On election night, McDaniel summarized his campaign message: “I want to be very, very clear: There is nothing dangerous or extreme about wanting to balance a budget, there is nothing dangerous or extreme about defending the Constitution or the civil liberties therein.”
As expected, there are many voices contributing to post-election analyses. Some say that McDaniel was too conservative, others say that he wasn’t conservative enough, and others insist that his platform was unrealistic because of how much federal money Mississippi receives.
But careful analysis of what Chris McDaniel repeatedly said on the campaign trail, against the backdrop of what voters want, shows that McDaniel understood both the people and the community he sought to represent.
Increasingly, voters are disenfranchised, powerless in the face of Washington’s growing bureaucratic leviathan. When we have a president who says that he will simply take executive action on issues like immigration and the environment, bypassing Congress, it is not hard to understand why the electorate feels like their government is out of control and won’t listen.
This sense of helplessness contributes in part to the growing voter apathy we see across our country, but also explains why McDaniel’s message resonated with Republican voters. Chris McDaniel promised to fight for the rights of individuals, over the federal collective protectionism of Cochran, who ran on a platform of how much Mississippi needs Washington.
Commentators have argued that Cochran made sense for Mississippi – citing Cochran’s ability to bring federal money into an economically struggling state. But this shows unfamiliarity with the actual people of Mississippi.
In terms of per capita and median family income, Mississippi is the poorest state in the nation, but these aren’t the only relevant facts. Conservatism says that the individual is more important than the government, and that communities are more effective than the government at empowering those individuals. People do not want far-off, impersonal bureaucrats forcing regulations down on to them – they want the freedom to choose the best education for their children and their own healthcare for their families, within the context of their communities.
McDaniel, a two term state senator, is a man who knows the people he sought to represent. It is worth pointing out that in his home county, voters supported him with a solid 85% of the vote. Cochran didn’t receive that majority in any other county.
Why? Because people know Chris McDaniel and he knows them. McDaniel was a beacon to voters because Mississippians understand what is at stake. They know that a federal deficit of 17 trillion dollars is a far greater economic threat to their Mississippi community and infinitely more dangerous to freedom than the subsidies that a state receives from Washington.
There is a profound point that no one is making, but is perhaps the most significant lesson of all: though Cochran won the runoff, 51% to 49%, nearly half of Mississippi run off voters chose McDaniel. Mississippians weren’t naïve about the personal cost of supporting McDaniel over Cochran, yet they voted for a long-term solution over short-term benefits.
Regardless of the technical outcome of the election, McDaniel’s compelling, conservative vision persuaded 184,000 people to support the guy who campaigned on a platform of fiscal conservatism: stopping the gravy train and paying the debt. For a state like Mississippi, this was a remarkable thing for people to do—and it shows how successful McDaniel’s vision truly was.
Ordinary Mississippians know that freedom and economic prosperity are intrinsically related. Republicans talk the talk, but what Mississippians—and liberty loving conservatives all across our country—want are leaders who will fight for them against fiscal recklessness and regulatory burdens that are stifling innovation and economic growth. Chris McDaniel ran on the platform of economic and constitutional conservatism, and he almost beat the establishment candidate, who had a massive war chest and the momentum of incumbency. McDaniel’s message resonated with a majority of Mississippi Republicans because he knew the community he sought to represent. And the near-success of his campaign is a sign of vitality within the conservative movement in America.