COLORADO SPRINGS, June 25, 2014 — Thad Cochran’s come-from-behind victory in last night’s Mississippi primary was a victory in a contest of wills between the Beltway Establishment and the Tea Party grassroots — but it comes at a very large cost.
Only very rarely is an incumbent senator in doubt of re-election, must less coming in second in a primary race as did Cochran in the June 3 Mississippi primary. Richard Lugar is the obvious comparison from the 2012 election. Both Lugar and Cochran were long-serving incumbents who made their homes in D.C. instead of their home states. Adam Brandon of FreedomWorks said on The Blaze last week that both men appeared a bit senile as they would “work the room” at gatherings, shaking the same hands multiple times, each time as if it were the first. In live shots, Cochran, 76, looks frail — as though he belongs in a nursing home, not the senate.
Nonetheless, the established political class was desperate to save one of their own. The structure of power and privilege in Washington is built on people and personalities. The U.S. Senate is often called “the world’s most exclusive club” — and it’s not only because it has a closed membership of 100.
Consider what had to be done to prop up the septuagenarian: Mitch McConnell held a fund-raiser in D.C. that raised $800,000 in just one night. The National Republican Senatorial Committee committed $600,000 in the primary run-off. By the end of the runoff race, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was spending $100,000 a day on TV ads featuring football star and native Mississippian Bret Favre.
All this is legal, of course, but there were more questionable tactics used. Cochran’s campaign openly appealed to Democrats to cross over and vote for him. Democratic Party chairman Rickey Cole said Cochran operatives were paying people in the black community to donate to Cochran. Radio host Mark Levin reported two black voters he interviewed said they voted for Cochran “because they were told to.” Other allegations said that Cochran allies were using “walking around money” to incentivize Democrats to the polls.
That’s not legal. Mississippi law prohibits individuals from voting in the Republican primary unless they intend on voting for the winner of the primary in the general election — or if they already voted in the June 3rd Democratic primary.
The New York Times is pushing the view that Cochran’s outreach to black Democrats made the difference — but, according to a 1984 Times story reported by Fox News, that’s nothing new.
With all that effort, Cochran won by only a little more than 6,000 votes, 50.8 to 49.2 percent. Statistician Dave Wasserman Tweeted that Cochran’s win could be explained almost entirely “to a large turnout increase among black voters,” but the total number of Democratic crossovers is much higher. One estimate is 25-35,000 Democrat votes for Cochran.
What did the win cost besides money?
In the words of Politico, “Cochran’s survival proved just how much swat national party leaders have when they compete to win by any means necessary.”
The key phrase is “by any means necessary.” The Republican Party establishment sold its soul to save Thad Cochran. The Republican Party proved that, just like the Democrat Party, it is more interested in power than right.
If people thought before last night that the two major parties in American politics had more in common with each other than with the American people, this runoff campaign proved it. The Founders’ distrust of political “faction” was once again proved correct.
Corrupt politicians and political machines have always been a part of American politics but now the corruption has reached previously unimaginable levels.
If the Tea Party protest was born of the simple realization that the federal government was too big and spending too much money it didn’t have, then the Tea Party movement continues to be viable because Americans want to restore not only fiscal sanity but also honesty and accountability to government at all levels.
The Republican Party just lost their claim to moral authority. In the next few years, either the Tea Party will return that party to its foundational principles or it will go the way of the Whigs. Either way, the GOP as we have known it is finished.