Saturday, July 19, 2014

Mississippi Corruption Poll: What is the best way to reform our system and reduce corruption in Mississippi?

Mississippi was recently ranked as the most corrupt state. What reform do you think would be most helpful for reducing corruption in Mississippi? free polls 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

"The #MSSEN Club": An Imagined Meeting of the Mississippi GOP Following a Stunning 2014 US Senate Loss

The following synopsis of an imagined #MSSEN remake of the iconic 1985 "Brat Pack" film, The Breakfast Club, has been taken word-for-word from the Internet Movie Database, but I have noted minor changes by crossing out and bolding a few words.

The #MSSEN Club:

The plot follows five students Republicans at fictional Shermer High School in the widely used John Hughes setting of Shermer, Illinois (a fictitious suburb of Chicago based on Hughes' hometown of Northbrook, Illinois) in Mississippi, as they report for Saturday detention a meeting to heal wounds after losing a United States Senate Election on March 24, 1984 in November 2014

While not complete strangers, the five are all from different cliques or social groups: John Bender (Judd Nelson) State Senator Chris McDaniel "The Criminal"; Claire Standish (Molly Ringwald) Governor Phil Bryant "The Princess with pretty boy hair"; Brian Johnson (Anthony Michael Hall)  Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann "The Brain"; Andy Clark (Emilio Estévez) Former United States Senator Thad Cochran "The Athlete" "Warm Body/Political Puppet"; and Allison Reynolds (Ally Sheedy)  Central Mississippi Tea Party President Janis Lane "The Basket Case". 

The school's disciplinary principal Political Machine Boss of Mississippi, Mr. Vernon Haley Barbour, gives them all an assignment; they will write an essay about "who you think you are" and the violations they committed to end up in Saturday detention losing the 2014 United States Senate election.

They pass the hours in a variety of ways: they dance, harass each other, tell stories, fight, smoke marijuana, and talk about a variety of subjects. Gradually they open up to each other and reveal their secrets, for example, Allison  Janis Lane is a compulsive liar bumbler and break-and-enterer of government buildings, and Brian and Claire Secretary of State Hosemann and Governor Bryant are ashamed of their virginity carrying water for corporate cronyism and Andy Senator Cochran got in trouble because of his overbearing father abiding love of pork and courting of the Democratic vote

They also discover that they all have strained relationships with their parents constituents and are afraid of making the same mistakes as the adults around them Republicans in 2014. However, despite these evolving friendships, they're afraid that once the detention 2014 is over, they will return to their respective cliques, primary one another in 2015, and never speak to each other again.

In the end, some of their more hidden character traits emerge: Claire Governor Bryant emerges as a natural leader Wal-Mart door greeter. Bender State Senator McDaniel develops a softer attitude and becomes more friendly with everyone. Claire Governor Bryant even kisses him and it seems the two will try a romantic relationship. Andrew Senator Cochran becomes interested in Allison Tea Party Leader Janis Lane after she allows Claire Governor Bryant to give her a makeover  choose his own primary foes for 2015 among a list of Tea Party fringe figures in an effort to split the Tea Party vote and secure Republican establishment dominance in 2015 GOP primaries.

At Claire's Bryant's request and the consensus of the group, Brian Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann agrees to write the essay Mr. Vernon Political Machine Boss Haley Barbour assigned earlier, which challenges Mr. Vernon Barbour and his preconceived judgments about all of them. 

While Brian Hosemann accedes, instead of writing about the actual topic, he writes a very motivating letter that is in essence, the main point of the story. He signs the essay "The Breakfast Club" "The #MSSEN Club", and leaves it on the table for Mr. Vernon Barbour to read when they leave. There are two versions of this letter, one read at the beginning and one at the end, and they differ slightly; illustrating the shift in the students' Republicans' judgments of one another, and their realization that they truly have things in common, including a hatred of Haley Barbour. The beginning of the letter is as follows:

"Saturday, March 24, 1984 Brian Johnson [although unknown at this point] Shermer High School Shermer, Illinois 60062

Dear Mr. Vernon Barbour:

We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention Senate election for whatever it was that we did wrong. What we did was wrong. But we think you're crazy to make us write this essay telling you who we think we are. What do you care? You see us as you want to see us... in the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions. You see us as a brain, an athlete warm body/political puppet, a basket case, a princess with amazing pretty boy hair, and a criminal. Correct? That's how we saw each other at seven o'clock this morning. We were brainwashed.

The letter read before the closing credits reads as follows:

"Dear Mr. Vernon Barbour:

We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention Senate election for whatever it was we did wrong, but we think you're crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us... In the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain... ...and an athlete warm body/political puppet... ...and a basket case... ...a princess with amazing pretty boy hair... ...and a criminal.

Does that answer your question? Sincerely yours, the Breakfast Club #MSSEN Club.

The letter is the focal point of the film reuniting the GOP in 2015, as it demonstrates and illustrates the changes the students Republicans undergo during the course of the day; their attitudes and perspectives have changed and are now completely different exactly the same except they all hate Haley Barbour. The movie ends as the characters leave detention. 

The final shot shows Bender McDaniel walking near the goal post of the football field, freezing as he raises his hand triumphantly and suddenly being tackled by Haley Barbour's henchman Brett Favre before fading to a dark frame as the credits roll.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Thad Cochran Shuffled Race Card During GOP Runoff: Will Race Card Be Tossed Out for General Election in #MSSEN?

An interesting thing happened on the way to the June 24th Republican Primary in Mississippi. While African American Democrats saved U.S. Senator Thad Cochran's political life, the Republican Party in Mississippi gave up for the time being the one card they've been playing with great success for decades: the race card.

While no doubt some African Americans have always voted for Senator Cochran, for several decades now, we have been a racially polarized state with most whites siding with Republicans and most blacks siding with Democrats.

But by actively courting the African American vote and "playing the race card" against his opponent, according to some critics, Senator Cochran tacitly encouraged conservative whites to stay home or take their votes elsewhere this November.

Before critics chime in to discount my analysis or accuse me of anything, I am not bringing race into the conversation, nor am I "playing the race card." As any honest observer can attest, in Mississippi politics, race has been the main indicator of our statewide voting patterns for a decade or two and our national/senatorial voting patterns for more than a generation.

And now, with Cochran shuffling the race card out of its usual alignment in the political deck and winning an election thanks to African American Democratic voters' support, the race card in Mississippi politics has been effectively neutralized for this November. This presents an unparalleled opportunity for Democrats who have long complained that conservative whites do not vote in their economic best interest because of the racially polarized nature of our electorate.

Expect Democrats to take this opportunity to communicate across party lines and to argue that now is the time for all voters to vote their pocketbook and to vote their values, rather than fall in line for more racially polarized trench warfare where the whites simply outnumber the African Americans and so win by attrition.

Once African Americans hear both Democratic U.S. Senate Candidate Travis Childers' and Thad Cochran's messages in the lead-up to November, I think most African Americans will "come home" and vote for the Democratic Party in which they have had a seat at the table for a generation now. I could be wrong about that, but it is my educated guess that most African Americans found Chris McDaniel wholly unacceptable and voted for Cochran as a vote against McDaniel. But they won't be voting against McDaniel in November.

That said, I also expect many conservative white voters will want to punish Senator Thad Cochran for playing the race card against them and their candidate of choice, Chris McDaniel, during the primary season.

The runoff and primary may be over, but the rippling effects of that seismic event have yet to be measured or even estimated by the media or political establishment of this state. The political professionals are, it seems to me, too busy chasing the rabbits of Chris McDaniel's legal challenge and the clown car of comic relief and scandals still tumbling out of the GOP primary.

But what if the media and political establishment are failing to notice that the political paradigm has shifted for the first time in national/senatorial politics in Mississippi in more than a generation? No matter who wins in November, I think most would agree that less racial polarization in politics will be a good thing for our state.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Rush Limbaugh Weighs in on Mississippi's "Corrupt" GOP, McDaniel Continues Post-Election Negative Ads

I logged into Facebook today, and the first sponsored post on my feed was this:

That's Senator Chris McDaniel's official campaign page on Facebook sponsoring a continued assault on the GOP establishment two days after the election determined that McDaniel lost.

So not only are there sour grapes, which is entirely normal in a close and nasty primary election and a runoff; more troubling for the Mississippi GOP, there is a willingness by McDaniel to purchase advertising after the election, which continues to blast his opponent.

The sponsored post links to this article, which is basically a transcript of Limbaugh's comments on the show.

My last major blog post was 24 hours prior to the election, and I had explained how the fringe radio right looked to McDaniel's candidacy for reaffirmation and credibility. I called the below graphic "Mount Rushbo" in honor of the founding father of the fringe radio right, Rush Limbaugh.

At that time, the silly, amateurish graphic I made -- which featured radio hosts Rush Limbaugh as the founding father George Washington, Lars Larson as intellectual partisan and expansionist Thomas Jefferson, fringe media empire builder Glenn Beck as consummate man of action Teddy Roosevelt, and Chris McDaniel himself as a mock version of Civil War President Abraham Lincoln -- seemed a little off since Limbaugh himself had not spent much time on our little U.S. Senate race.

But now that El Rushbo is all in on McDaniel's behalf as he veers toward a prospective legal challenge and continued assaults on the Mississippi GOP establishment, I think the Mount Rushbo graphic makes even more sense.

The big thing to watch over the next four months is whether Democratic candidate Travis Childers co-opts pieces of McDaniel's anti-corporate cronyism message or whether Childers runs a more quiet campaign that avoids either ruffling or courting disaffected blue collar GOP folks in hopes that enough of these McDaniel voters just stay home in November for Childers to squeak past a wounded Cochran.

Things may tone down in the general election, but #MSSEN will be no less interesting to political junkies who read this and other Mississippi blogs.

Also, be on the lookout for a new direction from me in the weeks ahead, especially on the eve of the Neshoba County Fair. This Senate race was big, but it is just the dress rehearsal for 2015 when the real fireworks start.

Monday, June 23, 2014

McDaniel on Mount Rushbo: Chris McDaniel's Campaign is About the Fringe Radio Right's Quest for Credibility

Establishment politicians and pundits frame the Chris McDaniel rise to power in #MSSEN in a simple way. They suggest that McDaniel owes his viability to out-of-state groups raising money for fringe candidates.

Furthermore, the establishment argues, groups such as Club For Growth and Tea Party Express don't care at all about actually electing McDaniel. They simply want another establishment scalp like senior Senator Thad Cochran's to prove they are still relevant enough to continue their fundraising racket.

That's a seductive narrative for those of us who abhor the toxic mixture of out-of-state money and fringe Tea Party politics that McDaniel has come to represent. But I don't think that narrative entirely explains McDaniel's allure to the national conservative talker class -- those like Laura Ingraham, Sarah Palin, Rick Santorum, Glenn Beck, Mark Levin, Sean Hannity, and Lars Larson who have not only given their time and support (if not outright endorsement) to McDaniel but have given him a powerful media megaphone from which to promote his candidacy at key moments of this campaign.

Are these national conservative media personalities simply trying to cash in on McDaniel? That is a possibility, but I think it's harder to prove and less applicable than the same accusation against, for instance, the Tea Party Express, which has a direct financial stake in fundraising for candidates like McDaniel. I think something else is going on here. I hate to do it, but this is one instance in which the Tea Party parallels to various founding fathers may actually make some sense.

A right wing nut job is someone who makes a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing. A political revolutionary, on the other hand, is someone whose ideas and character are big enough and strong enough to blast like dynamite through the political mountains of their times. Once these revolutionaries blast through those mountains, Americans sometimes etch those revolutionaries' faces onto the sides of those mountains. The four figures on Mount Rushmore, for instance, represent different, even contradictory ideas, but we honor them because they took fringe ideas and gave those ideas credibility.

When George Washington led the American colonialists in a somewhat unlikely victory against the greatest empire of his time, he gave a utopian idea of an independent American Republic credibility. When Thomas Jefferson commissioned the purchase and explorations that more than doubled the size of the United States' territory, he gave the idea of Manifest Destiny credibility. When Theodore Roosevelt lobbied relentlessly for a mighty navy and a greater American empire, he gave the idea of an American Superpower credibility. And when Abraham Lincoln won a trailblazing election on a new party ticket and then fought the bloodiest war ever fought on American soil, he gave proponents of abolitionism (at the time a regionally limited movement) that rarest of political currencies: credibility.

And now that right wing radio hosts and television personalities and failed candidates on the lecture circuit see a man edging toward victory against a respected, credible, and seemingly Monarchical senior senator, these media figures don't just see dollar signs. They see credibility. Of course it helps that McDaniel is one of their own tribe -- a candidate with a shock jock political past.

But if McDaniel wins the primary runoff tomorrow, credibility is the real prize for the fringe right. They will have destroyed the most credible politician in our state and one of the most credible voices in the U.S. Senate. They will also have in Chris McDaniel a man who can speak their fringe gospel without worrying about preserving his presidential electability in 2016 à la Ted Cruz and Rand Paul.

But most importantly, by replacing Thad Cochran with a general election candidate like McDaniel, the fringe right believe they will have quarried the credibility from the very rock that has been U.S. Senator Thad Cochran. But destroying a mountain is not the same as blasting a sculpture of character and destiny into being.