Apparently there are some kind of national elections coming up in a month. Really. It’s true. They call them the “mid-term” elections. With everything going on at home and abroad, it’s shaping up to be a pretty important one for the future of our state and nation.
However, save for a few dedicated souls and a few employees at PR firms getting paid by these campaigns, the political buzz throughout the state of Mississippi surrounding these “mid-terms” is dying faster than the honeybee. There are several reasons why.
Chief among them, of course, is that Mississippi State and Ole Miss are both 5-0 and the toast of college football and its sports entertainment media machine, ESPN, might as well consider setting up a branch studio in Okolona.
Mississippi football news has taken over not just the front pages of our papers but the bulk of opinion pages, lifestyles, obituaries and classifieds. I myself have turned in another opinion piece along with this one titled “Ode to Dak.” I am curious to see which one my editor chooses. He is an Ole Miss season ticket holder, after all.
Who would even want to wrap their minds around the tedium of mid-term politics at a time when the Bulldawgs and those Land Sharking Rebel Black Bears could not only face one another undefeated in a “Game-of-the-Century” Egg Bowl, but even end up facing one another yet again as part of the first ever college football playoff? Be ready. It just may happen. These teams are that good. Everything is awesome if you love college football in Mississippi.
If you are a fan of Mississippi politics, on the other hand, this mid-term election is as boring as Ole Miss football under Steve Sloan.
Sure, the primary started off with a Tea Party vs. GOP Establishment battle that looked to change the face of politics in Mississippi. All the same, Haley Barbour and his preacher friends found a way to pull their candidate away from his pet goat and into the general election. But I kid.
The incredibly ugly, high-dollar Republican Senate primary between Sen. Thad Cochran and challenger Chris McDaniel was both travesty and tragedy. Now that McDaniel has been keeping his candidacy on life-support through legal challenges, it’s safe to say that folks in Mississippi have a severe case of campaign fatigue.
There is a cancer in the American political system. Former U.S. Sen. John Stennis called it the politics of Big Money. When I knew Stennis in his retirement, he would often lament how big money has taken the vote away from the common man, your ordinary everyday American. Big money politics lends itself to misinformation, dishonesty and ultimately leads to apathy.
While our ugly GOP Senate primary turned out a very sizable number of Mississippi voters, the general election will likely not come anywhere close. The low turnout will not just be the result of Tea Partiers staying home or the inability of Travis Childers to inspire whatever may be left of the Democratic Party in Mississippi. Those will be factors certainly, but the cold hard fact is Americans have been apathetic for quite some time.
Only 52 percent of eligible voters actually cast a ballot in the last presidential election. As the electorate in a representative democracy, we’ve effectively been turned off and shut out by Big Money Politics. Most of us don’t believe our vote makes any difference against the public relations stunts and high-priced campaign propaganda. We’ve been bombarded with ads and media telling us to distrust all politicians, even the very ones we repeatedly re-elect.
Big money has been instrumental in keeping viable third-party candidates from mounting any real challenges to the ruling apparatchik and has forced our leading political parties to behave more similarly than ever in an effort to keep the money flowing.
So during this next month, take a little time away from following our formidable college football teams, Katy Perry and corn dogs, and consider what you, your family, your community and your state truly needs in the way of political leadership. While our choices are limited, we still have the power of the ballot box, at least for now.
» David Dallas is a political writer. He worked for former U.S. Sen. John Stennis and authored Barking Dawgs and A Gentleman from Mississippi.