In your face, Constitution thumping, confrontational conservatism: That’s what the Tea Party is peddling, by and large, in the Mississippi U.S. Senate race.
They want to “take the fight” to Washington, to kick the bums out, to “take back” our nation with the “blood of patriots,” to make DC listen. It’s hunting season, and no one is safe; friendly fire is acceptable, and enthusiastically encouraged.
The national Tea Party elites have sold this version of warring politics to hometown sympathizers with mixed success across the nation, failing at the ballot box and in the halls of Congress more times than not.
But in the Magnolia State, it’s been an easier sell.
Conservatives here are readily accepting of what they view as a just fight, quick to embrace the second amendment and swift to push back on any whiff of personal infringement, whether real or perceived.
We are accustomed to being hit over the head with a shared morality, love of America, and Southern social acceptance; after all, this is the buckle of the Bible Belt.
We, Mississippians, are bred with those common threads.
So when terms such as liberty, freedom, constitution, we the people, and independence are repeatedly integrated into a candidate’s talking points, it’s easy to see why there is a natural appeal.
Hence, the advantage Chris McDaniel holds over Thad Cochran in the Senate primary. Political showmanship is trying to replace practical governance. Add in millions and millions of outside dollars and a few polibrities (political celebrities) and what’s playing out wasn’t as big of a surprise as some believed.
What was a surprise was how long it took the national Tea Party elites to figure it out.
Just four weeks from the primary, McDaniel seemed like Custer with little hope of reinforcements. Now he’s barreling towards a win in large part due to the aforementioned outsiders exploiting our Mississippi nature.
It’s unfortunate that the core values of our republic and our Mississippi way of life have been distorted and coopted by a group of DC elitists who see us as nothing more than sheep, who themselves are making millions in consulting fees off the backs of our neighbors, masquerading as your average Bubba when in actuality they are more country club than 4H.
Self-proclaimed “Christian conservatives” as they are, have resorted to labeling other conservatives who don’t blindly accept or wholeheartedly support their candidate of choice vile and hateful names, names that would make a Southern lady blush and a Mississippi momma reach for a bar of soap and a hickory switch.
Yet when challenged on such inappropriate behavior they double down with even more, raising the shrillness of their battle cries.
And they call other conservatives hypocrites.
For this Mississippi boy, born and raised, I have come to expect hotly contested political races in my state. But the decorum has rarely reached such a vile fever pitch as in this primary.
I am not alone in my concern over the health of conservatism in Mississippi. How our candidates and their supporters act, who they associate with, and what groups they seek and accept support from all matter if Mississippi is going to continue to turn ever more red in the coming years.
It would behoove conservatives in Mississippi to remember our electoral history before buying the slick talking points propagated and encouraged by those who only recently even gave our state any level of credence.
The 2011 legislative election was the first time Republicans held the Mississippi House in 140 years with the help of defecting Democrats who
embraced a big tent philosophy.
The 2007 election was the first time Republicans gained control of seven of the eight statewide offices.
Democrats still control a majority of local offices across the state, but that is trending little by little to Republicans, not out of idealogical purity and a throw-the-bums-out philosophy, but by being a more attractive and inclusive party that has been up to this point more attuned to practical, results based governance.
The 2015 state election will be hotly contested by Democrats looking to regain the Mississippi House and make gains in the state Senate. The antics of this US Senate race won’t help Republicans retain and gain in many districts where the electorate recently shifted right on the ballot or was on the verge of making that move.
Conventional wisdom remains that Democrats start any statewide election with 38-40% of the vote (i.e. Reeves vs O’Hara) even without campaigning.
What’s all that mean?
Mississippians are going to have to collectively determine if they can afford the economics and political fallout of siding with the extreme fringe who are unwilling to find common ground and who are more concerned with ideological purity than finding real legislative successes that advance conservatism in practical terms.
Mississippi must raise the level of discussion and reject the dirty, divisive confrontational conservatism. It is likely to have detrimental results long term at the ballot boxes across Mississippi if these types of overinflated vitriolic tactics and questionable antics continue to be employed under the banner of what “good” conservatism means.