Category Archives: Elections

Incoherently overheated headline of the day

guardian

And the award goes to… The Guardian, for “Romney decision clears path for next stage of Bush presidential empire.”

I’m not even sure what it means, beyond communicating the vague idea that The Guardian really has a thing about the Bushes, doesn’t it?

The hed would almost make sense if you substituted “dynasty” for “empire.” But I think somewhere in the lower reaches of some copyeditor’s brain was the mostly-suppressed, unacknowledged thought that “empire” had a more sinister ring to it.

The story itself doesn’t have quite the ring that the hed does. It’s fairly matter-of-fact. I am a little puzzled that the paper is going with such a limited, second-day approach on the breaking story. Romney’s bowing-out has farther-reaching impact than elevating Bush, if it even does that.

Romney himself seemed to be urging Republicans to look beyond Bush to “the next generation.” Bush at 61 is more or less in the usual age range for a presidential contender, so the implication is that Romney is thinking of someone else, someone with a name less well-known.

I found the way Romney put that sort of interesting:

“I believe that one of our next generation of Republican leaders, one who may not be as well known as I am today, one who has not yet taken their message across the country, one who is just getting started, may well emerge as being better able to defeat the Democrat nominee,” Romney wrote. “In fact, I expect and hope that to be the case.”

I heard in that a hint of, You REALLY oughta be going with me, a guy who is well known and has taken his message across the country, someone who isn’t just getting started… but NOOOO, everybody said “Don’t run, Mitt,” so you’re on your own now, losers.

Hey, I’m holding out for a GOP nominee with a sufficient grasp of the English language that he knows “Democrat” is a noun, and the adjective is “Democratic.” That would be something (he said wistfully)…

Turning our backs on the world

The problem is not that Barack Obama didn’t go participate in a feel-good march in Paris.

The problem is that when he pauses to talk about what he considers to be important, the rest of the world hardly gets a mention.

Dana Milbank went into this at some length in his column yesterday, headlined, “On terrorism, the State of the Union is strangely quiet.” An excerpt:

Not since before the 2001 terrorist attacks has there been such a disconnect between the nation’s focus and the condition of the world. As threats multiply in the Middle East and Europe, President Obama delivered on Tuesday night an annual message to Congress that was determinedly domestic. And his inward-looking gaze is shared by lawmakers and the public.

Thousands of foreign fighters have joined with Muslim extremists in Syria and Iraq, and their fanatical cause has inspired sympathizers across the globe: 17 killed by terrorists in Paris; terrorism raids and a shootout in Belgium; a hunt for sleeper cells across Europe; a gunman attacking the Canadian Parliament; an Ohio man arrested after buying guns and ammunition, allegedly with plans to attack the Capitol. Even Australia has raised its terrorist threat level.

And yet, when it comes to countering the terror threat in America, the State of the Union is nonchalant. “We are 15 years into this new century, 15 years that dawned with terror touching our shores,” Obama said at the start of his speech. “It has been, and still is, a hard time for many. But tonight, we turn the page.”

Obama, full of swagger, turned the page — several pages — from the start of his address, when he assured Americans that “the shadow of crisis has passed,” before arriving at his discussion of national security.

He went 32 minutes, more than halfway through his speech, before mentioning the “challenges beyond our shores.” He said that “we stand united with people around the world who’ve been targeted by terrorists, from a school in Pakistan to the streets of Paris.” But he dwelled on the topic only long enough to say he’d “continue to hunt down terrorists and dismantle their networks” and “keep our country safe while strengthening privacy.”…

Essentially, the president paused in his lengthy examination of domestic policy to say, “And oh, yeah, the rest of the world, yadda-yadda…”

Of course, we’ve been hearing plenty of criticism along those lines from some of the president’s rivals, but the truth is the the GOP on the whole (with the exceptions of Lindsey Graham, John McCain and a few others) is offering no alternative vision for how we should conduct the affairs that are the primary reason for having a federal government. As Milbank noted, “The response to Obama’s address, delivered by new Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), gave terrorism no more prominence than Obama did. Indeed, the new Republican Congress has been just as domestic in its emphasis.”

Daniel Henninger wrote in The Wall Street Journal this morning about how jarring it was to see “American Sniper” Tuesday night, then return home to watch the president’s lack of concern about the world on display:

Opinions will differ, often bitterly, on the war in Iraq and the reasons for it. In the movie, a painful funeral scene captures that ambivalence. But what is just not possible to choke down is President Obama’s decision in 2011 to reduce the U.S.’s residual military presence to virtually zero. It was a decision to waste what the Marines and Army had done.

Announcing the decision at the White House on Oct. 21, Mr. Obama said, “After taking office, I announced a new strategy that would end our combat mission in Iraq and removeall of our troops by the end of 2011.” (Emphasis added.)

Military analysts at the time, in government and on the outside, warned Mr. Obama that a zero U.S. presence could put the war’s gains and achievements at risk. He did it anyway and ever since Mr. Obama has repeatedly bragged about this decision in public speeches, notably to the graduating cadets of West Point last May.

In January, months before that West Point speech, the terrorist army of Islamic State, or ISIS, seized back control of both Fallujah and Ramadi in Anbar province. The month after the West Point speech, the city of Mosul and its population of one million fell to Islamic State, and here we are with the barbarians on the loose there, in Yemen, in Nigeria and in France.

Watching “American Sniper,” it is impossible to separate these catastrophes from seeing what the Marines did and endured to secure northern Iraq. Again, anyone is entitled to hate the Iraq war. But no serious person would want a president to make a decision that would allow so much personal sacrifice to simply evaporate. Which, in his serene self-confidence, is what Barack Obama did. That absolute drawdown was a decision of fantastic foolishness….

But we expect that from Henninger and the WSJ, right?

So let’s consider what the editorial board of The Washington Post had to say last week in an editorial headlined, “The U.S. fight against jihadism has lost its momentum:”

PRESIDENT OBAMA’S neglect of the anti-terrorism march in Paris seemed reflective of a broader loss of momentum by his administration in combating Islamic jihadism. Five months after the president launched military operations against the Islamic State, fighting in Iraq and Syria appears stalemated. The training of Iraqi army units for a hoped-for counteroffensive is proceeding slowly and, according to a report by The Post’s Loveday Morris, looks under-resourced. Weapons and ammunition are in such short supply that trainees are yelling “bang, bang” in place of shooting.

Iraq, moreover, is the theater where U.S. engagement is most aggressive; elsewhere, the Obama administration appears to be passively standing by as jihadists expand their territory, recruitment and training. In Libya, the job of stemming an incipient civil war has been left to a feckless U.N. mediator, even though the Islamic State is known to be operating at least one training camp with hundreds of recruits. In Nigeria, where a new offensive by the Boko Haram movement has overrun much of one northeastern state, a U.S. military training program was recently canceled by the government following a dispute over arms sales.

The bankruptcy of U.S. policy toward the Syrian civil war was underlined again on Wednesday, when Secretary of State John F. Kerry expressed hope for a patently cynical and one-sided diplomatic initiative by Russia, which has been working to preserve the regime of Bashar al-Assad. It’s been nearly a year since the last U.S. diplomatic effort to end the war collapsed, and the administration continues to offer no strategy for how to stop the regime’s assaults on moderate Syrian forces it is counting on to fight the Islamic State. It has ignored widespread assessments that its program for training Syrian forces is too small and too slow….

This is a bad situation for our country and our allies. And I worry that it won’t get any better as the 2016 presidential campaign gets under way. No wonder Lindsey Graham is thinking of running — it may be the only way most of the world gets talked about.

Lindsey Graham’s proposed presidential campaign

I see some of y’all have already raised the topic of Lindsey Graham forming an exploratory committee for a presidential campaign.

Kathryn asked whether he had a chance of beating Jeb Bush (in a way that indicated she knew the answer).

No, he does not.

But I’m pretty sure this is one of those “running to get free media in order to raise certain issues” campaigns. I think he assumes that none of those running will provide the kind of critique of the Obama administration on international affairs as he will. What I’ve been seeing lately suggests that both parties will be trying to out-populist each other on economic issues. To some extent, anyway. Graham’s probably reading stuff like this:

“You talk to any pollster, on the Democratic side or the Republican side, they’re in complete agreement on the idea that there has to be an economic populist message,” said Matthew Dowd, a top strategist for former president George W. Bush’s 2000 and 2004 campaigns.

And if you’re Graham, or John McCain, or me, that makes you think there’s not going to be nearly enough talk about collective security, or America’s relationships with the rest of the world.

I don’t think the campaign-to-be is about trying to beat anybody. But I could be wrong….

Ouch! WSJ seriously disses Romney candidacy

If you’re Mitt Romney, busily launching your third bid at the White House, you’re not happy to see The Wall Street Journal say such things as these in a lede editorial (under the headline, “Romney Recycled“):

If Mitt Romney is the answer, what is the question? We can think of a few worthy possibilities, though one that doesn’t come immediately to mind is who would be the best Republican presidential nominee in 2016.

Mr. Romney told donors last week he is mulling a third run for the White House, confirming cheering whispers from his coterie of advisers. The question the former Massachusetts Governor will have to answer is why he would be a better candidate than he was in 2012….

Mr. Romney is a man of admirable personal character, but his political profile is, well, protean. He made the cardinal mistake of pandering to conservatives rather than offering a vision that would attract them. He claimed to be “severely conservative” and embraced “self-deportation” for illegal immigrants, a political killer. But he refused to break from his RomneyCare record in Massachusetts even though it undermined his criticism of ObamaCare. A third campaign would resurrect all of that political baggage—and videotape.

“If Mitt Romney is the answer, what is the question?” Ouch.

You know, if I were Mitt Romney, with more money than I’d ever need and no need whatsoever to earn a living, and I had my health and perfect hair, I suppose I might run for president, too. But beyond giving Mitt something to do, I do wonder, along with the Journal, what the rationale for this campaign is.

What’s his role? The post of duty Establishment candidate is filled by Jeb Bush, who as son and brother of presidents outranks a second-generation presidential wannabe.

One of Mitt’s main claims to qualification is his supposed business acumen. Well, what Mitt-shaped niche does he see out there in the market?

With Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush, and now Mitt Romney to choose from, we only need one thing to make 2016 complete: Surely, there’s a descendant of Harold Stassen out there somewhere who could jump into this…

Hillary Clinton should very publicly rebuff the Warrenistas

Ya se van los warrenistas…
Porque vienen clintonistas…

— paraphrase of ‘La Cucaracha”

You would think that Democrats, horrified by the way the Tea Party has pulled the GOP to the extreme right, would immediately and utterly reject any efforts to pull their own party toward populist extremism.

And yet, we keep hearing that there are some who seriously want to see Elizabeth Warren mount a challenge to Hillary Clinton.

Today, we have this piece in the WashPost, headlined “Democrats see rising populist sentiment. But can it shake Hillary Clinton?

Well, let’s hope not. In fact, the sooner Hillary Clinton publicly repudiates the Warren movement and all who sail in her, the better. Assuming that she wants to get elected in the fall of 2016.

Because folks, I rather like the Wall Street-friendly, hawkish Hillary (admittedly, I like the hawkish bit better than the Wall Street bit), and don’t want to see her having any truck with the self-appointed guardians of the 99 percent.

And you know, I’m the guy you’ve gotta please. I’m the swing voter. I’m the constituency that decides elections, even though you don’t hear much about us, what with the media being obsessed with the left-right dichotomy.

And with things sort of uncertain on the GOP side (it could be Jeb Bush, but it could also be Rand Paul), I find it reassuring that there is likely to be at least one (reasonably) acceptable candidate on the November 2016 ballot.

With that in mind… Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if there were a fairly robust challenge to ex-Sec. Clinton from the left, as long as she in no way kowtowed to it, and soundly defeated it. That could have a salutary effect….

Now there’s no way I can vote for Hillary, because I’ve seen THIS

Kathryn brings this to my attention, and I’m not sure I’ll ever forgive her for it.

She got it from Jezebel, which said:

(T)his music video trumpeting Hillary Clinton for 2016 might be the worst piece of political persuasion I’ve ever seen….

No, seriously, whatever badness you’re expecting, quadruple it and you might come close to the reality of this dreck. Somebody please tell me this is a massive prank. Or a deep-cover GOP stunt. Funny or Die. Hell, Jimmy Kimmel. ANYTHING….

Forget the awful ad that Jenny Sanford did for Ginny Deerin. That was a masterpiece of tasteful concept and flawless execution compared to this.

You know, I had been thinking that, assuming the Republicans don’t come up with someone I like better, I could probably vote for Hillary Clinton. I’ve really liked the way she’s positioned herself on the current president’s wishful foreign policy.

But now — no, I don’t think I’m going to be able to put this one completely out of my mind. No one remotely associated with this abomination can be trusted with the nuclear football.

The only thing I can say in her defense is that it was the work of some group called “Stand With Hillary,” and maybe the candidate had nothing to do with it.

Oh, I hope she didn’t…

Are yard signs gone yet in your neighborhood?

The morning after the election, a black sedan was stopped on my street. A man got out and removed a campaign yard sign from the yard of one of my neighbors, got back into the car and drove on toward the next one. I didn’t recognize the guy, couldn’t see whose sign it was and couldn’t remember having noticed it before.

But I was impressed with this one campaign’s diligence in cleaning up post-campaign clutter.

Beth Bernstein reminds me that the process of cleanup continues:

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

A necessary evil of campaigning is the proliferation of campaign signs, and I really appreciate those who agreed to put a yard sign in their yard.  The day after the election, my family and I worked diligently to collect as many yard signs as possible.  Although we collected around 300 signs, I am sure we still have some out there.  If you have a sign that needs to be picked up, please let me know.

The last of my billboard signs was picked up yesterday. Unfortunately, it was more labor intensive to collect those so it took a little longer to coordinate that effort.

Thank you for the honor and privilege of serving you and our community in the Legislature!

Warm regards,

So, are all the signs gone in your neighborhood?

The Quinn sweep

FYI, Richard Quinn and Associates has been celebrating for the past week:

RQ&A Celebrates Election Sweep

(COLUMBIA, S.C.) Richard Quinn & Associates (RQ&A), celebrated another successful election on Tuesday.  Our firm helped lead numerous Republicans to victory in the Nov. 4 General Election.

“It truly is a great honor to work with such talented leaders at every level of government,” said company founder and president Richard Quinn.  “We regard playing a small part in helping them win election as our own special form of public service.”

RQ&A’s roster of winners was led by five successful statewide candidates — a list that included nearly half the state’s Constitutional officers.  RQ&A clients U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, Attorney General Alan Wilson, and State Treasurer Curtis Loftis all won re-election, while clients Henry McMaster and Molly Spearman were elected Lt. Governor and State Superintendent of Education respectively for the first time.

Columbia-based RQ&A also assisted Congressman Joe Wilson, the dean of South Carolina’s Republican federal delegation, in his re-election victory, as well as a group of victorious State legislative races, including Reps. Kenny Bingham, Jenny Horne, Ralph Kennedy and Rick Quinn.

The 2014 elections may be over, but the RQ&A team isn’t taking any time to rest.  We are already planning for next year’s local elections and the upcoming South Carolina GOP Presidential Primary.

 

Of course, it helps to be a Republican consulting firm in a year such as this, and a number of their clients had no, or only token, opposition.

But you can certainly see why they’re celebrating. A year such as this is good for business.

Wow. Some Dems still clinging to the ‘Gore won’ meme

When I saw this on Twitter:

— Salon.com (@Salon) November 10, 2014

I clicked on the link for the purpose of delving into how the hopelessly ideological (by which I mean, whoever wrote that headline) look at things.

It wasn’t very interesting. But my eyebrows did rise at this:

The answer given by the media then, and often proffered today as well by the Democrats is “It’s the economy, stupid.” They didn’t give that explanation up when Reaganomics produced heavy economic losses for working people who continued to vote Republican, and they didn’t give that explanation up when the Clinton/Gore years produced a booming economy and yet Gore lost (OK, he won but for the Supreme Court, but that was only made possible because of how close the vote was—and why would it have been so close if “the economy” is the determining issue?)…

Wow. Some liberals are still clinging to the “Gore really won” fantasy.

In case any of you still cling to that, it is patently untrue.

Sometime after the legal battle in Florida ended, a consortium of media organizations completed a recount of all the ballots. Actually, they completed several different recounts, using different sets of rules (as you’ll recall, much of the controversy during the Long Count in 2000 was over which set of rules to use).

Bush won the recount that the Gore people claimed was short-circuited by the courts.

Ironically, had there been a total recount of the entire state, the media recount indicates Gore might have won, by as few as 60 votes. However, using the rules in place on Election Day (and I still don’t understand how a reasonable person would expect any other set of rules), Gore still wouldn’t have won:

Gore’s narrow margin in the statewide count was the result of a windfall in overvotes. Those ballots — on which a voter may have marked a candidate’s name and also written it in — were rejected by machines as a double vote on Election Day and most also would not have been included in either of the limited recounts….

So yeah… for good or ill, Bush won.

Go ahead and feel defeated, ‘Nancy.’ Don’t fight it…

Unfortunately, the end of the election has not ended the flow of begging emails from the DCCC.

I had to smile at one today, ostensibly from Nancy Pelosi. An excerpt:

Election Day was tough. We lost the energy of some excellent public servants. In the coming days, I’m sure all the pundits will provide their analysis of what happened.

It would be easy for us to feel defeated. To think “this is too hard, I’m done fighting.” But we can’t do that. We’ve got to stay engaged…

See, there’s a reason it would be easy to feel that way — you were defeated. So don’t fight it. Sit back and absorb that for awhile, and give the clamoring for money a brief rest. Please…

SC’s American Party feels good about inaugural outing

They didn’t get anybody elected, but the new party started by Jim Rex and Oscar Lovelace is counting its blessings after Tuesday’s vote. And if you think about it, they did pretty well in their initial effort to break up the mindless two-party paradigm:

THE AMERICAN PARTY SHINES DURING INAUGURAL ELECTION

Columbia, S.C. – The candidates of South Carolina’s newest political party, the American Party, received more votes than that of any other third party’s candidates in Tuesday’s elections.

While only nine months old, the American Party of South Carolina out performed every other party except for the two major parties on Tuesday with American Party candidates receiving, collectively, more than 153,000 votes.unnamed

“We are extremely proud of our candidates and the positive way in which they ran their races,” said American Party Chairman Dr. Jim Rex. “With few financial resources and no television ads, we showed that ideas do matter and that voters are seeking more options at the polls than they have been getting.”

Rex pointed to the extremely low voter turnout at about 43 percent as a sign that voters are disenchanted with the status quo candidates.

As it stands now only a handful of voters in one of the major parties, during their primary, decide who our leaders are in South Carolina. Voter participation in general elections is getting lower and voter apathy is growing. Voters are getting fed up with the two-party status quo system and are staying home on election day.

While the major parties are becoming more and more extreme, the American Party is  focused on problem solving and governing from the middle.

According to Rex, it’s not just about who won or lost on Tuesday. The American Party is in this for the long haul to change South Carolina . Change does not occur overnight, but the American Party has made great strides in a very short time. The party believes that the political middle represents the largest portion of our electorate and that those voters are hungry for a fresh approach to politics.. “We will work to get beyond a system hijacked by partisan extremists and get back to governing. It will take a few election cycles, but we are on our way,” said Rex.

During 2015 the American Party will be organizing in each of South Carolina’s 46 counties while working on the party’s “Recall Election” initiative launched in September. The initiative is aimed at enhancing governmental accountability by amending the State Constitution to give registered voters the option to recall elected officials who violate the trust placed in them by the electorate.

More information on the American Party of South Carolina can be found on facebook and on line atwww.americanpartysc.gov.

I’m trying to get you to engage in crimethink

Off in my corner, out of sight of the telescreen, writing down my subversive thoughts...

Off in my corner, out of sight of the telescreen, writing down my subversive thoughts…

Back on my post last night expressing horror at the number of South Carolinians (49 percent!) who voted straight-party on Tuesday, Lynn T. posted this thoughtful comment, to which I responded, and I thought the exchange was worth its own post. Lynn’s comment:

The parties have successfully sold the idea that they stand for a consistent set of values and priorities. Anyone who watches actual votes and decisions knows better, but few citizens do. First we have to set aside the cases in which consistency isn’t a reasonable goal because pragmatic lawmaking requires compromises. Even excluding those cases, the variation is substantial. One Democratic senator campaigned on his 100% rating from the Chamber of Commerce, normally more closely associated with the Republican Party. At the same time, his environmental record was not nearly as positive as that of some Republicans, who are usually perceived as more inclined toward business than environmental preservation. There are Republicans who support no-excuse early voting without adding “poison pill” restrictions, and others who take a very different direction. The diminished resources of the press in this state are a serious problem because the press is the closest thing we have to a reality check. If The State had as many reporters on the State House as on Gamecock football it would be fabulous. But then if more citizens cared about their government as much as they do about Gamecock football, it would be fabulous.

My response:

What the parties — and the media, and interest groups, and practically everyone whose profession has to do with politics — have successfully sold is the binary paradigm.

Almost all of the people who write or talk about, or otherwise deal with politics for a living, talk about political decision as being a choice between two options, and two options only. Either-or. Left-right. Democrat-Republican. Black-white.

And because that’s the way THEY talk and write about it, the rest of the public does the same. Why? Because they lack the vocabulary to speak or think about politics any other way. It’s a very Orwellian situation. The point of Newspeak in 1984 is to eliminate all words that express concepts that would free people’s minds. If they don’t have words for a concept that would be a thoughtcrime, they can’t engage in crimethink.

Too many people just can’t think beyond the notion that good people like me vote THIS way, and only this way, and that people who vote that other way are bad.

The way rank and file voters react to Nikki Haley offers a good example of this phenomenon. Among in-the-know Republicans — the Inner Party members, carrying forward the 1984 analogy — have never liked her much, although I sense a lot of them have now warmed to her.

But among the great masses of people who think of themselves as Republicans, if you criticize Nikki Haley, then you are a liberal Democrat. This, to them, is a truth that cannot be disputed. There can be no other explanation for your criticism.

I know this from personal experience. I actually have missed out on getting a job because the boss was convinced I was “left of center.” Why? Because I’ve criticized Nikki Haley. That was the entire explanation. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. But I knew I’d have trouble working for someone who didn’t think any more clearly that that, so sour grapes.

Cindi Scoppe and I both got that a lot over the years. And the idea that either of us is a liberal Democrat is risible to anyone who looks and listens and thinks. But otherwise bright people who don’t think about this stuff all the time believe it as a matter of course, because their paradigm admits no other explanation.

Back when Jim Hodges and Bill Clinton were in office, we caught similar hell from Democrats. Their notion that we were right-wingers was equally laughable, but you couldn’t convince THEM of that. (I’ll never forget one through-the-looking-glass experience I had speaking to a small group of academics back when Hodges was in office. They sat there with these stony looks of hostility on their faces. They finally let me know that, because I was opposed to Hodges and his “education lottery,” I was an enemy of public education — despite the fact that we had written FAR more over the years as champions of the schools than we had written about Hodges and his plan. They could not be moved. They sat there and informed me I had never lifted a finger for education. They were adamant in their absurd belief.)

As you say, Lynn, “Anyone who watches actual votes and decisions knows better, but few citizens do.” Posts such as this one are part of my campaign to gradually wear away at the bars of the average citizen’s mind prison, which was largely created by my colleagues in the media…

The number of South Carolinians voting straight-ticket is sickening

straight

Pursuant to a conversation some of us had earlier about the election results, our own Doug Ross took it upon himself to crunch some numbers. And what he came up with was appalling.

Here’s his spreadsheet. Read it and weep. I almost did.

As you know, I get thoroughly disgusted at the idea that anyone, anywhere in this nation, would cop out of his duty as a citizen to the extent of voting a straight party ticket. That an American citizen, much less a fellow South Carolinian, would completely forego the responsibility of carefully considering each candidate, and surrender his precious birthright to anything so low and destructive as a political party — letting the party choose and think for him, on the most important decisions he must make as a citizen — is utterly shocking to me.

I don’t think the straight-party option should exist on ballots. It should be constitutionally banned. Short of that, I think the device should be used as a test to see whether you’re ready for the responsibility of voting: Choose the straight-ticket option, and your entire ballot should automatically be thrown out. If you can’t be bothered to think about each candidate and each position, you don’t deserve the franchise.

Given my thoughts on the matter, you can imagine my horror at the numbers Doug put together (based, I think, on the election commission’s numbers — Doug can elaborate on that).

According to Doug’s spreadsheet, almost half — 49 percent — of all voters in South Carolina Tuesday chose the straight-ticket option. Half of our fellow citizens just… couldn’t be bothered… to carefully consider each decision with which they were entrusted. They just made one decision — to not make any decisions for themselves, leaving them all to a party.

Twenty-three percent of them chose straight Republican; 25 percent went straight Democratic.

The numbers choosing a straight-party vote were particularly horrible in poorer, more rural counties, where the preference was usually Democratic. In Lee County, 72 percent of ballots were straight-ticket. The percentages weren’t as bad in the suburbs, but the raw numbers almost were.

Why, oh why, do people even bother to register to vote, if this is all they’re going to do?

Obama reaches out to Graham, wants to work together

Sen. Lindsey Graham speaks to reporters in his Columbia office.

Sen. Lindsey Graham speaks to reporters in his Columbia office.

Last night, President Barack Obama called Sen. Lindsey Graham. They spoke for about 20 minutes, which suggests that the president didn’t make very many such calls.

Graham told reporters in Columbia today that the president wanted to find a way to work with him and other Republicans so that the next two years aren’t just a continuation of gridlock of the last two.

Obama wasn’t looking for miracles. He wanted “a medium or small-sized deal” or two that could build confidence, persuade everyone that it’s possible for the two sides to work together for the good of the country and then who knows? Maybe a big deal would be possible.

“The President wanted to find ways to create momentum for problem-solving because he believed rightly that it would help the American people, restore their belief that the government is not hopelessly lost, and would increase our standing overseas,” said Graham. “And I think he’s right about that.”

What sorts of things might constitute such a modest deal? The first thing Graham mentioned was the fact that the highway trust fund is depleted — as on the state level, the gasoline tax no longer brings in enough to meet the nation’s infrastructure needs. He said he and Barbara Boxer are already working on a deal that would put a 10 percent tax on money earned by American corporations overseas, to replenish the fund.

He said he and the president also spoke about port modernization, the Keystone pipeline, tax reform — and immigration.

The senator suggested that Republicans would be wise to accept the president’s offer:

“President Obama’s biggest problem is that he campaigned as a centrist, but he’s governed from the left ditch,” Graham said. “Here’s gonna be our problem: If we take the car from the left ditch to the right ditch, we’re gonna be in trouble, too. People want the car in the middle of the road — they want it in the right-center lane of the road — and not in the right ditch.”

Could the two sides ever reach that big deal on the major challenges facing the country? Graham doesn’t know, but “Without the small and medium-sized compromise, there will never be a big deal.”

“So, Mr. President: Here I am. I’m ready to go to work…”

He said as soon as he got done with the presser, he was going to return a call to Harry Reid…

ONE bit of progress in SC: We’ll no longer elect adjutant general

OK, I’m shaking off the doldrums here…

Let’s talk about something good that happened in yesterday’s election: We changed our constitution so that South Carolina is no longer a banana republic wannabe. We will no longer politicize the state’s highest military post. We will no longer elect our adjutant general. Instead, the AG will be appointed by duly constituted civilian authority, according to specific requirements, according to actual qualifications.

No, it’s not as big a deal as if we stopped electing, say, the superintendent of education. But it’s something. Set it alongside the decision in the last election to stop separately electing the lieutenant governor, and the elimination of the constitutionally perverse Budget and Control Board, and we’re starting to get a state government that is organized at least for the 20th century, if not the 21st.

Of all the executive-branch posts that, against all reason, we have continued to elect separately from the governor (thereby fragmenting the already-weak executive), the adjutant general was the one that most obviously needed to change. We were the only state in the nation that chose its top-ranking officer in a popularity contest — a partisan popularity contest, which produced the obscene situation of having a serving officer declare a party affiliation.

But it also seemed like the office that was most resistant to reform. The incumbent AG was always opposed to it (politicians dance with the one that brung them, and we required our AGs to be politicians), and those serving under him tended to follow his example, and the public at large tended to give the Guard what it wanted.

But things changed in South Carolina, and that is something to celebrate. Leadership in both parties embraced change, and most importantly, the incumbent AG did, too. And the rest of us followed suit.

And so we took a step forward in South Carolina yesterday. And that’s something to celebrate.

The results are in: More of the same

Two weeks ago, I wrote of being dispirited by the prospects of the upcoming election. I was sufficiently down that Bryan Caskey did a Ferris Bueller to my Cameron Frye and took me skeet-shooting, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

But now, the election results are in, and they did not disappoint. They contain nothing likely to instill enthusiasm.

The bottom line is, things will stay the same in South Carolina — and in the nation, too. Anyone who thinks it matters which party controls the Congress is seriously deluded. It’s the same bunch of people, playing the same game (the “Which Party is Up Today?” game) the same way. I see that Harry Reid is out of power, and I go, “Yay!” and I see Mitch McConnell rise to power and I go, “Oh, dang.”

The way I feel (and yes, I’m talking about feelings rather than thoughts, which shows I’m just not myself today), overall, about this election is captured well in this datum, which The Washington Post describes as “The single most depressing number in the national exit poll“:

One of the fundamental truisms of American life is this: Your kids will have a better life — more opportunities, more creature comforts, more whatever — than you did/do.  Except that people don’t believe that any more, according to preliminary exit polls.

Almost half of all Americans — 48 percent — said they expected life for “future generations” to be “worse than life today,” while 22 percent said it would be better. Another 27 percent said life would be about the same. Do the math and you see that more than twice as many people are pessimistic about the future that they will leave their kids as those who are optimistic.  (Not surprisingly, among the 48 percent who believe future generations will be worse off, two thirds of them voted for Republicans in today’s election.)

Those are stunning — and depressing — numbers. And they are far from the only evidence that the American Dream is, if not dead, certainly dying in the eyes of many Americans….

How do you like them apples? Well, I don’t either, but there it is. And I think it reflects the national mood, as expressed in this election. Americans are fed up with politics, and have lost faith in its transformative power. They’re unhappy about the way things are going, but they don’t see a way to make them go better. So they express their dissatisfaction in the standard way — they punish the president’s party in the “midterm” election. They don’t have high hopes for change or anything, but they’ve expressed their pique.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. Good things happened. I’m happy that Lindsey Graham won. I’m glad to have him as my senator, and I get tired of everybody ragging on him. I’m not disappointed, exactly, that Vincent Sheheen lost because I expected him to. We’d be a lot better off if he’d won, and I probably wouldn’t be such a Toby Zeigler today, but that was never in the cards.

And good for Alan Wilson and Beth Bernstein and a number of others. I’m glad the Lexington 2 bond referendum passed.

But unless you are one of the winning candidates, or related to one of the winning candidates, I doubt that you are elated by the mushy gray events of yesterday.

Yeah, I think it’s nice that a black man was elected to the U.S. Senate, and a black Republican at that — anything that bumps us out of the usual ruts of partisan voting patterns is good. But I’d feel better if I thought he had inspired people somehow with ideas for how to better our nation. I can’t really put my finger on anything that I know he wants to do in office. We just, as a state, found him unobjectionable. He had the office, and we saw no reason to remove him from it. Tim Scott’s election is something that will look more exciting in the footnotes of history than it actually was.

OK, one other good thing happened that represents progress for South Carolina. I’ll write about it in a separate post. Don’t get your hopes up. It’s not exciting…

Curtis Loftis helped me decide to vote ‘yes’ on sales tax

As I told y’all, I was really agonizing over the Lexington County sales tax referendum. I knew the county needed some infrastructure funds, but we’ve really put a lot of stress on the sales tax in this state, and the proposal lacked the thing that made me get behind the Richland County penny — the support for the bus system.

But SC Treasurer Curtis Loftis helped me make up my mind, with this release last Friday:

Hi,

Many local governments and special interest groups across our state have decided that now is the time to raise your taxes. I understand their arguments because I also want better roads, education, drainage, and infrastructure.  However, as your State Treasurer, I have seen how all levels of government “manage and protect” your money, and the current standards are simply unacceptable.

I probably don’t live in your county, so I must respect your right to tax yourselves. However, we must have fundamental change in how our government operates. Implementing true fiscal responsibility and accountability are the first steps government can take to earn our trust.

Since the government and special interests want our money now, the time we should bargain for a “better deal” is now. Let’s say NO to new taxes and YES to meaningful transparency and accountability. Let’s say NO to back room deals with special interest and YES to high-ranking government officials being held responsible for protecting our money and delivering a quality product.

I’m going to vote NO on new taxes at the polls on Tuesday, and I encourage you to do the same.  Let’s give the government and special interests a rain check for a vote on new money until the proper measures are in place to protect our money and deliver what is promised by special interests.

Be well,

Curtis Loftis
Treasurer, State of South Carolina

The next morning, I read in the paper that Loftis was specifically opposing the Lexington sales tax proposal.

Really? Here you are, the top fiscal officer (or one of them) of our state, and you’re going out of your way to say something about a local tax proposal, and that’s it? Instead of an analysis of the pros and cons, you essentially say, “I’m against tax increases, so I’m against this one.” That, and “government is a bad thing, and when it raises taxes, it’s just for special interests, and never for the public’s benefit.” The kind of vague universal condemnation of Man and all his works that a malcontent with no political power (or, who thinks he has no political power) might sit at a bar and mutter to the bartender after a couple too many.

Yeah, thanks for helping me work through this one, guy!

Of course, I was helped even more by Warren Bolton’s thoughtful column Sunday, in which he set out the one argument that settled it for me:

WHILE LEXINGTON County’s proposed Penny for Pavement tax plan has its shortcomings, there’s a grim reality that voters need to understand as they consider whether to approve the measure aimed at addressing chronic congestion, traffic problems and road safety.

No other help is on the way…

Basically, there’s no Plan B. Local governments have few options when it comes to paying for roadwork that the state can’t seem to get its act together on. This was the plan. If important projects were to be funded, this was the option.

So I voted for it.

It took me 17 minutes to vote. A normal person would have taken 10, tops

The Quail Hollow precinct, at 8:21 a.m.

The Quail Hollow precinct, at 8:21 a.m.

Well, so much for the long lines that had been anticipated at Lexington County polling places, partly because of the plethora of referenda on the ballot.

From the time I got out of my car until the time I got back into it, 17 minutes passed. I figure at least seven of those were due to:

  1. My obsessive carefulness about voting. I’ve always been this way, since my first time voting in 1972 (I stood in the booth agonizing over the fact that I saw Nixon as an abuser of power, and McGovern as an incompetent, and trying to decide which was least bad). Once, in the days of actual booths with curtains, a poll worker asked, “Are you all right in there, sir?” When we used punch cards, I would put the card in and take it out a couple of times to make sure it was aligning properly, then take the completed ballot out, make sure the numbers next to all the holes corresponded to the numbers of the candidates I had meant to vote for, then run my hand up and down the back of the card a couple of times to make sure there were no bits of cardboard stuck there (this was before I knew they were called “chads”), and hold it up to the light to make sure all the punches were clean and complete. To this day, I find it absolutely inconceivable that anyone in Florida could have inadvertently voted for the wrong person in 2000. I always made sure. (And I preferred the cards to electronic machines because there was a physical thing proving how I’d voted.)
  2. The fact that the machine offered me two chances to go back and check — when it offered a summary of how I’d voted, and when it asked me to make sure that the races I’d left blank were intentionally left that way. I went back and reviewed everything both times, and then once more before hitting “confirm.” I take my vote very seriously.
  3. I took pictures of the how-I-voted summary pages, so I could remember how I voted, and not only for blogging purposes.
  4. When I initially got back to my car, I realized I hadn’t gotten an “I Voted” sticker, so I went back for one.

Then, of course, there was the small matter of making 27 separate voting decisions. Sure, I’d already made up my mind on most, but I took a little “are you sure?” couple of seconds on most of them.

Some stats and trivia:

  • I voted for three Democrats, seven Republicans, and one member of the new “American Party.”
  • I voted a straight State newspaper ticket, where applicable (they endorsed in some S.C. House races other than mine, and did not endorse in any of the Lexington County referenda).
  • I voted “yes” on four of the five referendum questions, and “no” on the other.
  • I left seven places blank, including, of course, the execrable, contemptible straight-party option, which should not be allowed under the law. Most of these involved unopposed people, but some involved competition between candidates with whom I was unfamiliar. And my standard rule, which I only occasionally break (see next bullet), is not to vote when I’m unsure of the candidates.
  • I voted for myself as a write-in for Congress. I had to choose three candidates for Lexington Two school board. I was not familiar with any of them. I wrote in my wife and my Dad (my Dad actually ran for the board once, many years ago), and the guy who had shaken my hand outside the polling place. That was my one whimsical, irresponsible, uninformed, against-my-own-rules vote. He had an honest face.

Overall, it went smoothly. There were three people in line to sign in ahead of me when I walked up, and one of those was gone before I could get out my phone and shoot the picture above. I had been handed several sheets of paper with explanations of the referenda, supposedly so I could study them in line, but I had no time in line even to glance at them.

The picture ID thing afforded me no trouble, beyond the hassle of digging it out of my wallet.

So how’d it go for you?

I had to go back for it, but I got my sticker.

I had to go back for it, but I got my sticker.