The Great State of Mississippa’
Widespread conservative fury erupted after Henry Barbour (who is Haley Barbour’s nephew) helped bring black Democrats to vote for incumbent senator Thad Cochran, contributing to Cochran’s narrow victory over challenger Chris McDaniel. There’s nothing inherently wrong with attracting Democratic votes if state primary rules allow it; Ronald Reagan himself repeatedly argued in favor of allowing “crossover” voting in primaries.
Politics and Race
Henry Barbour worked against the wishes of many conservatives, by attracting black Democratic votes in a Republican primary. There was an element of hardball in his tactics, but targeting different voter groups with different messages and even mentioning race to do so is politics. Suggesting that one candidate’s positions tend to be better for black voters than another candidate’s is politics.
The ads explicitly warned that McDaniel was closely tied to people involved with the Ku Klux Klan. They said McDaniel had a “racist agenda.” They specifically branded the entire tea-party movement as having “racist ideas.” And even the slightly-less-explicit robocalls, which Barbour already admitted helping pay for (although he says he never listened to them in advance), tied tea partiers explicitly to disrespectful treatment of the first African-American president.
A Republican committeeman branded the Tea Party, a major group of largely conservative activist groups, as racist. Conservatives claim these smears only come from liberals. I guess they were wrong. I can’t see how this can’t be deleterious to conservative philosophy or electoral prospects. The party has been split, with one side calling the other side racist, a claim the other political party makes against it.
Mississippi has a law stating that if you vote in one party’s primary you have to vote for the candidate who wins that primary. This law is of course unenforceable because who knows what anyone’s intentions are? How do you legislate what’s in people’s hearts?
McDaniel is challenging the election results claiming that many of the voters voted in the Democratic Party primary which would be illegal. He was given access to voter rolls by courts, but was denied access to birthdates and social security numbers. He claims there are over 10,000 “irregularities” that he needs that information to investigate. The state’s election commission has found less than a couple hundred. He is not going to win this challenge as even prominent conservative Ann Coulter called for him to dropout for the sake of his political future.
Ghosts of Mississippi
The McDaniel camp has made the claim that the accusations by the Cochran campaign “has brought Mississippi back 50 years”. I don’t know about that, but I do know that conservatives in Mississippi (whether Democrat then or Republican now) have always been afraid of blacks voting en masse. Chris McDaniel has ties to a neo-confederate group and enacted “poll watchers” to specifically monitor “areas where Mr. Cochran is recruiting Democrats” (he means black people).
This was just incredibly naive on the part of McDaniel. If your opponent has a turnout advantage in a certain demographic, you suppress the vote of that demographic, offset it by trying to turnout more of the demographic where you have an advantage, or dilute it by appealing to his demographic as well. McDaniel did none of the above. He and Cochran basically split the white Republican vote (with McDaniel actually getting a bit more of it), and Cochran essentially getting 100% of the black vote. Apparently, the McDaniel camp missed the “open” in open primary.
McDaniel’s message was one of restricting federal benefits and programs in the poorest state in the Union. Democrats point out cutting those programs disproportionately affect women and people of color, and to disregard that is rooted in racism. Republican Thad Cochran used this to aggressively court a demographic being at worse ignored and at best disenfranchised by McDaniel. In fact, there is evidence that the word of poll watchers was used as a rallying cry to get more blacks to vote. Things have certainly changed since the days of Medger Evers assassin Byron De La Beckwith’s claim “No jury will ever convict a white man of killing a Nigra in the state of Mississippa”