Here you have a very fine Southern gentleman. And Courson's OK, too. Photo by Kelly Payne
Good job, gentlemen — picking John Courson to replace Glenn McConnell as president pro tempore of the Senate.
I can think of no one I’d prefer for that honor — certainly among those who would have had a realistic chance of being elected. If you’ll recall, Sen. Courson made my official, off-the-top-of-my-head list of top ten senators. And if I had made it a Top Five list, in true Nick Hornby fashion, he’d have made that, too. Some others among my faves — such as Joel Lourie and Vincent Sheheen — wouldn’t ever have been seriously considered, being both Democrats and too junior.
Why do I like Sen. Courson so much? First, he’s a Southern gentleman — the real article. There are all sorts of people who dress themselves up and strut about impersonating gentlemen, but he’s genuine. His courtliness is unfeigned, and incorporates all the best attributes of the type (as opposed to all the negatives with which cynical postmodernists would burden it). Combine that with his distinctive booming, heavily accented voice, and he’s an original character in a time when his party tends to run more to clones. (If I want to do a Courson impression, the first thing I do is think of him saying “militerih BANnuh” the way he did so many times during the debates over the Confederate flag.)
His credentials as a conservative Republican, from back before it was cool in SC, are impeccable. He speaks of Ronald Reagan and Strom Thurmond (and the Marine Corps — he flies that particular military banner in front of his house) as though reciting the pantheon of his gods. And yet he has been repeatedly returned to office by his Shandon constituency, largely the same one that keeps re-electing James Smith. He accomplishes this by faithfully serving all of his constituents, and by dealing with everyone in the State House, regardless of party, with the same scrupulous fairness and courtesy.
It’s no accident, then, that the Democrats in the Senate voted for him 18-0 yesterday, while a large majority of Republican votes went to Harvey Peeler. Nothing against Harvey — he’s an awesome Tweeter — but as the head of the GOP caucus, he has come to represent the partisanship that has infected the Senate since it first started taking note of party lines about a decade ago. As evidenced by this.
Here’s what John had to say after his election:
“I feel very honored,” said Courson, who has been a member of the Senate since 1985 and is an insurance executive at Keenan Suggs Insurance in Columbia. “This position is elected by senators themselves so it is a real honor to have my fellow senators support me. But I’m also pleased that I received bipartisan support.”
When’s the last time you heard a Republican in SC say that? Or even have occasion to?
You might say that John Courson is about as close as you can get to an actual UnParty elected official. Of course, that invites attacks on him from the RINO hunters, but such people are beneath contempt. As if they would have the right to judge Courson’s suitability as a Republican. And that’s the contradictory thing about John — he’s very UnParty, and yet it’s hard to think of anybody who’s been a more loyal Republican as he has, or for as long as he has.
Finally, if McConnell does run for his old seat and vacate the job of lieutenant governor — well, I would feel better about that particular office than I have in a long time, with John Courson in it. Although he would be missed in the Senate.
Full disclosure — about three years ago, right after I got laid off at the paper, a bulky envelope arrived in the mail at my home. It was from John Courson, and it contained a new Legislative Manual. I don’t know why he sent it to me — maybe he supposed that being unemployed, I couldn’t afford my own. But I appreciated it. It was like John was going out of his way to keep me in the loop, letting me know I was someone still worth doing this for. (I am not in his district, by the way, or even close.) Each year since then, he has sent me the new manual. The ironic thing about this is that I used to assign Cindi Scoppe to supply me with up-to-date manuals, and she hated running that errand, and used to put it off, sometimes neglecting it for a full year. So I’m better-supplied with manuals than I was at the paper.