The opening of Robert Costa’s story on Chris McDaniel, the Tea Party Republican running to oust establishment Republican incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran, made me think of Las Vegas murderers Jerad and Amanda Miller. The anti-government would-be revolutionaries are the kind of voters McDaniel is hoping will give him the edge over Cochran. And the GOP should be plenty worried.
Costa followed McDaniel as he scrounged for votes at the Tate County fair “[a]mid the Confederate flags, the guns and the pigs — in pens and on plates.” The candidate’s encounter with a potential voter is what set off alarm bells.
“I need you,” McDaniel said to Brandy Davis, before also greeting Bobby Goodwin, a heavyset man carrying a handgun, at a booth for the Citizens Militia of Mississippi. The members of the militia, whose motto is “Any fate but submission,” implored the Republican to take a hard-line stance on immigration and gun rights. McDaniel assured them that he would and that he is not “going to join any club” in Washington.
You know how I feel about the Confederate flag. And militias are a far-right response to a big-government “tyranny” that doesn’t exist. Yes, everyone has the right to vote and should, but that doesn’t mean that people aspiring to statewide or even national office should actively seek out such problematic support.
Yet in the case of McDaniel, we also have a problematic candidate. I’m not talking about the nursing home and courthouse controversies swirling around his campaign. I’m talking about the McDaniel quote that came after his chat with the nice fella from the militia. “This is a peek back to a better time,” he told Costa. “I’m a Jeffersonian and a Reaganite, and I like to remember how good things once were.”
I always get nervous when Republican politicians start waxing nostalgic for the good ol’ days. They always fail to remember, comprehend or care that those days weren’t good for everyone. You’d think McDaniel would learn the lesson of fellow Mississippian, Trent Lott (R). The former Senator had to step down as the incoming majority leader when he praised Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) on the occasion of the former segregationist’s 100th birthday in 2002: “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.”
Back to the murderous Millers. According to authorities, after they killed Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Officers Igor Soldo and Alyn Beck, they draped Beck’s body in the Gadsden “Don’t tread on me” flag we’ve seen at countless Tea Party rallies around the country. For good measure, they put a swastika on his body. They pinned a note to Soldo that read “this is the beginning of the revolution.” We shouldn’t be surprised the anti-government duo found their way to the ranch of like-minded federal freeloader Cliven Bundy. But they were so radical that they were asked to leave the Bundy ranch. That’s saying something.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) asserted that the Miller murders were an act of domestic terrorism. When asked if he agreed, Speaker John Boehner opted to dodge. “I — I’m not sure how I’d describe it,” he said. “But clearly we had a couple of sick individuals who engaged in a horrific crime.” Yes, it is a horrific crime by two sick individuals. But it is also domestic terrorism and should be acknowledged as such. How could it be otherwise with two law enforcement officers targeted for slaughter by two people bent on “revolution”?
Four years ago, I urged leaders in the Republican Party to denounce the anti-government militia-types that were latching onto the nascent Tea Party. Its leaders opted to harness the anger instead. The results of which have made for some of the most damaging and dispiriting political moments in American history.
The GOP now in thrall to the extreme far-right of its base stands pinched in its own vise. On one side, you have a candidate who could unseat an already conservative Republican incumbent with votes actively sought from militia members. On the other, you have those sick individuals who turn or want to turn their Republican-enabled and encouraged anti-government animus into action.
For the sake of the nation, I hope the GOP finds a way out.
Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj