With the successful ouster of Rep. Bobby Moak, Democrats in the Mississippi House must now find a new Minority Leader heading into the 2016 legislative session.
The task is proving harder than you might think. It appears the old hats don’t want the burden of leadership and the untested newbies are simply looking to raise their own brand.
Egos aside, there are much deeper issues than seniority or personal aspirations that must be considered for Democrats in this selection.
The choice of the next House Minority Leader could have an impact not only on Democrats’ ability to garner earned media over the next four years but also on their prospects in the 2019 election, and beyond.
Who the Democrats trot out to be their leader in the House, and at the state party, matters now more than ever, whether they want to admit it publicly or not. At stake is if they want to remain a viable opposition party in Mississippi.
Ultimately, it is all about perception, messaging and connecting, not with just some voters, but a majority of them.
Of the likely 48 Democrats to be seated in the House, only approximately 1/4 of them are white. Democrats are steadily losing their stronghold on rural white voters in Mississippi for no other reason than their politics and their connection to their national party’s platform.
The political reality is that Democrats must gain the approval of both black and white voters if they are to ever return to prominence in the Legislature and in statewide office. If Democrats want to win back the state Senate and House they will need to consider putting a leader(s) in place that not only speak to the concerns average Mississippians have today, but who portray the demographic they need to win at the ballot box.
The Democrat platform and its national party’s agenda do party leaders no good in this red state. It is a burden that weighs them down. A majority of Mississippians don’t condone most of what Democrats nationally claim to embrace in today’s political world – abortion, unions, Obamacare, open borders, gun control, removal of Christian or historic symbols from the public square, attacks on the family, and the like.
Republicans, however, must be more intentional in making black lawmakers feel welcome on the conservative side of the aisle. A supermajority is good for the conservative movement, but ultimately governing is the most important.
Black legislators must begin having tough conversations with their constituencies in terms of what they value, where their principals lie, and how to be an effective voice for them at the Capitol. Legislating is not “us versus them,” black versus white, however the nature of the fall of the Democrat Party in Mississippi and its current membership has many viewing it in such a way.
If Democrats roll out a new Legislative leadership team with no change in how they address the concerns of average Mississippians with more wet kisses and bear hugs to its national liberal platform, 2019 is likely to see even more legislative seats go red, leaving Democrats in that phone booth once occupied by state Republicans.