Mississippi Democrat Party chairman and executive director Rickey Cole announced he would be stepping away from the party leadership and not seeking a third term as chair, just a few weeks removed from the most recent round of losses in state and legislative elections.
This solidifies an ideological, and perhaps a generational change, for the state’s liberal party.
The Democrats who were conservative and stayed in the party out of respect to their fathers and grandfathers have all switched to the Republican party, or as the old adage goes, “the Democratic Party left them.”
The Mississippi Democrats that remain are inextricably tied to the national party, and have openly embraced national mainstream Democrats from Hillary Clinton to socialists like Bernie Sanders.
Cole is a dying breed of Mississippi political party boss. His Southern drawl and quick rural wit dressed in overalls and boots isn’t quite up with the times. Understanding this, he and others believe this to be a good opportunity for the next generation of Democrats to take ownership of the party.
It will not matter if the next Mississippi Democrat Party chairman is white or black, male or female, boomer or millennial; unless the party’s agenda changes to better reflect average Mississippians who by and large are conservative socially, fiscally, and constitutionally, and unless they begin to openly challenge their national platform and its standard-bearers, the Democrats in this state will likely not make major gains at the ballot box for perhaps another generation.
Cole has overseen the Democrat Party during a time in Mississippi when Republicans have made historic gains in state and local government. Cole faced a sea change in state government and tried to navigate a sinking ship as best as possible during his tenure, a mission made impossible in large measure by his national party’s agenda, social media and its rise among the state’s voters, the lack of ability to fundraise off the Democrat brand, and President Barack Obama, Sen. Harry Reid and former Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi.
Cole’s legacy as the Mississippi Democrat chair is likely to be a murky one with pundits on both sides of the aisle able to question his success/failure and opine on what went wrong.
Given the hand Cole was dealt, I’m not sure anyone currently in the Democrat Party could have played it any better.
Whoever steps into this role has to know they begin as far behind the eight ball as the Democrat Party has ever been in Mississippi. Good luck with that.
On a personal note – I’ve had the opportunity to interview Cole for YP and on radio over the years, as well as engage with him on politics and policy in a variety of ways. To his credit, I believe him to be a man of conviction who has been as open as allowed in that position when considering the challenges he faced. I respect Cole’s way of handling himself and the passion he brings to a debate; he believes what he says and is as knowledgeable a chairman as Democrats could have hoped for in Mississippi. I hope he continues to add to the political discourse in Mississippi with his Rickey-isms and old Southern charm.