Comments and actions by Hyde-Smith betray her faulty character and deeply racist attitudes. Mississippi should elect Mike Espy to the Senate on Tuesday.
The runoff election in Mississippi for a high-stakes US Senate seat is being held on November 27th, and is the last major Congressional race of the 2018 midterm elections. Cindy Hyde-Smith is the incumbent Republican senator, appointed to Congress this past April by the MS governor following Thad Cochran’s resignation from his seat (after six terms) due to health concerns. Hyde-Smith’s opponent is Democrat Mike Espy, who received just over 40% of the vote on Election Day. Because no candidate received more than 50% of the vote, the two candidates with the most votes—Espy and Hyde-Smith—are facing off in this late-November statewide runoff.
Cindy Hyde-Smith has received increasing attention over the past few weeks for a series of controversial statements that have raised alarms among leaders and voters of both parties. First she claimed at a fundraising event that if she were invited to a public hanging, she’d “be on the front row.”
While Hyde-Smith has vigorously defended these comments, claiming they were meant simply as an “expression of regard,” others have interpreted her remarks as alluding to lynching, which has deep and painful historical roots in the south—and particularly in Mississippi.
About a week later, Hyde-Smith stated that she believes its appropriate for steps to be taken to make it more difficult for college students to vote, referring to it as “a great idea.” When asked about these comments, she said that she meant them “as a joke.” However, it’s unclear how what she said was actually an attempt at humor; or anything other than an enthusiastic endorsement of voter suppression targeted at younger voters who are more likely to vote Democratic.
Following her “public hanging” comments, a number of investigative journalists began to examine Hyde-Smith’s past and perhaps not surprisingly found that her ‘expressions of regard’ for pre-Civil Rights-era Mississippi were not even remotely isolated to these remarks. For example, the earliest piece of legislation she introduced as a state senator back in 2001 was an attempt to rename a section of highway in her district after Jefferson Davis, a leading figure of the Confederacy during the Civil War. The bill did not pass. In 2007, she cosponsored a resolution honoring then-92-year-old Effie Lucille Nicholson Pharr, whom she called “the last known living ‘Real Daughter’ of the Confederacy living in Mississippi.”
Pharr’s father had served as a Confederate soldier under Robert E. Lee in the Civil War. In 2014, Hyde-Smith posed wearing a Confederate hat and uniform and holding a Civil-War era rifle for a Facebook post, in which she described Jefferson Davis’ home in Biloxi as a “must see,” as it represented “Mississippi history at its best!” Two years later, she awarded the Dixie Alliance—a Confederate heritage group—the prize for best community float in a parade she judged as the commissioner of agriculture.
On Friday, the Jackson Free Press reported that Hyde-Smith attended a private school that was essentially founded so that white parents could circumvent the integration of schools that had been mandated by desegregation and send their children to schools without any black students.
This report also illuminated that Hyde-Smith sent her daughter to a similar private school established around the same time. When asked for a comment, her campaign spokeswoman went into a diatribe against “the liberal media,” which she claimed “had stooped to a new low, attacking her entire family and trying to destroy her personally instead of focusing on the clear differences on the issues between Cindy Hyde-Smith and her far-left opponent.” However, it remains unclear how the media has done more than simply report Hyde-Smith’s own words and actions, which have reflected extremely negatively upon her.
In light of everything that has been elucidated about Cindy Hyde-Smith over the past few weeks, it is abundantly clear that she is not the best choice to represent the people of Mississippi in Congress in 2018. This is also reinforced by the fact that, despite presenting herself as a “freethinking streetfighter,” she is the only Republican senator to have voted in line with Trump’s positions 100% of the time. She even helped Trump confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court despite there being credible allegations of sexual assault against him and multiple instances of perjury to the Senate Judiciary Committee that most legal analysts argued were patently disqualifying.
In addition, her words and actions have not only been offensive but anachronistic to the values that one is required to stand up for in Congress; like egalitarianism, equal opportunity, and liberty and justice for all Americans regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation. Hyde-Smith can claim there was no ill will behind her remarks, but, as Mike Espy said to her in the recent debate, “We all heard what came out of [her] mouth.”
Mississippi has an extremely dark past when it comes to things like racism and slavery. These are eras to be remembered in history museums; not glorified or put on a pedestal, much less elected to Congress. There is no better way for Mississippi to leave its most regrettable historical period behind and step into the present than to elect its first black Congressman since the Reconstruction Era to represent them in the United States Senate. That man is Mike Espy.