June 3, 2014 10:29:40 AM
Today marks the end of one of the most regrettable political campaigns in recent Mississippi history.
Barring an improbable run-off, either incumbent Thad Cochran or challenger Chris McDaniel will emerge today from the stench of this year's GOP primary race to face a Democratic challenger in November's general election, most likely former U..S. representative Travis Childers.
Let's dispense with the tiresome, sordid details of the scandal that emerged when a McDaniel backer took pictures of Cochran's incapacitated wife in the room of her Madison nursing home. Let's just say that was the low point.
That aside, the nauseating wave of negative ads waged by those who claim to be supporters of both candidates has cheapened both the process and the candidates. No one will emerge unscathed.
Who is to blame for this?
You could start with the U.S. Supreme Court and its 2010 decision Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission.
The Court, in a 5-4 vote, held that denying corporations, independent groups and unions the ability to spend their own money in campaigns was a violation of free speech.
The implications of that decision have manifested themselves in the Cochran-McDaniel race, where millions of dollars have been spent to advance the cause of each candidate.
The vast majority of that comes from outside sources through super PACS supporting one candidate or the other. These groups have flooded the airwaves with advertising, virtually all of it very negative.
Because these groups are not directly affiliated with the candidate or his campaign, the candidates do not have to claim any responsibility for the outrages the TV ads contain. In fact, since it is virtually impossible to track this "dark money" to the individuals behind the attack, no one is really held accountable for the content of those ads. And when no one has to be accountable, decorum goes out the window. That means millions of dollars are devoted to little more than slander and distortions. The net effect is that a candidate's record is so badly mangled that it's hard to know what is real and what is a lie. By the time the average voter goes to the polls today, he or she is assured of being able to make a misinformed decision.
That is a disgrace to our political process, a stain on the character of the candidates and an insult to the voters of Mississippi.
Let's be clear on this point: The people behind these super PACS have no real concern for the people of Mississippi. They are either ignorant of, or indifferent to, the unique challenges we face.
To these people Mississippi is just another piece on the chess table, something to be won and then manipulated for their own purposes, motives that have little to nothing to do with the best interests of the people of our state.
We send representatives and senators to Washington not just to represent Mississippians' views on matters of national importance but to represent the specific interests of the state, as well. If the people we send to Washington aren't obsessed with what matters to Mississippians, we can't expect anyone else to be worrying about what's best for us.
First and foremost, we expect the people we send to Washington to hear our voices and to respond. They are supposed to our advocates, our champions.
That is why it is disturbing that the people who may have the most influence on determining who we send to Washington do not live in Mississippi and care hardly at all what happens here.
Let's not be naive: There was a time, not so long ago, when we bought our own politicians. Now, the people who are doing the buying couldn't find Mississippi on a map. Heck, some of them probably couldn't find the map.
So God help us to choose wisely, today.
God knows, the Supreme Court didn't helped us any.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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