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A loss for the past

From an editorial Wednesday on Bloomberg View:

Sen. Thad Cochran made history Tuesday, accomplishing what some had thought impossible, even unthinkable, for a Mississippi Republican: In a state where 37 percent of the population is black, Cochran actually won a smattering of black votes – enough to eke out a narrow upset in his primary runoff against state Senator Chris McDaniel.

Mississippi allowed Democrats to vote in the Republican runoff if they hadn’t voted in the June 3 Democratic primary. And McDaniel seemed sufficiently alarming to Democrats, and Cochran sufficiently benign, to encourage some of them to turn out for the incumbent.

Cochran promised to sustain the flow of federal spending that keeps his poor state afloat. (What the senator lacks in vision, he makes up in pork, courtesy of taxpayers in other states.)

McDaniel offered something both grander and more insidious: restoration. He promised to take his party, state and nation to a place – he never quite spelled out where – in which everything would be as it once was. In his defiant nonconcession speech, McDaniel said, in an echo of Barry Goldwater’s 1964 Republican convention speech, that “there is nothing dangerous or extreme about defending the Constitution and the civil liberties therein.”

The history of race in America, especially in the South, is in part the conflicted history of the Constitution “and the civil liberties therein.” When McDaniel and other conservative whites draw on nostalgia for the good old days, they summon an era when blacks were excluded from constitutional protection or liberty.

Things change. Even in Mississippi.

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