Last week’s election results infuriated me and not for the reasons you might suspect. My anger has less to do with the outcomes of the various elections, but more to do with the means of getting to the outcome.
The most watched election of this year was the Mississippi Senate race between Tea Party favorite Chris McDaniel and six term incumbent Senator Thad Cochran. Cochran was forced into a run off last week, which typically doesn’t bode well for an incumbent.
According to Professor Larry J. Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, “In 37 of 40 Senate primary runoffs conducted since 1980, turnout had decreased from the initial primary to the runoff. In these 40 races, the combined turnout dropped by about a third from the primary to the runoff. And yet, this time [Miss. senate race], turnout went up by 18 percent, jumping from about 319,000 in the initial primary to about 375,000 in the runoff.”
Astonishingly, there were more votes cast in the runoff than in the June 3 primary. McDaniel went from 155,000 votes to 184,000 votes; Cochran went from 153,654 votes to 191,508 votes. Without question, the black vote saved Cochran. There is universal consensus on that point–liberal and conservative; black and white; Democrat and Republican. But, the analysis of how the black vote led to Cochran’s win has been totally misunderstood.
Make no mistake about it, Haley Barbour was the brains behind Cochran’s resuscitation. Haley is like a son to me. He is the former governor of Mississippi and former head of the Republican National Committee. A political genius, Haley knows how to win; and is a helluva guy to get a drink with. Haley knows how to operate without leaving fingerprints. But his DNA was all over Cochran’s campaign. He is definitely ol’ school.
What saved Cochran was the Republicans use of the “reverse Southern Strategy.” The Southern Strategy was created by Kevin Phillips, a former Nixon aide, in the 1960s to sacrifice the black vote (who were staunchly Republican) to pick up the vote of the white Southern Democrats opposed civil rights. To this day, that keeps blacks aligned with the Democratic Party.
The Cochran campaign did the exact opposite. They sacrificed the conservative white Tea Party vote to pick up the black vote. They made a political calculation that they had maxed out on their white support and their only way of winning was to expand their base of support.
The only option was to go after black Democrats who had not voted in the previous primary. It was a stroke of genius.
What angered me about this last-ditch effort when, in fact, it should have a conscious development. Why did it take desperation to get the party and the campaign to do what was and has always been in its own best interest—cultivating the black vote?
I was further angered that prior to the runoff, there was absolutely no mention of the black vote by either candidate. Neither campaign had any blacks on their campaign staffs or as consultants in decision making positions.
Normally, I blast the Republican Party for doing the right thing even if it’s the wrong way (Rand Paul’s visit to Howard University); but in this case, they did the wrong thing the right way. The Cochran campaign has spent more time and spent more money with black Democrats than they have with black Republicans. Go figure.
Over the years, I have had heated discussions with conservative and Tea Party members of the Republican Party over the issue of race. I have been told that sometimes I can be “hyper-sensitive” on the issue of race; I am “overreacting;” or “we just have a different view on this issue than you.” Really?
Some unknown group created a robo-call targeting black voters that said in part, “Hello neighbors. It’s time to take a stand against the Tea Party. The time has come to say no to the Tea Party. No to their obstruction, no to their disrespectful treatment of the first African American president… If we do nothing, Tea Party candidate Chris McDaniel wins and causes even more problems for President Obama…” Both campaigns deny any involvement in the making and distribution of the recorded call.
The McDaniel campaign and the Tea Party are furious about the robo-call. Now that you have experienced the race card being played against you, maybe, just maybe you will be more understanding of my views the next time we have a discussion about race.
Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates LLC., a Washington, D.C.-based public relations/government affairs firm. He can be reached through his website, www.raynardjackson.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at raynard1223.