Category Archives: Keith Plunkett

The Rejection Of Excellence And The Man Of Mediocrity


https://slate.adobe.com/page-embed.jsThe Rejection of Excellence and the Man of Mediocrity

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PLUNKETT: James Hull’s commentary is a descent into cultural bigotry.


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BY: B. Keith Plunkett | UCF Staff   @Keithplunkett

In a commentary published in the Daily Journal on Sunday, Tupelo area media consultant, pastor and community organizer James Hull resorts to blind cultural bigotry as a means to attack what he calls intolerance. He concludes by giving himself a giant pat-on-the-back for exercising such “courage”.

Hull’s polemic settles on his chosen culprit by finding that the “voices and spirits” of diversity and “racial sensitivity” in Mississippi from 30 years ago have been, in his estimation, “drowned out by the extreme roar of conservatism.”

He opines without reference to proof that “the issues of racial marginalization, discrimination and animus continue to be real in Mississippi, perpetrated by a strong and powerful Conservative movement, while Moderates and Progressives – black and white, Republican and Democrat – remain silent.”

Hull, apparently unaware of the irony and again without providing a single example, finds that “Mississippi’s growing black middle class remains silent in the face of racial hostilities and slights they experience everyday in their own organizations”; that they do so because they fear they will “jeopardize” their “individual gains”; and that middle class whites “remain silent” to the practice because they are “afraid to risk their social standing and class privilege”.

Perhaps Mr. Hull would like to provide evidence as to how Mississippi’s black middle class is growing while also simultaneously experiencing such intense “racial hostility”.

Perhaps, not.

In passing judgement on “conservatism” as the cause of racial indifference, Hull projects his own bigotry by reaching conclusions he doesn’t support with evidence, nor does he honestly portray any understanding of the principles behind that which he attacks. His finding that conservatism is merely about “dismantling government” and “pushing a narrow ‘up-by-your-bootstraps’ agenda” is at best an over-simplification by someone who hasn’t done much, if any, research; at worst it’s an attempt to demonize absent demonstration.

Conservatism isn’t a political ideology. It is a social contract. It is individuals working together to positively affect their community with the knowledge of what has and hasn’t worked in the past and an eye towards creating a better place for future generations. It is knowing history and working to keep what is best about our culture and society intact, while recognizing and fostering generational innovation.

Mr. Hull is partially correct in his simplified explanation of conservatives desire for less government. However, he misses completely the other side of the equation which requires that as government power is decentralized and reduced people must necessarily step forward and work together towards our own community solutions.

In fact, if Mr. Hull studied in order to understand conservatism, he would find he himself holds a degree of conservative thought. At least, he did.

He alluded to it only a year ago when he wrote “most of our societal differences are no longer racial but cultural” and “cultural ignorance creates fear.” Conservatives would absolutely agree with this assessment.

Maybe Mr. Hull should rather welcome doing what he said was sorely needed in 2014.  His call to action then was for more citizens to “share in the responsibility of keeping their communities safer.”

Demonizing a person or a group of people as he does today without first attempting to understand their motivations flies in the face of his previously stated position. The words and actions of Mr. Hull today are those that Mr. Hull of 2014 claimed to despise.

No, Mr. Hull. Conservatism is not racist. It is not intolerant. It is empowering at the level of community where we are most likely to successfully work together across racial and class divides.

Rather than sit back and throw bombs from the cheap seats of political favoritism and ignorance, Mr. Hull should embrace understanding, local participation and involvement of everyone as a positive step in the right direction. One might think from the resume he shares with readers that would be his goal, and certainly that is what he promoted a year ago.

Might there be a few disagreements along the way as to the best solution to any given problem by encouraging more localized control and action? Probably so. But at the bare minimum Mr. Hull should have enough character and honor to get to know the people he claims to disagree with instead of resorting to blind cultural and political bigotry at the outset.

Hull writes: “We cannot expect the purveyors and perpetrators of racism, prejudice and exclusion to stand against the very things in which they so fervently believe.”

Indeed. Where’s your mirror, sir? You appear to have something in your eye.

Keith Plunkett is the Policy and Communications Director for the United Conservatives Fund. He has worked on communications and policy issues with a range of public officials from aldermen to Congressmen, and a variety of businesses, government agencies and non-profits. He serves or has served as a board member of several non-profit, civic and political organizations. Contact him by email at keith@unitedconservativesfund.com or follow him on Twitter @Keithplunkett

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PLUNKETT: Rep. Carpenter’s insensitive comments vocalizes “dog-whistle” politics that political parties and government institutions have been guilty of for decades.


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BY: B. Keith Plunkett | UCF Staff   @Keithplunkett

Most agree that it was a mistake when State Representative Bubba Carpenter told a crowd a few days ago that they should beware of Initiative 42 because it gave “a black judge in Hinds County” authority to rewrite education policy. When the comments were reported the denouncements came immediately from far and wide from Republicans and Democrats alike. The self-appointed arbiters of political good taste jumped in with both feet.

Republican establishment blogger Alan Lange at Yall Politics took Carpenter to task and demanded Carpenter “Keep his fu&#%ng mouth shut for the next three weeks” (Yeah. Classy, ain’t he?), lest he turn the Initiative 42 battle into more of a circus than it already is. Democrat or die blogger Ryan Brown at Cotton Mouth quickly jumped on Carpenters comments as evidence of the racial inequalities of education policy being promoted by Republicans. It’s a Machiavellian imperative that this type of response was coming. Was anyone surprised?

While no one short of the KKK or the Black Panthers will publicly defend the overt use of racial identification as a qualifier for political debate, the truth is racial identification has been institutionalized into our political system by both parties for generations, and when politicians need to yank the chain to get what they want then they do.

Southern Democrats, once the party of overt racism of the Jim Crow variety, eventually found a way to use the demographic reality in their favor. It was in his push for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when President Lyndon Johnson told two southern governors, “These Negroes, they’re getting pretty uppity these days and that’s a problem for us since they’ve got something now they never had before, the political pull to back up their uppityness. Now we’ve got to do something about this, we’ve got to give them a little something, just enough to quiet them down, not enough to make a difference… I’ll have them n*ggers voting Democratic for the next two hundred years.”

Johnson also defended the Supreme Court appointment of Thurgood Marshall by telling a staff member, “Son, when I appoint a n*gger to the court, I want everyone to know he’s a n*gger.”

While there is plenty of evidence to suggest he believed in the wisdom of his now failed War on Poverty policy, of which he is most famously associated, and the Civil Rights Act, a goal of his predecessor John F. Kennedy, Johnson was also a politicians politician. He knew the inner workings of government and how to pull together the votes he needed when he needed them, and he resorted to the worst brand of identity politics to do it.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 the following year laid bare Johnson’s goal by instituting special jurisdictional provisions in Section 5 of the VRA. These provisions required that southern states who had participated in voting rights discrimination would have to get pre-clearance from the federal government before changing voting laws, in essence having the feds make sure the changes didn’t water down black voting strength before any changes would be approved. This is what gave rise to the institutionalized racial politics that Mississippi is still stuck in today, and why terms like “B-VAP” (Black Voting Age Population) and “majority minority districts” are part of the political lexicon.

It wasn’t until 2013 that the U.S. Supreme Court finally struck down the coverage formula in Section 4(b) of the VRA as no longer viable in a vastly different nation. This effectively neutered Section 5 and released Mississippi and other southern states from decades of second state status. By this time of course, Johnson’s goal had been realized.

Democrats would like to have the VRA coverage formula re-instituted, of course. Something I have argued against because I believe it keeps Mississippians locked into this same type of racial identity politics.

It benefits Democrats politically to retain the VRA restrictions in Mississippi. They frequently use racial codes in attempting to pass everything from centralizing education authority to expanding Medicaid and the governments role in healthcare. And let’s not forget that the monstrous education policy known as Common Core implements race-based standards as a matter of federal education policy, a fact Mississippi’s Senate Conservative Coalition brought to light back in 2013.

Most recently, Republican Senator Thad Cochran used B-VAP districts in Mississippi in 2014 by spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay Democrat operatives to get black voters to the polls, thousands of whom evidence showed had already voted in the Democrat primary just three weeks prior, a violation of election law. But more than the use of “walking around money” in those districts the Cochran campaign also promoted race-baiting ads to demonize opponent Chris McDaniel as someone who would cut food stamps and welfare programs that benefit African Americans.

The aforementioned blogger Lange claims in his indictment of Carpenter that he wants to recruit African Americans to the Republican Party, but his method for this has been to frequently use his own brand of racial identity politics by attempting to assert that Second Amendment rallies and conservative activists are racists.

The dog whistle of racial politics is a frequently used tool of the intellectually lazy and it knows no party or ideology. What it comes down to is who is doing the dividing as to whether it is politically acceptable. It’s shameful, no matter who is doing it and no matter the reasons. 

What Carpenter said regarding the “black judge in Hinds County” was a way of communicating racial division into a political issue, of that there can be no doubt. It was uncalled for. But let’s dispense with all the holier-than-thou judgements from the politicos, shall we? Politicians, arm-chair politicos, writers, bloggers and even government institutions are equally as guilty of using race as a wedge when it suits the purpose of seeking power and when under the pressure of potentially losing it.

It is when people step up to speak the truth of policy and to engage one another on the basis of honest exchange regardless of identity that we see communities come together for a shared purpose. Honest disagreements will happen, and they should.

It is the dishonest that show their lack of character and their own lack of substantive intelligence on the issues when they are so quick to resort to racial division and identity politics, whether as a defense or by way of accusation.

Keith Plunkett is the Policy and Communications Director for the United Conservatives Fund. He has worked on communications and policy issues with a range of public officials from aldermen to Congressmen, and a variety of businesses, government agencies and non-profits. He serves or has served as a board member of several non-profit, civic and political organizations. Contact him by email at keith@unitedconservativesfund.com or follow him on Twitter @Keithplunkett

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PLUNKETT: No, Mr. Barksdale, #Initiative42 and #MAEP are not about justice.


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BY: B. Keith Plunkett | UCF Staff   @Keithplunkett

In an AP feature article that ran over the weekend about former Netscape and FedEx executive Jim Barksdale, and his push for education in Mississippi, he said of his support of Initiative 42:

“Think about the justice. Think about the common good. The common good is to get our children education to the highest level we can.”

Feel good statements like this tend to get nods of agreement from most folks, which in turn gives a mistaken air of credibility to the underlying project. After all, who would truly be against justice or getting “our children” to the “highest level” of education? No one right?

Grandiloquent calls for justice, equity, or balance absent ethics is little more than statism, a useful tool of those seeking power without having to answer tough questions.

Surely a person of Mr. Barksdale’s business acumen would know the difference between what sounds like a good idea and whether implementation of that idea is sound. But then again, he has invested a lot of time, money and personal reputation in the “good idea” that is the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP). His push for Initiative 42 to double down and invest more taxpayer money in the program is a way for Barksdale to keep the grand idea alive despite its obvious flaws.

Only in a dreamland would anyone put forth an idea without at least first testing the veracity of the claims of benefit. But, that is exactly what MAEP does. It’s a formula dreamed up that has no basis in fact, no pilot program used to test it’s claims, and no explanations presented to the public of how it would work in a real scenario.

It doesn’t, in its current state, need to be fully funded, ever. At best it needs to be killed, but at least the law should undergo serious legislative reforms.

MAEP allows for administrators to further manipulate rules – something they already do with great regularity – to collect more in taxpayers funds and reduce the responsibility they have to produce outcomes to justify the investment.

The only explanation given to the general public regarding MAEP is that it exists and that it is underfunded, ergo education is underfunded. To government school shills, education has become funding and funding has become education. That’s a leap in logic that too many of our public officials accept without challenge.

Why? Because Jim Barksdale has money. Lot’s of it. He’s the richest man in Mississippi. And money in the world of our current politics trumps reality and courage for too many in the positions of government power, as well as for those with ambition to be in those positions themselves one day.

While the song and dance continues in Jackson, the real danger is that Initiative 42 allows a single judge to do way more than “fully fund” “adequate” education, as is claimed. It will also allow a single judge the ability to determine what is and is not “adequate”.

Not only could this broadly written initiative allow for a judge to decide funding, he or she could also implement personnel changes, make demands for changes in property taxes in a given county, consolidate schools, and review and revise budgets, and that is just the financial side. There could also be judicial rulings that lead to curriculum changes such as further implementation of Common Core and more liberal sex education policies.

A little less of this and a little more of that. A lawsuit here and a lawsuit there. Who knows what scheme’s could be implemented if only a single person could make all these decisions happen with the magic pounding of a gavel?

It’s a nightmare scenario whereby the people will no longer have an avenue to challenge the standing of how their tax dollars are being spent, nor how their children are being educated.

No, Mr. Barksdale, Initiative 42 and MAEP are not attempts at justice. They are both a grab for power.

Justice requires ethics. The treatment of parents and students as a means to an end (more money, more control, more power), rather than the stated purpose of the exercise (education), proves this has not a whiff of justice in it.

What would ethical education reform look like?

It would do away with the complex management schemes that have given rise to an education bureaucracy that eats up large sums of money in non-instructional expenditures, especially in those school districts that are supposedly “underfunded”, and it would instead rely on parents and students to make their own decisions.

Let’s have the legislature debate and decide how much money per student we should spend, then let the money follow the child wherever that student and their parents decide it should go. And then tell a majority of the bureaucrats at the Department of Education Central Office in Jackson and at posh school district offices across the state to go find another job.

As Economist Ernst F. Schumacher wrote, “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.”

It also doesn’t hurt that this type of decentralization of power is the most moral and, to reinforce the point . . . ethical.

Keith Plunkett is the Policy and Communications Director for the United Conservatives Fund. He has worked on communications and policy issues with a range of public officials from aldermen to Congressmen, and a variety of businesses, government agencies and non-profits. He serves or has served as a board member of several non-profit, civic and political organizations. Contact him by email at keith@unitedconservativesfund.com or follow him on Twitter @Keithplunkett

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PLUNKETT: The conservative movement in Mississippi will have its say with or without the state GOP. 


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BY: B. Keith Plunkett | UCF Staff   @Keithplunkett

It seems my last commentary got a few people’s hackles raised when I questioned the apparent lack of interest by the state Republican party in a top-tier presidential candidate visiting Mississippi.

Frank Corder, fresh off of a campaign of his own, is back writing for Yall Politics. And-lucky me-I got the honor of being one of his first targets since resuming his duties. 

On Tuesday, just minutes before joining Sen. Ted Cruz on his bus tour through Mississippi, I received an angry call from the state GOP Executive Director, Spencer Ritchie. He tried to convince me that I was out of line and that he had only just heard about the Cruz visit on Monday, the day before the event. 

Yes. He did. I know. I’m shaking my head too. 

The Cruz visit to Mississippi was all over national and state media for a week, and all over social media for 3 weeks. 

So, Ritchie’s statement can only be deciphered as one of two things; a poor attempt at diversion, or an admission of ineptitude. 

I don’t believe he’s inept. 

During our conversation-and that’s putting it kindly since mostly what I did was listen-he repeatedly referenced the United Conservatives Fund that was launched just a few months ago as an organization set up “to compete” with the state party. 

Apparently UCF, of which I am a director and Sen. Chris McDaniel is Chairman, is of great concern to state party leaders. The Cruz Campaign’s Mississippi Leadership Team, which Sen. McDaniel and I co-chair, has quite a few of our UCF Executive Committee on board. 

Let’s clear up what should be obvious. UCF doesn’t seek “to compete” with the state party. It’s not even set up that way. However, I make no apologies for the fact that we seek to hold feet to the fire, legislatively and organizationally. And, I’m sure that does make a few people nervous. 

There is a simple truth that is the foundation of UCF and the foundation of our action that both the state party and their friends at Yall Politics can’t, or won’t, wrap their head around. That is this: Conservatism isn’t a product that is property of an individual or a group or a political party. It isn’t a label that can be worn regardless of substance, and it isn’t a formula that can be changed at the whim of party bosses. Conservatism is a social contract that belongs to the people. It is a set of tried and true tenets that history shows has worked time after time when followed. Our mission at UCF, and my goal personally, is to make sure the truth of that message is heard loud and clear and then vigorously acted upon whenever possible.

Sen. Cruz’s speech yesterday was as pure an example of the hopes of that mission as could be recited.  And it is widely supported by conservative Republicans across this state and nation. So why the angst from state party officials?

If the party didn’t want to mention the Cruz event that’s their prerogative. As a Republican I think it stinks, and I’m not going to fall in line and sit quietly. I’m going to tell people that I am of the opinion that it stinks, as have quite a few other people across our state who vote Republican. Somewhat telling is that the party felt enough pressure to finally put something on their Facebook page about the Cruz visit, even if it did come an hour after the last event in Olive Branch.

It’s unfortunate that me pointing out what I did publicly makes people at the state party headquarters uncomfortable. I wish it were otherwise. But it’s also a good sign the conservative message we’re communicating is being heard, that the McDaniel coalition we built is alive and well, and that UCF is successfully building a solid infrastructure. 

In the end, it will be good for the Republican Party, the conservative movement and the entire state as we plant the seeds for more discussion about why conservative policies are better and why more citizens should become involved. 

Anyone who hopes to join us in that effort can do so by going to unitedconservativesfund.com. Those who would like to volunteer for the Cruz campaign can do so at tedcruz.org

Meanwhile, as these guys begin to tire of spewing venom about the work we are doing, we’ll still be busy doing it, speaking to groups both big and small across the state, and uniting conservatives.

I hope every conservative will join us. As the big crowds at Sen. Cruz’s stops yesterday so perfectly illustrate, it’s not a matter of “if” the conservative movement in Mississippi will have its say. It’s a matter of “when” the political establishment will stop fighting against it and recognize it’s good for the party. 

Keith Plunkett is the Policy and Communications Director for the United Conservatives Fund. He has worked on communications and policy issues with a range of public officials from aldermen to Congressmen, and a variety of businesses, government agencies and non-profits. He serves or has served as a board member of several non-profit, civic and political organizations. Contact him by email at keith@unitedconservativesfund.com or follow him on Twitter @Keithplunkett

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PLUNKETT: A top-tier presidential candidate is coming to the state. Where’s the Mississippi Republican Party?


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BY: B. Keith Plunkett | UCF Staff   @Keithplunkett

Maybe you’ve heard.

There is a major GOP presidential candidate coming to the state of Mississippi on Tuesday. But if you are aware, you didn’t get that information from the Mississippi Republican Party.

Ted Cruz, a favorite among conservatives, has been drawing huge crowds on his “SEC Bus Tour” since the first GOP debate on Thursday night. Just yesterday in Alabama, 1400 people swarmed an event that was initially expecting 400 to attend, forcing the entire affair outside.

Cruz has surged in the post-debate polls conducted over the weekend, and is now solidly in the top tier of candidates.

The events in Mississippi, one in Tupelo and the other in Olive Branch, have been broadcast across media outlets for weeks. Yet, the Mississippi Republican Party is quiet. The last communications via the parties social media page promoted Chairman Joe Nosef’s appearance on MSNBC’s ‘Morning Joe’ and the news that the debate on Thursday was the highest-rated primary debate in history.

Back in December of 2014 the party hosted presidential hopeful Rand Paul with the theme that the state GOP was “reuniting” following the bruising Senate campaign between Thad Cochran and Chris McDaniel. They welcomed John McCain with open arms in June of 2014 as he campaigned for Cochran. They celebrated a visit by Jeb Bush to the state just a few months ago.

Where is the party support for Cruz?

Does this sound like a party that has “reunited”? Does it sound like a state party that truly cares about “reuniting”? Or does it sound like more of the same picking and choosing political favorites?

Keith Plunkett is the Policy and Communications Director for the United Conservatives Fund. He has worked on communications and policy issues with a range of public officials from aldermen to Congressmen, and a variety of businesses, government agencies and non-profits. He serves or has served as a board member of several non-profit, civic and political organizations. Contact him by email at keith@unitedconservativesfund.com or follow him on Twitter @Keithplunkett

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PLUNKETT: Anti-flag movement is morphing into an anti-history movement and mob rule.


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BY: B. Keith Plunkett | UCF Staff   @Keithplunkett

This is about more than a flag. Way more.

The zombies of political correctness, political opportunism and marketing have surrounded us. One by one, those without the fortitude and cultural knowledge, isolated by the lust for power or just easily distracted and entertained, have given way and proven too intellectually fat and lazy to stand on their own.

The simplistic approach of centralized power is to create clear implications of good and bad, right and wrong, for all to either accept or be shamed by. Much to the chagrin of those who seek to centralize that power and maintain it as their own, history provides an unwanted counterpoint to the narrative. Those pesky facts keep getting in the way. Facts that are easily understood by people living them, but divided by the bread and circus acts and political marketing.

Government provided health insurance is the best thing ever, right?

War on poverty? How’s that going?

Untested bureaucratic formula’s that fund and standardize and regulate education, health care, labor, trade, property and dozens of other former aspects of a free society rule via the programs across the spectrum of government. They regularly fail to meet the standards of performance marketed to the public as the next big thing to solve all of our problems.

It slices it! It dices! It will even wash your car! But wait, there’s more!

All of the world is a utopia if people will take off the blinders of common sense and logic and listen. There is a final solution to all this madness! Just stop thinking and, for god sakes, stop remembering stuff that, you know, like, happened!

Unfortunately many have stopped thinking or remembering, and now these zombies are part of the attack. They’ve bought into the premise that facts, truth, reality – all can simply be altered with the wave of the magic government sponsored wand and the message spread through the new industry of outrage via social media.

At first it will be about delegating history to a museum. Sounds innocuous enough, right? But, history doesn’t belong in a museum. It belongs at our fingertips, unedited for our children and our children’s children. It belongs under our feet and in our lives.

So, now it’s our turn, Mississippi. Get ready. The gates have been opened to the madness by some in our own midst, citing their Christianity, no less. How long before that Christianity ends up in the museum, too?

History reminds us of who we are and the individual and shared struggles we have overcome. Those reminders are all around us in the Magnolia State. And yeah, some of it–much of it–ain’t all that pretty.

For the new mob, where we have been, who we are and what we are as a result is not what they wish us to be. Music and literary tradition like no other, the beauty of antebellum architecture unmatched anywhere in the world, the names, faces, memories and lessons of all of our shared history–this is now subject to mob approval, or disapproval, as we slide down this slippery slope.

How long before civil rights history is washed clean too so as to protect the sensibilities of the easily offended? Those videos of young blacks being beaten in the streets, attacked by dogs and fire-hosed — I mean come on did that really happen?

Reminders of the past are reminders of mankind’s failures, and who will worship the powerful and self-appointed people with the knowledge that all men are flawed and have the potential for evil? Who among us will allow others to think on our behalf with the knowledge that the thoughts, ideas and judgements of the mob are subject to the same imperfections that we all carry with us? So, it must be purged, or at least pre-approved by the outrage industry, in the name of progress and perfection. We must throw away our shared experience, our past blemishes, our ignorant customs and quaint celebrations.

We must all worship at the same alter or risk being tossed in the trash heap by the arbiters of the newly written history.

Rights? What rights? Free speech? Privacy? Property? Unless you’ve been living in a cave then you should know that train has fired up the engines and is leaving the station. I mean who needs it anyway, right?

Gone With the Wind is soon to be, well, gone with the wind.

Forrest County is no longer an acceptable name, because Nathan Bedford Forrest was a racist. And what about Ross Barnett Reservoir? Hmmm . . . think that probably needs to be reported to the authorities.

For that matter didn’t Washington, Madison and Jackson own slaves, and didn’t Christopher Columbus commit horrible atrocities?

A lot of work to do here. Maybe it’s time for some elected official to put together a commission on re-naming and removing all things offensive.

Or maybe it’s time for people to snap out of it and recognize that we can’t change the present or the future by rewriting history or pretending it never existed. We change the future by learning from the truth of history — all of it, every last bit.

Keith Plunkett is the Policy and Communications Director for the United Conservatives Fund. He has worked on communications and policy issues with a range of public officials from aldermen to Congressmen, and a variety of businesses, government agencies and non-profits. He serves or has served as a board member of several non-profit, civic and political organizations. Contact him by email at keith@unitedconservativesfund.com or follow him on Twitter @Keithplunkett

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