As readers are well aware, the Tea Party is a growing anti-big government movement that seeks to change American politics by often promising to get government out of the lives of citizens – as if that is even remotely possible. Most people of our generation began their voting lives as Democrats. We understand that when people get a little older, more successful and sometimes more conservative, they might transition from being moderate Democrats to Republicans.
That’s fine. But right-leaning Tea Party Republicans are as out-of-step with middle America as the left-leaning fringes of the Democratic party. And they certainly won’t help the Republican party attract the ever-growing number of Hispanic, Asian and African-American voters they must have to win another presidential election. As the voting majority nationally because more non-white each year, both parties are scrambling to embrace those voters.
The Tea Party Republicans are nothing more than a updated version of the Know-Nothing Party that briefly flourished in the Northeast and Midwest in the 1850s before fizzling out. The Know-Nothings opposed immigration, especially the arrival of German and Irish Catholics fleeing European chaos. The Know-Nothings won some governor’s races, some mayor’s races and tarred and feathered a few Catholic priests to make their position on religious issues crystal clear. Members of the Know-Nothing Party, when asked about their politics, were supposed to reply, “I know nothing” – which was largely true.
The Tea Party, to be fair, like their Know Nothing predecessors, has won a few big elections. Most recently, a previously unknown university professor, Dr. George Brat, defeated incumbent U.S. Representative Eric Cantor in a North Carolina Republican primary. But, the Tea Party keeps stumbling because so many of their candidates turn out to be ignoramuses, like the woman in Maryland who declared she was not really a witch, or the guy in Kansas who said that a woman who had been raped has the power within her body to prevent pregnancy. Everyone in Kansas who passed 9th Grade Biology 101 voted against him.
The Tea Party has another big opportunity in Mississippi this coming Tuesday when Tea Party challenger State Senator Chris McDaniel is on the verge of ousting veteran U.S. Senator Thad Cochran in the Republican Party runoff. McDaniel has pledged to get government out of the lives of Mississippians. But, the fact is that Mississippi Senators like the late John Stennis and Cochran have brought so many federal installations and so many billions of federal dollars that their sheer volume of gold and silver may one day sink the Magnolia state.
Stennis, Cochran and many others have done what members of Congress have been doing in America for 235 years – using their seniority to bring home the bacon in the form of NASA facilities, military installations and other government offices. All that patronage is responsible for tens of thousands of jobs in Mississippi and many millions in tax dollars. But, a recent poll showed McDaniel 12 points ahead of Cochran.
At least for the moment, Mississippi voters seem ready to believe the myth that government only corrupts and doesn’t ever help. It appears that Senator Cochran is the old baby in the bathwater that is about to be tossed off the back steps.
A WARNING FOR U.S. SENATOR MARY LANDRIEU
A recent Republican poll showed challenger U.S. Representative Bill Cassidy ahead of U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu in a head-to-head race by six points. Cassidy, of course, is the Republican challenger out to unseat Landrieu, one of the last Democrats in the Deep South to hold a statewide office.
There are actually four candidates in the race – including two Republicans other than Cassidy – and most polls that include all four names show Landrieu with a slight lead over Cassidy but unable to reach the 50.1 percent needed to win in the November 4 primary. We expect that stalemate would set in motion a December 6 runoff between Landrieu and Cassidy.
A lot is at stake. It will be the only Senate runoff in the nation on December 6 and could well decide which political party will have a majority in the U.S. Senate. If that happens, the eyes of the nation will be on Louisiana and the big guns from both parties will pour tens of millions of dollars into our state to try to bring their man or woman home.
We think the significance of the Republican poll is that Representative Cassidy, after a slow start, is beginning to build up steam in what has become a very red Republican state. The moment may be at hand when the Landrieu campaign has to go after Cassidy with a lot more ferocity than they have demonstrated to date. Landrieu has won her last three elections with never more than 52 percent of the vote. To win another squeaker and keep her title of “Landslide Landrieu,” she may have to revisit her strategy.
Allan Katz spent 25 years as a political reporter and columnist at The Times-Picayune, and is now editor of the Kenner Star and host of several televsion programs, including the Louisiana Newsmaker on Cox Cable. Danae Columbus is executive producer of Louisiana Newsmaker, and has had a 30-year career in public relations, including stints at City Hall and the Dock Board. They both currently work for the Orleans Parish School Board. Among the recent candidates who have been represented by their public relations firm are City council members Stacy Head and Jared Brossett, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and former Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell.