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Thad Cochran, posing with African American supporter.
You Hustled It, You Bought It - Is This the Dawn of a New Political Alliance in Red States
Mississippi's Thad Cochran survived his Senate primary runoff by a hair last night, in large part due to his surprising courtship of black and white Democratic voters. Some of the conventional wisdom points to Tea Party-types sitting on their hands this November in the general election as the result of this cagey political move, but that would presume Democrats in Mississippi being convinced that this is an historical opportunity to break the modern "solid South" tradition of Republican Senators and to elect a Democrat as a Mississippi senator for the first time since John Stennis was elected in 1947.

We may be at such an historic moment, but just for today I don't know that normal political calculus would point to this shift happening. The levers of power that dominate the government in Mississippi - as well as poll stations and ballot boxes - are so heavily stacked towards keeping the friends of the powerful going to Congress that it's doubtful that they'd lift one finger to help a Democrat take a Senate seat away from them, no matter how noxious Cochran's courting of blacks and other Democrat voters may be to them. From that perspective, we may see a November campaign in Mississippi reminiscent of Joe Lieberman's Senate run in 2006, in which he was forced to run as an independent candidate in the general election after Ned Lamont surprised the Connecticut Democratic establishment with an outsider-style primary campaign that seized the Democratic nomination from Lieberman. Both mainstream Democrats and, quietly, key Republicans fueled Lieberman's re-election in the 2006 general election to keep the status quo power train intact in the Senate. Cochran managed to keep his party's nomination by comparison to Lieberman, but he will have to fight the Tea Party uprising as hard as Lieberman fought off Lamont's insurgency.

And in fighting off the Tea Party, it's highly probable that Cochran is not going to be able to throw away the alliances with blacks and moderate Democrats that fueled his primary win. Just as Lieberman swung hard to the right (not hard for him) to woo Republicans to cross over to vote for him, so will Cochran rely heavily on Democrats to make the difference in the general election. In doing so, Cochran will be obliged to that new cadre of swing voters for his future political survival - just as Stennis and other Democratic senators from the South had to learn how to woo Republican voters as the demographics of party identification shifted in the wake of the civil rights legislation of the 1960s.

In other words, what we may be seeing is the emergence of the mirror image of the "blue dog Democrats" who managed to hold on to "D" seats in Congress by finessing Republican and independent voters on social issues that mattered to them. Now "R" seats may be beholden to Democrats who will force Republicans to be more responsive on social and economic issues that matter to them - call them "red dog Republicans" if you will. Not Republicans in Name Only, really, but Republicans who know that they are cooked if they cannot reach out to a block of voters that will allow them to overcome challenges from the far right.

Is it better to just go for a straight Democratic win in November for Mississippi's Senate seat? If the balance of power in the Senate is not at issue, I'd say that it's maybe more beneficial to make Cochran a red dog Republican. It means that he will have to vote with Democrats often enough to keep his new coalition happy - meaning that he'll have some control over the substance of legislation, but probably far less than he would if he were a blue dog Democrat. In other words, maybe it's better to allow the normal flow of political change to take its course - and reintroduce the concept of Senators having to respond to a broad constituency in order to be re-elected. I don't know if that happens if we get a Democrat elected to the Senate - that's more likely to turn into a "blue dog" scenario, which has been a real stumbling block for forming hard-hitting legislation in the Senate.

We'll see how this turns out. All things being equal a straight-out Democratic win in the South for the Senate would be an awesome thing in its own way, but I am not discounting the potential beauty of a red dog Republican forcing other Republicans to learn some moderation - out of political necessity.

Poll

Would Electing Cochran as a "Red Dog" Republican be a good thing?

10%4 votes
32%12 votes
10%4 votes
45%17 votes

| 37 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Sounds like rational poltics. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JamieG from Md

    I'm not sure that rational is in the Southern Republican dictionary. Lindsey Graham sounded rational occasionally at one time until the party took him in for some brain surgery that removed the rational part of his brain. I hope Cochran isn't using the same doctors.

    Just another underemployed IT professional computer geek.

    by RhodeIslandAspie on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 09:06:50 AM PDT

    •  There's rational and then there's practical (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RhodeIslandAspie

      Seems like demographics may be hitting home. The zany white folks willing to respond to reality in any way are hardcore, but dwindling. What's left are sane people with real needs. So, if I am a politician expecting to stay in power, I go to where the votes are...

      •  At Cochran's age, though, (0+ / 0-)

        he may not be running again after this, and perhaps has already decided it is his last term. If that's the case, he may not feel he owes anything to a constituency that has not voted for him in a general election. On the other hand, if this is his last term, we may see another side of Cochran. He may come across as the relatively moderate deep Southern Republican that some suspect he is inside, and separate himself from the crazies. On the other hand, if he may decide to be a right wing maniac since he has nothing to lose.

        It all depends on what sort of memory he wants to leave behind.

        Just another underemployed IT professional computer geek.

        by RhodeIslandAspie on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 05:48:02 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  We'll have to wait until 2020 (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Partisan Hack

    I predict that if that is a good Democratic year, Mississippi will elect a Democrat to the Senate that year, maybe even a black one.

  •  Two things. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Pinto Pony

    Lie berman had the full support of the CT Republican party such that they nominated a smalltime crook to run against him to force Republicans to vote for Joe. He also had the support of the major papers here. He did not have a lot of support from Democrats, some, but not the majority by any means. (I worked in Lamont's campaign and, like many others was p!ssed at the final result).
    And second, Cochran is preferable to McDaniels, but a Dem in the seat would put us closer to a filibuster proof Senate, even if he is a Conservadem.
    And Cochran holds some committee seats that would not transfer to either McDaniels or Childers. Seniority has it's privileges. No0bs start at the bottom.
    All that said, It would be excellent if Cochran returned to DC mindful of the help that Blacks and Dems gave him.

    If I ran this circus, things would be DIFFERENT!

    by CwV on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 09:35:34 AM PDT

    •  Yes, but... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      CwV

      I agree overall with your CT election analysis, but the Hartford dems were not very happy with Lamont, either. I was helping to put out campaign signs that year, and the local Dem organizers seemed to be purposely suppressing any Lamont promotion. Very different crew than the Lamont campaign.

      Again, if Mississippi is in charge of a fillibuster-proof Senate, can you imagine the blackmail deals that would come out of that? I don't think that he'll be needed, but think carefully about all of the "gang of" coalitions already that have scotched good legislation. I'd rather focus Dem resources to elect real dems in real races.

  •  This might be a good strategy (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bluenick, Partisan Hack

    There are some districts which are so solidly republican that we're only kidding ourselves if we think we can turn them blue. But maybe Democrats can help elect the more sane republican.

    Eventually, some of those sane republicans might be willing to help pass some decent bipartisan legislation.

    I know, I'm a dreamer.

    Shop Liberally this holiday season at Kos Katalog

    by JamieG from Md on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 09:36:40 AM PDT

    •  If their re-election depends on dem districts (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JamieG from Md

      that they've already gerrymandered, then they've bascially forced themselves into a corner if the Tea Party is going to continually suppress Republican turnout in the other districts. They'll be forced to appeal to dems. Who'd a thunk.

  •  I could see this dynamic potentially playing out (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tom Lum Forest

    in other races, but not this one. At his age and state of health, I don't see Thad Cochran having a future race left in him after the general election later this year, so keeping a coalition happy isn't something I can see him needing to worry about. "Political survival" is mostly irrelevant when you've won the last race you plan to run.

    My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.
    --Carl Schurz, remarks in the Senate, February 29, 1872

    by leftist vegetarian patriot on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 09:48:01 AM PDT

  •  No way. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    charliehall2

    Cochran does not need Democratic voters to carry the election. This is Mississippi. He will win in a walk.

    I believe he will not change his action at all. He will continue to vote with Boehner right down the line just like he always has.

    But if he were to try to make up with a faction that doesn't like him, he will try to mend fences with the Tea Party.

    I voted for your doctor.

    Yes, DailyKos DOES have puzzles! Visit us here Saturday nights @ 5:00 PDT (easier puzzles) and Sunday nights @ 5:00 PDT (more challenging) for a group solving. Even if you just pop in and comment while watching the fun, everybody is welcome. uid:21352

    by pucklady on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 09:56:54 AM PDT

    •  Not if the Tea Party Stays Home (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pucklady

      And they just might, once a politician is photoed shaking the hand of a black man in Mississippi, it's hard for them to take that back. We'll see.

      •  After reading Redstate today (0+ / 0-)

        I'm gobsmacked that I think you could be right.

        Erick Erickson, while not actually advocating that his peeps vote for the Dem, is saying "I understand why you might". And in the torrent of rage that is the comment thread in that diary, most of them are saying that the GOP needs to be taught a lesson and that it is worth it (to them) to sacrifice the Senate to do that.

        Wow.

        However, I still think this is momentary rage and that they will all come home like obedient puppies and vote the guy with the R.

        Yes, DailyKos DOES have puzzles! Visit us here Saturday nights @ 5:00 PDT (easier puzzles) and Sunday nights @ 5:00 PDT (more challenging) for a group solving. Even if you just pop in and comment while watching the fun, everybody is welcome. uid:21352

        by pucklady on Thu Jun 26, 2014 at 07:37:28 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Cochran is no liberal (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Partisan Hack

    But he is, however, sane.

    And he isn't a racist, unlike McDaniel.

  •  It's a rational strategy (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Partisan Hack

    These Mississippi Democrats voting for the lesser of two Republican evils have adopted a pragmatic strategy, and one I am familiar with. They're making the best of what they've got instead of just waiting for a Democratic resurgence.

    I live in Kansas. We've lived this. My state is red and my district is red. (Although it may be one of the bluer red ones.) I'm left of center politically, but I am a registered Republican. Why? So I can vote. I'll explain.

    The rest of you have only experienced the "Tea Party" phenomenon of extreme-right Republicans for a few years. Here in Kansas, we've had three parties: Republican, Conservative Republican and Democratic,  for decades now. (Those who ignore and write off Kansas as lost, irrelevant or unimportant are ignoring very important political trends, but that's another story.) We've been dealing with this phenomenon for quite a while.

    But back to my point. Ever since the rise of the "Conservative Republican" party in Kansas -- coinciding approximately with the election of my district's old state rep and state-reptile nominee -- some 30 years ago, most elections have been decided in the Republican primary. If there's a primary, it's because there are two Republicans -- one conservative and one moderate -- vying for the position. Rarely is there more than one Democrat who's filed for election. Sometimes there are none. So the winner of the Republican primary is usually the winner of the general election, running unopposed or facing token Democratic opposition. Based on the strength of the Democratic rival, if any, I make my decision to vote for the lesser of two evils or the least electable Repub.

    I continue to hope for electable Democratic candidates* -- and Repubs are doing everything in their power to sabotage their own party -- but when I have no other choice to make the least bad decision I do what I have to.

    *We've got two good chances in my US Rep and Governor races. Would be nice to have two Davises in Governor's mansions this January.

    May contain literary devices. For adult consumption only.

    by Dead Eyed Suburbanite on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 10:30:34 AM PDT

  •  No. Next question? -nt- (0+ / 0-)

    On November 6, 2012, Mitt Romney finally convinced the 47% to take "personal responsibility and care for their lives"...and another 4% more agreed with them.

    by nmjardine on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 11:30:42 AM PDT

  •  Are there no Democrats (0+ / 0-)

    running in Mississippi?  Why wouldn't we want to get rid of a tenured Republican and replacee him with a rookie idiot that a reasonably competent Dem could steamroll?

    Are the Mississippi democrats really that useless?

    You may think that. I couldn't possibly comment.-- Francis Urqhart

    by Johnny Q on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 12:36:00 PM PDT

    •  Even if they're not useless (0+ / 0-)

      Will a dem really get elected? If not, it will be the birth of a new Republican strategy - and that would be significant. But maybe this is an outlier.

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