Like most people who are interested in politics, I see my Facebook feed filled with posts and ads discussing the upcoming Mississippi gubernatorial election. Democrats seem particularly enthusiastic about this election, as they are hoping that Jim Hood’s potential victory may lead to a Democratic renaissance in this deep red state. While I think that Hood has a real shot at winning, I am less optimistic that his victory would usher in a progressive movement in Mississippi.
As we approach Nov. 5, nowhere is safe from the barrage of campaign advertising. Even Hulu commercial breaks are filled with statewide political ads. Although nearly all of the commercials have a negative tilt, Tate Reeves and Hood are framing this election in distinct ways. While Reeves is painting this election as a competition between the country’s two major parties, Hood is running ads that set him up as the “less swampy” option for moderate and Republican voters who preferred Foster or Waller over Reeves.
Reeves happily aligns himself with the national stances of the Republican Party. In
his advertisement, “Mississippi Conservative,” Reeves embraces his party label by openly using the conservative modifier, bashing Democrats, and even flaunting a photo of himself with President Trump. In a state that supported Trump in such high numbers, fully accepting this partisan identity is likely his safest road to the governor’s mansion. Jim Hood’s team, however, has a different plan.
Hood is not focusing on turning out the progressive Democratic population in Mississippi
so much as he is attempting to be a Democrat that Republicans can stomach. In fact, the word “Democrat” is noticeably missing from most of his advertisements. In his latest ad, “Traveling,” Hood criticizes Reeves for wasting taxpayer money and for using a State Trooper for security on a fishing trip. In the final shot of the commercial, Hood leans against the door of his pickup and says, “I bait my own hook, carry my own gun, and drive my own truck.” Another advertisement, labeled simply, “Swamp,” again condems Reeves for frivolous spending and includes a promise by Hood to clean up the “swamp” of Mississippi politics: a revision of a campaign promise by President Trump himself.
If all of the information I had about Hood was from his TV ads, I would assume that he is
challenging Reeves in the Republican primary. These ads effectively distance Hood as much as possible from the national Democratic Party. In fact, his website provides fearful voters with an assurance that “This is not a Democratic agenda or a Republican agenda… It’s a working families agenda.”
I have no doubts about my decision in the ballot box on Nov. 5. Like most Democrats in the state, I’m excited to support a candidate who may actually win. However, even if Hood secures the governorship, I do not anticipate an imminent blue wave in this part of the Republican block. Hood may be a Democrat that Republicans will support for the purposes of beating Reeves, but I am skeptical that these voters will start sporting the Democratic label anytime soon. Yes, I think that Jim Hood’s leadership would be a win for Mississippi. However, I doubt that his victory would meaningfully alter Mississippi’s perception of the national Democratic Party.
Amy Cain is a senior philosophy and political science major from Southaven, Mississippi.