Many people supporting Sen. Thad Cochran have voiced outrage with some of the comments and actions of state Sen. Chris McDaniel, who is challenging the veteran Cochran in the June 3 Republican primary.
These people have described comments that McDaniel made years ago as the host of a talk radio program in Jones County as embarrassing and perhaps racist. And they also are shocked that perhaps McDaniel was scheduled to speak at a Guntown event where apparently a known segregationist would be a vendor. McDaniel disputes that he was ever scheduled to speak at the event.
Regardless, it seems fair to ask where was this outrage by certain members of the state Republican Party for the comments and actions of past Mississippi politicians.
Where was the outrage by this group when during the midst of the challenges to former House Speaker Billy McCoy, D-Rienzi, a flyer was produced filled with the faces of black members of the House pointing out that the speaker had made these members committee chairs?
The implicit message was that McCoy appointed too many blacks to positions of power in the Mississippi House.
Where was the outrage when then-U.S. Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi said at a party honoring Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina that the entire nation would have been better off if it followed Mississippi’s lead and had voted for Thurmond for president in 1948 when he was running on a segregationist platform?
After Lott made those comments, which cost him his Senate majority leader’s post, he ran unopposed for re-election in the Republican Party primary and won handily in the general election. There was no outrage over those remarks.
Where was the outrage among this aforementioned group when former Gov. Haley Barbour spoke at events sponsored by the Council of Conservative Citizens, a group that advocated white supremacy, or later in his second term as governor defended the pro-segregationist Citizens Council as a positive influence in the 1960s in his hometown of Yazoo City?
Yes, McDaniel apparently said some controversial or at least inartful things while serving as a talk radio host. He sounded – aghast, like a talk radio host – not much different than many who can be found on the radio dials on any day in Mississippi.
He said things like he would stop paying taxes if the government was going to pay reparations for slavery, and talked derisively about the Mexican economy.
And yes, McDaniel spoke at least one Sons of Confederate Veterans event.
Race has been a theme – sometimes overt, but often covert – in Mississippi elections for literally all of our lives.
It was no mistake that in the 2003 gubernatorial election Barbour hammered then-Gov. Ronnie Musgrove for supporting a new state flag that did not include the Confederate cross. It did not make any difference that Musgrove said the people through an election had rejected a new flag proposal and as far as he was concerned the issue of a new flag was dead. Despite that, in the 2008 U.S. Senate race, Musgrove was again hammered on the same dead flag issue by Roger Wicker of Tupelo.
Some have voiced concern for years about the racial theme that often shows up in Mississippi elections.
Apparently, in the current Republican primary for Senate, the pool of people voicing concerns about racially insensitive comments has grown.
Maybe that means Mississippi is progressing. Or maybe means that in Mississippi politics, hypocrisy, not race, is the one constant.
Bobby Harrison is Capitol Bureau chief for the Daily Journal in Jackson. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (601) 353-3119.