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Mississippi GOP Shocked--Shocked!--to Find Neo-Confederates in Its Ranks

April 17, 2014

For pure political theater, it's hard to beat the Republican Senate primary in Mississippi. There, incumbent Senator Thad Cochran is trying to fight off Tea Party favorite and neo-Confederate State Senator Chris McDaniel. In the latest twist in this entertaining saga, Tea Party leaders called for the resignation of state GOP chairman Joe Nosef after the latter's call for McDaniel to cancel an appearance at event featuring a white nationalist leader.
But whatever the outcome of that imbroglio, it's awfully hard to take seriously Nosef's warning to McDaniel that "as a party we need to always be careful and focused and serious about what our views are and what our interests are." After all, Trent Lott and Haley Barbour--the Magnolia State's two most prominent recent Republican officeholders--traveled in the same neo-Confederate circles as Chris McDaniel.

As TPM recently reported:

McDaniel had been slated to be the keynote speaker at a combined Firearm Freedom Day/ Tea Party Music Festival in Guntown, Mississippi. That event featured a vendor who sold Confederate memorabilia and founded the Council of White Patriot Voters and the Confederate Patriot Voters United, which the Southern Poverty Law Center listed as an active white nationalist group. Organizers said McDaniel had been the confirmed speaker since February...
McDaniel's association to neo-Confederates has been called into question before. Last year he attended at least one neo-Confederate event in Mississippi.

That puts McDaniel in good company with Haley Barbour, former Mississippi Governor and RNC chairman. Briefly considered a contender for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, Barbour has been associated with the CCC, the kinder and gentler update to the White Citizens' Councils of Jim Crow days. As the Southern Poverty Law Center documented, "Of the 38 current office-holders who've attended CCC events, 26 are state lawmakers -- most of them, 23, from Lott's home state of Mississippi." And among them, as the ADL noted in 2004, was Haley Barbour:

During the 2003 election, the CCC was at the center of another controversy involving the endorsement of a major politician. In July, Mississippi Republican gubernatorial nominee Haley Barbour, who served as Chairman of the Republican National Committee from 1993 to 1997, attended a CCC-sponsored barbecue. Though the attendance of local Republican and Democratic office-seekers at political events partly sponsored by the CCC usually evokes little controversy, this year the group posted on its Web site a photo of Barbour at the barbecue (l. to r.: Mississippi GOP aide Chip Reynolds, State Senator Bucky Huggins, Ray Martin, Barbour, John Thompson, and CCC Field Director Bill Lord.)

Barbour's CSA cheerleading didn't end there. When Mississippi contemplated changing its Confederate state flag, Barbour proudly wore it on his lapel. And when former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell got into trouble over his 2010 Confederate Heritage Month declaration that omitted any mention of slavery, Haley Barbour rushed to his defense. Asked if McConnell's omission was a mistake, Barbour responded:

"Well, I don't think so...I don't know what you would say about slavery, but anyone who thinks that you have to explain to people that slavery is a bad thing -- I think it goes without saying...
To me it's a sort of feeling that it's just a nit. That it is not significant. It's trying to make a big deal out of something that doesn't matter for diddly."

Apparently, it also didn't matter for diddly to Trent Lott, former Senate Minority (you can't make this stuff up). Lott was a speaker in 1992 at an event of the Council of Conservative Citizens, that same successor to the White Citizens' Councils of Jim Crow days. Among its offerings in seething racial hatred is a "Wanted" poster of Abraham Lincoln. Lott's also offered his rebel yell in the CCC's Citizen Informer newsletter and the virulently neo-Confederate Southern Partisan, where in 1984 he called the Civil War "the war of aggression." That was years before he lauded the legendary racist and 1948 Dixiecrat presidential candidate, Strom Thurmond:

"I want to say this about my state: when Strom Thurmond ran for President, we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either."

But Strom Thurmond wasn't Lott's only choice as an ideal President. As the National Review recalled after the Thurmond incident in 2002, Lott had long made clear that Jefferson Davis would do quite nicely as well:

Mississippians sent Lott to the House in 1972. Six years later, his efforts restored Jefferson Davis's citizenship. Lott repeatedly lauded the former Confederate president, a man who endorsed not just segregation, but slavery. Lott crowed in May 1998: "Sometimes I feel closer to Jefferson Davis than any other man in America."
Lott told Richard T. Hines in the Fall 1984 Southern Partisan magazine, "I think that a lot of the fundamental principles that Jefferson Davis believed in are very important today to people all across the country, and they apply to the Republican Party." He argued that Americans in Biloxi, Mississippi and Los Angeles should be free to live their lives without undue federal pressure.

Given that background, the Mississippi Conservative Daily protested with good reason, Chris McDaniel shouldn't feel any pressure at all from the state GOP. Apparently, there is one thing Republicans in Mississippi can agree on: the old times there are not forgotten.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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