Raised in the impoverished South, some of my dearest memories are of gospel songs. I have been gone North many years, yet the songs haunt me of late. Quite surprisingly, tears well-up if I spend time listening to the songs on YouTube, sung in a variety of Southern voice.
"Precious Memories" is not my favorite song, but it captures the sentiment. Born and raised in Pine Bluff, Ark., near the Mississippi Delta, I find Johnny Cash's rendition to be the most familiar. And Tammy Wynette's syrupy version best soothes the homesick. In our digital age, such memories are preserved and available with a variety of copyright implications. So just a 'needle drop' of the lyrics:
Precious memories how they linger,
How they ever flood my soul.
In the stillness of the midnight.
Precious, sacred scenes unfold.
For Senator Thad Cochran, Mississippi memories are neither sacred nor precious. Campaigning in Pine Belt, Miss., Senator Cochran recalled "fun" "adventures" roaming the Pine Belt countryside, "Picking up pecans... indecent things with animals." (Props to the Clarion Ledger's video proof.)
Insulting the Tea-Party Faithful: Animal Molestation and Pig Castration
It was not a joke. Audience members laughed nervously, but Cochran did not crack a smile. Rather, he doubled down by directly slandering the good folks: "I know some of you know what that is."
It was an insulting attempt to reach out to the Tea Party faithful. Completing 42 years in Congress, Cochran is running scared after being forced into a GOP primary runoff by his young, dynamic Tea-party opponent Chris McDaniel.
At its least offensive, Cochran's sharing of his profane recollections was based on his twisted view of Tea Party supporters.
[It is an understatement to aver that I strongly disagree with Tea Party leaders' policy positions, particularly about the debt ceiling. However, I respect the Tea Party supporters' individual commitment to civic engagement. I founded DisruptiveJustice.org with the same commitment to civil engagement and public advocacy -- albeit from a uniquely progressive perspective.]
Perhaps Cochran was trying to outdo Iowa's Joni Ernst, who won the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate with her family farm pig-castration memories. If so, Cochran has confused necessary, hard farm work with his own juvenile delinquency.
Cochran insulted the Hattiesburg-Pine Belt area citizens-- a part of the state that heavily supported Chris McDaniel in the June 3rd primary. Maybe that was his true intent.
Not Veep (or Heat of the Night), more True Detective
Cochran's campaign spokesperson Jordan Russell issued the staffer response often used when any Old South politico has been too honest: "I'll check with my political correctness department and get back to you."
Whether Thad Cochran or the real Tea Party candidate wins, the GOP June 24th runoff victor will face Democratic opponent Travis Childers in November. This is quite unlike neighboring Alabama, which no longer holds such true elections.
Alabama Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III -- endorsed by the nation's largest Tea Party group -- was unopposed for the GOP nomination and will also have no opposition on the November ballot. Or will he?
Alabama's Senator Jeff Sessions Runs Unopposed?
Alabama Democrats did not even field a candidate against Tea Party fave Jeff Sessions. The Alabama Democratic Party has had a rough couple of years and is now literally facing financial bankruptcy. (As Alabama's progressive governor James "Big-Jim" Folsom might have said: "Y'all help now, you hear." Seriously, please do help them.)
Any independent or minor party wishing to run in Alabama should have presented a Ballot Petition with 45,000 valid signatures by June 3, 2014. Even at a low-cost estimate of $2.80 a signature, commercial collection imposes a minimum $125,000 "outside agitator" filing fee for a nonresident Petitioner.
Obviously, someone residing outside the state, living for instance in Bethesda, Md., is unable to personally gather signatures for a year or two with family and friends outside Walmart or the Family Dollar. And a ballot-access federal lawsuit is a tough row to hoe anywhere, but especially in the Southland.
It is past time Americans view the Republic's 100 Senators as "national officers" rather than elected to represent a specific state. Each individual American citizen has a "national interest" in each of the 100. U.S. Senators have uniquely national power. Each U.S. Senator has procedural filibuster authority near-equal to the president's veto.
It is national money at play. Mitch McConnell raised $825,000 for Thad Cochran at a recent Washington, D.C. fundraiser. But, at least they still hold senatorial elections in Mississippi.
Alabama needs reminding that the U.S. Constitution was altered in 1913 by the Seventeenth Amendment to allow for direct election of U.S. Senators. It is unconstitutional for Jeff Sessions to be "appointed" U.S. Senator by state party bosses -- just by giving him the GOP nomination.
Stay tuned for Part II of this "Precious Memories" series to learn more about the Alabama Democrats' struggle for survival and to find out whether Jeff Sessions might have a surprise independent opponent on the ballot. For a preview: Here is the Supreme Court's 1968 Williams v. Rhodes ruling celebrating broad ballot access as fundamental to First Amendment protection political association. (The majority opinion was written by Justice Hugo Black -- former U.S. Senator from Alabama.) And take a quick look at the 2014 Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in Green Party of Georgia and Constitution Party of Georgia v. Secretary of State of Georgia. We may make some memories together.
Victor Williams is an attorney in Washington D.C. and clinical assistant professor at Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law. Victor Williams founded the American Institute for Disruptive Innovation in Law and Politics -- DisruptiveJustice.org.