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Columnist Dan Ford argues that Democrats should use a 50-state strategy after Doug Jones wins U.S. Senate seat.

On Dec. 12, Democrat Doug Jones miraculously defeated Republican Roy Moore in Alabama’s special election for U.S. Senate. Given Alabama’s deep and persistent conservatism — proven by the fact that prior to Jones’ victory, a Democrat last won a Senate seat in Alabama in 1992 — Jones’ win greatly contrasted the political ideology of the state. Although Moore was a shockingly distasteful candidate who faced numerous allegations of having conducted unwanted sexual advances toward minors, Jones proved that when a Democrat properly conducts a political race, progressive policies can resonate even in the most conservative places. This highlights the understanding that Democrats must run a “50-state strategy” in the coming years. In doing so, the Democratic party would take no section of America for granted, while also — and most importantly — not ignoring areas known to be deeply conservative.

This strategy requires, more than anything else, presenting the voters in conservative America with not only a reason to vote against Republicans, but a reason for why they should go further and support Democrats. Although Moore’s immoral conduct was certainly a significant factor for voters in deciding for whom they should cast their ballot, it was Jones’ interaction with the local communities that likely propelled him above Moore in the later stages of the contest — proving to Alabamians that it was his progressive policies that deserved their vote. Jones did this by leading a very strong grassroots movement, which included directly contacting black voters by knocking on doors and engaging with them in community activities to provide them with reasons for why they should cast their ballot for him. The results provide support for this strategy, as Jones stunningly won 98 percent of the votes cast by black women, while winning 93 percent of the black male vote. By engaging with the community and speaking to them about important issues, he gave them reason to vote for him in the election.

Of course, it’s important to note Moore’s statement claiming America was great when slavery existed because “families were united” very likely propelled black Alabamians to oppose his candidacy. Yet, Jones still needed to give these voters a reason not just to oppose Moore, but to support and vote for him. As was made obvious by Hillary Clinton’s presidential loss to Donald Trump in November 2016, simply giving voters a reason to oppose a candidate may not be enough to win an election. A candidate must proactively seek out support, providing voters with a reason to vote for their progressive agenda.

Doing this in today’s conservative strongholds will allow the Democratic party to successfully plant the seed of progressivism in areas filled mostly — at least for now — with conservatives. Although Alabama and its southern neighbors won’t be persistently challengeable by Democrats any time soon, if these states are to ever be consistently competitive, it’s necessary the Democratic party focus its efforts in those states from this moment onward. This includes contacting voters and alerting them of the issues plaguing their communities — just as Jones successfully did.

Doing so will build a platform upon which Democrats can illuminate and propel forth their agenda throughout the conservative strongholds of this country. If this is done via a strong grassroots movement, the Democratic Party should be able to successfully grow this progressive movement throughout all the crevices of the country.

Dan Ford is a senior international affairs and international business double major. Contact Dan at forddm@dukes.jmu.edu.

Growing up in the Virginian shadow of Washington, D.C. to an American father and Albanian mother, Dan holds an interest in all matters, political and global. This, along with his love of JMU, guides the concepts about which he chooses to write.