraud,” the state’s unlikely new Democratic senator, Doug Jones, will finally be sworn into office on Wednesday. He didn’t arrive in time to play a role in any year-end legislative drama. But there will be considerable speculation about the role he might play in a Senate where Republicans now have a spare two-vote margin.
Conservative media seem confident in projecting that Jones will be one of those “moderate Democratic” swing voters in the Senate. But in the Trump era it’s not clear what that will mean, since other Democrats from conservative states who make bipartisan noises just like Jones have regularly voted with their party on important floor actions (other than judicial confirmations). It’s worth noting that when Jones himself talks about working with Republicans, it’s on issues conservatives mostly disdain, and even then he sets conditions:
“Infrastructure is the perfect opportunity for both the parties to try to show to the American public that you can work together,” Mr. Jones said. But he declined to say whether he could support the sort of public-private partnerships that could be central to Mr. Trump’s plans.
This distinguishes him from pretty much zero Senate Democrats. The same could be said of this stance from Jones:
[S]iding with congressional Democrats, Jones made clear he wants to help devise safeguards for immigrants brought to the country illegally as children, but without funding for a border wall.
Jones’s initial staff hires have also drawn attention for providing clues to his likely positioning. His chief of staff, Dana Gresham, once had the same position with centrist Alabama congressman Artur Davis. But he followed up that stint with a position in the Obama administration, and will become the only African-American chief of staff in the Senate — which is appropriate given the central nature of African-American turnout and support levels to Jones’s win. Legislative director Mark Libell held the same job with standard-brand Democratic senator Jay Rockefeller. His deputy, Katie Campbell, was policy director for the House Blue Dogs. But what she and the other two hires have in common is that they are Alabama Democrats who know this could be their only chance to work for a Democratic senator from their state.
You’d have to figure one of his most important priorities is to fight for the right to vote for the minority voters who largely lifted him to the Senate.
All in all, it seems that Jones meant what he said about himself:
“I’m going to consider anything,” said Jones, explaining that he doesn’t plan on labeling himself a progressive or a conservative Democrat but a “Doug Jones Democrat.”
That should be good enough for most Democrats everywhere.