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Two of a kind, just different sides of aisle

For all the Donald Trump fans in Mississippi only one candidate who qualified to run for governor this year shares a significant trait with their preferred president.

Only one potential gubernatorial candidate embodies Trump’s rebel with a cause approach to government — former Natchez mayor Phillip “Bucket” West.

I know, I know, the two are nothing alike politically or even physically, but hear me out.

Politically, Trump is clearly a Republican, and West is equally Democrat. They’re polar opposites on the political spectrum, yet their approaches to politics and government are very similar.

Physically the two men are clearly not twins either.

Trump is tall and pudgy while West is shorter in stature, but thin. Trump’s hair is reddish-orange while West’s is thinning and black.

Trump came from a wealthy, white upbringing in the north. That upbringing would breed in him a desire to seek more fame and more wealth as he went along. He would not let anyone get in his way on the path of success.

Even people who may not like Trump personally or politically must admit that he managed to forge a brand for himself before he got into politics, largely through the sheer power of his personality.

West came from much more modest means and grew up during a time when blacks were treated unfairly in the South, a fact that would shape his public life’s mission for decades.

Like Trump, West’s early life created in him a desire to not let anyone stand in his way — politically or otherwise.

West has never shied away from controversy, particularly when he was fighting for the underdog or some cause he felt was in the right.

He fought during the civil rights movement.

He fought when he felt the schools in Natchez and Adams County were unequally funded.

He fought when state law required permission to tear down a landmark property on the Natchez bluff. He simply bulldozed the former Natchez Pecan Factory building and dealt with the fallout later.

And he more recently fought with citizens who opposed his plans as part of the Natchez-Adams School Board.

He’s a fighter and one that never fails to create shock and awe in his wake.

Some people despise him both for his approach and unbending attitude and others for his politics.

But a wallflower, he isn’t.

I respect West’s passion, like I respect Trump’s passion. Both men believe firmly in what they’re doing, even when they’re flat out wrong or unpopular.

For his part, West recently would not commit that he actually planned to run for governor. He simply said he was reserving the right to run by going through the qualifications process.

Typical West, liking to keep us all guessing and wondering what his next step is.

Personally, I don’t think he’ll run, and I don’t think he should given the state’s political climate and social mood.

Mississippi, like America, often teeters on the edge of a mental breakdown. Nearly any issue that comes up can set off emotions in an explosive manner.

West’s personality and approach will only add gasoline on those existing divisive fires.

Mississippi needs a new generation of leadership now, one that can bring people together, in spite of their differences, not one that effectively approaches the world with a “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead approach.”

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or kevin.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.

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