BOBBY HARRISON: State’s conservatism will face tests




The conservative wing of the conservative party in one of the most conservative states in the nation is attempting to garner more influence.

The Conservative Coalition of the state Senate, formed in the early summer, seems at times to be at odds with Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, a fellow Republican who has been one of the state’s most vocal proponents of fiscal restraint.

The leader of the group, Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Ellisville, has said he is considering a run for the U.S. Senate against Thad Cochran, should the political veteran, who has not faced a serious challenge since 1984, opt to run again in 2014.

And to top it off, the Marshall County Republican Party has voted to censure – whatever that means – both Cochran and fellow U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, a Tupelo Republican, for not being conservative enough. Through the years, both Cochran and Wicker routinely have graded out as two of the most conservative members of Congress by national nonpartisan organizations.

But now, according to some, they are not conservative enough.

This is not new in Mississippi. Politicians always have jockeyed to get to the right of their opponents to win elections in Mississippi.

For decades, Mississippi was a Democratic state – basically because Republicans were in charge during the Civil War and Reconstruction, and that was reason enough to dislike Republicans for the better part of a century.

For all practical purposes, Mississippi was a one-party state – Democratic in name, but conservative in practice.

Mississippi is no longer a one-party state, though it is on the state and national levels a heavily Republican state. While the party affiliation has changed, the conservative bent of a majority of the populace has been a constant – as has a sometimes zealous dislike of the federal government even though it is scary to think of Mississippi’s economic condition without the largess of that despised federal government.

The question in the coming days being raised by folks like McDaniel, the Marshall County Republican Party, Tea Party groups and others is how conservative is Mississippi?

That debate about the conservative bent of the country is currently being carried out with the fight to fund the federal government and to raise the debt ceiling so the country can pay its bills. On the national level, based on the polls and what is actually transpiring, the far right conservatives are losing.

What happens in the state will be played out during the coming year. Will Mississippi sway further to the right? No doubt, Mississippi will remain to the right of much of the rest of the country, but the question is how far to the right?

Two things to watch to answer that question are the 2014 Senate election and Common Core.

It is not a given that Cochran, consistently viewed as one of the state’s most popular politicians, will seek a seventh term. But if he does, it will be interesting to see if he gets a challenge from the political right and how many votes that candidate receives. If he does not seek re-election, it will be telling to see who replaces him – a Republican who is willing to seek and agree to a certain amount of compromise or one willing to take extraordinary measures such as defaulting on the nation’s debt in order to achieve a legislative victory.

Watch Common Core during the 2014 legislative session. The legislative leadership and Gov. Phil Bryant support the state’s enactment of Common Core – national academic standards developed through a bipartisan effort of the National Governors’ Association and supported by such people as former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

But various conservative groups – led in large part by the Tea Party – oppose Common Core. The Tea Party, with the aid of Conservative Coalition, most likely will attempt to pass legislation in 2014 to block the enactment of Common Core by the Mississippi Board of Education.

Will Mississippi’s political leadership yield to the far right on Common Core and will Mississippi’s electorate veer even more to the right in the 2014 U.S. Senate race?

Those issues and others will determine whether Mississippi is in or out of the political mainstream.

Bobby Harrison is Capitol Bureau reporter for the Daily Journal in Jackson. Contact him at or(662) 678-1579.

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  • Kevin

    “…as has a sometimes zealous dislike of the federal government even though
    it is scary to think of Mississippi’s economic condition without the
    largess of that despised federal government.”

    Nothing hits the nail squarely on the head as does this statement here, Mr. Harrison. Mississippians just don’t realize how much we need the federal government. I also think that conservatives going after fellow conservatives for not being conservative enough demonstrates that the GOP is experiencing a little disarray. I still think they’ll have the upper hand in Mississippi for a long time as long as the GOP beats that mantra of small government and meritocracy.

  • 1941641

    As I see it, there is only one chance for Mississippi to survive and become a “Great State”– a leader in Public Education for example–the people must decide it is in the state’s best interest to change its political stripe from red to blue.

    The people have the power to make this change at the ballot boxes. They can rid this state of the Tea Party Scourge and its GOP Allies. The Tea Party and the GOP are one and the same for all intents and purposes. Don’t be fooled thinking they aren’t. The GOPS invited the TPS to join up with them, now the TPS are challenging GOP’s elected officials at the polls for control of the association. What about that my Mississippi friends and neighbors? Big Joke, is that a sufficient definition?

    Mississippi’s rankings among the other states are pathetic. It’s time for us to move on up to a better life as a Blue State!

    • Kevin

      The tea party is really ridiculous. Their whole deal is that taxes are too high. Well, taxes do a lot of things for Americans, namely funding wars (all our wars all the time; we’re always at war), subsidizing big business, fixing and constructing roads, supporting higher education (especially R&D for big business), paying politicians who shut down the federal government, providing protective services like all the jack-booted federal thugs who enforce our drug laws, keeping all those poor Americans in prison, etc. So the tea party should probably rethink this whole thing about them hating taxes and wanting them to stop. What do people say, the only things certain in life are death and taxes???

  • 1941641

    A prominent Republican Senator refers to the Tea Party as “Wacko Birds.” Thanks Senator!