This opinion column first appeared in The Daily Mississippian.
The night of Nov. 8, 2016, I was glued to my television, watching one of the greatest dramas of our lifetime come to its thrilling finale. As President-elect Donald Trump approached the podium, people around the country laughed, while others cried all while the Republican Party fell on life support.
The New York billionaire who became the unlikely face of populist outrage finds himself still grappling with the same issues he did 11 months ago, with his biggest adversary not being his sworn enemies in the Democratic Party but rather the Republicans who vowed to support him during the campaign and then proceeded to betray the president in favor of their special interests.
History will remember this administration’s first year not for the failed health care bills and Twitter feuds but as the time when former Chief Strategist Steve Bannon led a rogue group of administration rejects on a crusade to destroy all those in the establishment who seek to block the president’s agenda.
Bannon’s crusade found its first victory in the Alabama Senate race, with Judge Roy Moore’s defeat of incumbent Luther Strange in a massive blow to the Washington elite. It is now clear that voters in Trump country no longer embrace the establishment’s message of representation for corporate donors instead of average citizens and, instead, embrace true outsiders.
With the anti-establishment fire burning just next door, Mississippi’s own Senate race is shaping up to be the next great battle between the new right and establishment figures, and a young state senator from Laurel is emerging as an early populist favorite.
Chris McDaniel made headlines as a bold, charismatic figure who never shies away from controversy, leading him to run for Senate in 2014. That time, he narrowly lost the Republican nomination to incumbent Thad Cochran.
Four years later, McDaniel is back, challenging moderate incumbent Roger Wicker in a Mississippi that finds itself more conservative than ever.
Wicker never found the legislative fame his colleagues achieved. Rather, Wicker has spent his 10 years in the Senate as a simple “yes” vote for establishment Republicans, even when it meant raising the deficit and continuing Obamacare. Wicker’s reluctance to act boldly led him to make an appearance on CNN with his friend Sen. Cory Booker and advocate for changing the state flag of Mississippi despite its overwhelming popularity with his constituents.
Wicker has in no way failed Mississippi in a legislative sense, but the age of Mississippi needing politicians like Wicker has passed. Mississippi seeks to gain nothing from a man so deeply established in the Republican Party and seeks to gain everything by electing a true outsider who is in tune with the people of Mississippi and not the donors in Washington.
In an article published by The Washington Post, Bannon specifically names Wicker as a target for his crusade in 2018 and has reportedly been in contact with prominent donors as well as McDaniel himself.
The test of whether a Republican should serve in the Senate no longer lies in whether he or she would answer to Mitch McConnell and various other leadership but instead lies in whether the candidate would support our president and in how outraged the opinion columnists at The New York Times would be if he or she got elected.
McDaniel is a tried-and-true, God-loving conservative who never backs down from a fight, respects our state flag and lives in the nightmares of Senate Republicans who would prefer inaction to action when it comes to making America great again.
It is in the hands of every man and woman of this great state, from the suburbs of Southaven to the beaches of Gulfport, to join in on Bannon’s crusade and speak with deafening volume against the establishment in support of McDaniel in his run for Senate.
Will Hall is a junior journalism major from Atlanta.