OPINION: Mississippi’s lone wolf bares his teeth

In this Oct. 31, 2012 file photograph, Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, a Republican, speaks before the Mississippi Economic Council, in Jackson, Miss. (AP Photo)
By: 
RYAN PHILLIPS
SDN EDITOR

The Magnolia State can count itself lucky in the short term, as one unlikely character on the political stage bit back against the vitriol and paranoia emanating from an embattled White House.

Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann spoke out against the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity on Friday, after being sent correspondence received by another secretary of state.

In said correspondence, the commission requested: ‘if publicly available under the laws of the state, the full first and last names of all registrants, middle names or initials if available, addresses, dates of birth, political party (if recorded in your state), last four digits of social security number if available, voter history (elections voted in) from 2006 onward, active/inactive status, cancelled status, information regarding any felony convictions, information regarding voter registration in another state, information regarding military status, and overseas citizen information.”

Am I wrong, or did I misunderstand the many conservatives I have talked to over the last year when they lambasted government overreach during the Obama administration?

Hosemann, a Republican who did not endorse the reality star president during his meteoric rise, said flatly of the presidential commission: “they can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi is a great State to launch from.”

Hosemann is a political and conservative unicorn - an endangered species task with leading an office few understand, but which wields considerable influence in the state’s electoral process.

He is seemingly undeterred by the bully rhetoric that has dragged scores of spineless conservatives to fall in lockstep with a president that would have been a cartoon character in their minds four years ago.

I believe if nothing else, Hosemann’s response speaks to his political character and commitment to the people of the state - and not his allegiance to a man that digitally threatens anyone at the first sign of dissent and who continues to overlook the state of Mississippi on the national stage.

After all, the risks are obvious for Hosemann.

It could only take one pointed 5 a.m. Tweet from the White House to potentially drive Hosemann into political obscurity in a state that eagerly supported Donald Trump last November.

Granted, Hosemann is an elected official, and like any other politician he wants to retain his place in Jackson.

But is he seeing the writing on the wall?

Does Hosemann represent the southern coal mine canary sounding the alarm for the poor and unhealthy masses in Mississippi that voted for President Trump who may soon come to regret that decision?

President Trump garnered 57.9 percent of the vote in Mississippi (roughly 700,000 voters). But aside from completely ignoring the state, is it possible Trump won by a big enough margin to not worry about the potential for voter fraud in the state because it could only work against him in a state heavily gerrymandered in Republican’s favor?

The Trump White House and many on the right - in their fight to dismantle the legacy of Barack Obama (who I never voted for) - will look to defund Medicaid through the new budget. If successful, approximately 770,000 enrolled in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in Mississippi, could be impacted.

The state is already at the bottom among U.S. states in terms of access to health care and continues to lead the country only in childhood obesity and heart disease.

Trump’s new budget proposal calls for cutting more than $800 billion from Medicaid over the next decade and while those on the right in Washington D.C. assert that the cuts will have no impact on the millions enrolled in the program, the next few years could see more conservative leaders like Hosemann begin to stand up to the D.C. power machine.

Many are already protesting in the streets across Mississippi, but their pleas fall on the deaf ears of the Washington elite.

But once thousands of poor Mississippi voters lose what access they do have to health care, you can guarantee it will be the primary issue in their thought process when they look down at the next ballot.

While Medicaid is just one issue in the political schism of the United States, it could represent a make-or-break moment for Mississippi’s conservative congressmen that have chosen to cling tighter to the Trump administration, scared of inciting his short temper and endangering their own political interests.

Will similar Mississippi politicians speak out on these issues like Hosemann with voter data? Only time will tell.

What should be most bothersome to voters in Mississippi is the image of a man who continues to tout his election victory at rallies across the country, but who is equally concerned with voter fraud and the legitimacy surrounding his own unlikely election win.

The only thing worse than a sore loser is a pompous winner.

Lest we forget, President Trump said in a November 2016 Tweet: “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”

What’s more, President Trump repeatedly doubled down on the idea that Russian hackers or other outside meddlers did not interfere with our election process.

However, he turned on a dime less than a couple of weeks ago to say (in a Tweet): “Just out: The Obama Administration knew far in advance of November 8th about election meddling by Russia. Did nothing about it. WHY?”

I believe Hosemann is among the first to realize the impact had on the confidence of the electoral process by the distortion of reality. It also makes sense - given his political responsibilities - for Hosemann to be among the first conservatives at the state level to speak out against the overreach by an increasingly paranoid White House in requesting sensitive voter information.

While the commission hasn’t directly contacted Hosemann’s office as of this weekend, the proactive approach says volumes about the political direction that could be taken by Republicans at the state level.

Even now, for a Republican to utter a negative word about the Commander-in-Chief runs the risk of being attacked on Twitter in the early morning hours and being alienated from the conservative
fray.

But maybe, it could be the other way around. Maybe what we are seeing is the president slowly isolating himself from the conservative power structure, which will only result in a divisive and unproductive four years.

At the current rate, President Trump will quickly run out of political allies to insult and will find himself a prisoner of his own cult of personality.

Ryan Phillips is the editor of the Starkville Daily News. The views expressed in the column do not reflect the views of the SDN.

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