OPINION: Racial Fantasy in Mississippi Politics: ‘Threading the Needle’ Ignores Reality


When the votes from Mississippi's elections were finally tallied, the results were damning for the state's Democratic party. Republicans made a clean sweep of statewide offices, and retained a supermajority in the Mississippi Senate and House of Representatives. While there have been no shortage of opinions on the Democratic Party's challenges going forward, a good deal of them present race as an obstacle for the party to overcome.

A recent interview with Jim Hood's campaign manager and political strategist Michael Rejebian asked to comment on the Hood campaign's unsuccessful strategy of trying to thread a needle between a black electorate that comprises the majority of the Democratic base and more moderate white voters:

"If we missed it to the right, then we were alienating people to the left," Rejebian said. "If we missed it to the left, then we were losing moderates that we needed to the right. ...This wasn't something that we just did one time. We were threading that needle every single day ... because we knew at the beginning of this campaign that our base was not enough to win us this campaign. We had to have moderate white voters. And to do that you have to do certain things. You have to appeal to them in certain ways that you might not appeal to your base voters."

In presenting the challenges as "threading a needle" between black and white voters, Rejebian and others are guilty of what Karen and Barbara Fields term "racecraft": a system of beliefs that imbue race with a kind of phantasmal power to determine people's ideas, habits and preferences. In Rejebian's quote, race is imagined as a determinant of political action. Subsequent strategy then conjures some voters as liberal because they are black, while others are conjured as moderate because they are white. Through racecraft,

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