Debate shows candidates’ differences

Published 5:00 am Monday, August 5, 2002

NESHOBA COUNTY FAIR – While the jockeys were running theirtrotting horses around the race track on the historic fairgroundsin central Mississippi, a hundred yards away a horse race ofanother sort also saw the contestants jockeying for position.

Political speeches in Founder’s Square are a tradition at the106 year old fair — many a political career has been launched onthese grounds. Stem-winders from the likes of Ross Barnett andRonald Reagan bring out the crowds rain or shine. However, debatesare rare. There was only one other prior to last Thursday’s, buttrue to form, the crowd braved the heat and mud to hear thecandidates.

The debate between Democrat Ronnie Shows and Republican ChipPickering will not go down as a top political stem-winder. Itprobably won’t even be remembered much after this year, but onething the debate brought out is the distinct differences in the twocandidates.

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Shows is a populist liberal-leaning Democrat, and Pickering is aright-wing conservative Republican. Shows, despite claims to thecontrary, is a Yellow Dog Democrat who votes the liberal partyline. Pickering is proud to admit to his party line vote. In hiswords about Republicans, “their values are Mississippi values.”

Shows is backed by the labor unions, trial lawyers and is proudto denounce big business as a villain to the working man. Pickeringis backed by big business as well as small business. He understandsthe source of the economic engine that creates jobs foreveryone.

Shows believes in big government. Pickering believes in lessgovernment.

Both men believe in this country, its greatness and its strengthfollowing the terrorist attacks of September 11. Both are devotedparents with hopes and dreams of a better Mississippi for theirchildren and their children’s children.

But the one thing stuck me as I listened to the two spar backand forth. It was the message they were broadcasting in theircomments — unity versus division. Pickering espoused unity whileShows preached division. While both are striving for a betterMississippi and a better and a stronger United States, theirmethods of getting there are quite different.

They both were asked about how the events of September 11affected them personally. They both talked about how the eventsunified the country and the importance of that unity.

However, when you think about Ronnie Shows’ remarks, hispopulist anti-business theme is just the opposite. His politicalstrategy of pitting the small man against big business andcorporate greed does nothing but pit the workers of our countryagainst the management; the poor against rich; the uneducatedagainst the educated.

Division is what keeps populist politicians in power.

Watching those jockeys run their horses around the track struckme as an analogy of sorts on Shows’ political strategy of dividingmanagement and workers. For argument’s sake, let’s say the jockeysrepresent management or business, and the horses represent theworker. Without a joint and unified effort of the two — the jockeyand the horse — neither can succeed in the ultimate goal ofreaching the finish line first.

A lot of mud was slung Thursday afternoon. Some was the red claytype; the other was the political type. Hopefully voters willunderstand the difference.

Write to Bill Jacobs at P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven, MS39602.