With the first official presidential debate for 2008 set to begin this evening on the Oxford campus of Ole Miss, Washington Post associate editor Kevin Merida gave readers of today's Style section a glimpse at how the state of Mississippi is still "Bearing Its Southern Cross."
Merida opened by insisting that the Magnolia State "has been chasing away ghosts for years, trying to rid itself of a past that keeps haunting the present" and that "the ghosts just won't leave Mississippi alone." The Post staffer did end up closing on a positive note regarding race relations in Mississippi, but in doing so, he failed to note the role of conservative policies in leading an overwhelmingly white state senate district to elect a black candidate:
The state now has more black elected officials than any state in the country, including more than a quarter of the state legislators.. But there has yet to be an African American to win statewide office, and those who have tried have been victims of race-baiting politics, according to some black politicians. It is quite the irony that while Barack Obama carried Mississippi in the Democratic primary -- and some Democrats believe he can be competitive, if not win, in the general election -- black politicians in the state have had a difficult time winning white votes.
One of those who have succeeded is state Sen. Eric Powell, who represents a district that is 92 percent white. He says Obama has provided a road map for the politics of the future. "He's got white and black young people coming together," said Powell. "They've learned how to live with one another and accept one another's cultures."
They are too young to have lived through the shameful past, and so the ghosts of Mississippi don't bother with them.
A look at Powell's campaign Web site shows that the Democratic state senator is to the right of Obama on numerous issues and that he ran a campaign on a pro-life, pro-gun rights, anti-illegal immigration, pro-tax cut agenda:
- Will vote to fully fund our public schools every year, not just in election years.
- will support a reduction in the sales taxes on groceries.
- will work with our local economic development officials to take advantage of opportunities to grow jobs in Northeast Mississippi.
- Will lead the fight for passage of legislation to halt illegal immigration.
- as the endorsed candidate of Mississippi Right to Life, Eric will Always cast a vote for life.
- Will lead the opposition to any move in the legislature to undermine our Second Amendment rights.
- will have a dedicated cell number for consituents, will always return your phone calls, and will have regular public meetings in all three counties.
Black Democrats can win elected office in white Mississippi by running on conservative issues that can united people on policy, not skin pigment. It's a shame Merida didn't mention that.