In his most recent column on the establishment website Y’all Politics, Frank Corder gives his assessment of the current state of politics in Mississippi and his predictions for the general election this November and state races in 2015.
But what caught my attention, aside from his flawed analysis, has been his consistent downplaying of Senator Chris McDaniel’s historic effort to replace Thad Cochran in the United States Senate. This has been the theme, not only from Corder and the hacks at Y’all Politics, but also from the media establishment throughout the state.
Aside from Corder’s miserable attempt to provide anything that remotely resembles political analysis, for the sake of disclosure let us provide a few simple facts that he may not want readers to know: Frank Corder is a failed politician. He is a former city council member from Pascagoula who ran for mayor and was destroyed in the process, gaining just 24 percent of the vote. I find it strange that he should give advice to anyone in politics, much less to a major success like Senator McDaniel.
Sticking to the historical Senate race we have witnessed over the past 10 months, there are several main points seemingly lost on Frank Corder, Y’all Politics, and the entire establishment press in Mississippi: Senator McDaniel’s extraordinary Republican vote totals, the historic nature of the race and the formidable opposition McDaniel faced, and the sheer threat his campaign was to the establishment in Mississippi.
The true story has yet to be told.
Left untouched by Corder, as well as other establishment journalists, are the sheer numbers involved in the campaign. Senator McDaniel gained more Republican votes in a Republican primary than anyone in state history. On primary night, June 3, he received 157,728 votes.
But three weeks later, on June 24, he did something rarely seen in primary runoffs – he increased his Republican total by an astonishing 30,000 votes, giving him a record total of 187,265. Phil Bryant had set the benchmark in 2011, when running for governor he garnered 172,300 votes against four relatively weak and unknown opponents, not against a 42-year, machine-backed, entrenched incumbent. But Senator McDaniel smashed that record by nearly 15,000 votes.
What has also been lost in all the talk of this historic Senate race is where these numbers came from, or to be more precise, where they should have come from – the Republican base.
Contrary to what might be popular belief, a primary is not an election. Nobody is elected to anything in a primary, even if there is no opposition in the fall. Primaries are administered by the parties, rather than by the state. It is a party process by which the party members select their candidate to run in the general election in November, a populist system that replaced the old smoke-filled rooms of yesteryear.
According to a source with the campaign, it is estimated that in the June 24 runoff Cochran benefited from more than 40,000 Democrat crossover voters, many who supported him out of pure fear driven by the establishment’s racist scare tactics. And of that number, there were thousands who cast an illegal ballot because they had previously voted in their own party’s primary. Looking at the raw numbers, McDaniel likely bested Cochran by more than 30,000 votes among Republican voters. That’s not just a win; that’s domination.
Showing his true establishment colors, Corder trashes much of McDaniel’s base of support, the Tea Party conservatives, without seeming to do so by attacking the movement’s “leaders” rather than their “noteworthy” message of smaller government. The Tea Party comprised a large chunk of McDaniel’s vote totals, no doubt, although it was by no means all of it, as most reporters would have you believe. Based on his vote totals, McDaniel was able to bring more people into the GOP and expand the party’s base.
But in an almost surreal accusation, Corder levels blame for an alliance with Democrats … by the Tea Party! Two different times in his piece, he accuses tea partiers of “flirting with the other side” and “joining hands with Democrats” in order to sink Cochran in his race against Childers, all in the name of retaliation for beating McDaniel.
Note to Frank: Remove the log from your own eye before picking at the splinter in ours! It was the Cochran campaign, backed by the Barbour machine, which aligned itself with Democrats in order to win the Republican primary. It was Senator McDaniel who traveled the state and expanded his Republican base, while Cochran abandoned his to cavort with the other side.
Simply put, what Chris McDaniel was able to accomplish is nothing short of historic. Even though he was by no means an average state senator, who would have believed, aside from those who know him best, that he could have taken on the indomitable Thad Cochran, as well as the entire Mississippi establishment machine backed by Haley Barbour, and win. And, even more momentous, if not downright miraculous, he prevailed not once but twice.
Unbeknownst to many, in the state of Mississippi there is now but one political machine, a vast Republican network created and supported by Haley Barbour, the Boss Tweed of our time. To get elected in Mississippi, one must pay homage to the machine, and many state pols have done so, whether begrudgingly or not, in order to gain power without being destroyed both personally and professionally.
When Senator McDaniel decided to throw his hat into the ring and run against Cochran, in the hopes of helping to bring much needed change to the state and the country, he knew he would be battling that very machine, not aligning with it. Yet there was no conservative or Tea Party network to work with to counter the establishment. There was no major financial support system, no list of donors, no organization with which to mount a ground game, no vendors who would openly support the cause, tied as many of them were to the Barbour’s enormous business interests.
Senator McDaniel sought to build a vast statewide network to counter the establishment so conservatives could free themselves of the machine. But to do so, he had to start from scratch, and he did it in spectacular fashion. Unlike Cochran, he traveled the state exhaustingly and organized in every county, and in many cases, he created entire county leadership teams with which to mount a get-out-the-vote effort. Before long, a virtual army of thousands of volunteers joined the cause.
With no money to speak of when his campaign began last October, the death knell of many a well fought battle, McDaniel raised well more than two million dollars from more than 50,000 individual contributions from ordinary citizens and received the backing of many influential national conservative organizations, such as FreedomWorks and the Club for Growth, groups that rarely, if ever, support a candidate right out of the chute. But for Chris McDaniel they did, and did so enthusiastically.
So successful was the McDaniel team that it quite literally scared the ever-living daylights out of the establishment in Mississippi, if not the national Republican Party itself. The veil could soon be ripped off the Barbour’s carefully concealed operation – a lifetime’s work to enrich themselves on the already broken backs of the taxpayers.
When a campaign organization began to take shape that could seriously threaten this money-stealing machine, Senator McDaniel was no longer the insignificant state senator from Jones County; he was now seen as nothing short of an enemy of the state, a mortal threat to the machine’s very existence.
The establishment effort then transformed from a campaign of “Ignore McDaniel” to one of “Stop McDaniel.” And strike back they did with a vengeance. He could not be allowed to succeed, no matter the costs or the lives that must be ruined.
And their cohorts in the press, as well as their vast network of trolls in the social media world, were all too willing to carry their share of the burden. Throughout the spring and early summer, Senator McDaniel was accused of being a racist, a bigot, uncaring, insensitive, an adulterer, a liar, a two-faced trial lawyer, and a political flip-flopper, to name but a few.
Most troubling of all, he was accused of being a criminal, with many of the accusations coming from the mouths of criminals themselves. The media, and most especially Y’all Politics, obsessed for weeks on stories like the so-called “nursing home break-in,” an unfortunate incident that may or may not have constituted a crime, carried out by those who had no real connection to McDaniel or his campaign, but not in the eyes of Mississippi’s media and their endless stories.
Yet these self-important journalists remained virtually silent as Cochran’s cronies leveled a systematic race-baiting campaign against Senator McDaniel and his base of conservative supporters that included accusations of criminal activity. To date there have been serious allegations of vote-buying, illegal PACs, and other violations of law and campaign regulations, yet instead of any serious reporting from the press, all we heard were the ever-present chirping of crickets. As they say, silence is complicity.
Rarely in the history of Republican Party politics, in Mississippi if not the nation as a whole, has a candidate faced off against the entire network of elected officials, everyone from the governor and the state congressional delegation to many local officials, most of whom not only endorsed Cochran but appeared in ads for him and gave speeches around the state on his behalf.
It has long been an unwritten rule that in contested primaries in the GOP, the leadership, both elected and unelected, remained neutral. Conservative officeholders with Tea Party backing, like Senators Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and Rand Paul, held true to this rule. But not in Mississippi, where McDaniel faced a blitzkrieg from the entire Mississippi machine – the politicians, their dirty operatives, their money, and their media cronies.
But despite this overwhelming onslaught, which would have broken a lesser man, Chris McDaniel prevailed, only to have it swiped from him by a corrupt machine that would make even the Daley’s of Chicago envious.
To the rank-and-file conservative Republican voters, though, Chris McDaniel is a hero. Like a battered and bruised Rocky Balboa in the 15th round against Apollo Creed, Senator McDaniel stood tall against the establishment assault, took the flaming darts, and is still standing, all while imploring the machine to bring it on. And that is why they hate him so. That is the truth and should tell you all you need to know about this race, a campaign for the ages.