OXFORD — My father used to tell the story about a man knocking down another guy who had cursed him — calling him a name that questioned his parentage.
When the aggressor was admonished by a bystander that he had previously called the victim of the assault the same thing, he replied, “Well, that’s different.”
So it is with today’s national politics.
Even before the conventions of the two major political parties, the presidential campaigns were being waged more along negative than positive lines.
Now both sides are claiming if the other wins it will be apocalyptic, the end of America as we know it.
It’s obvious this campaign will be waged on fearmongering more than anything.
Republican President Donald Trump has his loyal base of supporters, as does Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
But for many voters it will come down to whom they fear or dislike the most. They will be voting against one of the candidates more than for the other.
Mississippi’s senior Republican U.S. senator, Roger Wicker, is usually low-key, not given to fireball rhetoric. He is yet to possess the clout of previous senators from Mississippi like Thad Cochran, Trent Lott, John Stennis and Jim Eastland, but he is a seasoned and experienced legislator.
As do almost all successful politicians, Wicker generally hews the party line, dutifully supporting its national agenda.
But he has been known to buck popular opinion among ardent Republican conservatives. In 2015, he came out for replacing the state flag bearing the Confederate battle emblem, some five years before it was replaced in 2020.
In an op-ed column written before the Republican National Convention, Wicker (or perhaps a staff member writing for him) said partisan scare tactics are harmful.
“It is wrong for elected leaders to push baseless conspiracy theories that undermine public trust in our elections,” Wicker’s column concluded.
The senator is right. It is wrong for leaders, elected or otherwise, to push baseless conspiracy theories that undermine trust in elections.
But lest anyone who didn’t read the column jump to the conclusion that Wicker may have been referring to President Trump, let it be clear that his criticism was aimed at Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for endorsing what Wicker said was the unfounded claim that the president was “manipulating the Postal Service to disenfranchise voters.”
Although the president’s own words indicate Trump suggested doing just that, Wicker went on to defend Postmaster General Louis Dejoy and the Postal Service, accusing Democrats of raising unnecessary fears about the election.
The Wicker column defended Dejoy and the Postal Service and rightfully suggested that mail-in ballots line up with Postal Service timetables. “As long as states and voters meet the right deadlines, this election will be fair and reliable,” he opined.
A “fair and reliable” election is in stark contrast to President Trump’s dire predictions of mail-in ballot fraud in the coming election. “The fraud and abuse will be an embarrassment to our country,” said one of the president’s tweets.
Granted, Pelosi and the other Democrats are doing some fearmongering.
But so is Donald Trump, who could qualify as the fearmonger in chief.
Sen. Wicker must think, “Well, that’s different.”
Charles Dunagin, who lives in Oxford, is a retired longtime Mississippi newspaperman.