The prospect of electing an intemperate Tea Party candidate who was openly nostalgic for Confederate days was so repellent to many black voters in Mississippi that they did a remarkable thing on Tuesday, crossing party lines to help give the Republican Senate nomination to Thad Cochran, in office for 36 years. Now it’s time for Mr. Cochran to return the favor by supporting a stronger Voting Rights Act and actively working to reduce his party’s extreme antigovernment policies.
In Mississippi, as in many Southern states, politics has become so racially polarized that blacks generally vote for Democrats and whites for Republicans. But after Mr. Cochran came in second during the first round of primary voting earlier this month, he made an unusual appeal for help from black voters in the runoff. Many responded, the precinct results showed, and the reason was clear: Chris McDaniel, who was challenging Mr. Cochran, threatened to return the state to an era they loathed.
He spoke to a group called the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and when criticized for it, sprang to the group’s defense. “It’s a historical organization filled with re-enactors and collectors,” he said. “That’s all it is.” Black Mississippians have heard that tired excuse all their lives, and know better, especially coming from a politician who champions gun rights but blames gun violence on the culture of hip-hop. Mr. McDaniel’s virulent opposition to government spending, particularly the kinds of programs that have provided some basic benefits to millions of poor families, made it clear that he would only represent part of a divided, low-income state. And his belligerence to Democrats, like that of so many others in the Obama era, was overtly divisive.
“The fact that he openly criticizes Thad Cochran for talking to Democrats riled me up from the beginning,” one Democratic voter in Hattiesburg told The Times.
By contrast, Mr. Cochran has worked over the years to maintain contacts in black precincts, and he reminded voters that he has consistently supported spending federal money on historically black colleges and on food stamps. Those kinds of actions are anathema in the new Republican Party, and even longtime lawmakers who used to win elections through largess now claim government spending is ruining the country.
Some pundits are saying that those African Americans in Mississippi who helped Cochran was the right choice. The choice, between the two Republicans, was between vile and viler. There is nothing to rejoice about. There is nothing good to look forward to, unless, by chance, voter turnout is really high in November, and the Democratic candidate is elected. Some local friends suggested that it probably would have been better had McDaniel won. A win by him last night would have motivated the voters and assured record-high turnout in the November election. I agree with that assessment.
The runoff was a distasteful affair, with intrigue, criminal acts, terrible accusations and revelations, culminating in a possible lawsuit and the accusations being bandied about by the McDaniel camp and the outsiders who supported him.
What the Democrats around the country need to do is make sure no help is necessary from the likes of Cochran. He can hardly be considered Mississippi’s knight in shining armor. Mississippi, as a state desperately needs a fundamental change. Cochran isn’t the one who will bring it on.
Our nation needs to free itself from the oppressive force that is today’s GOTeaParty and all it represents in its widespread obstruction, corruption and victimization of large swaths of the American public.