A tale of two Mississippians, and two opposing political futures

Public hearings of the January 6 Select Committee are demonstrating beyond all doubt that the January 6, 2021 assault on the U.S. Capitol was a violent, neo-fascist attempt to stage a coup aimed at keeping Donald Trump in office, fueled by nothing more substantial than the grand Trumpist canard of a “stolen election” (pure “bullshit,” in the characterization of former Attorney General William Barr, in all other matters a Trump sycophant). The committee is chaired by Mississippi’s 3rd Congressional District Representative Bennie Thompson.

Rep. Thompson represents one distinct Mississippi type. The long-serving (since 1993) member of Congress is the only Democrat, and the only Black person, in Mississippi’s congressional delegation. Whatever faults his detractors may point to, Thompson, a civil rights activist in his younger days, knew Jim Crow injustice first-hand, and perforce knows the pivotal importance of the rule of law, and of holding powerful individuals and institutions accountable for wrong-doing. Bennie Thompson represents more than a single Congressional district, however; he represents what has long been an ideal version of the American experiment in democracy – a future at least incrementally better than the past, a polity always striving to perfect our nation’s imperfect manifestations of justice and collective efforts to advance the common good.

An altogether opposite type can be found in the person of newly minted Mississippi politician Michael Cassidy. Cassidy, a former Navy pilot only recently transplanted to Mississippi, is headed – amazingly – to a June 28 runoff with 3rd Congressional District incumbent congressman Rep. Michael Guest; the winner will be the Republican nominee in the November 3 general election. Guest himself is a reliably ultra-conservative, largely pro-Trump, red-red-red Republican. But evidently he is not pro-Trump enough for Cassidy, whose primary campaign issue was Guest’s vote in favor of establishing the January 6 Committee to investigate the violent Capitol insurrection. Cassidy is a fervent champion of the stolen election Big Lie and denounces the Committee’s work as a disingenuous Democratic witch hunt. I have no idea whether or not Cassidy can beat Guest; the truly frightening thing is that people like him – MAGA extremists all – are indeed winning elections around the country.

This is the fork in the road we face, fellow social workers – on one side, preservation of what remains of our democratic norms and processes; on the other, a deep drop into a anti-democratic nightmare based on conspiracy “theories” and outright lies.

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