Cindy Hyde-Smith holds Senate seat for GOP in Mississippi

Tonight, Cindy Hyde-Smith easily defeated Mike Espy, a member of President Obama’s cabinet, in a run-off election in Mississippi. The margin of victory looks to be about 8 points.

Hyde-Smith’s win means that the new Senate will consist of 53 Republicans. Consequently, President Trump may be able to nominate (and see confirmed) highly conservative judges and cabinet members he might have shied away from during the past two years. Contrary to what many believe, Trump hasn’t always nominated the most conservative well-qualified candidate.

Hyde-Smith, formerly a Democrat, had been appointed to fill Thad Cochran’s seat earlier this year. Democrats hoped to tar her as a racist for having said she would show up at the front row of a public hanging if her friend and supporter Colin Hutchinson invited her. This was supposed to mean that she supports, or is insensitive to, lynching blacks.

Anyone with half an ounce of honesty and common sense would know that Hyde-Smith’s comment wasn’t remotely supportive of lynching blacks. For one thing, lynchings aren’t public hangings.

For another, as Rich Lowry has pointed out, Hyde-Smith invoked public hangings as an example of something terrible. She used the expression to say how much regard she had for Hutchinson. Her line works as a compliment of Hutchinson precisely because she’s willing (she says) to do, on his invitation, something she abhors.

It’s also clear that Hyde-Smith was speaking figuratively. The full quotation is:

I would fight a circle saw for him. If he invited me to a public hanging, I would be on the front row.

Hyde-Smith won’t be fighting any circle saw or attending any public hanging. For her, both are horrible things.

Even so, if Hyde-Smith had made her comment as a student or faculty member on a college campus, she might well have faced grave consequences. Some ninny would have claimed to be offended, and that would have been enough to trigger a disciplinary response — sensitivity training, at a minimum — I’m pretty sure.

Fortunately, the Mississippi electorate (and I dare say the American electorate in general) is not a college campus. Clever little “gotchas” that can land one in big trouble in the swamp of political correctness and identity politics tend not to work in the real world of electoral politics. Gaffes normally have to be obvious to the common ear. Innocuous comments that can be characterized by academics into microaggressions or dog-whistles won’t cut it.

Do Democrats understand this? Maybe. The exploitation of the “public hanging” remark might simply have been the product of desperation.

Yet, I suspect the left is beginning to believe it can transfer to real life some of what it has been able to sell on college campuses. I don’t dismiss this possibility. We see evidence in some precincts of corporate America that this can, indeed, happen.

But I see little evidence that it has happened in electoral politics. Not yet, anyway.