Last week the GOP got all twitterpated when Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) equated the Tea Party to the KKK. Much pearl-clutching ensued about the incivility etc.
According to Mother Jones, he wasn’t too far off the mark.
Chris McDaniel is taking the “GOP Civil War” to a new level. Two months ago, the tea party-backed Mississippi Senate candidate addressed a neo-Confederate conference and costume ball hosted by a group that promotes the work of present-day secessionists and contends the wrong side won the “war of southern independence.” Other speakers at the event included a historian who believes Lincoln was a Marxist and Ryan Walters, a PhD candidate who worked on McDaniel’s first political campaign and wrote recently that the “controversy” over President Barack Obama’s birth certificate “hasn’t really been solved.”
McDaniel, a state senator, is challenging incumbent Republican Sen. Thad Cochran in next summer’s GOP Senate primary. After announcing his run last week, McDaniel quickly picked up endorsements from the Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund, a political action committee founded by former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), a prominent backer of the tea party. Both groups are key players in the internal GOP battle between establishment-minded Republicans and tea party insurgents and are backing right-wing challenges to incumbent Republicans whom they deem insufficiently conservative. Cochran, who is finishing out his 35th year in the Senate and has not said if he will seek re-election, earned the ire of tea partiers by voting to re-open the federal government and avert defaulting on the debt. McDaniel, whose campaign bus features an image of Article I of the Constitution, has promised to make Cochran’s debt ceiling vote a centerpiece of his campaign.
With their endorsements of McDaniel, the Senate Conservatives Fund and the Club for Growth have shown just how far they are willing to go in terms of embracing the far right to prosecute their war for the soul of the party. In August, McDaniel addressed a neo-Confederate conference in Laurel, Miss., near his hometown of Ellisville. A local chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV), the Jones County Rosin Heels, hosted the two-day event, which the group described in invitations as a “Southern Heritage Conference” for “politically incorrect folks.” Attendees were advised to dress in “Confederate uniforms and antebellum ball gowns or wee kilties.” McDaniel’s appearance at the Rosin Heels heritage conference was not a one-off occurrence; weeks earlier he was the keynote speaker at a separate event in Jackson.
This is how you campaign for the Senate in Mississippi if you’re going to challenge Thad Cochran in the primary. Mr. Cochran is already about as far right as you can get in the real world, so coming in from the right, you have to be really out there. What’s worth noting is that Mr. McDaniel is getting support from groups like the Club for Growth and the Heritage Foundation.
The Club for Growth has been seen as a mainstream conservative group more concerned with taxes and parsimony rather than social issues and birtherism, and until Jim DeMint got there, the Heritage Foundation was considered fairly mainstream as well. So for them to show up for a guy who wouldn’t mind toasting a marshmallow on burning cross is interesting.
It’s not that these groups have suddenly gone all Jeff Davis grey. It’s that they don’t have any qualms backing a guy that is.