Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran’s runoff election victory over his primary challenger on Tuesday sure has brought the ugly from the Tea Party. Not only has Chris McDaniel, the Tea Party’s candidate, been taking the loss like a spoiled child, but the entire far-right radio/blogosphere is having fits. Here are the highlights I have come across.
First, the loser himself. “There is something a bit strange, there is something a bit unusual about a Republican primary that’s decided by liberal Democrats.” These are words from McDaniel’s non-concession speech in which he repeatedly accused the Republican Party of losing its conscious. This from a man who’s supporters broke into a courthouse.
Next up, with three hours a day to bloviate, you know you’re going to find some gems from Rush Limbaugh. Liberal detractors have seized on his ill-advised (unadvised?) choice to refer to the black turnout in favor of Cochran as “Uncle Tom voters.” In context, Limbaugh was playing off a routine slur hurled at conservative blacks, but it still doesn’t play well.
Beyond riffing on liberal prejudices, Limbaugh has characterized the support Cochran received from black, most likely Democrat voters in Mississippi as somehow illegitimate. I don’t like open primaries myself, but Limbaugh’s comments had easy racial overtones that were a little uncertain even to me, a longtime listener.
Other radio personalities, such as Laura Ingraham and Mark Levin, were quick to dismiss their own influence on elections. Suddenly, they weren’t interested in the elections they were so deeply invested in the day before. Now they just care about “the culture.”
Sarah Palin chimed in, calling Cochran’s aggressive door-to-door get-out-the-vote campaign “shenanigans.” (Incidentally, this flies in the face of claims that Cochran won via a media carpet-bomb campaign.) Again, the overtone is that Cochran had no business courting black voters. Palin also took issue with Cochran campaigning on things he’s done for his state’s benefit, like securing relief following Hurricane Katrina and getting funds for special education. In Palin’s book, that’s running on the Big Government ticket.
Ted Cruz echoed a different theme also heard on talk-radio—that the McDaniel loss is actually a victory. By this reasoning, if you take out the Democrats, then McDaniel won amongst Republicans. This form of analysis is again rife with racial implications. Besides, both candidates knew the rules going in. Only one actively courted the black vote in the runoff.
In addition to these incautious statements, most of the tea-party-sphere has launched into the usual theories about the establishment and the mainstream media that get more conspiratorial sounding each time they are repeated. This can only help to make the GOP look sane in comparison. With the Tea Party to triangulate against as well as the current administration’s incompetence, this looks like good news for the GOP this fall.