While watching what is shaping up to be a bitter and bloody U.S. Senate campaign in Mississippi, it’s important that state voters not lose sight of the fact that in the name of “grassroots” politics they are going to bear witness to a lot of folks selling “astroturf.”
In politics, “astroturfing” is to true “grassroots” politics what “astroturf” is to real grass. It’s fake grass with fake roots.
As noted in prior columns on the subject, the current U.S. Senate campaign in Mississippi is the target of “astroturf” groups and super PACs (political action committees) on an unprecedented scale. State voters have already seen the handiwork of such high-sounding groups as Club for Growth, Senate Conservatives Fund and FreedomWorks – groups that funnel whopping sums of PAC money into attack ads against primarily incumbent Republicans.
In Mississippi, these outside groups have doubled-down on state Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Ellisville, in his bid to “primary” incumbent Mississippi GOP U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran.
Why? Because Cochran has committed the unpardonable sin of thinking for himself and not allowing his every vote to be dictated by libertarian talking heads and because Cochran read the part of the Constitution that balanced the power of the U.S. president to direct spending with that of Congress to do the same thing.
Why? Because Cochran refuses to engage in the politics of the temper tantrum with votes to “shut down the government” every few months when policy negotiations get tough.
Why? Because Cochran used his vast influence to bring $29 billion in hurricane relief to the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina?
In what has become cookie-cutter campaigns, these “astroturf” groups have gone after veteran Republican members of Congress not with the idea of winning general elections, but with the idea of winning Republican primaries. Veteran Indiana GOP Sen. Richard Lugar was a victim of these groups and they succeeded in helping Indiana state treasurer Richard Mourdock unseat him in the 2012 primary.