No way was recent campaign most divisive

By CHARLES DUNAGIN,

Hyperbole, the art of extravagant exaggeration, is a useful tool in politics.

So is lying if you want to call it that, but let’s stick to the nicer version in the interest of civility.

President Donald Trump, who frequently cites his accomplishments as historical, has taken hyperbole to new heights, and his Mississippi cheerleader, Gov. Phil Bryant, is getting to where he isn’t so bad at it himself.

“Cindy Hyde-Smith has come through the crucible of the most negative campaign in modern Mississippi. She won with character and dignity—something her opponents know little of. She will continue to serve as the first woman from Mississippi elected to the United States Congress,” the governor tweeted after Republican Hyde-Smith won the run-off election for U.S. senator November 27.

If my mailbox was an indicator, there were more negative messages aimed at Democrat Mike Espy than at Hyde-Smith, although she received her share of negative mailings sent by the Espy campaign as well as some tough television ads.

I even got one of the many mail pieces from Hyde-Smith labeling Espy a crook the day after the election.

In the first primary, Hyde-Smith also was targeted by a fellow Republican, State Sen. Chris McDaniel who questioned her conservative bonafides. McDaniel claimed Hyde-Smith, who in former times ran for office as a Democrat, once voted for Hillary Clinton.

A McDaniel-sponsored television ad picturing Hyde-Smith and Clinton that made Hyde-Smith’s picture morph into a Clinton look-alike was probably as negative as anything the Democrats ran against her; that is unless you consider using her own words against her as too negative.

Granted, it was a negative campaign from all sides, but the “most negative” in “modern Mississippi?”

No way, Phil.

I don’t know how Gov. Bryant defines “modern Mississippi”, but unless you want to argue we weren’t modern until the explosion of the internet, social media and smart phones, I submit we were modern back in the 1980s.

At least we had air-conditioning, fast automobiles and jet planes in those bygone days.

 

On talk radio the other day, where Bryant was in the Trump mode of bashing the media and advising parents to pull their kids out of journalism school, he said he goes back to the Gil Carmichael days of 1975.

That was the year, Carmichael, a Republican and a good man, was defeated in the general election for governor by Cliff Finch who had bested William Winter and several other candidates in the Democratic primary.

Finch ran a populist “working man’s” campaign, putting together a coalition of black and white voters by sacking groceries, driving a bulldozer and wearing a hard hat as part of his strategy. It wasn’t much of a negative campaign as compared to most governor’s races over the years.

If Bryant remembers 1975, he must recall 1983 when Democrat Bill Allain defeated Republican Leon Bramlett for governor.

During that race, opponents of Allain spread reports that he had sexual relations with transvestites. Allain vehemently denied the rumors which were never substantiated, but that campaign in the minds of some folks more knowledgeable of Mississippi history than I — and maybe even Gov. Bryant — consider that perhaps the most negative campaign in “modern Mississippi.”

At any rate, the allegations against Allain in my mind were far more negative than her opponents trying to capitalize on Hyde-Smith’s own words about attending a hanging and voter suppression, although she well may have been using hyperbole.

Charlie Dunagin is editor and publisher emeritus of the McComb Enterprise-Journal. He lives in Oxford.