A leading Tea Party group, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), is striking at the heart of the 17th Amendment to the United States Constitution: the direct election of United States Senators by popular vote. If we needed another example that Tea Party Republicans are living in 1913, when the 17th Amendment was ratified, this is certainly it. For all of the Tea Party's claims about preserving the Constitution, they seem to be in an awful hurry to weaken it.
What ALEC seeks to do is allow state legislatures to nominate hardcore Tea Party candidates for the United States Senate and bypass the electorate when ALEC thinks it is necessary. Their reasoning is simple: to push their Tea Party agenda, they need to find a new mechanism to select the candidates that they want rather than abide by the will of the voters. The best way to do that is to take control away from the voters and place it in the hands of state legislatures that are agreeable to their positions. Bear in mind that what ALEC is starting out with is not a full repeal of the 17th Amendment, but we can see that this is the beginning of that process.
Let's look at Mississippi's legislature. At last count, we have 32 Republicans and 20 Democrats in the Senate and 65 Republicans and 57 Democrats in the House. Simple math tells us that if the legislature was voting on candidates, a Tea Party Republican would win. If a Senate nominee like Thad Cochran is not conservative enough for the Republican base, yet he still wins the nomination, the Tea Party-led legislature could reject the decision of their primary voters and nominate someone like Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ellisville) instead.
To find a list of Mississippi legislators who are members of ALEC, click HERE.
Let's say that this idea floated by ALEC is in effect and our legislature, as it exists today, got to make nominations for our next United States Senator. One can expect it would be a spectacle of national magnitude surpassing the 2008 vote for Mississippi's House Speaker.
All of this gets back to the civil war within the Mississippi Republican Party where the Haley Barbour group is getting squeezed out and the Tea Party, encouraged by the likes of Speaker Gunn (R-Clinton) and the Senate Conservative Coalition, has taken control.
Mississippi Republicans have been consumed by the Tea Party and recent polling backs up that argument. The poll noted that 55 percent of Mississippi Republican voters want someone more conservative than Republican Sen. Thad Cochran.
Voters should get Republican members of the legislature on record whether they would support state Sen. Chris McDaniel or Sen. Thad Cochran. If you see a Republican legislator at a football game this weekend or any other time for that matter, be sure ask him or her whether he or she is on Team Cochran or Team McDaniel. Let the pivoting begin!
I guess the saying is true: you can either be a Tea Party Republican or a rational person in Mississippi.