State takes hits, and moves on
May 27, 2001
Mississippi has taken a political hit with the loss of Sen. Trent Lott as Senate Majority Leader, the loss of Sen. Thad Cochran as likely chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the loss of a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
And yet, somehow, the sun rose this morning, government isn't shutting down, most of us will return to our jobs tomorrow and Meridian voters will still elect a mayor on June 5.
In other words, life goes on.
While Mississippi and, in fact, the country may not be the same it will become harder for conservatives to advance their agenda Cochran and Lott will remain major figures in the Senate. If the GOP can convince a single Senate Democrat to change parties, the balance will shift again.
The emerging view of the monumental shift in power is that it will influence the presidency of George W. Bush more than the daily lives of folks hereabouts. That point is arguable.
Political scientist Dr. Joe Parker of the University of Southern Mississippi predicts the Democratic Party's control of the U.S. Senate may not have a serious adverse impact on Mississippi, but most certainly will weaken the Bush administration.
While Thursday's switch from Republican to Independent status by Vermont Sen. Jim Jeffords gave Democrats control of the Senate and cost Lott his job as majority leader, Parker predicted Lott will remain influential as minority leader despite the "step-down" in power.
He predicted Cochran will continue his influence as a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which plays a powerful role in channeling federal dollars to the respective states.
Parker also pointed out that the U.S. Department of Defense, headed by GOP-appointed officials, will continue to be responsible for federal dollars going to support military installations and shipbuilding contracts both vital to the Mississippi economy.
Still, he added, "The majority party in the Senate has a great advantage in scheduling, setting the agenda. It changes the chips on the balance scale in a substantial way."
There's that word again "change."
Many people think Mississippi is reluctant to change, using the recent endorsement of the 1894 state flag as an example. The fact is we Mississippians have a strong history of change building, tearing down, and then rebuilding. It is a constant process, as natural as the ebb and flow of coastal tides.
It is simply ludicrous to suggest, for example, that Mississippi hasn't changed since the turbulent days of the 1960s when too many counties were crawling with FBI agents and informants, freedom riders and bull-headed racists, while all too many gentle, loving, caring people were caught up in the storm.
Today, as we know, Meridian rebuilt from Sherman's devastating march, the river stills runs in Vicksburg and Natchez, the Coast, Tunica and the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians are prospering from casino gambling.
Mississippi will weather the latest political storm, just as it weathered the Civil War, Reconstruction, Hurricane Camille, drought and the last outbreak of the dreaded pine bark beetle.
It's our nature. We are survivors.
Buddy Bynum is editor of The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3213, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.