Editorials

Tired of mudslinging politicians in Mississippi? Stop sharing their dirt on social media.

Gov. Phil Bryant will appoint a temporary successor to Sen. Thad Cochran who serve until a permanent replacement is elected.
Gov. Phil Bryant will appoint a temporary successor to Sen. Thad Cochran who serve until a permanent replacement is elected. AP File

The ink had barely dried on the qualifying papers late last month when the campaign for U.S. Senate went negative.

From day one, Sen. Roger Wicker and state Sen. Chris McDaniel swiped at one another with Twitter memes, ads and personal appearances all but devoid of discussions of policy and issues. They even argued over whose disparaging words were the most disparaging.

Then McDaniel jumped out of that race and into the race for the seat left open by the impending retirement of Sen. Thad Cochran. And, we quickly learned there is an even lower road on the campaign trail.

McDaniel made a commendable call for unity. But he couched it in terms that sound more like unite — or else.

“By announcing early, we are asking Mississippi Republicans to unite around my candidacy and avoid another contentious contest among GOP members that would only improve the Democrats’ chances of winning the open seat,” he wrote in the statement on his switch.

McDaniel, though, could choose not to be contentious. But he won’t. And there’s a good reason not to. It’s the reason that any candidate goes negative. It’s the reason candidates spend so much time talking about what is wrong with the opponents.

It works.

People respond. They talk about those negative ads and memes. They share them back and forth, usually with the caveat that they are sick of them. It would be a fool’s errand for a newspaper to appeal to politicians to stop.

And now, even Gov. Phil Bryant has taken the bait, giving McDaniel a verbal flogging via the Clarion-Ledger. The leader of the state and its Republican Party should have chosen his words more wisely, more in tune with the dignity of his office.

Here’s why.

McDaniel asks voters to Remember Mississippi, alluding to the 2014 race he says he would have won if not for dirty tricks by the Cochran campaign.

The Mississippi Coast got a preview in October 2017 of how state Sen. Chris McDaniel's 2018 campaign for Senate would be fought. He spoke at McElroy's in Ocean Springs.

We remember the Mississippi of 2014, too. It would be hard to forget because the state bears the scars of that bruising campaign. No doubt the rest of the country remembers as well. And that’s an image we would prefer they’d forget.

We would prefer Mississippi be remembered for its natural beauty, its artists and writers, its generosity. But reading great literature or appreciating art is difficult. Laughing at the foibles of a bunch of mudslinging politicians is easy.

We foresee the image Mississippi will wear.

Unless we — that includes you, your friends and neighbors who love this state — have had enough.

Every time a politician of either party goes negative, we have to act. We have to talk, not just with our friends and neighbors, but with the mudslingers themselves.

We must call, write, email, search them out on social media and tell them to knock it off. Pick a policy that’s near and dear and ask them where they stand on that issue.

Act. Or brace yourselves for more headlines like: “A Quick Guide to Mississippi’s Insane, Senate Race-Changing Scandal” — Slate.com, May 2014.

You say they’ll never listen? If they don’t, it’s just because they have not heard from enough of us.

Yet.

Get louder. Find more fed up people and invite them to the party.

The editorial represents the views of the Sun Herald editorial board. Opinions of columnists and cartoonists are their own.

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