Nearly three years ago state Sen. Chris McDaniel was joined by ten fellow Republican state senators to form the Senate Conservative Coalition. The stated purpose was to offer legislative alternatives that were more conservative and create serious policy proposals to steer the GOP and the Mississippi Senate more right.
In essence what the Coalition sought was a litmus test for policies and legislation, not necessarily rooted in traditional conservative Republican principles but in their own more libertarian values. They aimed to be heard by any means, ramping up the divisive rhetoric and stirring controversy, determined to issue press release after press release until they found an audience.
Of course, trying to “out-conservative” the Mississippi Senate is not generally something that merits special recognition.
It soon became apparent that the Senate Conservative Coalition was more an opposition group within the state senate to promote McDaniel. When that became more than obvious, the Coalition lost two or three of its members right off the bat.
The Coalition senators that remained lost almost all ability to effectively represent their constituents in the state Senate because of the nature of their opposition; they ostracized themselves from their colleagues, attacking the chamber’s leadership openly on talk radio and social media for not giving them their due.
No senator wanted a Coalition member to cosponsor or advocate their bill knowing it would surely mean its doom.
A few senators hung with McDaniel through the 2014 US Senate primary debacle with mixed results for themselves. In early 2015, it looked like Michael Watson was going to make a run at Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, as we previously documented, but he lost all but two senators who endorsed Reeves early on. Two other Coalition members either didn’t run for their seat or outright lost re-election. One senator, Tony Smith, took his McDaniel-Coalition political capital out for a stroll and ran unsuccessfully for the Public Service Commission.
And now with the full Senate voting 47-3 to seat Bob Dearing over Melanie Sojourner, the McDaniel confidant and former campaign manager, in SD 37, the Coalition (if you could in fact still call it that) appears to be down to three – McDaniel, Michael Watson and Angela Hill – who, by the way were the three dissenting votes on Monday.
Watson has his own political aspirations that cannot be overshadowed by McDaniel much longer if he’s to be viable in the near future. The political merry-go-round has spun at least twice now (2015 and 2016) with no one from the group answering the bell for higher office. Hill has always been her own person and is not naive; she is a passionate, straightforward senator who isn’t easily fooled. She will land where she believes best on issues despite any ties.
Haley Barbour frequently opined that successful politics was about addition, not subtraction. As much as the erstwhile McDaniel-led coalition would like to reduce politics in Mississippi to a 9th grade civics lesson and a contest on accurate recitation of the Constitution, politics boils down to 6th grade math – 50% + 1 wins – and the “Coalition” is racing at light speed in the wrong direction.