Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) may be a political genius. It takes serious campaign savvy to pull off the kind of reverse psychology she’s been practicing this week.
Rather than sail through the upcoming special election, riding the R next to her name like a sailboat on a serene red sea, she’s doing a tarantella on the deck while gleefully tossing around gaffe grenades.
She’s following her playbook closely: 1) volunteer offensive or alarming statements in a nonchalant way 2) do it on camera 3) definitely don’t apologize, especially if your remark demeans the history of nearly half your state’s population.
She started off with a bang by making what certainly sounds like a lynching joke, always a surefire party pleaser, but never more so than in a state that saw hundreds of murders by mob for decades after the Civil War, including the gruesome slaughter of Emmett Till. (And as the cherry on top, her Democratic opponent, Mike Espy, is a black man).
Her arm slung around a cattle rancher, Hyde-Smith expressed her affection for him in a bizarre way to a group of her supporters: “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be in the front row.”
It’s a weird and discordant thing to say in the first place, displaying a shocking ignorance of the blood-soaked history of her state’s civil rights battle.
But then, rather than put on her big girl pants and admit that she said something offensive and idiotic, she took a page from her best buddy President Donald Trump’s book and declined to apologize. In fact, she declined to apologize WHILE INSULTING AND DEMEANING those who asked her to! And that’s why they call her Cindy the cleanup kid.
“In a comment on Nov. 2, I referred to accepting an invitation to a speaking engagement,” she said after the explosion of backlash. “In referencing the one who invited me, I used an exaggerated expression of regard, and any attempt to turn this into a negative connotation is ridiculous.”
After that unimpeachably smooth cha-cha-slide out of trouble, Hyde-Smith moonwalked on over to the comedy-rich gold mine of voter suppression.
Speaking before a small group in Starkville, home of Mississippi State University, Hyde-Smith sounded off on suppressing liberal votes.
“And then they remind me, that there’s a lot of liberal folks in those other schools who that maybe we don’t want to vote,” she said. “Maybe we want to make it just a little more difficult. And I think that’s a great idea.”
In classic form, Hyde-Smith deployed a spokesperson to assert that she was obviously joking and claim, without evidence, technological manipulation of the video capturing her comments.
Espy’s spokesperson chimed in, reminding observers that the fight for voting rights in Mississippi is also rooted in racial violence.
Hyde-Smith is a rare talent, attempting to follow in the path of legends like Roy Moore, who achieved the impossible by being so intensely problematic that he lost. As a Republican. In Alabama.
For having a nearly 20 point edge and still managing to make the race a squeaker, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith is our Duke of the Week.