Monday morning after the Charlottesville tragedy, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant posted the following.
The message was appropriate. Unequivocating. Direct. With the state seal as the background, the Governor said white supremacy will not stand here and that our law enforcement community will “protect our citizens from the type of cowardly terrorism we saw in Virginia”.
Now, think for a moment if he had made a statement like Trump’s “on many sides” statement. It would be above the fold in every newspaper in the state. You’d hear terms like “dog whistle” and “playing footsie with white supremacists”. Interest groups like the ACLU, the SPLC and the NAACP would have been shouting from the rooftops. Every newsman/woman and editorial board would be frantically trying to outdo their competition in a tongue-lashing competition. To illustrate my point, it seemed like the media in Mississippi was having a contest in early 2017 about how many times they could put the words “Phil Bryant” and “confederate” in the same article. How does the above declaration fit with those narratives?
The point is that when Bryant does absolutely the right thing, what do we hear? Nothing. Nada. Zero. Bupkus. Crickets. Zilch. Not a freaking word. Nary a peep. And not only from the media, but there a bunch of folks in Mississippi that ought to be saying, “Hey, Governor, may not agree with you on everything, but you did this correctly – good job”. Elected Democrats, the head of the state (and now national) NAACP, the SPLC, and editorial boards missed a pretty good chance to reinforce and recognize a good result and not just demagogue an issue. Bryant will get no “attaboys” or plaudits here.
The end result is that if you only beat on people, whether they agree with you or not, you’ll eventually get ignored. I think an opportunity has been so far missed to bring some unity to what just about every right-thinking person in Mississippi thinks on this Charlottesville tragedy. Sure we can disagree on the flag and lots of other things, and there will be time to do that, but for now, this was a message that was appropriate, and those who oppose Bryant both generally on policy and in the media have blown it. Bryant’s message could have been amplified and made a point of unity, but that’s not likely to happen now.
Media folks probably shouldn’t lay awake at night wondering why their access to public officials in Mississippi is so poor now. Trump, for better or for worse, has proven that the media as an intermediary is no longer required. Elected officials can get their message out unfiltered.
Look, I get that planes landing safely ain’t exactly news. But the people in the political and media realms that basically make a living off of hammering political agendas ought to at least have the courtesy to recognize the good for goodness sake, even if it’s from someone they don’t agree with personally.