Doug Jones, the Democrat and Alabama senator whose victory over Republican nominee Roy Moore was considered a boon for left-wing politics in a red state, has said that he was “open to voting yes” on President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, per an interview with CNN on Sunday. To be fair to Jones, he also said he’s “open to voting no,” covering all two of the two options he has when it comes to approving whoever Trump sends to the senate for confirmation. “We don’t know who the nominee is going to be yet,” Jones continued. “I don't think my role is to rubber-stamp for the president, but it’s also not an automatic knee-jerk no, either.”
The prevailing sentiment among progressives who cheered Moore’s election win was “Come on, Doug” (in GIF format, the Tyra Banks “We were all rooting for you” meme comes to mind): Jones’s equivocating response contradicts the strident blue wave he rode in on, in which he marketed himself as a bulwark against the racist, misogynist, hard-right Moore. And because voters were deciding on who should fill the seat formerly held by Jess Sessions, now gleefully enacting the xenophobic whims of Trump and the GOP as the head of the Justice Department, Jones’s win was also considered a referendum on post-Trump resistance, perhaps even a good omen for the 2018 midterms. Emphasis now on was.
Considering that Trump’s top SCOTUS choices include a judge who last year ruled that the Trump administration should be able to prevent a 17-year-old undocumented girl in government custody from obtaining an abortion, and another handpicked by a figure described, charmingly, as “dedicated to the enterprise of building a Supreme Court that will overturn Roe v. Wade,” Jones’s both-sides-ing feels remarkably ill-conceived, if not an outright slap to the voters who helped him secure his seat. It was widely remarked upon that, like the 2016 presidential election, black women in Alabama showed up for Jones, an overwhelming 97 percent of them, while 63 percent of white women turned out for Roy Moore, despite his being accused of sexual misconduct and molestation by more than five women in the run-up to the contest. Who will suffer the most if, as Trump’s candidates are striving for, Roe v. Wade is overturned? Poor women, the majority of whom are women of color, who statistically have less access to travel for abortion care if it is denied in their home state.
Now that we’re talking about 2016, remember when running a candidate on a platform comprised substantially of “at least I’m not that guy” didn’t work out? We might be seeing that happening now, despite it ostensibly working out for Jones his own 2017 election. We’ve learned that paying lip service to progressivism—“I fully support a woman’s freedom to choose what happens to her own body,” Jones said last year—is not the same as voting for it (recall some of the brave renegade Republican senators who are “never Trump-ers” who happened to fall over themselves passing his tax bill), and our centrist chickens can come home to roost even once they get into office. In a climate where conviction is being maligned by the Democratic leadership and GOP alike as “incivility”—like what happened to Rep. Maxine Waters last week when she encouraged protestors who have called out Trump administration officials in public—we don’t have time for both sides. Jones can still make good on his election platform by taking a stand: Doug, if you’re reading this, there’s still time.