ANDERSON: Mississippi Is Not A Conservative State

By Rita Anderson | December 24th, 2016 at 7:02 am

BY: Rita Anderson / Mississippi PEP Contributor

Clinton resident, past president of Clinton Chamber, active in Morrison Heights Baptist Church and secretary of Hinds County Republican Women.

Filed Under: Christianity, Contributor, Gregg Harper, Legislature, Mississippi, Mississippi PEP, MS State Government, Opinion, Politics, Rita Anderson, Roger Wicker, Steven Palazzo, Thad Cochran

Mississippi Is Not A Conservative State

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 politics as in football, you are what the score says you are.

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.

  • William H Smith

    Of course, MS is a conservative state and MS’s Republican delegation in Washington is conservative. The problem is that some with little understanding of the principles and history conservative movement have (sincerely to be sure) in their own minds a conception of what conservatism is that has little relation to the history of conservatism. These are the folks who criticized Reagan for selling out and from whom Reagan had to defend himself. They apply their sincere but mistaken concepts of conservatism to other conservatives and find them wanting to the point of not acknowledging the conservatism of those who would and should be their friends and allies.

    • Keith Plunkett

      As I read this you seem to have missed a couple of things, Bill.

      1. It seems obvious to me that the author is not in full agreement with the simple statement by her co-presenter, that “Mississippi is not a conservative state.” In fact, she clearly states in the article that there are many things that she believes show Mississippi to be a conservative state.

      2. She then goes on to show a very clear understanding of the principles of conservatism by listing those things.

      Those items on the list she provides aren’t a perfect word-for-word match to the tenets put forth by Kirk. But they are pretty close.

      If your conception of conservatism is somehow different from Kirk’s then I think it’s fair to say you’re confusing political hero-worship of modern era personalities with high regard for the principles.

      Being fond of your political heroes is certainly not a bad thing. But blindly assuming that those personalities and their actions somehow define conservatism is to attempt a monumental misconstruction.

      Furthermore these ratings provided are by three very reputable organizations. Heritage was founded in ’73 and was, according to Reagan himself, a “vital force” behind his policies. ACU was founded by Bill Buckley and Frank Meyer in ’64 and the organization has been doing these rankings for 52 years. And while Conservative Review doesn’t have the same track record as those two, it’s scoring system is arguably more representative of an officials actual performance since they tally votes from 6-years of that officials service.

      With respect sir, none of the references in this article can be termed as mistakening the concepts of conservatism. And certainly, Mrs. Anderson’s dedication to both the conservative movement and the Republican Party in Mississippi are without a doubt.

      She is respected by all in this state who know her and the high quality of her work. She is feared by a few Republican office-holders, many of whom probably wish she wouldn’t pay such close attention.

      This article does a very good job of showing the disconnect between the service Mississippi voters are told they can expect against the disappointing service they are actually getting.

      • William H Smith

        Keith, conservatism is not a set of static abstract principles. Conservatism is held and practiced by conservatives in real historical circumstances. That’s the relevance of citing Reagan, or Buckley, or Goldwater, or Taft or whoever has been actually and effectively involved in the political process. All of them made real life decisions and choices.That is why purists and absolutists accused them all of selling out and not being true to conservative principles. Reagan held conservative principles. But he was an effective politician as Governor, President, Leader of the Party. He made decisions that got him attacked as a sellout. So he had to defend himself by pointing out he did not believe dying on the hills they wanted him to die on. I expect Mrs. Anderson would be among those who thought Reagan a disappointment as a conservative.

        What has been and is true on the national scene is also true in MS. One of the manifestations is a statement like, “MS is not a conservative state.” As I said in my first response, “Of course, MS is a conservative state.” So, too, is the MS Republican Party and its leadership and every single Republican member of the state Legislature. Are they all equally conservative? Of course, not. But is there a liberal, progressive, or even moderate among them. Again, beyond doubt, no. I don’t know Mrs. Anderson. I am glad she is a Republican. I believe in the big tent, so am happy to have her among us. But, it is too bad any Republican office-holder need fear her. Were I in MS still, and I may be again before long, I would be quite indifferent to whether she regarded me as a conservative. I know what a conservative is, and I do not concede to her the right to decide who’s in or out.

        • Keith Plunkett

          Bill, I don’t think anyone doubts the difference between a political position on issues and agreeing through negotiation to a less than the perfect outcome.

          But that doesn’t necessarily mean one has to compromise on principles. Those conservative tenets as listed by Kirk aren’t things that can be legislated because they are about the DNA of conservatism.

          It’s not a party platform. It’s a statement of belief. It’s not a list to be for or against. It’s about character.

          You like to site the names of Reagan, Buckley and Goldwater quite a bit. But those names are towards the end of a very long list and all three themselves were very different people.

          But remember it’s not simply about being the politician or party that spends less, taxes less, grows government bureaucracy less, etc.

          It’s about an individual and a local communities relationship to other individuals and other communities, and ultimately it’s about what we voluntarily pass to one another outside of government that matters most in what government we actually receive.

          As Burke said,”Society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere, and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without.”

          • William H Smith

            Keith, your citing of the differences among Reagan, Buckley, and Goldwater goes a long way toward making my point. Conservatism needs to have a fairly large tent just to contain all those who are legitimately conservative You cite Russell Kirk, and Mrs. Anderson attempts to borrow from his 10 Principles. Of course, you know that Kirk was opposed rather vigorously by Henry Jaffa. One of Bill Buckley’s efforts, more and less successful, was to hold the disparate thought and thinkers of conservatism together. And, of course, you will remember, that, both coming from conservative principles, Reagan and Buckley differed about and how a great debate about the Panama Canal Treaty. Later Buckley observed that had Reagan not opposed the Treaty he probably would not have got the nomination and had he not lost the debate (in that the Treaty was approved) he probably would not have won the election. The point of all this to me is that is absurd to say MS is not a conservative state based on the votes of her Republican delegation in Congress. The MS delegation is conservative – differing sometimes among themselves, working together the best they can for the good of the state, not so conservative as you would like, and sometimes not so conservative as I would want, yet beyond doubt conservative Republicans who believe that way and generally vote that way. The same is true of the Republican leadership in MS and in particular in the MS State Senate and House. It’s fine to differ with other individuals and to criticize their views and votes on this and that. It is not fine to say they are not conservatives. It would be like Presbyterians and Baptists disagreeing with each other about baptism and then one accusing the other of not be Christian.