At some point, fights cease to be about the grand things we pretend they are about, and take on a life of their own. Did the Hatfields and McCoys even remember what started the feud? Probably not. Whatever started it was overwhelmed by tribalism, standing on “principle,” and the avenging of personal wrongs.
Such is the case in Mississippi, where one suspects neither principal is so indispensable — neither candidacy will turn out to have been so important — as to outweigh the many costs associated with the burden of getting them elected. But who cares? This fight isn’t about electing a great leader–if it ever was.
If you haven’t been following it closely, Jim Antle has a good take on the state of things:
The aftermath of the campaign has given both camps an opportunity to put their worst foot forward. The Republican establishment is once again seen disdaining the conservatives who volunteer for their campaigns, vote them into office, and even fight in their wars as unsophisticated rubes whose bigotry must never be too close to the levers of power.
On the other side is Tea Partiers practicing politics as a form of primal scream therapy, engaging in protests with a low probability of success and a potential to do damage to their own cause. Their anger is directed not only against Cochran, whom some of them will vote against in November, but Republican leaders like Mitch McConnell and John Boehner.
Are either of these men — Thad Cochran or Chris McDaniel — so vital to the republic as to warrant all this fuss? I doubt it. And I suspect their most ardent supporters — if they were being truthful — would agree.
Maybe that doesn’t matter. Maybe there are still valid reasons to continue this fight. Maybe there are too many sunk costs. Maybe proving a point — sending a message! — is important… Whatever the reason(s), I’m pretty sure it’s not because Thad Cochran or Chris McDaniel will be the next Ronald Reagan.
But make no mistake, there is some price to be paid for this, and I’m not just talking about the reputation of the candidates, activists, and operatives getting their hands dirty. If there were negative stereotypes about Mississippi before the campaign, this race did nothing but confirm them. The same goes for the GOP.
At this point, one wishes it were possible for both sides to lose. And, I suspect, that is sort of what is happening. Sadly, though, there will be collateral damage.