June 23, 2014 10:26:02 AM
Tuesday, voters will again go to the polls across the state to determine the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate. Incumbent Thad Cochran faces tea party challenger Chris McDaniel in the Tuesday runoff with the winner facing former U.S. Representative Travis Childers in the November general election.
In the June 3 primary, McDaniel won a slight margin over Cochran, but did not capture the required "50 percent plus one" of the votes necessary to claim the nomination outright.
Polls show that McDaniel holds a narrow lead heading into the runoff. If those polls are accurate, it will be the first time since 1942 a sitting Mississippi senator has been defeated by a candidate from his own party.
Prior to the June 3 primary, we urged voters to cast their ballots for Cochran, who for 36 years has been an effective advocate for the people of Mississippi in the Senate. We have heard nothing to dissuade us from that position in the weeks since. In fact, it seems even more clear that Mississippians are making a huge, unnecessary gamble in sending the unproven McDaniel to the Senate in light of the positions he has built his campaign around.
Essentially, McDaniel is running on an anti-federal government platform. The government is too big, spends too much, imposes its will on the states too often and is an enemy of the suspiciously vague "traditional Mississippi values."
McDaniel seems more about buzzwords and catch phrases than ideas.
In painting Cochran as a "pork barrel" politician, McDaniel seems to have acquired the notion that the hundreds of millions of dollars that Cochran has helped steer to Mississippi has been a mistake.
In an old TV ad, a lady named Clara Peller asked "Where's the beef?" We ask McDaniel, "Where's the pork?"
Is it in the military installations we find from one end of our state to the other, including Columbus Air Force Base? Is it in the hundreds of millions of dollars the federal government provides annually for K-12 education? Is it in the millions in federal grants that go to our universities for research? Is it in federal highway funds that keep our roadways safe and help attract new industry?
You could make a reasonable argument against that kind of "pork" in some places, but in Mississippi that money is the difference between any real hope of a future for our citizens and a third-world existence. For every dollar Mississippians send to the Washington, $3 comes back to our state.
Be proud of Mississippi, but don't let that pride conceal an unpleasant truth: Mississippi is absolutely reliant on those federal dollars. Any politician who argues against it, puts ideology ahead of the best interests of the state of Mississippi.
McDaniel has been back-tracking on some of his rhetoric lately. Now, he claims he wants the federal money, but he wants it without the federal oversight that logically accompanies those dollars. Either McDaniel is phenomenally naive on this point or he assumes Mississippi voters are naive. It's hard to say which is worse, isn't it?
For 36 years, Cochran has demonstrated he understands the realities our state faces. His record demonstrates that he has been a effective leader whose influence in Washington has only grown over the years. Cochran is notable for his willingness to compromise for the good of the country, a too-seldom seen trait in Washington these days.
Given the mood for financial austerity dominating our nation, there is ever reason to believe that cuts are on the way, including cuts in military spending. The ominous implications of those cuts should be obvious.
The question then emerges: Assuming that both Cochran and McDaniel will fight to protect our military installations, which man is likely to be more effective? The veteran lawmaker who could well wind up a the chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee or an unknown, undistinguished rookie Senator who is likely to wind up on something like the Senate Committee on Weights and Measures? Make no mistake: If McDaniel goes to Washington he goes there not as a prince, but as a pawn. His influence will be negligible.
Tuesday's contest, then, is really a choice between practical politics and rigid ideology.
And for all of its lofty rhetoric, you can't put ideology on the supper table.
Mississippians should vote their own interests.
That means a vote for Cochran in Tuesday's runoff.