The Cochran Fallout

by Ramesh Ponnuru

I think in general the last few months have seen a softening of the Tea Party vs. establishment divide, in part because of the way the primaries have gone. Establishment Republicans could get behind Ben Sasse once he won the Nebraska Senate nomination; most self-described tea partiers seem to have voted for Mitch McConnell in Kentucky. The Mississippi primary is an exception to the rule. It is deepening the party’s internal division, because it has reinforced tea partiers’ view of what’s wrong with the GOP establishment: that said establishment is committed to big government, that it seeks to win elections by boasting about that commitment, that it disdains the tea partiers, that it views them as racist, that it will stop at nothing — even hurting the party overall, by giving credence to the view that a large number of Republicans are racists — to defeat them. The way Cochran won is going to add to the party’s problems, and not just in Mississippi.

And it was all so unnecessary. If the party establishment really thought that a McDaniel win would be destructive, the thing to do would have been to ease Cochran out of office and get someone acceptable to all sides to run to replace him. (Surely such a person could be found in Mississippi.) Instead, the reports suggest that Cochran was talked into running another time. Which set this mess in motion.

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