Booman has a really revolting piece up today about the "ethical way to win in Mississippi" for the Democratic Party, in the form of Travis Childers. I tried reading the piece as a poorly informed white Democratic voter (which I am not) and then I tried reading the post as Black Democratic voter (which I am not) and I came away disgusted at the short sighted, cowardly, approach he assumes Childers should take. The whole discussion reminds me of the way the Democrats have only recently come to realize how important "the women's vote" is but they still don't seem to value the non-white women's vote over the white women's vote. One of those two groups--non white women and single women--vote overwhelmingly for Democrats when they are appealed to directly. Only apathy and disconnection prevent younger, single, non white women from voting. White women are, comparatively, more Republican and conservative. They vote and they vote regularly but they are not reliably Democratic votes. Isn't this the case with Mississippi? Its something like 30 percent AA voters and they are solidly Democratic voters who are underrepresented in elections instead of serving as a powerful wedge forcing Senators like Cochran to the left (if he wants their vote) and bringing people like Childers to the left if he wants their votes as well.
Basically the issue is this: The race is now and always has been between Cochran and Some other Guy with enough votes. Cochran squeaked through with the help of some AA/Democratic voters. And he may have lost a lot of McDaniel's voters because of it. Does that make Childers (D) finally a player in the eventual race? Well--Childers can try to get in as a blue dog democrat on a pro to racist line, with the help of McDaniel's voters or he can try to run an all out, balls to the wall, race against Cochran looking primarily for progressive voters and AA voters energized, presumably, by their recent foray into tipping point politics when they took the primary from McDaniel. Which is best for Democrats and Democratic voters long term?
Booman answers the question this way
What interests me about this race is the ethics. It's pretty clear that the Republican Party is badly split between supporters of incumbent Thad Cochran, who is a decent fellow, and his challenger state Sen. Chris McDaniel, who runs in neo-confederate circles and has the support of an extreme Tea Party faction. This wedge pre-exists anything Childers might do to exploit it. If Childers can convince a significant percentage of McDaniel supporters to vote for him, he can actually win this seat, but it is not clear how he can go about doing that without leveraging the racism that is at the core of opposition to Cochran.
Cochran was expected to lose his run-off with McDaniel but exceeded expectations by convincing a not inconsiderable number of black voters to back him. The Tea Party faction is claiming that a lot of these black voters violated the law by voting in the Republican run-off after voting in the Democratic primary. That issue can be settled in court, but regardless of legal merits, Cochran's open solicitation of black votes is seen as dirty pool by McDaniel's supporters who think that a Republican primary should be decided by exclusively Republican voters regardless of what the law specifies.
Travis Childers has the option of exacerbating this racial tension for his own political advantage, but this would be the wrong thing to do. Yet, if he doesn't do it, he will almost certainly lose. In fact, even if he does do it, he will probably lose.
"Democrats in Washington are watching the feud cautiously, not yet convinced it will put even Mississippi in play. The Democratic nominee, Mr. Childers, has raised little money and was always seen as a good candidate against Mr. McDaniel but as a marginal one against Mr. Cochran.Conservative activists are not so sure. Dwayne Hall, vice president of the Miller County Patriots, a Tea Party group in Texarkana, Ark., says he has set up a Google alert for the McDaniel-Cochran fight and emails his network of fellow activists all the news from Mississippi.
“I’m no longer a member of the Republican Party, and I’d expect a lot of my fellow patriots to resign, too,” he said, adding: “I’m perfectly willing to do a protest vote in November if that’s my best option. I’m keeping that option open.”
So, how can Childers convince people like Dwayne Hall to advocate on his behalf without dirtying himself with the racial politics of it all? Childers needs to nurture that "protest vote," but he doesn't want to shame himself in the process. So far, he's walking the tightrope.Its not ok to look at the race this way. Its not a game of parlor ethics--its life and death for the party and its voters. Its not ok to toss away the advantage that AA voters bought, against strong headwinds and voter apathy (which white democratic voters also show at primaries). Its not ok to spit in the face of AA voters by appealing to a racist spite voter. AA voters are, for once, in a good position politically--if Cochran has to beg and plead with them for votes to get in over Childers that's good for the local AA constituents. If Childers has to beg and plead for the local AA voters, rather than taking them for granted, that is good for the AA voters and for the Democratic party long term. We are better off as a party being clearly identified with progressive causes and with AA voters than hemming, hawing, and begging for crazy teabagger votes. If Childer's needs a strategy it should be to ratfuck Cochran with the McDaniel's voters without for a minute publicly asking for their votes or doing anything other than making a strong play for 1) traditional Democratic voters and 2) Republican voters who are disgusted with both Cochran and McDaniel for whatever reason. AA voters and the AA community bought both Cochran and Childers some breathing space--they should be rewarded by the party that wants their votes, not treated as unimportant compared to the angry white teabagger vote.