Chris McDaniel and the Inconvenience of Democracy

Thad Cochran’s victory last night in Mississippi’s bitterly contested Republican Senate primary might be seen by some as the legitimate outcome of a democratic voting process. To Chris McDaniel, however, it is an affront to liberty, the principles of Reagan, conservative values, the sanctity of the vote, and a variety of other hallowed principles. One might think that a self-proclaimed champion of freedom such as McDaniel would yield graciously to the will of the people but, in light of the fact that they hadn’t supported him, he declined to concede and insistently told his supporters “we were right tonight.” Unfortunately, the majority of the voters evidently weren’t informed of the righteousness of his cause and gave the nod to Thad Cochran. Displeased with the outcome of the democratic process, McDaniel vowed to fight on against his own party, and the injustice visited upon him by the voters of his own state.

The primary cause of McDaniel’s rage seems to be the suspicion that Cochran had won by getting Democratic voters to support him in the Republican primary. Unfortunately for McDaniel, this practice is completely legal. While a voter cannot vote in both the Democratic and Republican primary, they can vote in whichever one they choose. Although there is a vague provision in Mississippi election law stating that a person isn’t eligible to participate in a particular primary “unless he intends to support the nominations made in the primary in which he participates,” this is completely unenforceable. How exactly would the government go about policing voter intent? The reality, which McDaniel definitely refuses to acknowledge, is that this relatively open primary system is an accepted part of Mississippi politics, which McDaniel should know since he himself has voted in Democratic primaries. Cochran was able to expand the electorate, buck historic trends by increasing turnout in a primary run-off, and did so in accordance with relevant election laws.

Determined not go down peacefully or graciously, McDaniel took the stage on election night to denounce the outrage committed by the voters of Mississippi. Declaring that the GOP is “not the party of Reagan”, he decried the scandalous politics that had led to his defeat. “We have to be absolutely certain,” he intoned, “that the Republican primary was won by Republican voters.” While McDaniel would certainly have better chances if he were able to pick and choose the voters, this was not an election restricted solely to Republicans. Mississippi doesn’t even require party registration in the first place. Evidently seeing Cochran’s efforts to convince people to vote for him as some betrayal of democracy, he deplored these nefarious tactics, saying Cochran had won by “once again compromising. By once again reaching across the aisle. By once again abandoning the conservative movement.” Assured of the righteousness of his cause, McDaniel seemed comfortable in his contempt of the 191,000 voters who had exercised their democratic right that evening and opposed his candidacy.

McDaniel can manufacture outrage over the outcome of the election, but the reality is that Cochran ran a better campaign over the past three weeks and convinced a majority of voters, be they Democrats or Republicans, to vote for him. This is not an affront to the democratic process; this is the democratic process. Chris McDaniel seems to think he was entitled to a Senate seat because he attracted the support of one wing of one party. Perhaps he should take a page from Cochran’s playbook and realize that elections are rarely won by exclusion.