The lone Democrat in Mississippi’s federal delegation, Rep. Bennie Thompson, took issue with Barbour’s comments on Mississippi and responded in a column in the Clarion Ledger.
I’m sure Thompson’s wounds from racism and discrimination are a trauma not easily healed. But in 2003, I watched Thompson work with then U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering to pass a resolution in Congress honoring Evers, after both stood graveside at a ceremony recognizing the 40th anniversary of his death at Arlington National Cemetery. I watched Thompson and Pickering lead a bipartisan “Congressional Pilgrimage” to Mississippi to visit civil rights shrines. I watched Thompson share the stage with Barbour at the 40th anniversary of the killing of the civil rights workers in Philadelphia, where Barbour denounced the evils and sins of the past and compared the “extreme hateful intolerance” of segregation to “today’s evil of fanatical Islamic terrorism.”
So I was frustrated reading Thompson’s animus toward Barbour.
Thompson writes, “Even after the [Voting Rights Act] was approved in 1965, white politicians in our state have used redistricting to deny blacks the opportunity to hold office.”
Much of those past fifty years, those “white politicians” were Democrats. But if we’re talking about change, we can look at last year when under Republican leadership, redistricting was used to increase the number of majority black state Senate districts from 12 seats to 15 seats.
Thompson continues, “In addition, not one of the black elected officials [Barbour] raves about is a Republican, nor did he endorse any of them for municipal, county, state or federal office.”
Republicans do need more black elected officials. Barbour has supported and endorsed a number of black Republicans for office, but they haven’t won. Thompson is glad some of those black Republicans didn’t win – they ran against Thompson. I imagine Barbour did not endorse the other black candidates not because they’re black, but because they’re not Republicans. In fact, had Barbour endorsed them, Thompson may have used that against them. This year in Canton and Jackson, Thompson publicly attacked Democrats in their primaries that he believed had support of Republicans.