Events surrounding the death of Tea Party leader Mark Mayfield and the Mississippi primary election could be a sign that a tragic trend may have started in American politics. The race for US Senate seats this term has been extraordinarily tense, especially between the establishment wing and Tea Party ranks of the Republican Party, but what happened in and around this election points out that a dangerous turn may have occurred. The Mississippi primary race could signal the death of civilized politics in the United States.
The race for Mississippi’s US Senate seat has been unusual for a contemporary American election from the beginning. The Republican primary just concluded with the nomination of the incumbent, US Senator Thad Cochran, but was dogged by bitter personal attacks, scandal, and a nasty fight between the two opposing flanks of the GOP. Mayfield was a supporter of State Senator Chris McDaniel’s campaign and a member of the board for the Central Mississippi Tea Party. He gained national notoriety when he was charged with being involved in a plot to photograph the wife of Senator Cochran in a nursing home and it was suggested that the McDaniel campaign was at the heart of the plot. Mayfield is suspected to have died at his own hand due in part to these events. The McDaniel campaign has repeatedly denied any part in the photograph incident but the scandal surely contributed to McDaniel’s defeat.
Several other individuals with ties to the McDaniel campaign were also suspected of involvement in the matter but only Mayfield was subjected to a high level of public disgrace. Pat Bruce, president of the Madison County Conservative Coalition, is very upset that while the other suspects in the photograph incident were apprehended without incident, one was even allowed to turn himself in rather than be brought in by police, the Madison Police Department made a spectacle of Mayfield’s arrest. Others close to Mayfield have indicated he was the victim of “character assassination by fellow Republicans.” Bruce indicated Mayfield’s arrest was “too personal” and that political ads attacking him and other Tea Party leaders sought to tragically condemn those who should, according to the signers of the American Constitution, “remain innocent until proven guilty.”
Even after the results of the primary have been established, Senator McDaniel has refused to concede and states that the election was unfair. McDaniel indicated that there were irregularities in the election that point to at least ethical, if not legal, improprieties. One of the supposed improprieties he mentions is the fact that more votes were cast in the June 24th runoff election than in the initial primary election on June 3. While this is definitely unusual, there is no indication at this point that there was anything done in violation of Mississippi voting laws.
Mayfield’s death will continue to be a significant footnote to this election. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding it, the death of Mr. Mayfield remains a tragic incident that the political leadership in the Tea Party, the Republican Party, and every American should endeavor to remember.
By David Morris