If I were endorsing, I’d endorse Vincent Sheheen

Ignore what I wrote in that last post. It does Vincent Sheheen a great disservice, by suggesting the reason to pick a Democratic ballot and vote for him tomorrow is simply because of the mere absence of negativity in his campaign.

He deserves a much more positive endorsement than that, for the simple reason that he is far and away the best candidate running for governor in 2010, a year in which we badly need new and visionary leadership in the governor’s office.

Of course, I put myself in a bind a couple of months back, when I sorta kinda decided not to endorse candidates as a blogger. I had all sorts of good reasons not to: No one was paying me to take all that aggravation. No longer representing the voice of the state’s largest newspaper (at least, that’s what it was when I was there), I had no institutional obligation to do it. And while doing it for the newspaper was business, if I did it on my own blog it would be personal, with all the many levels of messiness that entails. Then there was the unstated reason: For the first time ever, I found myself in a situation in which there would be a personal cost of sticking my neck out. A year’s unemployment had shown me how reluctant employers can be to take on someone with as much well-documented baggage as I have (much of it from having taking a stand FOR this powerful person, and AGAINST that one). And I was about to start trying to sell advertising, with the only thing I had to sell being my own brand and how it was perceived — and there is no surer, more infallible way to infuriate close to 50 percent of the public than to choose one candidate over another. Did I not owe it to my family to try to launch this enterprise on a sound footing, and not undermine it by making arrogant (at least, that’s how a lot of people perceive endorsements) pronouncements that would inevitably alienate? After all, I could be honest about what I think about candidates without taking that formal, irrevocable step.

Lots of good, solid, self-interested reasons not to endorse, right?

Well… sometimes one must stand up and be counted, even when one is not being paid to do so. Remember how, when Grace Kelly demanded to know why Gary Cooper had to make a suicidal stand against Frank Miller and his thugs when he wasn’t the marshal any more, he explained “I’ve got to, that’s the whole thing.“? Full of nuance, that Gary Cooper. Anyway, this is an “I just gotta” moment for me, minus the gunplay (we hope).  There are things more important than my own self-interest, or the good of the blog. One of them is South Carolina’s crying need for new leadership at this point in its history.

Ours is still a poor state. On all sorts of measurements of economic and social and physical well-being, from income to health, we continue to be last where we want to be first, and first where we want to be last. We continue to have a political culture, and institutional structure, that reinforces that dynamic, and resists change more steadfastly than the government of any other state. Our government was designed by landed slaveholders to preserve the status quo, because that’s what benefited them. Those men are all gone, but the system of government designed to serve them still exists, and holds us back.

We are also held back by a lack of trust of each other, and a lack of faith in the idea that together, we can overcome the challenges that face us. This manifests itself in the phenomenon we see being played out so dramatically in the Republican primary this year, as the candidates — even candidates I would think would know better — compete to see who can be the most negative, the most rabidly anti-government. What does it mean to be anti-government, in this context? It means to deny faith in our ability to get together, people of different attitudes and philosophies, and work through our differences to build a better future to share.

The radical individualism that all of the Republican candidates embody this year — especially Nikki Haley, the front-runner — has been tried in South Carolina, over and over. Our current governor, Mark Sanford, is easily the most ideologically pure manifestation of that philosophy ever to hold that office.

It is painfully clear after eight years of Mark Sanford — whom I enthusiastically endorsed in 2002 — that such an “I, me, mine” approach to governance does not work. One cannot govern effectively when one holds governing in contempt. That should have been obvious then. It’s certainly obvious now.

Vincent Sheheen offers the positive alternative. Not the “big-government, liberal” alternative that the propagandists of the GOP will accuse him of offering (not because of anything he advocates, but because that is their reflexive, automatic reaction to everything), but a sensible, moderate South Carolina-friendly approach unencumbered by radical ideology of any kind. Before he began this campaign, he was pushing his own proposal for restructuring our government to make it effective and accountable for a change. It is a pragmatic approach that would actually have a chance of becoming law if a governor were behind it. Rather than throwing unacceptable ultimatums at the Legislature and reveling in lawmakers’ rejection, Vincent Sheheen would actually work with lawmakers of both parties (he has a proven ability to do so) to make his proposal a reality. Instead of a governor who can’t even work with his own party and doesn’t want to, imagine how wonderful it would be to have one who works amicably with both?

Now, many of these same things can also be said of Jim Rex. He, too, has a positive, teamwork approach. He’s worked across party lines in advancing his public school choice initiatives, and has formed alliances with some of the most conservative Republicans in trying to improve the way schools are funded in South Carolina. But, because it’s been his job, his policy experience in office has been limited to education. And while better education may be the thing South Carolina needs most, it’s not the only thing; Vincent Sheheen’s experience with public policy is broader, despite his youth.

And in this election, when we have such a need for new beginnings, his youth is an advantage.

That I would say that would surprise some people who have worked most closely with me. I was the grumpy eminence grise on the editorial board who would ask a young candidate, “How old ARE you, anyway?” with a tone that suggested they hadn’t lived enough to be ready for the office they were seeking.

But it’s time now for a generational change. And among the 39-year-old Sheheen’s strengths is the fact that he offers us that.

An old friend, sensing I was leaning that way — because I’ve been honest about what I think of candidates, however much I’ve resisted a formal endorsement — asked me several weeks ago why I would choose Vincent over Jim. I answered as follows, after protesting that I was not, repeat, NOT going to endorse:

Now between you and me, I’d go with Vincent. So you inferred correctly.

Several reasons:
1. You know that with me, it’s seldom about the sum of policy positions. I would be hard-pressed to tell you [off the top of my head] what their policy positions are, beyond the fact that nothing has jumped out at me as bad. Rex has a plan for spending cigarette tax money that I’m not sure about, and I know Vincent’s all about restructuring, to cite a couple of differences that jump to mind. And the restructuring is a biggie.
2. So that leaves us with character, and I think the character of both is fine. But I’ve seen Vincent grow during this campaign in terms of his ability to connect with voters, while Rex is still that trustworty elder statesman who I’d be OK with as governor, but who isn’t likely to inspire. Vincent generates a newness, a sense of a new generation taking over from all the nonsense of the past, that is appealing. And he wears it well; he has his head on straight.
3. Vincent could work with the Legislature. He’s one of them, and that helps make up for being a Democrat. He would come in with lawmakers knowing that about him. He could make a difference. Rex is the guy that they’re accustomed to thinking of as “that ONE statewide Democrat,” and they just won’t be as likely to want to engage with him.
4. Vincent could win in November. Normally I wouldn’t mention that, but this year it’s important. The Republicans are all running so hard to the right, trying so hard to convince us that, in varying ways, they will be Mark Sanfords — even Henry, who should know better — that this year I just don’t see anything good coming out of any of them becoming governor. We so desperately need a break from what we have. And that makes it vitally important that the Democratic nominee not only be someone who’d be an improvement over what we have, but who could WIN in the face of the odds, which are always against the Democrat.

Let me stress again the generational factor. South Carolina needs a fresh start, a real break with its recent past. Vincent embodies that the best. This is a decision I’ve come to gradually, in my own holistic, intuitive way, but I’ve tried to spell it out as systematically as I can for you.

To elaborate on that: Rex radiates the aura of a civic-minded retired guy who’s willing to “give back” if there’s no one else to do the job. Vincent wants to build a better South Carolina, the one that he and his young children will live in. Makes a difference.

It occurs to me that I do my readers a disservice by sharing those thoughts privately with one friend, but not openly with them. So there it is. It may seem to be high on intangibles and low on specifics, but that’s because I had already reached the conclusions that on the specifics, I’ve concluded that Vincent is sound. That makes the intangibles — the ability to inspire, the ability to be positive rather than negative — of great importance. We didn’t worry about the intangibles (such as his aloof manner, his sleep-on-the-futon quirkiness, his hermitlike aversion to the company of other Republicans) with Mark Sanford, and look where it got us.

As I’ve explained before, none of the Republicans is offering us anything positive for our future. That puts me in the unaccustomed position of not having a preferred candidate on that side. But there is no doubt that there is a Democrat who stands well above them all, as well as being a stronger candidate than any in his own party.

That candidate is Vincent Sheheen.

At least, that would be what I’d say if I were endorsing.

29 thoughts on “If I were endorsing, I’d endorse Vincent Sheheen

  1. Herb Brasher

    So who would you endorse for state rep in our district (I’m in the same as you)? I like what I’ve seen of Rick Quinn, but I don’t know enough about him, except that he worked for Steve Benjamin, which is a plus, for sure, just for the bi-partisanship.

    Reply
  2. Herb Brasher

    P.S. Not sure if I’m going for the Democratic or Republican primary, but probably for the Republican, since I think I want to vote for Quinn.

    Reply
  3. Ralph Hightower

    Sheheen has the ability to work with the General Assembly; he previously served in the House. Biggest point to make: he hasn’t burned any bridges with the House or the Senate, unlike that wundergirl, Nikki Haley.

    Reply
  4. Boyd Summers

    I could not have said it better myself. You hit every point on why it is critical we elect Vincent in November. We will have a real opportunity to move this state forward.

    Reply
  5. Norm Ivey

    Nicely thought out and expressed, Brad. You made the comment One cannot govern effectively when one holds governing in contempt. Why would I want someone who believes government is the Problem to be in charge of government?

    That said, I don’t know which primary I’ll be voting in tomorrow. As you point out, Rex and Sheheen are both acceptable candidates; Ford has little realistic chance of winning. On the Republican side there is likely to be a run-off, and the state is likely (IMHO) to elect a Republican governor this year. So do I vote in the Democratic primary for the candidate I most prefer, or do I vote in the Republican primary for the lesser of four evils and in the ensuing runoff, hoping that the winning candidate is one that’s a bit more moderate than the others?

    It’s rhetorical.

    Reply
  6. Karen McLeod

    Didja see John Stewart thanking SC again last nite again last nite? Where would we be in the news w/o Jakie and Mrs. Haley’s would-be paramours?

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  7. Brad

    Herb, I don’t know about the SC House race. The only one I really know is Rick, and I feel good about him — the Benjamin connection is a plus, as you say — although I wish he hadn’t gotten the contributions from the out-of-state choicers.

    I would be automatically for Rick, since I know him, except for this: The whole field seems pretty sensible, although there may be problems with some of the candidates I don’t know about. There is a marked contrast between this bunch of Republicans — which seems pragmatic, and full of people who want to be seen as the biggest advocate for public schools — and the Republican, which is full of people competing to see who can sound like the biggest ideological extremist.

    So force me to choose, I choose Rick. But that’s not to say anything against the others.

    Oh, wait, I forget: Of COURSE Rick is better, since he bought an ad.

    Does anyone notice the similarity between Michael P. and Lee Muller? Always ready to pounce with an obnoxious, negative comment? You try as hard as you can to explain something as clearly as possible, and he just dismisses it with the most negative thing he can think of to say?

    Some people just can’t be reached, and they’re proud of the fact. Welcome to South Carolina.

    Reply
  8. yarrrrr

    Vincent Shehee… Jackie Knotts… two people who have been endorsed by Brad Warthen.

    Don’t dare let that Sanford in a raghead in in the gov mansion…

    Reply
  9. Kathryn Fenner

    Herb– Rick Quinn is a political gun-for-hire, which is different from a bipartisan politician. He and his father’s firm have been responsible for some of the less high-minded political campaigns. Steve Benjamin is a savvy guy, and “Win with Quinn” isn’t an empty slogan. How much Rick Quinn actually believes in any of his clients is not known.

    Reply
  10. Kathryn Fenner

    I’m not supposed to call people trolls, so I will not comment on Michael P.’s negative commenting propensities.

    Because that would be wrong.

    Reply
  11. Michael P.

    So now you’re questioning who people are on your blog? I don’t even know who Lee Muller is, so should I be insulted or honored? You tell me.

    Why did Quinn get voted out of office last time?

    Reply
  12. martin

    I think Michael P. is Bill C. Lee would not be able to contain himself to a sentence or two or a short paragraph. He would have to provide statistics, blah, blah, blah.

    The one simple point to take from the debacle that is the Sanford administation is that a governor should be able and willing to work with the members of the legislature to accomplish goals.

    Nikki has already ticked off the powers that be in the legislature. That is how she is just like Mark and why she will fail as horribly as he has at being able to lead if she gets elected. He didn’t get what leadership is and neither does she.

    Sheheen appears to know how to work with people to actually get things done.

    Reply
  13. Doug T

    November is SC’s last best chance to get off The Daily Show by electing a decent guy, Vincent Sheheen. (Gee, I hope he wins the primary!) I hope this is obvious to our GOP majority voters who must look past the “lower taxes, less government” empty maddening mantra and give this state a chance after 8 stagnant years.

    Reply
  14. Susan

    I would never call Michael a troll!

    He’s just someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages with the primary intent of provoking other users into a desired emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion, mostly for the purpose of his own entertainment.

    ;)

    Reply
  15. Brad

    Nah, Martin; I didn’t mean that Michael IS Lee; he just reminds me of him — or at least, he did by being the first to comment on this one. Lee would hover, seemingly over my shoulder. Sometimes I wouldn’t even have finished editing a post, but would go ahead and save it, and before I had finished my edits, Lee would have commented. Maybe twice. And of course it was always a non sequitur meant to derail the conversation, thereby making me wonder why the hell I bothered to propose the topic to begin with.

    No, Michael, I knew Lee Muller, and you are no Lee Muller.

    Anyway, let’s get back to discussing the relative merits of Vincent as a candidate…

    Reply
  16. Herb Brasher

    Thanks for the input! I also have to respect the fact that Rick Quinn walked through our neighborhood a few weeks ago and rang our doorbell to talk with us. No other candidate did that. I respect hard work.

    Just went to vote and Joe Wilson was there. So I told him how disappointed I was with his “You lie!” shout in Congress, and reminded him (me being a minister, and knowing that he is an evangelical Christian, I figure he can accept a biblical reference) of Acts 23:5, “Do not speak evil of a ruler of your people.” To which he replied that he had formally apologized to the President. OK, but methinks he made some good political capital out of it all–but he has to answer to God for that, not me.

    We’re taking up Romans 13 in our Sunday School class. One visitor commented last Sunday, “if we took this seriously, it would shut Fox News down.” Well, it probably wouldn’t shut it down, but it ought to stop a lot of people who call themselves Christians from listening to it very much.

    Sorry for going off topic, Brad, but that’s what I usually do, right? Thanks again for your input, and thanks to Kathryn as well.

    Reply
  17. Michael P.

    Well Brad you remind me of someone (I won’t mention who because you’ll not post it if I name names).

    Martin, think what you will if it makes you feel better… because I really could care less.

    Reply
  18. Michael P.

    Susan, kind of like your post? What does it have to do with the subject matter? Glad you could get that off your chest.

    Reply
  19. Bart

    Herb, you have my eternal respect but I have a question for you.

    If Fox News would be shut down based on Romans 13, wouldn’t MSNBC be shut down for the very same reasons or is it an act of Christian charity when Keith Olberman regaled and thrilled his viewers with his vitriolic and outright slanderous non-stop commentary about George W. Bush?

    So, if Christians shouldn’t listen to Fox News, does MSNBC have the blessing of the church?

    Personally, I stay away from both because I don’t like my news or opinions filtered through either network.

    When politics enters a church, the church loses any moral standing in my opinion.

    Reply
  20. matthew b

    Brad, it would be great to see you now whole heartedly endorse Sheheen for the general. I’ve got a feeling that’s where your heart lies, anyway!

    Reply
  21. Herb Brasher

    Just in case you’re still reading, Bart, I couldn’t agree more with you. I don’t watch either one. I do have to listen to NBC on occasion, because 1) we don’t have cable TV, and 2) my better half likes to listen to it. So it filter through to my office in the evening, even if I close the door.

    We used to be on the road on occasion with our son in the back seat (who is still working on a PhD in political science–I think he will spend his life at it), and then (and only then!) we’d turn on Rush. The cries of dereliction from the back, even from under his headphones, would more than keep us awake driving. So in other words, I have some idea of what talk radio and Fox News associates spew out. (Besides, when I’m with church people, I automatically get subjected to that stuff.) Quite honestly, I don’t hear the same kind of constant vitriol on regular NBC broadcasts, though of course Brian Williams, etc., have their own biases, but nothing like Fox, methinks.

    For news and news analysis, I really like to turn to foreign sources; it’s about the only thing left where I sense any fairness. U.S. News and World Report isn’t bad, but I still prefer the BBC and the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper.

    And for SC politics — where to go but to Brad?

    “Eternal respect,” hmmmm. I take that as hyperbole, but still appreciated!

    Reply
  22. Bart

    Herb,

    You didn’t answer my question. I was talking about MSNBC and their jolly crew.

    “Eternal respect,” yep, I have read everything you have posted since I have been coming to the site and like one or two others, I find you to be a person of principle.

    Reply
  23. Herb Brasher

    Bart, in case you come back to here (sorry, little time for me right now to comment anything) is that you are right. Same principle is true on the left. My point is, nobody that I know of in the evangelical world is looking at MSNBC. They are totally into Fox News and talk radio. And I don’t generally want to appeal to non-evangelicals with the Bible–it’s not an authority with them like it is supposed to be for evangelicals. I would venture to guess that people who listen seriously to Olberman couldn’t care less what the Bible says, so appealing to that wouldn’t mean anything to them.

    Or am I still missing the point?

    Reply

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