Answer: When his name is Thad Cochran.
In a political environment where establishment Republicans are happy to sell out their supposed principles for short-term political gain or personal enrichment, it takes a special kind of lawmaker to stoop so low as to actually look less conservative than their Democratic opponents.
For all the things one could say about Sen. Thad Cochran, the 41-year incumbent from Mississippi who recently “won” his primary election by appealing to Democrats who may or may not have violated election laws, it must be admitted that he is that special kind of Republican.
Cochran is being challenged by Democrat Travis Childers, who served in the House of Representatives from 2008 to 2010 under the Speakership of Nancy Pelosi. Amazingly, a quick glance at the voting records of these two men reveals that Childers, serving under Democratic leadership, was actually more conservative than Cochran has been under the Republican leadership of Mitch McConnell.
This is not so much a credit to Childers as it is a stark revelation of the disconnect between Cochran’s rhetoric and the reality of his behavior in the Senate. Childers has a lifetime score of 49 percent on the FreedomWorks Congressional Scorecard, while Cochran does slightly better at 57 percent. However, Cochran’s advantage comes from relatively strong votes from nearly a decade ago, and disappears when considering only recent legislation.
For example, Cochran voted to raise the federal minimum wage, he voted to impose an internet sales tax, and he voted against all of the best, most fiscally conservative budgets presented to the Senate from 2011 to 2013. He has supported Farm Bills that award billions of dollars to corporate cronies, and even voted to let Harry Reid fund ObamaCare. All this while supposedly conservative Mitch McConnell was Senate Minority Leader.
Contrast this with Travis Childers, who voted against final passage of ObamaCare, against the Dodd-Frank regulations package, and against omnibus appropriations bills that expanded spending by trillions of dollars. What’s more, Childers was able to oppose these things with a leftist ideologue like Nancy Pelosi at the helm of the House.
Republican leadership has become out of touch to the point that they are now in the awkward position of supporting incumbents who are more liberal than the Democrats opposing them. It’s just another sad commentary on the increasing irrelevance of the establishment in Washington, and the opportunities for actual freedom-loving candidates to step up and bring America’s voice back to the Republican Party.