“This wasn’t a marginal contest in some familiar swing state,” says Richard Wolffe in The Guardian. “We’re talking about Alabama… one of the most Republican states in the union where there’s a long and violent history of rejecting outside influences, and anything that smacks of progressive politics”.
Despite that history, Democrat Doug Jones triumphed over Republican Roy Moore in the special election for a US Senate seat this week. Moore had been accused of molesting a 14-year-old girl in 1979, but Donald Trump threw his weight behind him anyway. The result highlights “the existential question facing every GOP member of Congress who faces re-election next year: is it better or worse to break with Donald Trump?”.
This is “an unthinkable victory for progressives” agrees Graham Vyse in The New Republic. “If a liberal like Jones can win in Alabama, one of the reddest states in the country, there’s no telling what Democrats can achieve in the 2018 mid-term elections.”
While few if any GOP candidates next year will come with “baggage as severe as Moore’s, they will be saddled with the tarnished brand of a party led by an accused sexual harasser” in Trump himself. Overall, Jones’ victory “is proof that Democrats can compete and win anywhere, and that the backlash against Trump is massive and growing”.
Bad as this result is, things could have been worse for the Republicans, argues the National Review’s Jim Geraghty. “Had Moore gone to the Senate he would have faced a Senate Ethics Committee investigation” and “GOP senators would have faced the decision of whether to expel him”. Indeed, “Moore could be counted on to create new controversies every time he faced the cameras” on issues such as “unnecessary constitutional amendments, the wisdom of Vladimir Putin, or whether America was the focus of evil in the modern world”.
However, “the most immediate implications of the race will be in Congress, where Republicans have been struggling painfully to pass major legislation” writes the New York Times’ Jonathan Martin. “They failed by single-vote margins to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and the Senate only narrowly approved a deep tax cut whose final details are now being negotiated with the House of Representatives.”
Indeed, “Jones’ arrival in Washington will only make that math more daunting”. At the very least, “maverick members of their fragile majority”, such as Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Bob Corker of Tennessee, may now “have a far stronger hand” in the upper house.
Trump’s “dumb move” on Jerusalem
President Trump’s speech recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital “was a great decision”, says Melanie Phillips in the Jerusalem Post. It signalled that, as far as America is concerned, “the century-long Arab attempt to destroy Israel’s legitimacy – the essence of the Middle East conflict – has failed”. Israel has hitherto been treated as “a second-class country, uniquely prevented from asserting its own capital”.
What’s more, it’s not as if he said the whole of Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. Trump made it clear that “the US will support a two-state solution if Israel and the Arabs agree to it”. There is nothing in the declaration “to preclude the Palestinians from having control over part of Jerusalem in any eventual settlement”.
What rot, says Der Spiegel. Trump’s “dumb move” has merely handed Israeli president Benjamin Netanyahu “a long-coveted gift without asking anything in return”. As a result, “Israel, which has long demonstrated a reluctance to make any compromises at all, will feel empowered to continue ignoring demands to yield”.
Indeed, “Netanyahu’s government has in any case shown a preference for creating facts on the ground”. As a result, “it is now up to us – the Europeans, the Germans – to come up with new ideas” to advance the peace process.
Recognising Jerusalem just makes it all the more difficult to “reawaken” the peace process, agrees Ghanem Nuseibeh in the Financial Times. But that doesn’t seem to bother the president. This move was all about “pandering to a local agenda, seeking domestic approval regardless of international opprobrium”.