Rhyming with History: US Senate MS GOP Primary Election

Mark Twain’s observation that history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme certainly holds in the US Senate MS GOP Primary runoff.  

Most students of Mississippi history has read VO Key’s chapter on the Delta Planters vs. the Rednecks during the sad times when Bilbo dominated state politics. The tensions between the oligarchy and the “plain folks” were ever present, and only occasionally papered over by the common fear of Blacks. 

And some eighty years later, while the political geography has changed, we again witness a vicious battle between the establishment and the rank and file conservative voters who know that “somebody is getting over on them.” The GOP primary was largely a shouting match about who hated Obamacare the most and which candidate was the best protector of our “southern values”—certainly well short of Bilbo’s race baiting but thematically consistent.  

The runoff has morphed into a debate over whether Cochran’s power and influence in Washington is a good thing for Mississippi. The McDaniel forces see the opposition as the architects and defenders of crony capitalism in this state and nation.  The Cochran defenders counter with a patrician reminder of all he has done for the common people and a warning about the prospect of these insurgents controlling the levers of government.  These points certainly rhyme with Mississippi history.  

One final historical note is worth mentioning—in 1978 Thad Cochran won his senate seat because of Black voters.  Charles Evers, brother of the Civil Rights martyr Medgar Evers, ran strongly as an independent, and prevented the Democratic nominee from a majority. Thirty six years later,  Cochran forces hope Black voters will provide his margin of victory yet again. His campaign openly, if clumsily courts African Americans in the runoff. We wonder if they are oblivious to the potential backlash that our state history’s would predict or just so desperate that they must risk the consequences.


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