The political landscape of Mississippi is changing. Anyone who attended the annual Jacinto Courthouse speaking on July 4th can testify to what is happening. I have never witnessed so many Republican booths at the decades old tradition. Even with Speaker of the House Billy McCoy sitting coolly beneath the shade tree, it was evident that Mississippi Republicans are gaining ground. At the Alcorn County Republican booth I was told that 14 Republicans are running in local races. More counties across the state are establishing Republican County Executive Committees.
Why is it happening? Voters want to know that they have a say in who the governor and lieutenant governor will be. All statewide offices except for the attorney general are now filled by Republicans. The majority of voters want to vote for their local races and have a say in shaping the statewide races, too. And people everywhere have to understand that the great divide in national politics between Republicans and Democrats is also influencing what is happening on the state and county level.
It is not just a Republican momentum, I would say it is a conservative revolution. Joel Gill running for agriculture commissioner on the Democratic ticket is very supportive of the Tea Party movement. He told me that he was as conservative as they come. Of course that was before the most surprising speech at Jacinto when Republican Henry Ross blasted the voting record of new U.S. Rep. Alan Nunnelee as not being conservative enough. Ross hinted that the congressman might have a primary opponent in 2012.
In addition to the many campaign cards and flyers, I brought back hand fans, face wipes, lip balm, and matches. But my favorite prize was from Hudson Holliday for Governor (no relation to me.) He gave me a sign that didn't have his first name on it. The sign simply reads "Holliday for Governor." If our new leaders don't get Mississippi moving, maybe I can use that sign in four more years.
Dr. Holliday, being the devout, strong Christian he is, I know undetands that, "Might doesn't always make right." Just because folks are flocking for shelter under the Republican umbrella doesn't mean their public policy position are any more acceptable or less contemptible.
In fact, allow me to elaborate on the top three Issues Republicans are running on this year and the Impact, they will have on public policy.
- Cut Medicaid. The refrain is that there are too many people on Medicaid. I even heard one Republican Tea Party candidate say at ICC on Saturday that people on Medicaid were "freeloaders who the state should not be in the business of taking care of."
n Impact - Doctor shortages, because many hospitals, clinics and other providers would no longer receive Medicaid, they would have to reduce their medical staff, thereby causing more emergency room patients, which results in higher private insurance rates. Insured families and individuals end up paying more for their health care, because the Medicaid costs are passed on to them.
- Voter I.D. The mantra here is that Voter I.D. will eliminate voter fraud.
- Impact - Lower the voter turnout of poor whites and racial minorities. IIt's a known fact that in the last 50 years, Mississippi has had exactly 1 documented case of voter fraud related to identity misuse, and that did not involve a minority. This is a red herring. Phil Bryant used his power as President of the Senate two years ago to defeat a compromise between pro-Voter I.D. Republicans and pro-early voting Democrats to stir up fear of a non-issue and increase turnout among his constituency base. This is not for the public's benefit. It is to energize Bryant's base.
- Lower taxes. The complaint here is that state taxes are too high.
- Fact: Mississippi is ranked exactly 26th in the nation. That is literally in the middle of the pack. If we lower our state tax rates any more, we will have to raise local property taxes, cut education, cut public safety services like the Highway Patrol and state crime lab.
The Republicans flock together under ideology and rhetoric, not public policy. And the fact that more Democrats don't have the spine to stand up for what they believe and have taken the path of least resistance just to get elected does not impress me at all.
Dr. Ed Holliday is a Tupelo dentist who has written two successful books. Contact him at email@example.com. James Hull is an award-wining journalist and a political consultant. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.