Our policy regarding primary contests between the “tea party” and “establishment” factions of the Republican Party has been to support the more conservative candidate anywhere he can win the general election, to settle for the more moderate candidate in those states and districts where he would be the only plausible hope of defeating an even more liberal Democrat, and to urge both sides to unite behind whichever candidate comes out on top against whatever damned Democrat he’ll be up against. This seems to us a both amicable and sensible policy, but it is hard to apply after that Senate primary on Tuesday in Mississippi.
Entrenched incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran beat the more rock-ribbed Republican challenger Chris McDaniel in the run-off race, but he did so by such sleazy methods that it will be hard for any principled conservative to muster any enthusiasm for any candidacy. Although Cochran had won a solid plurality in the preliminary round of the primary he fell short of the 50 percent needed to secure the nomination, and because contested primaries are always a referendum on the incumbent it was widely expected that the throw-the-bums-out sentiment within the party would prevail, so Cochran won by luring people outside the party into the state’s unaccountably open primary. Worse yet, he did so by arguing for more federal pork spending and with a naked racial appeal to the African-Americans of his state that implied conservatism is essentially racist. The effort included automated phone messages and old-fashioned fliers warning that the “tea party” was seeking to prevent blacks from voting, that McDaniel was opposed to federal financing of public education, and that he was determined to eliminate “food stamps.”
These are the same misleading smears that Democrats have long used against the populist brand of conservatism that has been dubbed “tea party,” and their use by a Republican candidate is unforgivable. Pork barrel politics has been wisely reject by a critics number of today’s Republican voters, even in such cash-strapped states as Mississippi, and imputing racist motives to this view is outrageous. The scurrilous charge of preventing blacks from voting can only be understood as a reference to photo identification requirements for voting and other common sense safeguards against election fraud, and every wised-up Republican and even most of the general public understand the need for these policies. Mississippians and Americans everywhere should welcome the opportunity of local control of their children’s public education, which is only attainable with local funding, and any suggestion otherwise is an affront to Republican or even republican sensibilities. Any critics of the ever-expanding welfare state who truthfully observe that minorities are disproportionately represented on the assistance roles is derided as a racist, and is simultaneously derided as a racist for the “disparate impact” their proposed cuts would have on minorities, but no one taking such a sensible stand should be subjected to these inane and contradicting indictments from a putative Republican.
Still, it worked well enough that a proponent of deficit-funded pork barrel spending and federal control of local school curricula and rampant voter fraud and the most toxic sort of racial identity politics is likely the Republican Party’s candidate in for Senate in Mississippi, and the most callous sorts of professional Republicans have dealt a blow to the party’s populist base. This leaves the Mississippi Republican with only bad choices, and we cannot offer any advice. Weasel that he is Cochran was at least among the unified Republican Party that voted against Obamacare, and any Democrat would be prone to repeat such a mistake, but it is disheartening and infuriating to settle for that. We’ll maintain our usual policy when the establishment candidates prevailing the states where they need to ward off even more liberal Democrats, so long as they do as they do so by ethical means, but we might make an exception in Mississippi.
— Bud Norman