If Jones didn’t strain in his outreach to Alabama’s African-Americans, neither did he try to pull a “Sister Souljah,” publicly breaking with the left on an issue like criminal justice reform, to impress Alabama conservatives. If he dared to challenge party orthodoxy, the Democratic base might not have turned out in force. Conversely, if he had campaigned with more left-wing edge, he might have convinced several thousand additional Republicans that they should set aside their misgivings about their own nominee, and get out of the house to stop Jones. Jones stayed within the confines of genericness, and got the turnout mix he needed.

Various progressive groups that have pressed the Democratic Party to shift leftward, such as MoveOn, Indivisible and the Working Families Party, have taken some credit for pouring resources into Alabama and boosting base turnout (just as they did after the gubernatorial victory of Virginia’s low-key Ralph Northam). But that only proves that activists on the left are perfectly willing and able to get behind a Generic Democrat, and tacitly ally with moderates, to defeat a distasteful Republican. No boldness necessary.