Those words – Mississippi is not a conservative state – delivered quite matter-of-factly by my learned and articulate friend – grabbed the attention of the teenagers (and a few parents) who were gathered into a room to hear the two of us discuss government and citizenship and especially the presidential electoral college process. Their reaction to the statement was clearly expectant of an explanation. As for me, I needed none, though I understood the various reactions.
Consider that the Gallup poll ranked Mississippi as still the most conservative of states and the most religious as recently as 2014. Another poll in 2015 said Mississippians were second in percentage of income donated to charity. Since adherence to morality and Biblical principles characterizes conservatism, those adults who told Gallup’s phone surveyors how conservative they are probably didn’t realize that their personal beliefs aren’t translating very well to public policy.
Consider now a few other polls where Mississippi is ranked #2 and #1 in political corruption based on convictions per capita. In 2015 the Center for Public Integrity scored Mississippi a D minus based on the laws and systems in place to deter corruption.
What are those beliefs that we conservatives hold dear, that we believe make us a conservative state? The list would surely consist of
- Preserving the rules of government as set out in our founding documents, the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution
- Preserving traditional morality as articulated in the Bible
- Nationalism and a belief that America is indeed an exceptional nation
- Preserving state sovereignty and embracing community and family as the center of our society and not government
- Respecting natural laws as more binding than man’s laws
- A belief that taxes should be lower and government smaller and that the national debt and budget deficits endanger America
- A belief in federalism and a desire to be left alone by the government
- A belief that freedom and property are closely linked
- A recognition that not all change or progress is prudent
Conservatism is vastly different in America than in other cultures, i.e. Russia, France, Saudi Arabia. Simply put, American conservatives recognize the wisdom of our forefathers in crafting the amazing documents that guide this Nation and we steadfastly refuse to change the system that guides this Constitutional Republic.
So back to the salient question. If we Mississippians believe all this, then why would my friend rightly declare that our state is not conservative? It could be a result of the miserable grades that our Republican delegation in D.C. has earned by their votes. Conservative Review, American Conservative Union, and the Heritage Foundation are among the best known trackers of such data.
Here are the most recent scores from these groups, respectively.
In fairness, it should be noted that the ACU also scores state legislative bodies and our Mississippi Legislature improved in 2016 by 3 points to a score of 80, due largely to small business tax relief, welfare reforms, and charter school legislation.
With all the talk of a gas tax hike in 2017, their ratings could tank and some of our charitable giving could be diverted to more taxes. Perhaps we conservative Mississippians should pay more attention to the legislative game. We’d all like to improve the score.