Anybody else sigh for the day when people ran for high public office based on their accomplishments?
Last week, state Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Ellisville, declared he will challenge incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker. Why is McDaniel right for the job? He offers one reason and one reason only: He’s more conservative.
The two Republicans will be on statewide ballots June 5 at the same time three Democrats seek their party’s nod. As things shake out, when the general election is held in November, Mississippi could send a Democrat to the Senate, and the state’s new senator could be both black and female.
The first President Bush may have been the last president who had a record of success in the private sector and service in the public sector. President Clinton had been governor of Arkansas, but didn’t revolutionize his home state. The second President Bush had been governor of Texas, but wasn’t launched into the White House by accomplishments in the Lone Star state.
And President Obama? He had been a state legislator best known for voting “present” on hard questions and was serving as junior senator when elected president. Even though light, Obama’s resume trumps Trump’s. By a lot.
Enter McDaniel. What a guy. A button pusher itching for a fight.
After all, he loves Mississippi’s flag, and Wicker doesn’t.
He believes America should be for Americans, and he says Wicker doesn’t.
He believes federal spending is out of control and must be slashed, which, frankly is a weird position for anyone living in Mississippi.
For the sake of argument, let’s agree the flag is great, immigration is out of control and Congress spends too much. The next question should be what credentials or experience does McDaniel have related to any of those? 1. Mississippi decides what its flag should be, not the U.S. Senate. 2. There are already reams of immigration laws. 3. Mississippi is a charity, importing via Congress $3 from our neighbors for every $1 we spend. What would McDaniel cut?
Politics is more convoluted than ever. Comparisons to last year’s sequence in Alabama have been inevitable. There, an election was set for the Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions when he was named attorney general. President Trump, who has endorsed Wicker, endorsed a Republican warhorse, Luther Strange, who was defeated by the more rebellious Judge Roy Moore. That set up a contest between Moore and Doug Jones, a Democrat. Jones won, meaning one of the most conservative states in the Union replaced a Republican with a Democrat.
In Mississippi, state Rep. Omeria Scott, D-Laurel, state Rep. David Baria, D-Bay St. Louis, and four political unknowns have seized upon that script and the winner of their primary will face the Republican nominee.
Implicit is that Scott or Baria, who said he has raised $250 so far, would have little chance against Wicker. But as in Alabama a coalition of black voters and the few white Democrats in Mississippi could be enough to defeat McDaniel in Mississippi. A Scott or Baria win could also tilt the whole balance of power in the Senate.
Now — continuing to follow the bouncing ball — it should be noted that McDaniel came with half a hair of already being in the Senate. In the 2014 party primary, he defeated senior U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran. McDaniel’s brand of politics — hugging on the flag and hating on incumbents — took him from nowhere to a primary win against Cochran, but he lost in a runoff.
Another wrinkle: McDaniel indicated that if for any reason Cochran’s seat comes open, he might run for it instead of challenging Wicker. Gov. Phil Bryant said that shows McDaniel is more opportunist than servant.
Wicker, for his part, has been bracing. He reports voting 97 percent of the time with Trump. He will remind voters he was tapped as president of all those upstart U.S. House conservatives in 1995.
But McDaniel says it doesn’t matter. He’s the real deal. The flag! The flag! The flag! That liberal — Wicker says it’s an economic albatross.
So Mississippi’s banner — not credentials — will loom as the major issue, at least in advertisements and in social media, where campaigns are won or lost.
As a people, we would think it bizarre for a Fortune 500 company to name a CEO who had never worked in business or Kroger named a produce manager who wasn’t familiar with vegetables.
As things unfold, could Mississippi send a Democrat to the Senate? Alabama did. An even longer shot — it could be an African-American woman.
CHARLIE MITCHELL is a Mississippi journalist. Write to him at email@example.com.