/Do your damn job and quit hustling for yourself’ Apathy, distrust run deep for south Mississippi voters

Do your damn job and quit hustling for yourself’ Apathy, distrust run deep for south Mississippi voters

Smith, a Gautier resident, is 65 years old and retired from Huntington-Ingalls as an electrician. Huntington-Ingalls is a shipbuilding megacorporation just a few miles away from where Smith fished in late September. A reporter asked Smith if he was a political follower right before he cast his line. Smith caught two fish in an 18-minute interview. “I try not to get involved with politics because to become a politician you have to be a good lieur,” he said. They could always do something for us but they aren’t going to do it. They are all about themselves, I,I,I. They don’t care about other people. They are not good at what they do. They are just there to collect their checks. That’s it. Do your job well and stop working for yourself. Mississippi Today sent reporters all over the state to get citizens’ opinions on the most pressing issues in their communities. A large percentage of those we interviewed in six of the most southern counties were unfamiliar with the candidates, and only vaguely aware of the approaching midterm elections. Without exception, all those who spoke with us described a disconnect between what they need and the actions of politicians in Washington and Jackson. According to a recent NBC News/SurveyMonkey survey, the feeling may not be limited to south Mississippi. A majority of 1,152 adults surveyed said they were unsure whether the federal or state governments “to do what’s right”. South Mississippi is a strange state due to its diversity and complexity. These three counties together serve as an economic anchor and attract big industry, tourism, and a diverse population. State records show that the state receives 13 percent of its taxable income from residents of the three coastal counties. 8 percent of state income comes from corporations based within the three counties. A drive along the Coast from west to east shows more industrial prosperity than any other three-county stretch in the state. In Hancock County, there’s the NASA Stennis Space Center where rockets are tested. In Harrison County, there’s the port of Gulfport and Keesler Air Force Base. In Jackson County, you will find the Chevron oil refinery, Huntington-Ingalls and billions in federal funds that go annually to build naval vessels. The Gulf Coast residents are proud of their region’s economic independence, as well as its unique characteristics. However, they also lament the lack of attention from Washington and Jackson. While watching the New Orleans Saints play at a Bay St. Louis bar, Mike Cockrell, a NASA rocket science scientist from Long Beach said, “There are three to four Mississippis and we’re one.” There are many approaches Washington representatives can use. They have been using the same approach for decades in relation to Mississippi and Gulf Coast. This is to work with your party and do as much as possible for your state. Cockrell delved deeper into analysis and found that they could do either one or two things. While they will need to sacrifice some things, there will be many winners. You can rant about everything and end up with nothing. I don’t think we are self-sufficient enough to be able to swing for the fences every single time. They’re adopting a pragmatic approach.” You can drive into the northern areas of the coast counties and to the north, Pearl River, Stone, and George and see the vast differences in their attitudes and perceptions about prosperity and place. The largest is Pearl River County. Picayune serves as a suburb of New Orleans and is home to many NASA employees. Stone County has access to U.S. Highway 49 which is a major transportation route connecting the Gulf Coast with the rest of the state. George County is more isolated. Only 3 percent of income tax revenue in the state comes from Pearl River, Stone, and George counties. Corporations based in these counties account for only 2 percent of state’s corporate income. Stone and George counties have a higher unemployment rate than the rest of the state and the coast. Cuppie Smith took some tomatoes from her father’s produce stand in Stone County, south of Wiggins and put them in paper boxes. Stone County is not home to many large international corporations offering thousands of jobs. While some residents drive south to find those jobs, many others are landlocked and have fewer options than their neighboring communities a few miles further south. Smith and her father have built their livelihoods on agriculture. Smiths receive their produce from farmers in south Mississippi who don’t have corporate contracts. Their stand is located along the busy U.S. Highway 49. Infrastructure is also important to them. Campaign signs are missing from the Smiths’ produce stand and overgrown grass. These signs have been decorating many Highway 49 stops in recent weeks. Smith stated that campaign signs are always requested by Smith and that they will be put up whenever possible. “I am very interested in politics, and they will sometimes get me. After listening to them for a while, I will think, “This one seems like it.” They will all promise you the moon. But when they are elected, it wasn’t about their desire to help. It’s all about them, and not us, and doing the right thing for them.” A few people stroll outside the handful of boutiques and shops that are downtown in Lucedale. Chris Williams, who lives in Lucedale and works as a pharmacist, rides his bike around the town. He said that he doesn’t vote because he doesn’t trust politicians when he was asked about his feelings on politics. Williams stated that “We have our problems up here that I’m sure they have on Coast.” Williams said, “I don’t know where you would find a job if one was needed.” Politicians want your vote. But once they are elected, things change. In school, they teach us that “We the People” hold the power. But it doesn’t feel like that. They should do what the people ask them to, but they do their own thing.” Every interviewee was asked the same question: “Do You think you’ll ever be satisfied with the way Mississippi politicians serve your needs?” Vern Smith’s response was: “Until then, no way.” Mike Cockrell: “Oh, I can’t imagine anything’s going to change.” Cuppie Smith: “Until the Lord returns it’s all gonna be good. Mike Cockrell: “Until then, there’s no way.” Cuppie Smith said, “Oh, it’s not going to change.” Chris Williams said, “I suppose they could change, they won’t.” These feelings have never been shared by Susan Humphrey (a retired teacher in Bay St. Louis), who was sitting next to Cockrell while she watched the Saints game. Humphrey stated that when it comes to election time, people say what they want to in order to win, but it then becomes about where the money is. It’s especially sad to see where our country is headed. We are not moving in a positive direction. We’re fighting amongst ourselves. I don’t know the answer. We are a young country. What will happen in 100 years if we continue in the same direction?