Why Mississippi matters to the GOP’s future

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If the recent Mississippi Senate primary was a GOP establishment bellwether, the Republican Party is in deep trouble. 

By resorting to a disingenuous and morally bankrupt campaign to win at all costs, the establishment exposed itself to be into politics only for the power. In order to grow the GOP and consistently win at the ballot box in November, Republicans need to start earning votes with conservative ideas, not government handouts.

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Since the Republicans’ dismal showing in the 2012 elections, party leaders have been working to revitalize the GOP by expanding the tent. The Growth and Opportunity Project — more commonly referred to as the GOP’s autopsy report — was supposed to chart the political course to achieving a broader, more appealing image. However, the Mississippi election makes you question the commitment of Republicans who cannot resist playing the fiscally destructive game that Democrats have fallen into: promising goodies to everyone in exchange for votes.

Impoverished black communities throughout Mississippi received inflammatory mailers, robo telephone calls and targeted radio get-out-the-vote advertisements that were libelous against Chris McDaniel and the Tea Party and pro-Sen. Thad Cochran. The reason why Cochran (R-Miss.) would be a good candidate, according to one call, was because “[McDaniel] causes even more problems for President Obama and pushes damaging cuts to our public education system.”

Another pro-Cochran radio ad urged people to vote in order to stop McDaniel, who would “take away all of my government programs, such as food stamps, early breakfast and lunch programs, millions of dollars to our black universities. Everything we and our families depend on that comes from Washington will be cut.”

These disgusting advertisements stand in stark contrast to the vision laid out by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and the Growth and Opportunity Project. Priebus has correctly said, in reference to reaching out to minority voters, “This is not just about winning elections. It’s about doing what’s right for America. Republicans know our principles, when applied through smart policy, can do the most good for the most Americans.”

It actually sounded like the Republicans were going to get back to the Ronald Reagan/ Jack Kemp playbook of offering constructive policy ideas directly to ALL Americans, and especially with an eye to the large minority communities that have been failed and exploited by big government policies and have not been effectively courted in past elections.

Unfortunately, top-dollar GOP consultants ignored Priebus’s calls for a bold conservative vision. Do they really believe that food stamps, federal aid for education and unabashed subservience toward President Obama were the only things the GOP has to offer the black community? The operatives responsible for these attack ads should be ashamed of themselves. 

The Tea Party believes the GOP can do more than just promise to dole out more federal dollars that we don’t have. Tea Party legislators have been in the forefront over the last 5 years in pursuing real policy alternatives to the failed agenda of Obama and the Democratic Party.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has proposed Economic Freedom Zones — a plan to dramatically decrease the chronic unemployment in America’s poorest communities. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) has introduced the Family Fairness and Opportunity Tax Reform Act, which would simplify today’s complex tax code and restore opportunity and economic growth for struggling families. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is fighting to reduce energy costs by removing the government’s regulatory stranglehold with the American Energy Renaissance Act.

These are the kinds of bold, conservative solutions that will broaden the party’s appeal by strengthening the economy and helping disadvantaged minorities. Instead of embracing a new direction that could have won over hearts and minds, GOP operatives in Mississippi just pandered and promised like the failed politics of old.

Cochran’s campaign, with an obsession with power before principle, epitomizes the failures of the GOP that must be abandoned. Unless Republican Party leaders want to continue writing autopsy reports and disappear into the history books, it’s time to stand against pandering and power-clingers. It’s time to fight for the next generation of conservative leaders who have ideas to solve America’s problems.

Republican leadership can start in Mississippi by publicly supporting McDaniel’s legal challenge to the results and demanding a new election. Let Republicans pick a nominee who is committed to the conservative principles that will work for all Americans.

Russo is co-founder and chief strategist of Tea Party Express.