Studio portrait of Sid Salter. (photo by Beth Wynn / © Mississippi State University)
By: Sid Salter
No real surprise that Mississippi Second District U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Bolton, voted to certify the nation’s electoral vote. By that act of Congress, the Democratic lawmaker’s party returned to power in the executive branch of the U.S. government in the form of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
Mississippi’s senior U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Tupelo, likewise voted to certify the electoral vote, although his party lost the 2020 presidential election in both the popular vote and the electoral vote. The certification vote, coupled with the results of the U.S. Senate runoff elections in Georgia, signaled a shift from Republican control of the Senate to the Democrats.
Wicker worked as hard to support Trump in that election as Thompson worked to support Biden. The election cycle saw Thompson retain his chairmanship of the House Homeland Security Committee while Wicker will lose his Senate Commerce Committee chairmanship and will be the ranking minority party member in the 117th Congress.
As the only Democrat in the state’s congressional delegation, Thompson will wield vast influence over presidential patronage in the state. But that’s another discussion for another day.
The rest of Mississippi’s congressional delegation chose another path. Republicans U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith and U.S. Reps. Trent Kelly, Michael Guest and Steven Palazzo – all Republicans – voted against certifying the electoral vote results even though all six of Mississippi’s electoral votes were awarded to President Donald Trump.
They weren’t alone. Six senators and 135 GOP congressmen voted the same way.
Each of the Mississippi members issued statements explaining their votes; statements met with praise from Trump’s supporters and denunciations from his opponents. The reaction to those votes was set against the backdrop of a stunning and dangerous act of insurrection at the U.S. Capitol that was stoked by Trump hours before at a Washington, D.C., rally and carried out by protestors wearing Trump campaign gear and carrying his flags.
Five people, including a Capitol policeman, lost their lives in that disgraceful display. The riot at the seat of American democracy embarrassed the United States before the rest of the civilized world – or certainly should have. It reflected the political actions and reactions of what was called in the days before political correctness a “banana republic” – a small, politically unstable country where changes of power are often marked by violence and chaos.
Our nation has been plagued by political division and strife – particularly in the province of presidential politics – for the last 20 years. Some congressional Democrats protested the electoral vote certification of Republican presidents elected in 2000, 2004, and Trump’s win over Hillary Clinton in 2016.
There was never any significant doubt even by the staunchest Republican that once those legal challenges failed, Biden’s election was assured and the certification vote was – as it always is – a constitutional formality. As I wrote back in November, Biden’s inauguration in 2021 was as inevitable as was Trump’s in 2017.
The difference? There was a distinctly different group of people angry after those two campaigns. Many Democrats never accepted Trump’s election in 2016 in the manner they advocated Biden’s 2020 election be accepted. And there’s the rub, as partisan division, rancor, and in some cases abject hatred, endures now as then.
To be clear, Sen. Wicker’s vote to certify the 2020 electoral vote was a vote that showed character, courage, and loyalty to the U.S. Constitution. In casting the vote, Wicker knew the political rain would fall. Thompson likewise followed that path.
What about the other four Mississippi members? Will their vote carry future consequences, or will their votes be like the failed anti-certification votes of Democrats in three presidential elections since 2000?
In the final analysis, politics is and always has been a math exercise. In a state that gave Trump 57.8 percent of the state’s 2016 vote for president and 57.6 percent in the 2020 presidential election, the practical political impact on those four GOP congressional members will likely be negligible – regardless the roiling of social media.
Biden in 2020 got 54,267 more votes than did Hillary Clinton in 2016. But Trump in 2020 got 56,050 more votes here than he got in 2016.