Rheta Johnson: Give us a choice

June 14, 2014 6:06:43 PM

Rheta Grimsley Johnson -

 

Moderates in the Deep South are disenfranchised. So are the young, the impoverished, blacks, gays, women who want to control their own bodies, Latinos and unapologetic liberals of both races and genders. Which, in the South, rolls us right back to the 1950s, at least in statewide elections. 

 

All of the above-mentioned minorities could combine to make a healthy voting majority, but in Mississippi and Alabama, they have nobody to vote for. That's a whole lot of votes to leave on the ground. 

 

In politics, as in life, you can't have it both ways. Our Democratic candidates try. They either change parties or vote as if they have. Eventually they will learn that you can't be blonder than Marilyn or list more to the right than a Republican with Flat Earth credentials. That tactic doesn't work and is not right. 

 

The fear of losing causes candidates to pander to small-minded bigots and vote with the right in a way that makes them about as desirable, well, as their Republican opponents. They sacrifice principles and lose anyway. If they somehow win, what have working people gained? 

 

Instead of remembering the core constituency, these candidates shun those voters and seek to reassure the one block that's already well-represented: older, wealthy white males with reason to want the status quo protected. 

 

In South Mississippi, former Democrat Gene Taylor switched parties and lost to the other Republican, incumbent Congressman Steven Palazzo, who also beat Taylor when he was a Democrat. Republicans didn't trust Taylor's expedient conversion -- though his voting record certainly should have helped in that regard. 

 

You would think that Taylor's fate might serve as a lesson to other candidates and their learned advisors, but it probably won't. Wealthy white men of both parties still will hunker around a table and discuss a single strategy: Appear more conservative than the opposition.  

 

In Alabama, where there are no Democrats to speak of in state politics, listening to the television ads before the Republican primary was surreal. Dialogue consisted of the term "liberal" being thrown back and forth between two white, ultra-conservative candidates. 

 

That's the name of the game in the South. In 1958, George Wallace famously lost to John Patterson, who was endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan. Wallace vowed never to be "out-segged" again. Today's candidates aim not to be "out-Obamad." 

 

Southern Democrat politicians, the few left, should realize that a rich man's vote doesn't count any more times than a working man's vote, or a single mom's vote, or a poor college kid's -- and that all of these ignored votes can add up to victory. 

 

In the U.S. Senate race in Mississippi, looks like it might be a Tea Party Republican, Chris McDaniel, who opposes ObamaCare and gay marriage, running against Democrat Travis Childers. Childers will not be able to win by seeking votes already spoken for and declaring his own conservatism relative, less dangerous. He could win if he gave a voice to people nobody hears. 

 

He should remember that he represents the party of Franklin Roosevelt, Jimmy Carter and working people. Otherwise, he'll leave a lot of us Mississippians, a whole winning lot of us, without a candidate.