A combination photo shows tea party candidate Chris McDaniel, left, attending a rally in Madison, Miss., and incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) campaigning in Pass Christian, Miss. (Jonathan Bachman/Reuters)

Kate Cochran, daughter of on-the-ropes incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), took to her Facebook page to decry the degradation of Magnolia State politics. Of course, the University of Southern Mississippi professor took aim at her father’s opponent, state Sen. Chris McDaniel. And, of course, the tea party darling responded in a manner befitting a campaign whose supporters appear drawn to trouble like ants to sugar.

While Cochran’s lament is focused on Mississippi, it is a true description of what has happened to the GOP since the tea party flooded the halls of Congress in 2010. Please read the excerpt below and I’ll meet you on the other side.

I think that Mississippians are being snookered by neocon zealots on talk radio, Fox News, and elsewhere.  The New Right values extremism, obstructionism, partisanship, and–frankly–ignorance.  I am disappointed to realize that the New Right seems to want to walk hand-in-hand with the horrible strain of anti-intellectualism that sees universities as vocational schools and vilifies anyone expert in a field as somehow not living in the “real world” or representative of “real people.” But because no one can be an expert, everyone is, which is where the New Right finds its loudest voices: those with no training, education, or experience shouting down those who bring expertise to the table.  I think this is the reason that so many seem swayed by my father’s opponent: he is valued for his lack.  Lack of experience (he is not a “career politician.”)  Lack of wisdom (he relies solely on Jesus, the Constitution, and common sense*–combined in the veneer of “goodness”).  Lack of judgment (he vows to refuse federal monies and to try to impede legislation).  Lack of specificity (what are “Mississippi values”?).  Lack of perspective (how does he believe for one moment that a junior Senator from the poorest state will have any influence in Washington? How can he believe that he will not want his family to live with him in the D.C. area?).  I see these “qualities” as a disingenuous pose, engineered to appeal to the very worst in our electorate.  Hence, the illegal and immoral actions of his followers make sense–both in my mother’s nursing home and at the Hinds County Courthouse–because he trades in mindless fanaticism.  I find his campaign appalling on intellectual, moral, and idealist levels.  The fact that Mississippi voters are even considering his candidacy saddens me more than I can say.  Mississippi used to be recognized as the most backward, prejudiced, ignorant holdback in our nation, hands down.  This sea change makes me very afraid that we might deserve that mantle.

Cochran gets no quarrel from me on her searing indictment of McDaniel and other “neocon zealots” who have taken over the Republican Party. Would that more grown-ups in the GOP were willing to speak as truthfully and boldly as she about the forces destroying the party. McDaniel’s response only added to Cochran’s bill of particulars.

“Who’sYaDaddy?” A long-standing rule in politics is that children are off-limits. But McDaniel has built a campaign around ignoring rules of comity and statesmanship in favor of red-meat partisanship. According to the New York Times, McDaniel said at a Sunday event, “Ladies and gentlemen, next time Ted Cruz stands on that floor, next time Mike Lee stands on that floor, next time Rand Paul stands on that floor to fight for you, a son of Mississippi will stand next to them.”

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Sarah Palin and Larry Klayman (r) (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)
From left, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Sarah Palin and Larry Klayman. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Cruz led the disastrous government shutdown last year based on the impossible promise that he could get the Affordable Care Act defunded. Lee is Cruz’s ideological twin who had no problem appearing at a shutdown rally last October that featured rabble-rousing conspiracy theorist Larry Klayman. “I call upon all of you to wage a second American nonviolent revolution, to use civil disobedience, and to demand that this president leave town, to get up, to put the Koran down, to get up off his knees, and to figuratively come out with his hands up,” Klayman said. Charming.

Ideologically, Sen. Cochran is not my ideal. That he is no longer considered conservative enough by the Republican base should make you fear for the republic. But the Senate and the House, quite frankly, could use more statesmen like him who know what it means to govern and how important that is for a democracy to function. Adding another bomb thrower to Cruz’s team in the Senate would only reward a campaign that was indeed a “campaign appalling on intellectual, moral, and idealist levels.”

 

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Jonathan Capehart is a member of the Post editorial board and writes about politics and social issues for the PostPartisan blog.