It’s a fracture in the Democratic Party that unfolded in public over the weekend following the election, in a pair of interviews in The New York Times in which progressive Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and moderate Conor Lamb took shots at each other. In response to Ocasio-Cortez criticizing the Lamb campaign for an anemic Facebook presence, Lamb, who represents a congressional district in western Pennsylvania that Trump won in 2016, blasted the New York congresswoman for undermining the party with anti-fracking tweets during a presidential debate.
Senator Jones himself had some concerns about Democratic intra-party politics. In a post-election phone interview on Wednesday, he spoke about wanting to see a change in how the national party funded its candidates. “I would like to see more operated under the DNC, because I think that that’s more of a grassroots, state level,” he said. “My concern has been with [the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] that they would lunge from candidate to candidate. And they don’t do the work at the grassroots level. They look for what I call ‘The New Shiny Penny.’
“Look how much we outspent Tuberville,” Jones continued. “Look how much Jaime outspent Lindsey Graham. So it’s not just about money. We have money. It’s not just about resources. We have resources. It’s about the electorate. And when you are trying to build back the trust of the electorate, you got to do more than just run a candidate with resources.
“It takes a lot of work over time. And the Republicans have been very, very good at doing that. And where I think that Democrats in the South have opportunities is if we confront some of these social issues head on, like I did. Like abortion. Like guns, gays. Just confront those, head on. The demographics are changing. You cannot try to mealy-mouth these things and hide behind them. You’ve got to let folks know where you stand. And explain that you’re not an extremist, and you’re there for them. And maybe we don’t always agree on a couple of things about these issues, but we can find some common ground to agree on.”
Jones ultimately only outperformed Joe Biden in Alabama by a little more than three percentage points. Compare that to Jaime Harrison’s race in South Carolina, where the Democratic Senate hopeful edged the top of the ticket by only eight tenths of a percentage point—despite raising more than $100 million all told, more than four times what Jones had to work with.
But Jones will leave office with a credential that no other Democrat gained in the Trump era: He won and held a U.S. Senate seat in the Deep South. According to a Politico article handicapping the short-list for Biden’s cabinet, which was based on “dozens of conversations with Biden aides, his close allies, lobbyists and Hill staff,” Jones is the favorite for attorney general.
During my conversation with Jones on Wednesday, I asked him if he would be open to a role in a Biden White House.
“I’d have to say, I would be open,” the senator said. “They’re going to have a difficult time. We are still a very divided country. It’s going to be a very divided Congress, and he needs to pick the best folks that he’s comfortable with, that can help him. Work with what appears to be a Republican Senate. Heal some wounds, and move this country forward. So I’m certainly open, but that’s about as far as I’ll go right now.
“I will say this,” Jones continued. “I do hope and believe that I’ll be able to be of some assistance to that transition and the administration, in trying to help select those folks. Joe called me last night, right after my race was called.”
“What did he say?” I asked.
“We talked a little bit,” said Jones, “and it’ll just kind of remain between the two of us. … But we’ve been friends for a long, long time. And I told him that the most important thing, at this moment in this time and this place, is for him to get elected. And to pull it out, and then we’ll talk again. And that’s how we left it.”
According to a Democratic source, on Saturday, after Biden was announced as the next president of the United States, the Biden transition team made contact with Jones.