Mississippi as a swing state—could it be? Ten years ago, Moulitsas was writing about how Georgia is actually a purple state, but few took him seriously, already ceding the state as Republican territory for the foreseeable future. Now, he sees a similar kind of promise in the traditional Southern GOP stronghold state of Mississippi:
I actually think Mississippi is on that similar trajectory. Now, it’s nothing soon; let’s not say that it is an imminent switch, but it is the kind of state where, given proper investment in on the ground organizing the way Stacey Abrams did over the last eight years—Georgia didn’t happen overnight. I mean, this is a theme that we’ve talked about with Georgia and Arizona. Hopefully we’ll get into Texas and Arizona, but these states don’t flip overnight.
To make that happen, Eleveld said, states like those would need to have “that suburban attraction [of suburban white voters in metro areas] … that Atlanta has.”
Secretary Espy joined Moulitsas and Eleveld to talk about his experience as a candidate in the state. He believes that a purple Mississippi is only about seven or eight years away, signaling his hope in both shifting demographics and increasing voter participation across the state. He sees the enthusiasm for his campaigns in 2018 and 2020 demonstrating promise for Democrats and the progressive movement in Mississippi, citing the fact that he received more votes in 2020 than any Democrat who has run for federal office in Mississippi in history; more votes than Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012; and more votes than Joe Biden in 2020.
With regard to Democrats winning in Mississippi and this red state’s potential to turn purple:
I think the difference is just not being organized enough. Rev. Barber ... has a saying. He says, ‘Mississippi is not so much red as unorganized.’ And by that he means that very low income people have a propensity—sometimes, so many obstacles socioeconomically, educationally, they’re not informed as they ought to be, they’re not as motivated as they should be, so they therefore don’t vote.
Espy also reflected on the difficulties his campaign faced in turning out voters and the importance of campaigns that are properly funded from the start:
So it was our job, I’m not putting the onus on them, to get them out to vote. And I think that we came up a little bit short, because of COVID, because of all of that going on back then, but mostly because we raised $16 million. That’s plenty of money to win in Mississippi … but the money didn’t come in until about September or October, and the election was in November. So if any of your listeners could just remember one thing: early money is the best money.
Espy encouraged hope and continuing to do the work, saying, “Everybody thinks that we did this in one cycle; it took ten years to do this. It’s going to take about almost that much longer for Mississippi to enter the pantheon of swing states.” He explained that the current 38% African American population, more than any state in the nation per capita, will be 46-47% in about 10 years—“more than enough to get out the vote and then encourage the crossover.”
Moulitsas brought up something Matt Hildreth, executive director of RuralOrganizing.org and past Brief guest, has said about the lack of popularity of the Democratic Party in these rural areas: “Democratic policies are actually very popular, like the $15 minimum wage, but the Democratic Party brand, for some reason, is dirt.” It’s something, Eleveld later noted, seemed to signal a “deep cultural rejection” of the term “Democrat.” Moulitsas asked Espy if there was any kind of messaging that would get through to these rural white voters who seem to be turned off at any mention of Democrats and the Democratic Party.
We have to get out there early. We got a lot of rural votes because we focus on rural issues. We try to get beyond the cultural stuff. Think about this: Mississippi changed its flag. The flag had confederate iconography; that is gone now. They voted for medical marijuana—got 70% of the vote in Mississippi. And, something that a lot of people are not aware of, there was a measure in the 1890 Constitution that gerrymandered Black votes. So in order to run for office back then, until about, well, November, in order to win statewide office, you had to win a majority of all of the legislative districts. Whereas in 1890, Black voters who constituted a majority of the population were congregated in certain areas. So that was put in the Constitution to eliminate any Black person from ever being elected to statewide office. And that is gone, that won by 70% as well. So you have three progressive measures all passing on the same day when I was on the ballot … Mississippi is changing.
Of his future goals, Espy said he would continue working on Medicare and Medicaid expansion.
Lastly, Longwell’s clip from an earlier interview was featured, where she spoke about why she feels a third party is dangerous and would only serve to prop up the Republican Party in its current state:
My view is that you create sort of a dangerous scenario [by creating a third party]. If you believe, as I do, that the Republican Party is a dangerous version of itself, is an anti-democratic version of itself, to the extent that I could have never imagined, then what you do is you have to keep that political party from power. And the way that you do it with the biggest, broadest coalition possible. Sometimes people think, ‘Well, maybe you can split the Republican Party by having this little faction,’ but that’s not what really happens. That’s why I was really against Justin Amash running. Every poll showed that he would have pulled just as much from the center-left. It’s not as if you form some sort of center-right party that it automatically breaks off from the conservative coalition.
You can watch the full episode below, and the interview with Sarah Longwell here.
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