What if you had a church split on an issue and it was 50/50. A date was set for a vote so a decision could be made between your opinion and the opinion of another church leader. When you got to the church for discussion and a vote you find out that the other fellow has brought 25 new people with him who want to become members that night so they can vote. Everyone knows these 25 people are members of another church down the road. Yet when you object to this ploy the other fellow says: “What? Are you against people joining the church? What kind of Christian are you?”
Welcome to Chris McDaniel’s world.
Just because something is legal does not mean it is ethical. And the manner in which Chris McDaniel was defeated Tuesday may have been legal, but it was clearly unethical. Sen. Thad Cochran’s team did an end run around the spirit of healthy party competition and everyone knows it.
Every poll that I saw leading up to Tuesday’s GOP run-off between 40-year incumbent Thad Cochran and state senator McDaniel showed McDaniel leading slightly. But the Cochran campaign, with strong help from the black community, was able to pull in thousands and thousands of Democrats to vote in the Republican primary.
What’s interesting is these were Democrats who didn’t even bother to vote in their own primary on June 3. That says to me that most of these people don’t really care about politics much. They just did what they were told.
Cook Political Report analyst David Wasserman tweeted: “Looking at county data, Cochran’s win is almost entirely attributable to a large turnout increase among black voters b/t 6/3 and 6/24.”
African-Americans don’t vote for Republicans en masse in Republican primaries. Never happens. Why this time? Because black voters were told by leaders in their community that McDaniel was a racist and if elected he was going to go to Washington, D.C. and cut off their food stamps all by himself.
I saw one poster produced by All Citizens for Mississippi with the headline: “The Tea Party Wants to Prevent You From Voting.” On it was a photograph of black people from the 1960s followed by Cochran’s picture and an appeal to vote for him. The message was that McDaniel wanted to take blacks back to 1961.
What was most disappointing to me was to find out it was former Gov. Haley Barbour and his nephew Henry whose PAC paid a woman named Mitzi Bickers $44,000 to go out and scare black folks with race-baiting radio ads and robo-calls into voting for Cochran.
Before the Tuesday election Mississippi Democratic Party chairman Rickey Cole made it clear how he felt about those who would manipulate the primary process: “I’m encouraging Democrats to stay out of the Republican primary, simply because I believe that party primaries should be an opportunity for the party faithful to pick their candidate for the general election.”
While it may be lawful, it is unethical and undermines the legitimacy of the primary process. It’s sabotage.
This is not just the normal rough and tumble of politics, no. This was an intentionally organized campaign to smear McDaniel in the worst way and beat him by any means necessary. This may have won the election for a Cochran, but the feeling of betrayal it has created among Republican friends is deeply felt and has created perhaps an irreparable separation.
My lovely and talented wife Alison and I had this conversation late Tuesday night. I told her I didn’t like how it all went down but that I would probably vote for Cochran in November. She looked at me and said, “You might but I won’t, this is just plain wrong.” She told me I could write that in the newspaper … so I did.
Emotions may lessen over time. But McDaniel supporters feel like they were sucker punched … by a family member.
Community columnist Tim Wildmon is a Lee County resident. He is president of the American Family Association, but the column represents his personal opinion unless otherwise noted. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.