The Mississippi Democratic Party didn’t get in the shape it is in overnight. Years of intra-party squabbles playing out in the press resulted in the purging of blue dogs, solidifying its shift to the left.
Party purists wanted the Magnolia State faction to more closely align with their national counterparts’ political and social positions, even to the peril of the party and its ability to retain seats, which as we know equates into power. They sought “true Democrats,” as one operative conveyed.
The ideological fight was ugly, often mean spirited, and has greatly reduced the impact the Democratic Party will have on the political landscape in Mississippi for perhaps a generation.
The exodus out of the Mississippi Democratic Party has swept across the state, from county courthouses to the legislature. Most of the party switchers say the same thing – Democrats moved so far left they just could not continue to align themselves with their grandfather’s party.
Remnants who are now in charge of the Mississippi Democratic Party will tell you they believe their future to be bright with “true Democrats” filling their ranks. They see their potential to once again make Mississippi a viable two party state ever increasing, thanks in large part to what is now playing out within the Republican Party.
Mississippi Republicans are entrenched in a squabble of their own, some say for the heart of the party, but it is less ideological than what Democrats faced.
You see, Democrats pitted yellow dogs versus blue dogs; mainstream, progressive liberal versus old school, Southern conservative-lite. They purged the fence straddlers that could win in Southern states like Mississippi in favor of those Democrats who would support prominent liberals such as Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, and even a socialist like Bernie Sanders.
Republicans, on the other hand, agree on core conservative principles – limited government, fiscal sanity, traditional family values, strong national defense, individual responsibility, and so on. The ideology is basically the same across the board with only slight variations.
In reality, Republicans are facing a question of how to practically govern in a political environment that does not value what they hold dear while in the minority on the national level. On the state level here in Mississippi, Republicans have to find a balance between practical governance and pandering to their base. The Republican inter-party struggle is truly more about strategy, how to accomplish goals by what means to make the most difference, than conservative ideology.
Oh, some will disagree and fill my Twitter feed, but that in itself shows where the strategical divide has led. We are now in a political environment that encourages, even celebrates friendly fire. The trouble is such tactics do not raise the level of dialogue; it only divides, giving Democrats opportunities for electoral success.
Tea Party Republicans have taken to questioning just how conservative is conservative, as if not standing on a bridge somewhere protesting the latest government infringement or not setting aside time daily to take on others via social media is not quite conservative enough. Though such characterizations are not completely true, that is how it is being perceived, and not just by what they would term as the establishment.
The friendly fire isn’t advancing the dialogue they want. Sniping is only providing fodder for liberals and weakening the base, turning off more would be GOP voters than it is winning.
What Tea Party Republicans want to see, in actuality, is backbone, a stand against liberalism in a damn the torpedoes type of approach. The trouble with such a strategy is that politics is based on relationships, and unless you control every level of government an appropriate, productive, winning strategy has to include principled stands coupled with statesman-like compromise, building coalitions among colleagues to pass legislation that moves you closer to your desired goal, not that thickens the walls already erected between members.
This is not to say that constituents should not hold their Republican elected officials accountable for their votes; not at all. However, there is an appropriate manner in which to engage in such discourse that listens to reasoning without immediate vilification. Officials should readily expect to justify their actions and motivations to their constituents, but the tone of the exchange should be one seeking mutual understanding given our shared ideology, not one so singularly focused that no common ground can be found. After all, we are on the same team.
Mississippi Republicans would do well to heed the lessons from across the aisle lest a similar fate befall them. Making the squabble about ideology, questioning how conservative is conservative enough, could have longterm consequences for Republicans if instead they do not focus on the practical application of governing and how to raise the level of discussion minus the sniping and zingers. Intra-party fighting turns off voters; if you don’t believe me, ask Mississippi Democrats.