Incumbent Republican Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi has won the run-off vote to increase the GOP majority to 53 – 47. Beating former United States Secretary of Agriculture under Bill Clinton, Mike Espy, Hyde-Smith will retake the seat she was appointed to after retiring Sen. Thad Cochran stepped down earlier this year.
It would not be business as usual for Democrats to celebrate a Republican victory, but with the special circumstances involved, a neutral observer might wonder why the left is not cheering for the GOP today. Not only is Hyde-Smith the first female to be elected to the Senate from the state, she is also the only candidate in this hard-fought election to have not received funding from Ivory Coast warlords.
With Mississippi’s rules on achieving at least 50% of the vote, the Nov. 6 election failed to produce an outright winner. The top two contenders, Hyde-Smith and Espy, went into the run-off election both with dark clouds hanging over their heads.
Hyde-Smith was facing poor taste allegations when she joked that she would attend a public hanging if a constituent invited her along. Mississippi’s dark history of lynching is still a contentious issue and one that all decent folks would be wise to avoid making gags about. Yet this was not enough to sway the electorate towards Mike Espy, whose own sins are far more damaging.
In 2011, Espy paid off $267,000 in federal tax liens. Paying what you owe is all well and good, but this was the same month that he received a $400,000 payment from Ivory Coast’s de facto leader and despot, Lauren Gbagbo. After stating that he had severed ties with Gbagbo, Espy received a further $350,000 payment.
Gbagbo, who is now on trial for human rights abuses, has refused to cede power in the region claiming that all who oppose him are attempting to overthrow his legitimate government (despite losing the election). According to the Washington Free Beacon, he has “ordered forces loyal to him to kill, torture, and sexually assault political opponents.”
When faced with the choice of a Republican who has made despicable jokes or a Democrat who has taken blood money from a dictator and tyrant, surely it is morally correct to back the former, regardless of party affiliation.
Would the political left rather have the moral high ground or power at any cost? This is a question those shouting down Sen. Hyde-Smith should be asking themselves. For now, she is an unknown factor, we don’t know if she will be a good Senator or a bad one. We also don’t know if she will execute the role of her office with decency, respect, or sound judgment. But surely, she is still the better choice than one whose actions we have seen, and which are morally repugnant.
CNN devoted a couple of thousand words to decrying Hyde-Smith’s win, highlighting her various gaffes and public embarrassments while completely failing to mention that her opponent received payments from a tyrant accused of multiple murders and the encouragement of rape.
This should not be a moral conundrum. Hyde-Smith made some serious errors, but do they outweigh those of Espy? Perhaps the Democrats should count themselves lucky that not only did the people of Mississippi dodge a bullet, but they have unwittingly cut off one avenue of attack that would shame them all.