Studio portrait of Sid Salter. (photo by Beth Wynn / © Mississippi State University)
Newly-minted New York Democratic Party U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – also a member of the Democratic Socialists of America – thinks the policies of the Democratic Party aren’t progressive enough and that the party needs to move farther to the left.
To that end, Ocasio-Cortez (or AOC as she is popularly known) is a leading proponent of the so-called Green New Deal – an as yet fairly vague and ill-defined set of goals, strategies and plans to address climate change, so-called economic injustices and the redistribution of wealth. Although the spending plan remains vague, what is known is that it would fundamentally impact the nation’s economy in ways that most traditional Democrats can’t support.
So exactly how does that impact Mississippi politics? Well, consider the price of gas in Coffeeville ($2.19 average) and Tylertown ($2.17 average). That’s at a time when the state average price of gas in Mississippi is $2.102 average and the national average price of gas is $2.395.
But at the same time gas prices in New York State average $2.523 and in the Bronx home of Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, gas prices average $2.626. Gas prices in California average $3.285.
That’s a spread of higher gas prices in Mississippi that range from 52.6 cents to $1.183 per gallon higher under current economic conditions. Should the Green New Deal actually be adopted, a significant increase in gas prices would almost certainly follow. Increases in travel costs, fuel costs, heating costs, would follow.
Who is following Ocasio-Cortez in supporting the Green New Deal resolution in the U.S. House? A group of the most liberal Democrats in the House, many of whom represent New York and California – states in the contiguous 48 states with the highest gas prices.
Predictably, the Green New Deal will be dead on arrival in the U.S. Senate. The chances of the non-binding resolution proffered by Ocasio-Cortez doesn’t appear in much better shape in the full House, either – even among the House Democratic leadership.
But the problem for the Democratic Party nationally and in Mississippi is roughly akin to the challenges that have afflicted Mississippi Republicans over the few election cycles – when first Tea Party and later Trump supporters challenged establishment Republicans over whether the GOP was “conservative enough.”
In the last presidential election, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton faced a serious challenge from independent Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who caucuses with the Democrats. In 2016, Sanders won 43 percent of pledged Democratic delegates to Clinton’s 55 percent.
Just as traditional Republicans struggled to separate themselves from elements on the right in their party, traditional Democrats are now struggling to distance themselves from elements on the left of their party. Just as conservatives made compromise or consensus hard to achieve in the GOP, progressives are increasingly making compromise and consensus hard to achieve in the Democratic Party.
That last Senate election in Mississippi demonstrated how difficult if not impossible it is in the modern political environment where social media magnifies every flaw instantly for a candidate to separate himself or herself from the national party whose standard they bear.
For both presumptive leading Democratic Mississippi gubernatorial contender Jim Hood and presumptive leading GOP contender Tate Reeves, the faces of the political parties each of them represent matters. In Mississippi, statewide voters have validated right of center Republican Party policies far more consistently than they have validated left-of-center Democratic policies.
Democrats have delighted in GOP feuds between the center and the right for at least a decade. Now, the worm has turned and it’s the GOP enjoying the fray between traditional Democrats and the more far left extremes of their party.
How those national party battles impact the price of gas – and other economic indicators – in Coffeeville and Tylertown in 2019 are things that will impact Mississippi’s governor’s race.