No doubt, Haley Barbour and his political machine do not want to lose their foothold in the state of Mississippi. And, no doubt, state Sen. Chris McDaniel and many of his Tea Party supporters can do, say and believe distasteful, disturbing things. Not to mention, if Sen. Thad Cochran were to lose his seat, Mississippi could lose a lot of federal money.
None of that makes the disturbing ways elections are often run in Mississippi above scrutiny. It's almost as if tradition—that's the way it's always been done—is an excuse for turning our heads away from shadowy PACs and the common practice of one party showing up en masse in the other party's primary in order to skew the result (making one ask why the dang parties are needed in the first place).
Meanwhile, our laws leave enough wiggle room for politicians—from the attorney general to the secretary of state—who really don't have the stomach to deal with the messes to turn their heads, at least until election chicanery hits close to home. In the case of Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, there's no telling how many hours he's burned on the public clock pushing for, justifying and implementing frivolous voter ID legislation, hoping either that it keeps more Democrats home or, at the least, makes the most conservative voters believe the state GOP is keeping black voters home.
The more local the race, the more outrageous the voter shenanigans and the less likely anyone is going to do a thing about it. The Jackson Free Press has scratched and clawed to get information on shadowy political action committees (Better Jackson PAC, Citizens for Decency, ENI, Jackson 2020, to name a few) that collected money for Jackson candidates but then provide too little information (if any) that reveal who is actually supporting them. Sure, there are laws on the books, but no one local seems to care about them—whether public servant or journalist—outside our building and our readership.
This, of course, means that the voters have no idea who is funding their candidates and what promises it took to get the money from them. This sets up a political patronage system that is unhealthy for the city, as well as the taxpayers. And the practice is poison to the idea of transparent government and accountability.
The McDaniel campaign's determination to stay the course on possible election violations is oddly refreshing to us because it opens up a dialogue on how elections should actually be run. McDaniel clearly doesn't fear the state's GOP establishment, and this might mean that we can force real election reform and enforcement in Mississippi.
Remember, supporting this kind of needed reform does not translate into support of Chris McDaniel or the Tea Party. It means that you want to see corruption stamped out of elections in Mississippi and the U.S. We certainly do.
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