Y’all Politics offers analysis and commentary on the Mississippi political scene. Occasionally we’ll write about policy and its implications but mainly we strive to provide a glimpse into the political ins and outs of how and why government and the politically connected do what they do here in the Magnolia State.
So when it comes to national and international matters like Syria we normally don’t enter the fray unless there’s a point to be made related to Mississippi and our leaders. Such is the case for this article.
As the build up for Congressional authorization for a military strike against Syria hit a fever pitch last week, you could tell Mississippians weren’t onboard if you monitored Twitter or Facebook. Mississippi was voicing its opinion and it was firmly opposed. However, the state’s federal delegation remained mostly silent as to their intent.
In the House, Republican Speaker John Boehner and his chief lieutenant Eric Cantor came out in support of President Obama’s request. In the Senate, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid showed signs of his support as well as some top Republicans. With both chambers’ leadership falling in line, it appeared momentarily that perhaps Mississippi’s delegation would follow suit.
But as political sands often do, they shifted, unsteadying what little foundation was there to support a Syrian strike.
Of the six officials (four Congressmen and two Senators) one emerged from the pack to give Mississippians a voice in D.C. – Congressman Steven Palazzo (R). He stepped up his constituent outreach and was the first of the delegation to offer his opinion on the matter.
Palazzo began by asking his social media followers for their thoughts, and the overwhelming consensus was against any Syrian action. Add in the calls and written communications he encouraged and received and Palazzo had a good understanding that the vast majority of the 4th District didn’t want him to vote to approve the President’s request.
On Thursday of last week, Palazzo issued a statement via Facebook saying he had reviewed the information he was provided by the administration and that he had heard from his constituents and he agreed a Syrian strike wasn’t prudent at this time.
Palazzo didn’t rush to judgement or simply stick his finger to the wind to gauge public opinion; no, he gave the matter a fair hearing while listening to his district – he did what he was elected to do. He didn’t shy away from making a decision and he shared it with the public. Palazzo led from the front.
Thompson’s opposition is quite intriguing. The Congressional Black Caucus, of which the 2nd District Democrat is a leading member, wasn’t thrilled by the President’s request. Their opposition surely gave the Obama team at least a momentary pause given the obvious affection shared between the two groups. Many assumed Thompson and the CBC would automatically support whatever Obama wanted, yet here we are.
The lone wolf without a firm “No” was Senator Thad Cochran. His comment to the AP said he was a “likely no” vote in the lead up to President Obama’s address to the nation. Cochran’s lack of committed opposition hasn’t sat well with some Mississippians, further fueling more rumors of a possible primary challenge.
And while Cochran, Wicker, Harper, Nunnelee, and Thompson may not have a lot to lose (most Mississippi political observers view them as safe), Palazzo had a lot to gain.
Some have criticized Palazzo as being Boehner’s boy, but he proved he could break ranks when necessary and when in the best interest of his district.
The sense has been that Palazzo may not have fully endeared himself yet to voters in the 4th District but perhaps his handling of this issue may be the kind of leadership he needed to show to firmly secure a third term.
Yes, there is more to politics than wins and losses, but Palazzo definitely gained the most ground in Mississippi during this Syria debacle by asserting some good ole South Mississippi leadership, filling what appeared to be a space void of a Magnolia State voice.