This was predictable. The war between a Tea Party conservative and the sitting senator he challenged in Mississippi's GOP primary last month is intensifying, with name-calling, Baba Booey-style gonzo tactics, and pearl-clutching accusations of voter fraud involving black Democrats. Deep South, y'all!
One could be forgiven for assuming that tensions might simmer down after the late June primary election between these competing conservatives, whose philosophies differ but whose Senate voting records probably wouldn't. Elections anoint winners. They're kind of the point of American democracy, right?
A few hours ago, the campaign of Sen. Thad Cochran — which had (understandably) assumed the June 24 primary election to be on the books already — held a press conference to vigorously rebut charges of fraud. For days, Tea Party activists and the campaign of Chris McDaniel had been looking at poll books for evidence of illegal crossover voting, hoping to find enough to cast doubt on the result. In the last 24 hours, the conservative election watchdog True the Vote and the defeated Tea Party umbrella group FreedomWorks had, respectively, sued on behalf of the people scouring poll books and asked for the FBI to investigate a claim that Cochran had bought votes.
The voter fraud allegations are doomed to fail in the courts. But what's the point of learned men ruling on legal matters when you can run a gonzo grassroots conspiracy game for the yokels?
Enter Charles C. Johnson, the author of "Why Coolidge Matters"—a California-based stereotype of what a smarmy besuited Republican operative should look and sound like, who pushed the "Thad paid black pastors to get voters" meme and encouraged his Twitter followers to crash a Cochran conference call yesterday, to great Tea Party Bro effect:
Around 8 minutes into the rote call, someone butted in to ask the Cochran campaign's Austin Barbour why the winner why "it was okay to harvest the votes of black people."
"I will be happy to answer any questions from any members of the media," said Barbour.
The interrupter was not done. "I'd like to know if black people were harvesting cotton, why is it okay to harvest their votes? They're not animals."
"I'm happy to answer any questions from the national media," said Barbour.
"Why did you use black people to get Cochran elected when they're not even Republicans?" asked the interrupter. "You treated them like they were idiots."
The call spiralled into insanity from there, with Barbour jumping off, reporters asking for the interrupter to ID himself (he didn't) and more crashers deploying Obama soundboards and a loop of John Vernon's immortal quote from Animal House. "The time has come for someone to put his foot down, and that foot is me."
The incredible phoner—complete with dueling accents—is below; fireworks start about eight minutes in.
Weigel points out that Johnson—a self-styled "journalist"—has the reverse Midas touch for truth-telling, in that every big right-wing political "scoop" he's ever touched has turned to discredited horse hockey. He is basically what happens when you leave a glossy photo of James O'Keefe out in the sun to shrivel for a few weeks.
But Johnson's RINO-hunting, rumor-mongering can-do spirit has emerged as the proverbial game-changer of this bizarre election, galvanizing crazy conservatives who are concerned that Cochran is no longer crazy enough to go back to Washington.
Why here? Why now? A couple of reasons:
- The winner of this GOP primary is likely the next senator from Mississippi, and the Tea Party is tantalizingly close to notching a "W" and burying that whole Sharron Angle/Christine O'Donnell mess.
- Since Bush/Gore, when has there really been an election where decrying the results as fraudulent didn't work?
- Mississippi sort of has a fraught history when it comes to voting.
- Most important, the right wing of the right wing has, for many years now, been absolutely consistent in its irrational fear of black registered voters. In more recent years, it's been absolutely consistent in its hatred of Republican establishment senators. So, when black Democrats went to the polls to vote defensively for Cochran in the open GOP primary, it was a perfect storm of paranoid politics, a Southern-style recipe for "the animosities and passions of a small minority" drizzled with boiled bile.
Perhaps Team Cochran anticipated all that, and is counting on the Tea Party's inevitable bevy of batshit between now and November to appall enough voters that he'll look relatively benign. But this is Mississippi, so you never know.
In the meantime, here's Charles J. "Chuck" Johnson explaining; why sneaking into Thad Cochran's wife's nursing home was fine because the senator is "living in sin in a mansion with a mistress"; how Cochran manipulated black voters to commit fraud; and how Cochran's daughter "hates and despises Jesus."
[Photo credit: AP Images]