Everything that is wrong with our politics, in state & nation

Haley Palin

OK, so maybe it’s not everything — there’s personal pettiness, and anti-intellectualism, and an appalling willingness on the parts of too many to stoop to the lowest common public impulses for advantage — but it’s something that runs through it all, and ruins everything it touches. And besides, those things are more or less related to this thing.

It was on display in this story today about the campaign “warchest” — oh, let’s not forget that another thing that is wrong with our politics is that we pretend that it is war, with all that attendant “fighting for you” trash — that Nikki Haley has assembled for an as-yet-undeclared re-election campaign.

I’m not talking about Nikki Haley in particular here. I’m talking about something that is all too much a part of modern politics, and she just provides us with a good example, because she’s a particularly avid practitioner of what I’m talking about. The relevant passage:

Haley had six fundraisers last quarter, half of them out of state, in California, New York and Florida.

Donations from S.C.-based businesses and residents accounted for less than 60 percent of the total she raised during the quarter. Florida donations were next at 10 percent, followed by New Yorkers at nearly 6 percent.

Californians’ 51 donations ranked second in number behind the 418 reported from South Carolina, but their combined $21,000 ranked fifth in total amount, at 4 percent.

“It’s a strong showing,” Pearson said. “It shows that people in and outside the state want her to be re-elected gov

Haley had six fundraisers last quarter, half of them out of state, in California, New York and Florida.

Donations from S.C.-based businesses and residents accounted for less than 60 percent of the total she raised during the quarter. Florida donations were next at 10 percent, followed by New Yorkers at nearly 6 percent.

Californians’ 51 donations ranked second in number behind the 418 reported from South Carolina, but their combined $21,000 ranked fifth in total amount, at 4 percent.

“It’s a strong showing,” Pearson said. “It shows that people in and outside the state want her to be re-elected governor if she runs.”

And no, I’m not saying it’s awful that she goes after money where she can get it, or anything like that. The thing that I am saying is a problem is the fact that it is possible for a governor, any governor, to go outside his or her state to raise campaign money. It’s the fact that those outsiders will give, when asked the right way, that is the problem of which I speak.

Reading that story, I tried putting myself in Nikki Haley’s place. I tried imagining that I was running for governor, and I was on a fund-raising trip to New York or Florida or California or wherever, and I was standing in front of a well-heeled group of people with checkbooks in their pockets, and I thought:

What on Earth would I say to those people to get them to give money to me for my campaign for governor of South Carolina?

And I couldn’t think of a thing. I mean, I think about the reasons I would run for governor if I did, and they are many. I refer you to my last column at the paper for just a tiny few of those reasons. But not one of the reasons that could ever conceivably motivate me to run could ever possibly motivate someone who does not live in South Carolina and has no stake in South Carolina to give me money.

I would have nothing to say to them. Nothing that would be relevant to them, in any case.

But Nikki Haley, and other politicians who do what she does, have no problem in that regard. That’s because pretty much everything they say, and think, as political creatures is cookie-cutter stuff, the kind of stuff the national talking heads constantly spew out of the Beltway via 24/7 TV “news.” You can’t tell one from another.

That’s why it’s so easy and comfortable for someone like Sarah Palin to campaign alongside Nikki Haley, which they did with such aplomb and comfort in one another’s company during our governor’s first campaign. That’s because, even though they are from very different states with different issues and different needs, they think the same thoughts and say the same things. Henry Ford’s methods of mass production have been applied to politics, so that parts are interchangeable.

This is made possible by the fact that all these folks talk about is ideology — pure, simple, lowest-common-denominator ideology, unsullied by the specifics of reality, which is understood everywhere because of modern communications.

Their words and their thoughts have nothing to do with the messy, organic, ad hoc, practical, idiosyncratic business of governing — which to an honest person who engages it with an open and critical mind practically never meshes with the neat constructs of ideology.

And that’s what’s wrong. That’s what that story made me think about.

56 thoughts on “Everything that is wrong with our politics, in state & nation

  1. Ralph Hightower

    … She campaigned on transparency in government, but her office and calendar is locked up tighter than a drum while SC Treasurer, Curtis Loftis, has out-transparencied our “Transparency Governor”.

    Governot Haley has proven that it’s “Pay to Play” with her appointments to SC agencies and colleges. She appointed a “no name lawyer” to replace Darla Moore on the USC Board of Trustees. All it takes is a donation of $4500. Former Ohio governot, Rod Blagojevich, has been reincarnated into the body of Nimrata Nikki Randhawa.

    New York City real estate mogul, Howie Rich, has been pumping millions of dollars through his shell corporations to own politicians and circumventing our ethics laws, to push his personal agenda of subsidizing private school education for those citizens that can afford private education.

    I haven’t checked OpenSecrets or the other campaign financial web sites to see who is buying who. But this is political trafficing. I wish that The State had more staffing to “follow the money”. Hopefully, Free Times has the resources to do so.

    Reply
    1. Doug Ross

      And how much return on investment has Howie Rich received? Seems like he’s wasted a lot of money as we never have had a single voucher. Which mean the failure of the public schools can’t be blamed on anything but themselves.

      Reply
      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        I suppose you could make a case for that position if public schools were, in fact, a failure. Which they aren’t. It’s where most of us on this blog got our education, I’m guessing.

        It’s where I got most of mine, anyway. I attended private schools in kindergarten and first grade, finished fourth grade with a tutor (after attending two public schools in the fall, then moving to a place where the school calendar was reversed from here), and attended a bilingual private school in Ecuador for the fifth and sixth. The rest was public.

        Reply
        1. Doug Ross

          I wasn’t talking about public schools in general, just South Carolina’s which are measurable failures. All you have to do is check the Department of Education’s own rating system. Most of Richland One’s high schools are failure factories and you can’t blame Howie Rich for that.

          Reply
          1. Doug Ross

            And did your public schools have high stakes standardized testing that the entire curriculum was centered around? We’ve wasted nearly two decades and millions of dollars on useless testing with absolutely nothing to show for it. That’s a far worse crime than whatever money Howie Rich has wasted.

            Reply
    2. Kathryn Fenner

      Blagojevitch was Illinois’s governor, joining two other governors in the pen. A friend who lives there posted a mock Illinois tag that had the motto, “Illinois, Where Our Governors Make the License Plates”

      Whenever we think we got it bad…..

      Reply
  2. Ralph Hightower

    PS:
    I won’t waste my money on SC Governot Nikki Haley’s fictional autobiography “Can’t Is Not An Option”. I think its been pretty well proven based on those in her book that she spins the truth to fit her agenda and recollection.

    Reply
  3. Kathryn Fenner

    [like] Brad’s post….although it took me awhile to realize you meant “war chest” not the superlative of “warch”

    Reply
  4. Ralph Hightower

    One of ethics reforms that South Carolina for offices within South Carolina (those not in DC) should consider is that no more than say, 10 percent of campaign contributions, should come from out of state. This would apply to state-wide constitutional offices, as well as the General Assembly, and even down to the county, city or town level, and school board candidates.

    Will this happen? I’m not holding my breath on this.

    Will New York real estate mogul, Howie Rich, find a work-around against this limit of out of state contributions?
    Sure, he would just set up shell corporations within South Carolina.

    South Carolina’s ethics laws should be strengthened so that campaign contributions from corporations and businesses should include the names and addresses of the officers.

    Reply
    1. Doug Ross

      Ralph – I’ll ask again – What has Howie Rich done to impact education in South Carolina? What programs has he been able to implement?

      Reply
  5. tavis micklash

    The state is screwing Ethics up so bad.

    There has GOT to be model legislation and programs out there that we can tailor our state too. Reinventing the wheel is going to just let the special interests in even more.

    Reply
  6. Bryan Caskey

    You’re mashing two different issues together here, Brad. The “cookie-cutter” politician is a different issue than money crossing state lines. I don’t have the slightest problem with someone from outside SC giving money to a SC politician. If there was a politician in another state that I thought was worth contributing to, I don’t see why I should be barred from contributing to them.

    As to politicians saying the same things (talking ideology rather than practicalities of governing) you’re going to be in for a disappointment here. Politicians get elected by talking about ideas, and generally those ideas get distilled down to easy bites. No one wants to (or does) vote for Mr. Boring Practical Messy Ad Hoc Politician. However, we get problems with the orthodoxy in proposed solutions to issues once they get into office. That’s a bug of the two-party system – you end up with two competing proposals for the solution of any given problem. No more.

    People vote for

    Reply
    1. Michael Rodgers

      (1) How I read the post is he was telling a story about how the money crossing state lines issue led him to his realization about the cookie cutter politician issue.
      (2) It seems reasonable to expect politicians to use locally relevant examples in their ideological speeches.

      Reply
  7. Kathryn Fenner

    I am sure there is model legislation. One question, though, is how well it will work with our peculiar legislative hegemony.

    Reply
  8. Kathryn Fenner

    I went to private school for first grade because I wasn’t old enough for public school, and private law school, which did not prepare me to practice law outside of big law firms nearly so well as USC would have.

    Reply
  9. Mark Stewart

    Kathryn,

    Perhaps it has not been a net positive for South Carolina that 96% (+/-) of the practicing attorneys here attended USC? Nothing against the school or it’s grads, but there is within the local profession a myopic, clubish outlook like I have never seen where there is a more competitive intellectual environment.

    This situation is hardly a crisis – or even a real problem – yet it is one more thing that holds the state back. A lot of the issues that are most vexing and antagonistic to progress are the insidious ones like USC Law’s market dominance; this is as true in politics as it is in commerce.

    Reply
    1. Bryan Caskey

      I didn’t go to USC Law (I went to a small law school in the midwest) and I can easily say that the fact that SC has had one law school for a long time IS NOT a problem facing the state. Even accepting your premise that certain lawyers are “clubbish” for the sake of argument, I could easily argue that the civility and collegiality among the members of the SC bar is a great feature, not a bug. Lawyers are able to effectively resolve litigation due to their civil relationships where everyone knows each other for the most part.

      Reply
    2. Kathryn Fenner

      I agree with Bryan that collegiality is a plus, in my experience. My point was that USC law grads know how to do the basics: wills, divorces, criminal defense, draft a complaint….I did not. I could argue the economic theories of tort recovery, but not actual recover torts….

      Reply
  10. Juan Caruso

    “Howie Rich, has been pumping millions of dollars through his shell corporations to own politicians and circumventing our ethics laws, to push his personal agenda of subsidizing private school education for those citizens that can afford private education.” – Ralph Hightower

    And she appointed a no-name lawyer rather than one in SC’s hierarchy! I am flabbergasted at the innuendos leveled at one of SC’s best governors since Carroll A. Campbell, Jr. However, with all the usual Liberal protests can any of you name the U.S. law firms paying $millions to lobby the U.S. Congress on behalf of foreign states like Iran, Saudi Arabia, etc? Would you divulge if you could? Why not?

    Reply
  11. Tom Stickler

    Wondering why this article was tagged “Democrats.”

    Perhaps to maintain your status in the “Both Sides Do It” club for Very Serious Persons?

    Reply
    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      “Democrats” is tagged, as is “Republicans,” because the GOP is not alone in nationalizing politics. Yes, in South Carolina we mostly see it with Republicans. Vincent Sheheen ran a traditional campaign focused on South Carolina, and nearly beat Nikki Haley even though he practically never mentioned him or our state, running her campaign against Barack Obama.

      And that’s what we generally see with SC Democrats. But, as you can see in this story, that’s not always the case.

      Reply
      1. Doug Ross

        Correction: Vincent Sheheen ran a traditional campaign focused on Mark Sanford and Nikki Haley. His vision for South Carolina amounted to a few paragraphs of boilerplate.

        Reply
  12. bud

    In a previous post someone posted a story about how cordial Joe Wilson is. That is why voters continue to vote for him even though he’s not really addressing the problems of the state and nation effectively. Figure out why folks vote on the basis of personal likeability rather than political effectiveness and you’ll find the root of our political problems. I don’t believe any amount of financial reform will alter that paradigm.

    Reply
    1. Silence

      Bud, The same arguement could be made for Barack Obama – voters continue to vote for him even though he’s not addressing the problems of the state and nation effectively. Guess why? What type of reform would fix that paradigm?

      Reply
      1. Steven Davis II

        Are you talking about Obama or Jim Clyburn/Robert Ford/Darryl Jackson/90% of the whiteboys at the Statehouse?

        Reply
  13. bud

    Silence, some people would say that. I would suggest the problems of the country, at least those that can be addressed politically, are almost entirely the fault of the GOP. I’m sure you disagree but given the state of the country’s economy in January 2009 and where we are today it’s not a tenable argument to suggest the president is “not addressing the problems of the state and nation effectively”.

    Reply
    1. Silence

      Some people say that the problems of the country are entirely the fault of the GOP, eh?
      Moral decline? Enormous welfare state? Drug addiction? Unwed mothers? Yup, blame those all on the GOP. Go for it.
      I was fine in Jan 2009, and I’ll be quite OK tomorrow too. I don’t put any truck in manufactured crises.

      Reply
      1. Steve Gordy

        Silence, if your list of problems were the worst things we had to deal with, there might be more room for optimism. While it’s fine to be concerned about moral decline, it’s a fact, proven valid over many centuries, that economic change will do as much to upend traditional moral values as any other force. The other candidates are a social conservative’s nightmare list, but arguably much less important than other challenges.

        Reply
  14. bud

    Interesting list. Let’s take them one at a time. Of course these are not entirely addressable by political decisions but to some extent all issues have a political component.

    Moral decline. Seems like morality depends on subjective rather than objective measures. I would suggest that as a nation we are addressing the moral obscenity of folks dying because they lack health care via Obamacare. It is also morally reprehensible to us liberals that a great nation would allow discrimination against folks on the basis of sexual identity. With the passing of don’t ask, don’t tell I would suggest we have made a great step forward in morality on that particular front.

    Enormous Welfare State. Better an enoromous welfare state than thousands of children starving to death. Given the high rate of unemployment that still exists but is far lower than 2 years ago we owe it to folks to provide them minimal food and shelter.

    Unwed mothers. Given the GOPs proclivity to deny birth control this one is firmly on the shoulders of the oppressive conservative wing of the Republican party.

    Drug Addiction. This is something that has always been around. If you include alcohol the problem is probably less today than at other times in the past. Remember prohibition? This is probably not something that can be effectively addressed politically.

    Reply
    1. Doug Ross

      Remember, when bud says “we” he means “everyone else especially the lucky people who earn more than $100K per year” and any solution begins with transferring wealth via the government. People cannot be relied upon to be charitable, compassionate, caring, or generally interested in anyone else so we must render compassion via regulation and the tax code.

      Reply
        1. Doug Ross

          “We” involves action and commitment of time and resources to solve a problem. There is plenty of written evidence that bud believes the solution to America’s problems lies in taxing “rich” people more. That’s pretty much his entire philosophy.

          Reply
      1. Steven Davis II

        Doug, please emphasize “lucky”, because if I’ve learned one thing on this blog it’s that the only way one can make more than $100,000 is by pure luck.

        Reply
    2. Steven Davis II

      “Unwed mothers. Given the GOPs proclivity to deny birth control this one is firmly on the shoulders of the oppressive conservative wing of the Republican party. ”

      Yeah, because those 50 cent gas station bathroom condoms are so danged expensive. Top that with an entire generation/race of people who lack discipline and responsibility. I threw race in there for bud/Kathryn who will attack it like sharks on chum… not the fact that 70%+ of black children born in the past decade are born to single mothers.

      Reply
      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        How about this: How about an America in which ONLY openly gay married folks are allowed to have guns, but they can have all they want?

        That would dramatically reduce gun violence in America, by simple mathematics.

        Reply
  15. bud

    And I would be fine with an America with openly attend church and closets full of marijuana. It seems likely that both Bryan and my wishes are likely to come true soon.

    Reply
  16. bud

    Silence, if your grammar comment was about me I’ll take that as constructive criticism. My grammar/spelling is not the best but both deteriorate dramatically when I post here. Some of us just don’t have the natural gift of possessing good grammar skills. I do much better when I write reports at work but it takes a great deal of effort on my part. Just wish Brad could have a recall feature on the blog.

    Reply
      1. Doug Ross

        Wouldn’t that be “my grammar, spelling, and punctuation…” ? :-)

        At least that’s what I recall my hot English teacher telling us about proper comma usage. And she was an authority figure, so she ought to know.

        Reply

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