Tea Party, MSGOP share conservative vision despite public narrative

*First appeared in the April 16 edition of the Laurel Chronicle newspaper.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you already know the primary race for U.S. Senate between long-time incumbent Thad Cochran and Jones County native state Senator Chris McDaniel is pretty…heated, for lack of a better word.

In my mind, the real casualty of this primary battle isn’t either candidate, but rather the future of the conservative movement in Mississippi. If you believe the talking heads, the Twitter trolls, the “lame-stream” media, the Facebook status-sharers, then you believe there’s a war raging between “establishment” Republicans and Tea Partiers.

To that I say, poppycock.

We’ve seen this scenario play out across the country, where newly formed political groups (such as Tea Party factions and others) unilaterally decide “their” candidate is the most conservative and best choice for office. If you don’t support our guy, they’ve said, then you must be “establishment.” These groups have in large part been egged on by national organizations with access to experienced lawyers, ruthless campaign operatives, and individuals with deep pockets (think: green).

Seems like this strategy has finally come home to roost, so to speak, right here in Mississippi.

This week the Mississippi Tea Party called on Mississippi Republican Chairman Joe Nosef to “stay out of the Mississippi U.S. Senate Primary or resign.” Wowzers!

The Tea Party is offended the MSGOP chairman said Chris McDaniel ought to clear up as fast as possible the rumor that he was participating in an event with a vendor selling “white pride” paraphernalia.

Nosef went further, saying running for the “United States Senate is a very important thing and as a party we need to always be careful and focused and serious about what our views are and what our interests are.”

This is reasonable advice to me. It actually sounds like something my father might say: Address rumors head on; tell people the whole story; and then go on about your rat-killin’. People are going to believe what they’re going to believe.

The Tea Party’s next complaint against Nosef was his recent appearance on the Paul Gallo radio show. During the show, Nosef said “primaries are always going to get dirty” and that he was bothered by the motives of out-of-state groups involved in Mississippi’s Senate race (many of these groups were involved in states where the Republican nominee ultimately lost the general election).

My paraphrasing of his comments: When Republicans lose general elections, they also lose the ability to impact policy-making.

In my opinion, this is a bad thing for conservatives. We can’t enact conservative legislation without first winning elections.

I’m not sure why the Mississippi Tea Party didn’t like Nosef’s comments which were, once again, very practical in nature. I daresay his comments are exactly what the chairman of the Republican Party ought to be saying: Let’s win elections. Let’s enact conservative policies. Let’s be smart about both of those things by working together, not against one another.

And that’s really what worries me. The Mississippi Tea Party and related groups are organized by conservative Mississippians who believe in the conservative principles of the Republican Party. I’m a big tent ideologue and tend to believe we all fall somewhere in that tent.

Yet all of this talk of “establishment” versus “Tea Party” versus “libertarian” versus so-on and so-forth isn’t helping the conservative cause. The Democrats won’t need to divide and conquer if we voluntarily divide ourselves.

If the conservative movement is to survive – and thrive – then we mustn’t let out-of-state groups dictate our in-state relationships, nor rush to judgment when party officials like Chairman Nosef offer up common-sense advice to Republican candidates.

Rebekah Staples
4/16/14