On Tuesday, Ben Jacobs of The Daily Beast tracked down yet another Chris McDaniel supporter with extremist associations:
Tea Partier Chris McDaniel has taken $800 in donations from Carl Ford, a former lawyer for Sam Bowers, the imperial wizard of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan who died in prison after being convicted of the murder of civil rights activist Vernon Dahmer. Ford also is active in the League of the South, a neo-Confederate organization that has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and was active in the Klan in Laurel, Mississippi, in the early 1960s.
In an interview with The Daily Beast, Ford, who still practices in Laurel, McDaniel’s hometown, said he was supporting the Tea Party challenger facing six-term Republican incumbent Thad Cochran in a June 24 runoff because of McDaniel’s opposition to what Ford called “immigration reform, so-called.” In contrast, Ford said Cochran was siding with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and supporting “knocking the wall down on the borders and advocating bringing more illegals in.”
But it would be a mistake to think this news could change the trajectory of the race. McDaniel, the insurgent tea party favorite poised to unseat Thad Chochran from the US Senate in Mississippi’s primary runoff next Tuesday, has not been harmed by previous revelations that he spoke to a neoconfederate group. The arrests of a former radio cohost and a campaign volunteer for their involvement in a bizarre scheme to obtain images of Cochran’s unconscious wife have also failed to dent McDaniel’s popularity. If anything, these stories have only further endeared the upstart to his tea party supporters.
This should not be surprising, as Mississippi conservative politics are in fact riddled with exactly the sort of genteel racism you probably expected. More to the point, McDaniel voters are actually delighted by every fringe connection that the press uncovers in their candidate. If anything, they love McDaniel even more fiercely for being part of their world, and see any negative attention to his associations as an attack on their own white pride.
Mississippi’s unrepentant racists present themselves as perfectly reasonable “conservatives,” but the extremism is always just below the surface of their thin skin.
Here’s an example of that phenomenon. Mark Mayfield, the Central Mississippi Tea Party leader and McDaniel campaign volunteer who was arrested in connection with Clayton Kelly’s nursing home break-in, has organized many political speaking events in his Jackson suburb. We know this because we found them advertised on the Mississippi Council of Conservative Citizens WordPress. Best known for defending slavery, the Council of Conservative Citizens (get it? CCC=KKK) has a very long and decidedly racist pedigree. Although the site features ugly racial slurs, headlines about the supposed racial superiority of whites, and so on, all of that white nationalist language is oddly missing from their “About Us” page. The blog authors have instead posted reasonable-seeming boilerplate about a “silent conservative majority” that must organize against “the left” to save America from unspecified dangers.
One of those chimeras is the scary brown Muslims who conspire to steal our Constitution with creeping Sharia laws. For the right wing world is shaped by all kinds of fear and loathing, not just prejudice against a single color or creed, and Muslim-bashing has become a growth industry on the right. In 2013, one of Mayfield’s featured speakers was Brigitte Gabriel, a queen of the Islamophobia industry and a genocide apologist known for saying wacky things about Obama being secretly Muslim. Coincidentally, Gabriel also sat on that infamous Heritage panel this past Monday to tell an enthusiastic room full of Benghazi conspiracy nuts that hundreds of millions of Muslims are working tirelessly to destroy America.
Here is the announcement of her speaking engagement at the Mississippi CCC blog:
Even though the CCC advertised many of his speakers, surely Mayfield will deny being racist himself. Of course, he will probably also deny being a Muslim-hater even though he personally organized a speech by one of the most virulent Islamophobes in America. Conservative politics have long been marked by this winking denial of the obvious, but now formerly-fringe elements, bigots, and ‘outside groups‘ steadfastly opposed to immigration reform are asserting their power in the Republican Party like never before. In a foreseeable trend, the Mississippi CCC WordPress has been inactive for more than a year because candidates like McDaniel increasingly represent their sublimated agenda.
This game isn’t new to Mississippi. Ronald Reagan understood how it worked when he spoke about “state’s rights” to the Neshoba County Fair in 1980, and Rand Paul can rely on the support of the white nationalist Stormfront community today because that crowd knows exactly how his idealistic libertarian principles work out in the real world. Mississippi’s racist whites are all lined up behind McDaniel now with the same low expectations: he will protect them from the scary Kenyan Muslim president* they hate so much, and that’s really all they want from him.
*I didn’t actually say the president was black. See how that works?