Mississippi’s Race to the Bottom
The state is failing in almost every imaginable way. The reason why is rooted in its violent and racist past.
Jamelle Bouie is a Slate staffwriter covering politics, policy, and race.
In his RACE ARTICLE he pens:
These ills are worst among its black residents: 43.2 percent of Mississippi blacks are afflicted by obesity and its associated problems and 44 percent live at or below the poverty line, compared with a—still high—30.2 percent obesity rate and 16 percent poverty rate for whites.
Which is to say that, more than anywhere else, the Affordable Care Act is necessary in Mississippi. But, as Sarah Varney describes in a vital piece forPolitico Magazine, the state’s Tea Party–tinged Republican leadership—including Gov. Phil Bryant—refuses to budge. Not only did it shutter a state-run private exchange for individuals to purchase health insurance, it refused the Medicaid expansion, which would have extended coverage to those living in desperate poverty. The latter consequence is especially destructive.
Since Mississippi became a state, it has had 64 governors, including 55 Democrats and 5 Republicans. Democrats dominated after retaking control of the state legislature; they passed a constitution in 1890 that disfranchised most African Americans, excluding them from the political system for nearly 70 years, and made it a one-party state. The state’s longest-serving governor was John M. Stone, who served two terms over ten years (his second term was extended to six years by a transitional provision in the 1890 constitution). The shortest-serving governor was James Whitfield, who served 1 1⁄2 months from 1851 to 1852. The current governor is Republican Phil Bryant, who took office January 10, 2012.