National media types simply do not understand Mississippi politics.
Truth be told, there aren’t a ton of people outside of Mississippi that do. Few know the how and why of politics here in the Magnolia State.
Yet, the national media and activist Democrats buoyed by their infatuation with the left’s insistence on viewing every issue through the lens of skin color are determined to cause an upheaval in Mississippi.
And what’s more, it appears some in the Mississippi Democratic Party are taking the bait.
Politico published an article over the weekend entitled “The Southern state where Black voters are gaining in numbers, but not power” with the subtitle reading, “As Democrats celebrate Joe Biden’s win in Georgia, Mississippi serves as a reminder of how far the party has to go in the South.”
The writer, Renuka Rayasam, uses this as her central theme in the piece: “If Georgia is the epitome of the ‘New South,’ Mississippi remains very much still the old South: a conservative stronghold where the GOP is composed almost exclusively of white voters, and the Democratic Party of Black voters.”
Rayasam correctly states that Mississippi has the highest percentage of black people of any state in the country – 38 percent – and virtually all of them of voting age are Democrats. But what she leaves out is that Mississippi has long had the highest number of black elected officials of any state, from school boards and City Halls to the state Legislature.
Unsurprisingly, however, is the use of “the old South.” It is out of context here in relation to Rayasam’s assumptions. Just because the Republican Party of today is comprised by a higher number of white voters than black does not make it racist or symbolic of “the old South.”
In fact, Democrats controlled state and local government in Mississippi in its entirety for nearly 100 years until the party moved progressively left beginning in the early 1990s. The Mississippi Legislature was still controlled by Democrats until the 2011 cycle, and it was not until the 2019 cycle that Republicans won all 8 statewide offices. There remain pockets of local governments where otherwise conservative minded Mississippians do not run under the Republican label merely because being a Democrat is what is expected in those areas.
It is true that Mississippi has not elected a black person to represent the state in the U.S. Senate since Reconstruction (when it did, they were Republicans) and that only one of its four Congressional seats is held by a black person today, but that only speaks to the superficial skin color of the person. It does not speak to the politics at play by those black persons who have run for higher office in Mississippi and lost.
The truth is, in Mississippi, it is not about race – black or white – as it pertains to a candidate as it was under the decades of Democrat rule; it is about their ideology. Mississippians are not progressives or leftists, by and large, and they remain suspect of an intrusive, big brother-style federal government that threatens their belief in God, their right to bear arms, and their ability to work and raise a traditional family, all platforms at odds with the Democratic Party.
Run a strong, black conservative like South Carolina U.S. Senator Tim Scott or commentator Candice Owens in a Mississippi race and watch them win.
But that truth does not fit the narrative in the national media, and it does not fit the activists in the Democratic Party who are choosing to run farther to the left instead of toward the center.
In 2020, Mississippi saw the Mike Espy campaign make race a central part of their second run for the U.S. Senate, playing into the national narrative with Black Lives Matter and desperately trying to call to mind the state’s troubled past.
Espy also ran more to the left, aligning with “Squad” members, the most progressive in Congress, and taking in donations from questionable left-leaning organizations. As such, voters rejected Espy again, and to such a degree that $12 million – the highest ever raised by a Democrat for elected office in Mississippi – could not save Espy from himself resulting in him losing by 10 points, three worse than just two years before when he first took on the state’s first female Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith.
“Trump just gave the order for his base to turn out. We saw more voters turn out in Mississippi, and they were aligned against the Democratic Party brand,” Espy said in his first interview since the election in the Politico article. Notice, Espy recognizes that voters were “aligned against the Democratic Party brand.”
Still, Rayasam in her Politico article paints the loss in terms of race, quoting a former Espy staffer.
“What we’re seeing is that our politics is no longer red and blue,” said Jared Turner, a political strategist who worked on Democrat Mike Espy’s failed Senate campaign in Mississippi last year. “It’s Black and white.”
Even new Mississippi Democratic Party chairman Tyree Irving, a black man who won the seat over a white man, seems to have missed the boat on why Mississippi voters rejected Espy, telling Rayasam that the party “needs to move left and lean into its Black base of support rather than taking their votes for granted.”
Irving told Politico that his goal is not to alienate white voters, “but rather embrace an agenda that appeals to a broader group of Black voters in the state.”
“The most difficult problem in Mississippi is race,” said Irving in the article. “When I was describing the relationship between white Democrats and Black Democrats in recent years, race looms large in that situation.”
The Democratic Party chairman went on to say, “You have Southern politicians, and white Democrats in years past were guilty as well, they have fed white Mississippians a racial diet — three meals a day of it — to keep poor and average middle-income Mississippians separated along racial lines.”
One thing is certain for Mississippi Democrats – making their central message about black and white is a losing proposition in the near term. It will get them what they have gotten – mounting losses at the ballot box and an ever thinner bench as their officials continue to switch parties, disowning their radicalism.
Mississippians have proven that they are ready to put the past behind us (i.e. the recent state flag vote – an integrated effort of white and black political leaders in a Republican-led Legislature). Mississippians do not want to be resegregated and forced to see the color of one’s skin before judging the content of their character. And Mississippians are not willing to give up their conservative ideologies and traditional Christian values out of pandering to cultural whims.
No matter how the national media and activist Democrats try and spin the narrative against Mississippi, continuing to paint us as “the old South” and rehashing a bygone era of racial ignorance is not the answer to how they win… and the sooner they learn that lesson, the better off this state and our citizens will be.