Mississippi in the 21st Century

Chris McDaniel

Chris McDaniel

If you have been following the election cycle this year, you may have heard about the duel going on down here in Mississippi. We have Senator Thad Cochran who was first elected to the Senate back when Nixon was still president  in 1972. He is being challenged by a state Senator, Chris McDaniel. I have followed a lot of the national press on this election and I think much of it has been  over hyped. If you buy much of their sales pitch you might think Mississippi is a bunch of shallow, racist, gay hating people. Not true of course, but as a fairly conservative state, it has picked up that reputation. We all know how liberals love to label things they don’t know about based on something they might have heard from a friend of a friend of a friend who might have known someone who once said they went to Mississippi once.

This month is fifty years since what has become known as the “Freedom Summer” of 1964 where three “freedom workers” were killed by Klansmen, which brought about the beginning of great changes here mainly due to the national exposure the state got and efforts by then President Lyndon Johnson, along with Martin Luther King Jr who was still 4 years away from losing his life to a gunman in Memphis.

So, Mississippi has a history of wounds related to racism. I can’t say there is not any here at all, because there is still some. Usually older folks who are largely products of another generation where racism was more predominant. Some from unexpected places: The Mississippi Delta just re-elected their Senator, Bennie Thompson, who just a couple of months ago stated while appearing on a New Nation of Islam radio program.: “Now all of a sudden, government is the worst thing in the world since a black man became president.” and discussing the Supreme Court and affirmative action, Thompson refers to Justice Clarence Thomas as an “Uncle Tom,” adding, “it’s almost to the point saying this man doesn’t like black people, he doesn’t like being black.” When CNN reporter Dana Bash noted that the term wouldn’t be appropriate if used by someone who is white, Thompson replied, “But I’m black.”  The comments did cause some outrage by some establishment press. But he did get elected and by a very large landslide.

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Senator Thad Cochran has been a good Senator, for the most part, for most of his tenure. He has become the “King of pork” when it comes to spending. If you listen to his supporters now you would think that if Cochran is not re-elected that Mississippi will lose its “cash cow.” In many respects he sounds much more like a Democrat and because of that, he has been making pleas for Democrats to vote for him since Mississippi has “open primaries.” Personally, I don’t like open primaries. I don’t mind open main elections, but I think primaries should be left to the party. But that’s another subject for another time.

The establishment Republicans like Mitch McConnell  and fellow Mississippian Trent Lott have endorsed Cochran and raised money for him. Former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour is a very big Cochran supporter, but he, along with Trent Lott, are now lobbyists, so their interest is more related to how they can get money from Congress for their clients, as opposed to whats good for Mississippi. Cochran is still claiming he is very conservative, while, at the same time, John McCain has come here to campaign for him. Clearly, conservatism and John McCain don’t even belong in the same sentence.

Chris McDaniel has a very passionate and conservative following here. The Tea Party has been active, along with ads and support from Club For Growth. In my county he won about 66% of the vote, and was just short of reaching 50% state wide which meant we would have a run-off on June 24. Cochran only got about 44%. Historically run offs go to the challenger so we will see if that trend rings true. I will go on the record and say it looks very good for McDaniel as I write this two days before the election. There’s been a few incidents that have brought the campaign to national attention, beginning with a picture being taken of Cochran’s wife who is in a nursing home in an attempt to use them along with a story that Cochran is having and affair while his wife is in a nursing home. It was the work of a Mississippi blogger who supported McDaniel, but had no official tie to the campaign.

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Then there was an incident where some Tea Party folks got locked into the courthouse with the ballots on the night of the June 3rd election, which has been investigated and cleared that it was an accident. They were locked in when  the door closed behind them but were let in by a courthouse employee. Nothing conspiratorial. There is no smoking gun that connects McDaniel to any of the mishaps. However, it was enough for Cochran to put out an ad claiming their were ties. But, that seems to be the way politics has gone anymore with what is becoming labeled as “establishment Republicans.”

Unless you have been living under a rock it is clear that many things are changing and changing fast. Whether that’s good or bad can be debated. I would argue that the face of politics has changed. In this election cycle it is becoming clear that there are “old school” politicians vs modern political pundits. There’s nothing wrong with “old school” if you are a song or a Chevy,  but it’s not translating well in politics.

Hillary Clinton’s book tour really shows how out of touch she is with modern politics and 1990s politics seems to run through her veins. The problem is she is viewing things as they are with a lens that doesn’t go past the way things were.

There are many politicians which suffer from that problem and it is very clear in Thad Cochran. He has done some great things for Mississippi, but the times have changed and he has not. According to his campaign rhetoric, Mississippi will self implode unless he is re-elected. His main support is a political machine of old school lobbyists and politicians based out of other states. Some of the cheap shots he has taken at Chris McDaniel don’t work well in the age of the Internet. People know better, and have access to many sources and information via the Internet. So the old school “attack ads” lose their bite and simply sound desperate.

The “Tea Party” has been a blessing and a curse for Chris McDaniel, but there’s been no smoking gun that ties McDaniel to anything. The Tea Party brings out the truly patriotic and reveals a few extreme “flakes.” I will vote for McDaniel (again) not because of the Tea Party, but in spite of it. It is a step in bringing more of Mississippi into the 21st Century.


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Zorek Richards is a former resident of Rapid City, South Dakota. He started out as a Democrat and was won over to the Republican Party by Ronald Reagan. Today he considers himself a conservative independent, a Mississippi transplant, and a bit of a cultural watchman, with special interest in The First Amendment (specifically, the media and the impact of Christianity). He has a website at www.zoreks.com and twitter @Z__Notes.
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