For most people living outside the borders of Mississippi, the results of last week’s election were probably not very significant. A red state elected a Republican governor yet again. Big whoop. But for many people in Mississippi, this year’s election represented hope for change, not just in policy, but in political culture as a whole.
Democratic candidate and Attorney General Jim Hood was running a moderate campaign that had the potential to bring people on both sides of the political spectrum back to the center and away from the increasingly prevalent extremes. Hood represented a step away from the trend of policies that inch more and more to the right each year, but Mississippi elected Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves instead.
The effect of this is that Mississippians are going to see more of the same in a large number of policy areas, particularly in healthcare. Reeves has said on several occasions that he is going to fight back against the expansion of “government run” healthcare, fitting right in with the Republican Party, but also said that he wants to increase telemedicine within the state.
While telemedicine is incredibly important for the rural areas of Mississippi, what would be much more effective is to allow more funding to rural hospitals through Medicaid, much like Hood wanted to do. This would allow for not only the increase of telemedicine but perhaps the ability for rural hospitals to bring in the specialists that people need.
Education is an area where it looks like some change could occur through virtue of increased funding, as both Reeves and Hood expressed that as one of their main policy goals; however, Hood’s plan would have brought in much more than what Reeves plans to do.
Funding for public schools has long been an issue within Mississippi, but Reeves and his campaign have gone so far as to flat out deny that underfunding is a problem. It’s hard to believe that a governor who isn’t even willing to call the problem by its name is going to be able to do anything of substance to address the issue of underfunded schools.
The election does not totally reflect the status quo, despite how we still have a Republican governor who is the former lieutenant governor, because the gap between Reeves and Hood was only 5.5%. This means that while we aren’t going to see any significant change in the realm of policy, there is a very significant portion of the electorate that wants change.
The future of gubernatorial politics within Mississippi seems to be fairly set in stone, at least for the next few years. It isn’t very likely that voters are going to break the trend of re-electing the Republican incumbent. However, this does not mean that the future of Mississippi politics is equally concrete.
The momentum toward the center that was present during Hood’s campaign does not have to go to waste, and if a passionate electorate goes to the polls during the state elections, it is very possible that we can start to see tangible