Cochran Panders and Wins

Thursday, June 26, 2014

E. J. Dionne and George Will offer somewhat complimentary perspectives on the recent run-off election in Mississippi between its incumbent senator, Thad Cochran, and Chris McDaniel, his Tea Party challenger. They differ in their respective evaluations of this win for improper government, but both agree that Cochran won by running as a "big" government candidate. In fact, Dionne goes so far as to call his a "Democratic" campaign:

As my Washington Post colleague Dan Balz reported, Barbour was unabashed in pointing out that "more than 15 percent of Mississippi's state education budget comes from the federal government, including virtually every penny we spend on special education." Who imagined a Republican would win a primary running on special ed? Voters heard about the magnitude of defense spending in the state's economy, and former NFL quarterback Brett Favre made an ad that spoke of Cochran's work in bringing vital relief after Hurricane Katrina.

Cochran's campaign was thus a model not for other Republican candidates but for Democrats who are too wary of saying outright that government does a lot of good. This pro-government message drew African-Americans but also various establishment figures in the state well aware of the benefits of Washington's largesse. Burns Strider, a Democratic strategist with deep roots in Mississippi, was impressed by Cochran's mobilization of these leaders, notably friends of the state's institutions of higher education. [bold added, format edits]
Note the bold. Dionne thus appears here to agree with me that this notion will win votes in an electorate that does not embrace individualism overall, especially when good pro-individualist arguments either aren't coming from the limited government faction or haven't been heard or accepted widely enough. Not appreciating that the GOP is also very much a big government party, however, Dionne sees this pandering to dependency as a one-off, hoping the Democrats will claim a monopoly on it. I wish he were correct, because what is winning elections these days is destroying the country. And, as this election shows, we on the limited-government side will have an uphill battle every time for the foreseeable future. (This is regardless of the merits of Cochran's opponent, as I elaborate later.)

Speaking of the fight for limited government being in its early stages, George Will offers the following wise assessment:
McDaniel's defeat, like many the Tea Party has experienced this primary season, brings that feisty faction face to face with a melancholy fact: Americans' devotion to frugal government is frequently avowed but rarely inhibiting. If the nation's trajectory is to be changed, this will not be done as abruptly as tea partiers wish, and will not be done without their continued wholesome agitation. They must take to heart the truth Thomas Jefferson told in 1790 to a congressional candidate. Jefferson said that "the ground of liberty is to be gained by inches, that we must be contented to secure what we can get from time to time, and eternally press forward for what is yet to get." [bold added]
To this I would add my reiteration of support for Tom Bowden's warning that, "The tea party will fail -- unless it fully embraces individualism as a moral ideal".

The Tea Party is not ideologically consistent, and there are politicians who court that faction for whom I would never vote. I do not know enough about McDaniel to know if he is one of these; but if we set that aside for a moment, this election is just a reminder that the fight for freedom will not be easy. This good cause will endure its share of lost battles. (That said, if McDaniel is indeed the racist Dionne implies he is, this might well be a fortunate loss. The left already works overtime to cast advocates of limited government as bigots: We don't need them looking, to a reasonable person, like they are right.)

-- CAV

No comments: