If Trump's Bad for GOP, Why Did Mississippi Dems Just Hemorrhage Defectors?


If you pay attention to politics, you know the drill. The Republican Party is dying in the age of Trump. The suburbs are being lost to the Democrats. All of the Democrats are beating Trump in the polls. Rural voters are less engaged about voting than urban liberals are.

If you were ever going to jump ship to the Democratic Party, now would be the time. Get out before Trump wrecks it all. Yet quietly, in the state of Mississippi, there was some local news that ran counter to that narrative.

According to WLBT, eight local officials elected as Democrats or independents have joined the Republican Party — and officials say it won’t be the last time they see defections.

“We have had a relentless focus on switching conservative Democrats over to the Republican Party,” Mississippi GOP Chairman Lucien Smith said.

“They recognize increasingly that there is only one party that represents the conservative values of our state and that is the Republican Party.”

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Six of the individuals were Democrats: Beat 4 Supervisor Danny Arender, Chancery Clerk Cindy Austin, Circuit Clerk Anthony Grayson, Tax Assessor-Collector Mary Lou Powell, District Attorney Matt Sullivan and Justice Court Judge Hulon West.

Independents Chancery Clerk Guy Easterling and Justice Court Judge Bobby Wayne Mooney also joined the GOP.

“There are conservatives Democrats all across the state of Mississippi and there was once upon a time when the conservative Democrats controlled this state,” Sullivan said.

“It’s a new day in Mississippi and I believe the Republican Party is growing and there’s a place in the Republican Party for people like me.”

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Dr. Nathan Shrader, chair of the Millsaps College department of government and politics, said the statewide GOP sweep in last year’s midterms — not to mention Trump’s high approval rating in the state — was convincing Democrats it was time to abandon ship.

“They have a plausible argument to make with these elected officials that your constituent are already aligning with us, the voting patterns in your district are moving in our direction, you should join the team too,” he said.

This is, in a way, a very local defection. Chancery clerks switching parties isn’t exactly national news. Newly elected Gov. Tate Reeves, however, made an argument there was a national perspective to all of this.

“We are in a scenario in this country where you can choose to be a member of the party led by Donald J. Trump or you can choose to be a member of the socialist Democratic Party led by Bernie Sanders,” Reeves said.

Remember, it wasn’t long ago that we were talking about the Democrats making inroads in traditionally Republican strongholds. Trump was supposed to be the catalyst for this change. He was wildly unpopular in suburbia and rural voters were losing interest in his brand of populism.

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If that were the case, however, Mississippi would be turning a lighter shade of red.

Nobody expects the state to go blue anytime soon or for a Doug Jones-ish miracle to happen, but a change from clay-red to, say, MAGA-hat red could theoretically be postulated.

That’s a difficult sell, however, with Bernie Sanders as the nominee. The Democrats’ leftward lurch doesn’t work in suburbia and it makes rural voters more likely to cast their ballot against a socialist candidate — and the down-ballot Democrats who, assumedly, will have to support him.

When it comes to the freshman Democratic congressional class of 2018, most of the press went to its most extreme members — namely Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and their friends in the “squad.”

However, the real story of the Democrats retaking the House was the group of moderate candidates who took GOP-leaning swing districts from Republicans. It wasn’t the Ayanna Pressleys of the world who delivered electoral success to the Democrats. It was representatives like Mikie Sherrill, who took New Jersey’s 11th Congressional District and turned it blue after decades of its being red. She didn’t do it with Bernie Sanders-like tactics. She presented herself as a moderate veteran, and that was enough to capitalize on anti-Trump sentiment in an overwhelmingly Republican district.

Do you keep those seats with Sanders atop the ticket? What does it mean for suburban Democrats? What does it mean for moderate state representatives and chancery clerks? And what does it say that Trump doesn’t seem to be as wildly unpopular as he was in midterm elections?

No, eight local Democrats and independents turning Republican won’t affect much of the machinery of government. It may signal an unseen political shift that’s going to happen in 2020, however — all because of the leftward bent of the Democratic Party.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture