Category Archives: Elections

Happy Epiphany! And other stuff that’s going on

Yeah, Christmas is over, but we can still smile, can't we?

Yeah, Christmas is over, but we can still smile, can’t we? Someone posted this on social media today.

And there’s a bunch. Going on, I mean.

For instance:

We’re also waiting for confirmation that not only Donald Trump, but Mitch McConnell, will soon be out of power.

I wish you joy, Joe Biden!

Of course, it’s not certain. Life contains surprises. For instance, I was sure that today was Epiphany, but when I got my daily email of today’s readings from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, it said, “Wednesday after Epiphany.” Well, yeah, I know we celebrated it on Sunday, and sang “We Three Kings” and all, but I thought today was the actual day.

Nobody tells us converts anything.

Anyway, Christmas is over, especially for Donald Trump and, we hope, the aforementioned Mitch McConnell. I wasn’t sure how much I cared about what was going to happen in Georgia (I just wanted it to be over so I didn’t have to hear about it anymore), but the idea of saying “buh-bye” to Mitch is rather charming, I find.

Anyway, I post this as a place for y’all to comment on the many things happening around us at the moment…

Magi_(1)

My neighbor gave it up. So now Trump will too, right?

late Trump signs

Well, I have some good news. I went for a midday walk today, and didn’t see any Trump campaign signs in the neighborhood.

You may find that unremarkable. But you don’t know the whole story.

After I came back from Memphis — we’re talking the day or so after the election — I saw them for the first time: Two Trump/Pence signs, both in the same yard but spaced as far apart as possible, perhaps to give the impression that they were in more than one yard. I had seen this before — someone a couple of blocks away had resorted to the same approach, perhaps in an effort to compensate for the fact that there were so very many more Biden signs in Quail Hollow.

No biggie. I had taken down my signs the minute I got home, but not everyone had done so yet. One neighbor with signs for Biden/Harris, Jaime Harrison and Adair Boroughs left them up for another week.

But here’s the thing: I had not seen those two Trump signs before the election. That’s OK, I said. My last walk that way had been two or even three days before the election. Maybe this neighbor had put them up on the very last day, while we were driving to Memphis. It was possible. And then, I thought, making excuses, he had decided to keep them up for a bit, having just erected them.

Maybe.

But then they were there the next day, and the next, and the next. The three signs for Democrats in that other neighbor’s yard came down about a week ago, but these stayed.

Perhaps, I thought with dismay (after all, this is someone in my neighborhood, not some famous loony way off in D.C.), this was in support of the incumbent’s — sorry, but I’m going to have to use that word — unprecedented refusal to concede the election he has so clearly lost.

And they stayed up. They were still there yesterday, Nov. 19.

But today they were gone. Thank Goodness.

Now, no doubt, it’s only a matter of minutes before Trump himself does the grownup thing, right? I said, right?…

Things I’d like to ask the Wizard, if I could…

wizard

I shaved my beard off on All Saints Day. The night before, I’d been trick-or-treating with most of my grandchildren, and they informed me I had missed a big opportunity: I should have dressed as a wizard!

They were right, of course. So before shaving the next day, I did a selfie with a hoodie on. Not just any hoodie. The hoods on many of them don’t have enough material to cover my big head. This one, which is getting kind of ragged now, has a comfortably capacious cowl, which helps approximate a sort of Gandalf effect.

See what I mean?

No, I’m not going to share an “after” picture. I don’t like the way I look without the beard. My visage is less… wise, mysterious, knowing. Less esoteric. Now I’m just this guy, you know?

Looking back at the picture above now, it occurs to me I’d like to have a wizard I could go see, and ask some questions. Not about getting a brain or a heart, and definitely not to get me back to Kansas — I came home in 1987 to get away from Kansas. I have other questions these days. Here are a few:

  • Why did so many people vote for Donald Trump two weeks ago? Don’t get me wrong, Mr. Wizard, I’m as grateful as can be that Joe won. Thanks for casting that spell on South Carolina back on Feb. 29. We’d be in real trouble if you hadn’t. But I just need to know why he didn’t win with 100 percent of the vote. Really, after the last four years, I can’t believe anyone was planning to vote for Trump at the start of 2020, and that’s before COVID. And all year, he kept doing and saying things that, translated, said “DON’T VOTE FOR ME!” There were no excuses this time. No Hillary. No, “I was sure he’d lose, so it was a protest vote.” I’ve spent the last four years trying — really trying — to understand why anyone voted for him in 2016 (and the two things I just mentioned were all I came up with). And every day since then, people have been hit with a tsunami of evidence that this is really, absolutely, not anyone you would ever put in charge of anything. So I really, really don’t know why even one person voted for him this time — much less 70 million. So please, ‘splain it.
  • Oh, and what’s with the utter rejection of reality? How can someone who so obviously exhibits the perspective and self-interest of a two-year-old persuade people that his fantasies are real? Seriously, how can half of Republicans — which is a bunch of people — actually believe assertions that are based in nothing — nothing! — but a disturbed man’s self-delusion?
  • What happened to Lindsey Graham? Oh, I don’t just mean over the last four years — how did he get even worse after the election? Why didn’t he take a vacation or something, which might have given him a chance to get better?
  • Why don’t I know the names of the astronauts who just went to the space station on the new ship? A change of pace there…. I knew the names of the first two guys — Bob and Doug. The only name we hear any more is “Elon Musk.” That’s like knowing the name of Bob Gilruth, but not John Glenn. It’s weird.
  • Is there something in our food, or air, or water that has damaged our brains? Yeah, I’m drifting back toward the first couple of questions. but no, I’m not just talking about people who voted for Trump, even though, yeah, they’re a great example. My next couple of questions provide examples from completely different segments of the population…
  • Why does a sensible woman like Abigail Spanberger have to explain to fellow Democrats that failing to distance themselves from absurd statements such as “defund the police” or labels such as “socialist” hurt them in the election? And how come she’s still sensible while others are not? Does she not eat the tainted food or breathe the tainted air? In any case, thank goodness she was re-elected — barely.
  • Why did those people in Portland keep coming out and protesting day after day, as though it were a job or something, when it was painfully obvious that every day they did it, they were providing Donald Trump with ammunition, helping back up his paranoid talking points? I mean, if you have a point to make, haven’t you made it with the first protest? It’s one thing if you live in a place — such as Hong Kong — where actually being free to protest is in a way the point.. You might do that over and over — until they stop you, as China has done now (thereby proving there was a point to the protests). This is different. It’s not like the initial George Floyd protests, or those in Kenosha or Louisville, which were specific responses to clear events, as opposed to the Portland goings-on, which were more like a… lifestyle or something.  It would make sense if we learned those protesters were in the pay of the Trump campaign. That would add up. But I’m pretty sure that’s not it. You know, I watched maybe one episode of “Portlandia” and lost interest. Something about free-range chickens or something. Maybe I should have kept watching…

Well, there’s more, but that’s probably enough for now. Maybe I’ll ask more questions another time, if that dude in the strange green outfit will let me in…

Straight-party voting did a nasty job on South Carolina

Mandy on the bus in 2018.

Mandy on the bus in 2018.

Why did I agonize the way I did over the fact that all four people I’d be voting for this year were in the same party? Because I know what a destructive thing the practice of straight-party voting can be.

Yes, I examined each choice I was making with the usual care, and was satisfied that in each case, I was making the right choice:

  1. Donald Trump is the worst president in our history, a thoroughly disgusting person, and Joe Biden is his opposite — so no question there.
  2. Lindsey Graham has thrown away everything that once made him worth voting for, while Jaime Harrison offered the promise of a fresh, unsullied start.
  3. Adair Boroughs was untested, but her opponent Joe Wilson has been tested over and over, and found wanting.
  4. I am thoroughly satisfied with my state senator, Nikki Setzler, and his opponent (whose name slips my mind) offered no persuasive reasons to replace him.

The fact that all four were Democrats was in part incidental, and in part the result of the utter degradation of the Republican Party in the age of Trump. I am pleased with the choices I made, and sorry that only half of them won.

But too many people don’t go through all that. They just vote for one party or the other, rather than for candidates. In South Carolina, we even offer people the opportunity to do it by pressing a single button, which is appalling. Anyone who takes advantage of that “convenience” is completely throwing away his or her responsibility to careful consider how to vote. Do that, and you’ve let the parties think for you.

Yeah, I know: Some of my regular readers do it, and feel no shame for it. If I recall correctly, the ones I’ve heard from tend to go for the Democratic option. I invite them to consider what a gross practice this is by contemplating the harm Republicans did this year when they did the exact same thing.

There is no way, no way at all that such people as Vincent Sheheen and Mandy Powers Norrell were turned out of office as a result of voters actually comparing them to their opponents and finding the incumbents wanting. That’s impossible. I’ll use Mandy as an example of what I’m talking about.

She is a Democrat who has been repeatedly returned to office by her Republican neighbors. She is one of them, born and raised in the district. Her family worked at the textile mill, and she worked her way through to become the first in her family to graduate from both college and law school. As a municipal attorney, she was thoroughly immersed in practical, nonideological local issues for years before going to serve in the General Assembly. Her commitment to Lancaster was deep and profound. I used to worry about her in 2018 because at the end of unbelievably exhausting days campaigning across the state, after she had pulled back into Columbia with the rest of us late at night, she would drive home to Lancaster. And then she’d drive back to start again before the sun had fully risen again. Day after day.

As for her opponent…. well, her qualification was that she was a Republican. She moved to the community from South Florida in 2006. But she’s a Republican, you see. Let me show you something else. Watch the video clip attached to this tweet:

And here’s another one:

Yeah, Mandy herself chose those clips, and did so because they showed her at an advantage. But here’s the thing: I know her, and I know how smart and dedicated she is. That’s the way she normally answers questions. Maybe her opponent sometimes sounds smarter and better informed than she did in those clips. But I’ve looked over her website and her Facebook page and I don’t see much sign of it. I just see lip service given to national GOP talking points, and no indications of an understanding of the issues facing South Carolina, much less Lancaster.

In other words, I see things aimed at the buttons of a straight-ticket Republican voter, period. And a particularly ignorant one at that — the type who thinks “defunding police” is a burning issue in the State House.

Can you imagine the votes for Mandy’s opponent were based on her being better suited, personally, to the job? Maybe you can. I cannot.

Let’s talk about Vincent Sheheen, one of the smartest and most earnest members of the Senate. Actually, I’ll let my friend Cindi Scoppe talk about him. I urge you to read her column about Vincent’s defeat, headlined, “This was South Carolina’s worst surprise on Tuesday. Nothing else came close.”

Some excerpts, among description of Vincent’s accomplishments over the years:

Come January, Mr. Sheheen will no longer be there to serve as a bridge between the races and the parties and the House and Senate. He will no longer be in a position to work through the big problems that most legislators don’t have the capacity or temperament or relationships to work through. Because a red wave swept over Kershaw, Chesterfield and Lancaster counties on Tuesday, as the nation’s most expensive ever U.S. Senate contest drowned the electorate in a $230 million hyper-nationalized stew of partisanship that purged voters’ appetite for local issues or the merits of individual candidates….

One news story described Mr. Sheheen’s defeat as “arguably one of the most stunning legislative upsets for Democrats for this cycle.” It’s not. It’s clearly the most stunning upset for any S.C. politician this cycle, probably this century. And the most devastating for our state.

It’s an obvious loss for Democrats. But it’s also a loss for Republicans, and all of us, because Mr. Sheheen was among a small handful of legislators who went to Columbia not to be somebody important but to do something important. And at that, he was remarkably successful.

No, I don’t know how many of the people who did this damage to South Carolina by voting Vincent out were voting straight-ticket. But the numbers suggest that few could have been doing anything else. And I haven’t seen where anyone has offered any other plausible explanation…

An even older file photo, from 2010...

An even older file photo, from 2010…

Election Day: 2020

Voting in Line

 

Well, it’s Election Day. There have been millions of votes cast early, millions will vote today, and we will likely be counting mailed in votes for days to come as they arrive. Brad is out today due to a death in the family. I asked if he wanted me to put up a post for him on election day, and he indicated he did.

Here’s your chance to make predictions for what happens or generally comment on the election. Today, we are one people, one country. America is a special place. If you go to a polling place, you are likely to see a candidate for office in the parking lot outside asking for your vote. That’s a good thing. It’s still good to see candidates asking for our votes.

No matter what happens, I am hopeful for America.

I’m glad I voted yesterday. Can we count the votes now?

I went with the bandanna rather than a surgical mask, in order to cover my beard. I'm going to mount that cotton swap on a plaque or something...

I went with the bandanna rather than a surgical mask, in order to cover my beard. I’m going to mount that cotton swap on a plaque or something…

I mean, come on, people — if you haven’t voted, that’s just too bad! I can’t wait now…

But seriously, folks… As I mentioned in comments on a previous post yesterday, I cast aside my firm preference for voting on actual Election Day — and I still prefer it — for a number of reasons:

  • I kept hearing things that made me worry that instead of taking the pressure off Election Day, the waves of people voting early (62 million as of the time I was standing in line waiting to vote) be a harbinger of a complete mess on that day. I stood in long, long lines in 2008. Those same lines would be much, much longer with social distancing, and I didn’t fancy standing in the heat or rain or whatever (it rained during the hour and forty minutes I was in line in 2008) with a mask on my face that long.
  • I didn’t feel great when I went to bed the night before. Probably just weariness from staying up half the night before, for the convenience of the West Coast, watching the World Series. But I thought, “What if this is COVID? What if I get sick and can’t vote?” I couldn’t take that chance.
  • When I found out about this satellite location — and found out about it in a way that made me hope not many people would know about it — I decided to run out and do it, suddenly and without warning.

And it worked. I got it done in less than an hour. I congratulated myself on a brilliantly successful coup de main operation. Trump and Lindsey never saw it coming. Not from me, anyway. Just BANG, and I had voted.

By the way, I voted as I reported I would — for Joe, Jaime, Adair and Nikki Setzler. Which should have taken only seconds, but I assure you I was more obsessive than usual about double- and triple-checking ever vote at ever stage — on the screen, and on the paper printout. I made sure there was zero chance of an error on my part.

Now, about the fact that the availability of this convenient polling place (about half the distance, for me, compared to the election office in Lexington) was kept such a secret…

That morning, thinking about getting out and voting, I had tried to find out what my options were. But when I had Googled “where to vote early near me” and entered my address, I was told that I had to go to Lexington. Other options weren’t offered. (Also, I could have sworn there was no info on the county election office website when I looked before, although it’s there now.)

I found out about it completely inadvertently. A friend sent me a flyer that she had gotten from a Facebook post that someone else had sent her. It was not from the Lexington Election office. It was from the page of the West Columbia Community Center, the place where I ended up voting. I went looking for that post later and couldn’t find it, but I did find a link to a WIS story about these places being opened. If The State, my main local source of news, posted it at any time, I missed it. (A search of thestate.com shows that the last time the full phrase “West Columbia Community Center” appeared in The State was 2015 — but that’s a notoriously bad search engine, so I don’t know.)

So, I can’t really say the county officials hid the information from the public. I’m just not terribly impressed by how well they got the information out. I think maybe it spread by word of mouth during the day yesterday. I voted pretty quickly, but the line grew substantially while I was there, and Bud says he saw something about it on WIS (thank you, WIS, for making the effort to help us know about this) that said people were waiting as long as 90 minutes. Although I don’t know when that was.

Then there’s the fact that the place where I voted — the only place anywhere near me — was only open yesterday, today and tomorrow. And only from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., rather than full voting hours like on Election Day.

Look, I’m grateful for the opportunity I had yesterday. I want to thank the folks who manned this temporary site — including one of the folks I’m used to seeing at my own precinct on Election Days. I appreciate WIS trying to get the word out. Mostly, I appreciate the chain of people passing around the information that eventually got to me.

But you know, the folks in charge of elections in my county could have gotten the word out better. And they could have had these locations open the whole time, rather than these small snatches of time.

If they had, it would have helped more to keep the madness down on Election Day. I still worry there will be problems (although probably fewer in this county than in Richland — at least ours is an actual county office, rather than one of those notorious Special Purpose Districts).

But I’m glad I got the opportunity, and I’m glad I’m done…

ElWtKvUWoAYavaO

It was pretty exciting when I actually got INSIDE the building, and could see the little voting booths…

I’m thinking about doing this, too

No, not the dancing part, although it looks like it would be a lot of fun, for those who can do it.

I just mean I’m still thinking about going out and voting ahead of Election Day. The turnout projections I keep hearing about keep prodding me in that direction.

Just haven’t decided yet.

Yeah, I know — there aren’t many days left.

I’ll end this with something I tweeted this morning:

And I’m not even a Bob Marley fan. I don’t know where that came from — divine inspiration, perhaps — but I thought I should share it…

dancing

I can’t vote for a single Republican this year. I just can’t.

sample ballot

I don’t when this has happened before. Or if it’s happened.

I know it didn’t happen during my years as a guy who made endorsements and shared them with the world (or in the years since). I know that because I kept records. And with one or two exceptions, I pretty much voted a straight editorial-board ticket. If we endorsed them, I almost always voted for them. So, I know that at no time between 1994 and 2008 was there a year when I couldn’t support anybody of one party. Or the other.

Oh, there were those awkward years at the paper in which we supported — for that one year — mostly Democrats or mostly Republicans. For instance, in 2006 we endorsed 12 Democrats and only 5 Republicans. That was the most lopsided ever, exceeding even 2000, when we backed 10 Republicans and only 7 Democrats.

But I didn’t really worry about those lopsided years, because I knew — and reminded everybody — of what the mix had been the time before. And that it would likely be balanced to some extent in the next election. For instance, the election year after the one when we went with 12 Democrats was 2008, when we supported eight Republicans and only five Democrats.

It worked out. And anyone with a halfway fair mind could see that what we said was true — that we didn’t consider party. Not even to make it work out evenly in a given year — which we could have done, had we chosen to stack things. We just made determinations as to who was the better candidate in each contest, and let the chips fall.

Of course, the partisans on both sides accused us of being partisans for the others side — because like Donald Trump, they didn’t let facts get in their way.

But now, I’m out here alone, and people are going, “Let’s see what Brad really is, when he’s not speaking for an institution.”

I haven’t really kept track of every vote since 2008, the way I did at the paper. But I know I’ve voted for Republicans as well as Democrats, mainly because I usually have voted in Republican primaries. (If you live in Lexington County and don’t vote in the GOP primary, you don’t get any choices.)

Since leaving the paper, of course, I actually worked in a campaign — for a Democrat. Which didn’t mean I was a Democrat. The Democrats understood that. Some of them are still ticked at James for hiring me when I obviously wasn’t a member of the tribe. I don’t know if he still hears about it — probably not — but I do. It was my fault he lost, you see. That’s what I occasionally hear, anyway. Because I wasn’t the real deal.

Of course, I’m just talking about serious Democrats. And just some of them. Republicans, and other people who are not partisan Democrats, think, “You worked for a Democrat, so you’re a Democrat. You ever work for a Republican? No? OK, then you’re a Democrat.” Because, you see, we (including the media, or course) have trained people to think you can only be one of two things. So if you’re not one, you’re the other. Even when you’re not.

So anyway, it would have been great — now that I’m a guy who puts signs in his yard — if I could have put a Republican or two out there this year, the way I did the first time I had signs, in 2018. It might not persuade anybody, but to quote Tippi Turtle, it would “bother those hammerheads.” Anything I can do to get partisans to scratch their heads is in theory good, because the stimulation might lead to thought.

But Donald Trump made that impossible. I cannot possibly support someone who actively and regularly supports him, so there go all the Republicans I used to support in the past on the national level. My hero John McCain stood up to him, but he’s gone. And I wouldn’t have had a chance to vote for McCain again anyway, after I did in 2008 (and back in the 2000 primary — which is one of those times I didn’t vote a straight editorial-board ticket, since I lost that endorsement debate).

Let’s look at the Republicans on my ballot.

Did Joe Wilson vote to impeach Trump? No, he did not. There are plenty of other problems with Joe, but that would be enough. He’s my representative, and I couldn’t trust him to do something that really shouldn’t have taken any thought, for anyone who believed there should be standards for the office of president. I have no problem applying that as the bare minimum for my vote. We didn’t even need an impeachment investigation, after Trump put out the official White House summary of that phone call. That, without anything else, would have caused you to vote for impeachment if you were someone I would have represent me in Congress.

Is that an unfair standard to apply to a poor ol’ Republican? No, it is not. Yes, it sounds absurd for me to expect that of a South Carolina Republican. Of course it does. And that fully explains why I can’t vote for any Republicans now. None of them will consider for even a second doing the right thing.

So I’m voting for Adair. I’m not crazy about everything she runs on — too populist for me — but I think she’ll do a better job than Joe, if we give her a chance. If she’d say, “I would have voted to impeach Trump,” I’d put up a sign for her in a second.

Then, of course, there’s Lindsey Graham. I don’t think I’ve ever been let down to this extent by anyone, especially someone I used to respect as much as I did him — as a stand-up guy, a guy who actually took political risks to try to address the worst excesses of partisanship (such as the insanity over confirming judges), and even the worst impulses within his own party (think “immigration”). We could respect and admire Lindsey as recently as 2016, when he was such a no-holds-barred critic of Trump that he was fun to have around. No more. That’s all gone, and he’s the guy who threw it all away — with extreme prejudice.

And we know, because we knew him in 2016 and all those years before, that he knows better.

He’s got to go. He’s disgraced himself, and the rest of us, enough. And fortunately, his opponent is someone I’ve liked for years. And he actually seems to have a chance. Which is something of a miracle, and if that miracle happens, I’m going to be part of it. You go, Jaime.

And of course, of course, I’ll be voting for my senator, Nikki Setzler. I even have a sign for him in the yard, too.

So that just left my own incumbent state House representative, Micah Caskey, as the one Republican I’d be happy to vote for. I had a sign for him in my yard in 2018, along with the one for James. Ditto with bumper stickers. So imagine my dismay when I realized, just before the primary, that Micah had no opposition. Meaning he wasn’t going to be spending money on yard signs and bumper stickers this year.

Oh, I could vote for him anyway, or one of the many other Republicans on my ballot who are unopposed. But it doesn’t really mean anything unless unless you’re choosing somebody over somebody else.

So I’m still going to be voting for just Democrats on the 3rd. Which is weird, and uncomfortable, if you’re me.

Why do I care? Why does it matter whether people think I’m a Democrat, or a Republican, or whatever?

Because, on one level, I absolutely cannot stand to be misunderstood. I want people to place some value in the precise reasons I give for voting the way I do in a given race. Otherwise, I wouldn’t offer them. And frankly, if I always vote for the Democrat, or always vote for a Republican, my reasons don’t matter. They only matter if I go into it fairly, and judge based on the relative merits of each candidate in the race. At least, that’s the way it was before now, before the Republicans I had supported for years suddenly make it impossible to keep doing so.

That’s the selfish reason.

But it’s not just an ego thing. What I’m trying to say, in this instance, matters. It actually matters that a guy like me is telling you this: That we have reached a moment in which there is not a single Republican out there in a contested race that a guy like me, with my track record, can vote for. So you should pay attention. This is serious.

But if I’m not what I say I am, then never mind. Just ignore the partisan. (That’s what I do with partisans.)

Also, there are so many Democrats out there I would never vote for — and I don’t want anyone thinking I would. (The clash between those Democrats and the ones like Joe and Jaime is probably going to be a huge issue after the election. But we can’t worry about that now. The house is on fire, and we have to put it out. We can worry about how it’s decorated later.)

That’s why I care. But I can’t help it. The Republicans in contested races on my ballot have made it impossible even to consider voting for them.

And that’s on them…

 

Now I’m giving money. Not much, but technically money

filthy lucre

I mention this because to a lot of people, giving money is a big deal.

It’s not so much to me, because I don’t find money very interesting. Which is a big reason why I don’t have much of it. I’m less interested in lucre than I am in football.

It was a bigger deal to me to actually start choosing and endorsing candidates back in 1994, my first year in the editorial department. That took some serious rewiring of my head. And then getting the point of putting out yard signs for candidates, as I started doing in 2018. And when I went to work for James and Mandy that same year.

To me, saying “I support you” is a bigger thing than “Here’s some money.”

But I know that makes me kind of weird, so I’m telling y’all — so you can make of it what you will — that one night last month, I actually, deliberately made a financial contribution to a candidate, in response to this appeal:

So I went to the ActBlue link and gave.

Yeah, I know. Twenty dollars and twenty cents ain’t much. I wish I could give Mandy a lot more. But still, it was technically money, and therefore kind of a step for me.

And as long as we’re talking technically, I guess it wasn’t my first. Several days earlier, my wife had made a contribution to Jaime Harrison. She mentioned it so I’d know, because my name’s on the account. So I was on the books as a donor. Which I thought was great — I’d been thinking about making a contribution to Jaime, but as I tend to do with money, I had repeatedly forgotten about it. So I was a donor, and I didn’t even have to do anything (like fill out a form or something, which I hate with a passion). Which is awesome.

But technically… I had made a contribution earlier in the year, to Joe Biden. I had reached out to folks I knew on his campaign, back before the primary, to ask if they’d like a free ad on the blog. They said yes, so I filled out an in-kind form (see how much I love you, Joe?), and put up the ad. I liked seeing it there that I left it up for several awhile after the primary was over, but finally made myself remove it.

So I guess that was my first “financial contribution.”

I did it again a week or so ago. And reached out to Jaime Harrison’s campaign and did the same for him.  You can see both ads in the rail at right. (And I’d put one up for free for Mandy if I thought it would help her up in her district — I don’t know how many actual readers I have there.)

So I’ve just been giving like crazy to these campaigns. Sort of. And now you know…

 

Should I go ahead and vote? Have you?

A friend who voted today took this picture while waiting in the queue.

A friend who voted today took this picture while waiting in the queue.

I’m starting to feel doubts. They may not affect my behavior, but I’m having them.

Y’all know how strongly I feel about the importance of turning out and voting with one’s neighbors (which is way communitarian), in person, on actual Election Day. It is to me a major, deeply meaningful ritual of life in America.

But… this is an extraordinary situation, is it not?

First, we have the most important election in my lifetime, one in which we will either save our republic by electing a normal, decent human being as our highest elected official, or drag the country — and the rest of the world, which has been holding its breath for four years waiting for us to fix this — down further and deeper into the mire, the utter degradation.

So, you know, I need to vote, and it needs to count.

Second, we’re in the strangest situation of my life, in which so much about normality has gone out the window. For instance, I may never again go to work at an office, or anywhere other than my home — which overthrows thousands of years of human social and economic behavior. And that’s just one piece of it. I mean, 220,000 Americans are dead from this thing, and it’s far, far from over.

So… maybe I should make an exception in this instance.

Up to now, I’ve held to my resolve to wait until Nov. 3. But each day, more friends and family members go out and vote early — or technically, vote “in-person absentee.”

Which on the one hand supports my plan, by taking pressure off and reducing crowds on the day of. But what if that day is still even more insane, and things break down? I’m pretty sure I’ll get to vote anyway, but what sort of societal breakdown will occur while we’re waiting for all the votes to be counted, and a clear winner to emerge and be accepted?

I dunno. What do y’all think?

For that matter, what do y’all do? What have you done already? Some of you have reported in, but what about everybody else? Who’s voted by mail? Who’s done the “in-person absentee” thing? Who’s waiting for Election Day?

And why?

I would find it helpful to know…

Now they just STEAL the signs

stolen

Remember when my Biden signs were vandalized, so I replaced one of them with a blue one I had in my garage?

Well, a few nights later, that one just disappeared, as you can see above. So I guess they’ve moved on to just stealing them.

So I went on Friday to state Democratic headquarters and picked up a couple of their Biden/Harris signs with the map of South Carolina. They’re not as nice as my old Biden signs, but they’re something.

I told the lady at the door what happened, and she asked me I needed two, or four? I said just two for now, but it was nice to know I could go back for more. I also picked up some Jaime Harrison bumper stickers while I was there. They were out of them at the Harrison HQ.

And I put them up Saturday. But I took them down last night before bed — and put them out again this morning. I don’t mind going downtown to get more, but if I can avoid it by taking them in at night, I will — if I can remember.

Other neighbors keep putting them up.

Other neighbors keep putting them up.

By the way, I saw my second Trump sign in my neighborhood yesterday. Between the first and second ones, of course, more Biden signs had gone up in my Republican precinct. I think there’s about eight Biden or Biden/Harrises — no, seven, because one house that had had them vandalized took all signs in a couple of days ago. Which is a shame.

Of course, while some Democratic signs are placed back away from the street — to make the vandals a little more reluctant to approach them — the two Trump signs are closer to the street, where they show up better.

And I guess what that tells us is that even Trump supporters understand that Biden supporters aren’t the sort to deface or steal other people’s signs… (WHOOPS! Had to correct myself on that!)

One of my new Bidens is in the distance. I also now have a Nikki Setzler sign.

One of my new Bidens is in the distance. I also now have a Nikki Setzler sign.

Hey, this should be easy — no choices to make!

Several months ago, I was thinking my bumper stickers for my state representative Micah Caskey were in sad shape, and I needed some new ones. But then I thought, wait: I don’t think he has opposition (which would mean he probably wouldn’t be buying new ones this year). So I sent him a direct message to check:

Just realized you have no opposition this year (unless I missed something). That’s good, because I hate to see good reps be forced to waste effort and money fighting off gratuitous challenges. But dang — I was hoping to get a new bumper sticker…

But then I thought, if I think my rep’s doing a good job, why not say it publicly? Well, I know the reasons why not (see below), but I did it anyway — adapting that message into a public tweet.

And of course, I caught some criticism for it, as writers of opinion always do when they say something nice about somebody:

But I let that go, because it’s hard to fully explain on Twitter. But I was alluding to something that’s been a pet peeve of mine for many years.

The critic certainly had a strong point on his side — I’m just sorry he didn’t understand me.

His point is that far too often, incumbents have NO opposition. And many of them are not doing what a fair observer would call a great job. Some of them have no business in public office. Some are complete doofuses. Some are worse than that.

But year in and year out, they glide to reelection without anyone contesting it. And that’s a profound shame. That’s what my critic was talking about.

What I was motivated by was this: Far too often, it seems the only people who DO get opposition are the best people in office. Often (although not so much in Micah’s case — he’s just a good rep without this cause), it’s because of the very thing that makes them good public servants: They represent a district that isn’t drawn to be safe for one party or the other, so they work hard to serve all their constituents. The lack of such districts, by the way, is one of the main reasons the quality of representation has declined.

Anyway, that dynamic causes them to get opposition. Sometimes, it’s as simple as someone in the other party seeing an opportunity because the district is fairly drawn. Other times — and I really hate this with a passion — they have zip to offer, but see the district as drawn more for THEIR party than the other, and think nothing of opposing the good rep just because it’s doable.

Worst of all — although this mainly applies to primaries — they draw opposition because they do such a great job of representing everybody, and the partisan extremists hate that, and run to the far right or (in other parts of the country) left of them, in partisans’ never-ending quest to destroy representative democracy.

Sometimes, good reps draw good opposition. And that can be inspiring, as you get to watch something that should happen ALL the time. Although it tends to make me think: You’re running against a good public servant. Why doesn’t someone like you run against the unopposed idiot in the NEXT district?

In any case, though, such an embarrassment of riches rarely occurs. Usually, the people deciding to take a chance against good reps have little or nothing to offer, and it causes me to hold my breath hoping they don’t win anyway.

So that’s what I meant, and couldn’t say in 280 characters in response to my critic. But as I said, he had a point. And that point is illustrated dramatically by the sample ballot I just pulled up for Nov. 3. Yep, we’ve got some drama going on at the top of the ballot, with wonderful challengers going up against horrendous incumbents — Biden against Trump, Harrison against Graham…

But down at the bottom, it’s pretty sad. Of course, I should make two points about this. First, some of these offices should not be elective offices. It’s ridiculous to ask voters to decide who, say, the coroner is — or even more absurdly, whether that functionary should be a Democrat or a Republican. Second, there’s no opposition in the general because the real election in Lexington County was held in June.

In any case, it’s still sad…

no choices

 

 

 

had no general election opposition

Look at what they did to my Biden signs

defaced 1

As you know, I very proudly put out my campaign signs on Labor Day. I live on a corner at the highest point on a long residential street, so I put one set on each street.

Since signs and bumper stickers are new to me — I just started this in the 2018 election — I put thought into it. First and foremost, they were carefully selected to express support for:

  • Joe Biden — Because I’m one of the people who can’t wait for the chance to get out and save our country on Nov. 3. And of course, as you know, I believe Joe is the perfect candidate to do this. He was the only one of the multitude that put up their hands who is a survivor, an emblem, of the country we were before we went mad — a decent, thoughtful, fair-minded human being who knows all about how to be better than what we see around this. A guy who deeply cares about every American he meets, and will do his best to serve us all. A guy who had done more than enough for his country and deserved to kick back in retirement. But he saw what happened at Charlottesville, and what the malevolent ignoramus in the White House said about it, and that was it. He stepped up.
  • Jaime Harrison — He’s the other one I’m willing to do this for because of two factors: One, Lindsey Graham has to go. As you know, I’ve respected and praised Graham for years, for the intelligence and courage he has displayed over the years, doing his best to play a constructive and unifying role on some of our most divisive issues, such as immigration and judicial selection. For years, he was the kind of senator we need — just as Joe always was. Now, he has lost his character, his courage and his mind. No, he hasn’t lost them — he’s thrown them away, contemptuously. He is opposed by a young man I’ve respected and praised in the few years I’ve known him. Someone I believe would be the kind of senator Graham once was.

Anyway, that’s what those signs represent. And a lot more, of course. In fact, I’ve often thought about putting a third sign up that says, “To understand what these signs mean, read my blog,” with the URL for a relevant post.

I’ve told you about some of my neighbors who have put up the same or similar signs in their yards. And I noticed something I hadn’t seen before: They had placed them far from the road, near their houses. I didn’t talk to them about it, but this indicated to me that they worried about having the signs defaced or destroyed by hostile passersby.

They were less 'polite' on this side.

They were less ‘polite’ on this side.

But I didn’t do that. Not because I’m bold or defiant or anything, but because I wanted them to be seen as easily as possible, from the most advantageous angles. And I’ve worked in a campaign, so my attitude is that you can always get more signs.

So now I’m going to some more signs now, after what they did last night to mine. Or rather, to my Biden signs. They left the ones for Jaime untouched. Interesting. Why on Earth would anyone hate Joe Biden — one of the most likable people on the planet — enough to do this? And why spare Jaime, who is running in essentially the same cause — saving the country from people like Trump and Graham?

Anyway, it means that this time I only have to replace two signs. Next time, maybe it will be more. I’ll keep doing that until I can’t get anymore signs. I suppose I’ll be stuck with some Biden/Harris replacement, as the signs I was using from the primary were rarer. Which I regret, because for me it’s about Joe. Nothing in particular against Kamala; she just wouldn’t have been my first choice, and Joe was my guy, 100 percent, from the start. As I say, I’m particular about the signs I put up — I have to be really, REALLY on board.

But I’ll put up what I can get, if it supports Joe.

As you can see below, I’ve already replaced one of them, with the last primary sign I had in the garage. I’ll get more.

I had to clean some dust off this one from the garage, but I put it up.

I had to clean some dust off this one from the garage, but I put it up.

Well, my signs are out now. Happy Labor Day, y’all!

I live on a corner, and if you look over the hill to the right, you can see one of the signs I have posted on the OTHER street.

I live on a corner, and if you look over the hill to the right, you can see the very top of one of the signs I have posted on the OTHER street.

I had a nice surprise this morning. My mobile rang, and it was E.J. Dionne! I hadn’t spoken with him in a while, so assuming he was looking for a quote about S.C. or something, I took another swallow of coffee in a desperate and vain effort to make myself sound intelligent.

John

One of my neighbors’.

But no, he had just called to chat. Turns out he is, like me, obsessive about getting his steps in every day, and this is what he has taken to doing while walking — calling people. (I find myself doing the same — that, and listening to podcasts.) We had a wide-ranging conversation. At one point, we got to talking about yard signs. He mentioned having recently discovered a commonality with Rep. Abigail Spanberger — the former CIA officer who was among the cadre of moderates who gave Democrats their House majority by winning purple districts in 2018. They are both big believers in yard signs.

What a coincidence, I said. This being Labor Day, I’m about to put out my yard signs! And now I have, as you can see above.

This, of course, is only my second time ever. My first was 2018, when I dramatically broke with a lifetime in which I was not allowed to do such things. I put out the signs, and proclaimed, “I refuse to be an ‘idiot.’ I’m joining the ranks of the involved.” Those signs were for James Smith (this was a few weeks before I joined his campaign) and Micah Caskey. This time, my Republican state House member has no opposition, so the two candidates are ones James, too, would enthusiastically support: Joe Biden and Jaime Harrison.

I’m hardly the first in my neighborhood. Others didn’t quite wait for this official start of the general election season. Two of my neighbors already had up signs for Joe and Jaime. They had obtained them from me. A couple of months back, one of them — a retired Methodist minister — stopped me on one of my walks to say he needed some signs, and he figured I knew how to get them. I said I’d try to help.

Another neighbor.

Another neighbor.

The Jaime Harrison sign was easy. His finance director had the same job in James’ and Mandy’s campaign, so I reached out to her, and she fixed me up with several. But Biden had shut down his Columbia campaign office immediately after the primary (the resources being needed elsewhere), so I wasn’t sure where to go. As it turned out, another fellow Smith/Norrell veteran — now-college student Noah Barker — drove over and dropped some off in the bed of my truck.

So I gave them to John and Jim, and they put them out, so that’s three of us now in my Republican neighborhood who have signs out for both Joe and Jaime.

And when I took my own walk after talking with E.J., I saw a new Harrison sign on my street, which was great, as this was five minutes after I’d put out my own. And it hadn’t been there yesterday. (Obviously, this neighbor is also strict about following the traditional calendar.)

The new one on my street.

The new one on my street.

But no Biden sign. Which reminds me of my brother’s yard in Greenville. We went to see him back in the first week of August, and he already had a Harrison sign out. Which both pleased me and made me feel guilty. I had obtained one for him when I got those from my friend on the campaign, but had forgotten to take it to him. He got this one from a neighbor who had an extra.

And that one, and the new one in my neighborhood, bring up a worry: I think maybe it’s easier to get Jaime Harrison signs than Joe Biden signs here in South Carolina. Jaime has an active, well-funded, energized campaign going here in the state (and I celebrate all of that), but Joe had no reason for a campaign office after Feb. 29. Those resources were needed elsewhere.

So where do you get Biden signs? Well, I suppose you could get some from the state Democratic Party, but I don’t know; I haven’t checked. Having my own sources, I haven’t needed to — but I suppose that’s where I’d have gone next. But if you live in a Republican neighborhood, like mine or my brother’s, do you think in those terms? Probably not.

I’m going to poke around on this a little more. If there are people out there who would put up Biden signs if they had them, they need to be more available than they are now. Because like E.J. and Rep. Spanberger, I think they help…

My brother had this one up a month ago, in Greenville.

My brother had this one up a month ago, in Greenville.

Here’s why I’m worried about voting on Election Day

I had an enjoyable chat with Bryan Caskey via Zoom today, but I didn’t see this Tweet of his until after:

So I guess I’ll answer it here.

First, it’s not save enough to shop in grocery stores. But we’ve got to do it. Gotta eat. And finally, in recent weeks, people are playing it pretty safe in every store I visit — people wearing masks, staying away from each other, and so forth. Not perfect, but WAY better than a couple of months ago.

Second, grocery shopping is way different from voting.

To give you an idea what I mean… check out this photo from Election Day 2008. It took me an hour and forty minutes to vote that day. Look at the picture and you’ll see why (sorry about the quality):

voting4

And that’s what’s got me worried.

Here’s the thing:

I don’t plan on voting by mail. Y’all know how I am. When it comes to turning out with my neighbors and voting, I’m a fierce traditionalist. I get to talking about it, and I’m like Oliver Wendell Douglas on “Green Acres,” blathering on about the importance of the American farmer, with the fife playing “Yankee Doodle” in the background.

And this may be the most important election of my life. I don’t intend to miss it. My wife will probably vote by mail, as she did for the primary. But not me, baby. Election Day is the day, and I do it in person.

But here’s the thing: What if it’s like 2008? OK, so first, we’d have to spread all those people out. That’s probably doable, but what if there are other complicating factors, and what if, when the day is over, I didn’t get to vote?

Or worse, what if I actually GOT the coronavirus, a few days before Election Day, and I can’t go vote — and it’s way too late to apply to do it the other way?

I keep thinking, maybe I should GET a mail-in ballot, but not use it unless for some reason I can’t vote on the DAY, and mail it in then? But I’m pretty sure that’s against the rules.

Anyway, I’ve been worrying about it. You?

Quail Hollow precinct, Nov. 4, 2008.

Quail Hollow precinct, Nov. 4, 2008. Sorry about the quality.

Your reactions to Kamala Harris announcement?

Joe and Kamala

I’ve been too busy to write another full post this afternoon, and will be for awhile.

But I thought I’d give you a place to discuss Joe Biden’s decision to name Kamala Harris as his running mate.

A couple of you have mentioned it already on other posts. For instance, Randle said:

Biden chose wisely. Not my first choice, but it gives us another window into his character. No grudges, a willingness to accept criticism and no fear of an “ambitious “ woman. Onward.

That says it well. It’s so much a part of who Joe is that he dismissed my biggest objection to her — her particularly egregious attempt to sabotage him in that first debate. Joe doesn’t care. Maybe I shouldn’t, either.

But now that I’m faced with it, I realize that was more or less my only objection. By contrast, I had many profound objections to Elizabeth Warren, and we all dodged a number of bullets when he didn’t name Susan Rice. I was worrying again about her just this morning. In a piece that was pretty much a roadmap to the problems the GOP could have thrown at her, Bret Stephens reminded me why she was my least-favorite member of Obama’s national security team.

So, welcome, Kamala. Let’s get this done now.

If y’all start discussing it, I’ll join in later….

 

We could have had a lieutenant governor to remember

From today's email...

From today’s email…

The headline on this email is a relief to me, because it shows I’m far from alone.

Of course, they sort of knew her name, because they spelled it correctly (I think) on the flier. But what I saw first, what jumped out at me and stuck, was the “Lt. Gov. Evettee” in the headline of the email.

Ms. Evettee is not alone here. I started using the term Gov Lite a long time ago, because the office — and therefore the people holding it — were forgettable. Even though all the ones before this one hypothetically had actual job duties — presiding over the Senate and (after senators took pity on Andre Bauer and gave him the additional duty) the Office on Aging.

After I came home to S.C. in 1987 as governmental affairs editor, I found I had little trouble remembering Nick Theodore’s name — not because his duties compelled my awareness, but because he was running so hard for governor from the time I arrived until 1994. He managed to build up his name recognition enough to, just barely, edge out the vastly, infinitely better qualified Joe Riley in a squeaker primary runoff. Joe had been too busy being the best mayor in the country. (That was the most heartbreaking election result in all my years in South Carolina. Joe lost by less than one vote per precinct. Our history would have been quite different — as in, much better — if he had turned out one more person at each polling place. He would have run right over recent party-switcher David Beasley in the general.)

But Nick’s successors were easier to ignore, when they weren’t crashing planes or something.

The current one, the first one to take office after running as the governor’s electoral mate, is remarkably invisible even for a Gov Lite. That was predestined to happen, given that Henry picked someone who made us all say “Who?” and the office being stripped of duties. So it was that when I saw her (at least, I think it was her behind that mask) in this picture from Henry’s inexcusable announcement about giving millions to private schools, I for a moment thought, “Oh, look, there’s…” and couldn’t come up with the name.

“Predestined,” that is, as long as she and Henry won. Had James and Mandy won, you’d have seen something startlingly different.

James had a compelling vision for the role his lieutenant governor would play, and Mandy endorsed it wholeheartedly. She would have been every bit a full partner in governing. She would have been a dynamo, having dramatic impact on events left, right and up the middle.

That moment — with the changes to the office, especially the fact that everything the job had previously entailed was being stripped away, and the fact that the person would be elected in unison with the governor — was a huge opportunity for anyone who truly wanted to make a difference for South Carolina, and James and Mandy were energized by it.

I wrote a press release outlining their vision for the role that Mandy would have played. It was, in fact, one of the more substantial releases I wrote during the campaign — actually setting out a vision that would redefine one of the more visible electoral positions in our state. It transformed the job from meaninglessness to something that made a difference. And it explained clearly why James had chosen Mandy — she was perfect for the vision — and why they were running as they did, as partners, as a team.

And… it got no traction. Initially, it had gotten mixed up in an attempt to help out a reporter. The reporter had the idea of doing something on how the campaigns envisioned the new position, and she had reached out to us about it. So instead of putting out the release generally, we decided to share it first with her. But then she was unable to get to the story for several days, and out of nowhere another reporter asked us how we envisioned the lieutenant governor position, so we (with apologies to the first reporter) gave him the release, and… it all kind of fell apart. There was that one story, and that was it.

I was disappointed enough that I tried putting out the release to everybody some weeks later. Because I wanted to see it get exposure. I wanted voters to have the chance to think about, OK, if I vote for this ticket, here’s what I’ll actually get… I wanted them to see why Mandy was perfect for the job.

But it never became the shiny toy of the day for our state’s ravaged, depleted political press corps.

So I’ll share it with you. I think I’ve done this before, but I couldn’t find it just now, so I’ll share it again. Repeatedly putting out this release has gotten to be a habit for me.

Anyway, this is what you could have had in a lieutenant governor:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Oct. 16, 2018
Press Contact: Brad Warthen
brad@jamessmith.com

Why Mandy Powers Norrell will be
SC’s best lieutenant governor yet

COLUMBIA, S.C. – People keep asking James Smith about his vision for Mandy Powers Norrell’s role as South Carolina’s next lieutenant governor.

He has really a really good answer to that. And when people hear it, they realize why Mandy is perfect for the job.

This is the first election in which the governor and lieutenant governor are running together as a ticket. And the lieutenant governor will no longer have the old duties associated with the job – such as presiding over the Senate and running the Office on Aging. So the new governor will have a unique opportunity to reshape the office.

Smith envisions a lieutenant governor more influential, and far more relevant, than before. He sees Lt. Gov. Norrell doing the following:

• Advancing his legislative agenda. With all the partnerships she has formed on both sides of the aisle during her experience in the House, she will greatly extend the influence of the governor’s office in shaping laws and setting policies. As the second most prominent statewide officeholder, her influence in the General Assembly would be considerably greater than that of past legislative liaison staffers.
• Conducting oversight of state agencies. She will engage with the agencies as no one has before, finding ways to make them more efficient, promoting such approaches as zero-based budgeting.
• Playing a key role in the appointment process. “There is tremendous untapped talent in South Carolina, and we don’t take full advantage of that fact,” said Smith. “She will help find and recruit a diverse pool of appointees from across our state, and help me get them in place right away.” He noted that having represented rural South Carolina, she brings a perspective and connections too often left out when appointments are made in Columbia.
• Being closely involved in setting policies and legislative goals. She will not only push the governor’s agenda, but be a full partner in shaping it. And she will seek broad input in that process. For instance, Smith noted, he and Norrell already plan to sit down with mayors from across the state to talk about how the governor and lieutenant governor can help them with their priorities. “We support the agendas of the governments closest to the people, which for too long have been ignored and disrespected on the state level,” he said. As a 20-year municipal attorney, Norrell fully understands the challenges faced by local governments.

Those criteria explain why James chose Mandy. With that job description in mind, he was looking for three traits in a running mate. He wanted someone who:

• Is qualified to be governor. “Mandy would be a formidable candidate for governor on her own,” said Smith.
• Would be ready on Day One. He needed someone who thoroughly understood state government and could immediately jump in and start doing the job he envisions, with no learning curve. Also, someone who knows how to work with this Legislature as it is. “We need to work as well with this Republican General Assembly as Carroll Campbell did with a Democratic one,” said Smith. “Mandy has a great track record of working constructively across the aisle. She respects her Republican colleagues, and they respect her.”
• Meshes well with him and his vision. “Mandy and I already speak with the same voice as we share our positive vision for South Carolina,” Smith said. “I needed someone full of enthusiasm for the future of our state, and no one fits that description better than Mandy Powers Norrell.”

Exactly.

###

This was from the eve of Election Day. That's Scott Harriford -- who played a key role this year in Joe Biden's SC primary victory -- in the background...

This was from the eve of Election Day. That’s Scott Harriford — who played a key role this year in Joe Biden’s SC primary victory — in the background…

 

 

Well, I voted. Did you? If so, how did it go?

My polling place this morning. And no, I didn't throw Lindsey's sign to the ground. But I thought it interesting that someone had.

My polling place this morning. And no, I didn’t throw Lindsey’s sign to the ground. But I thought it interesting that someone had.

Well, that was easy enough. No lines, everybody wearing masks, walk right in and out. (I mean, as in and out as is possible when you’re as obsessively careful as I am about voting.)

Did you vote today? If so, how did it go for you?

As for how I voted: Well, y’all know that my priority was voting “NO” to that grossly devious effort by the state Republican Party to shut nonpartisans out of the electoral process. I did so, just as firmly and adamantly as my long cotton swab thingy would let me. It’s a wonder I didn’t break the stick.

By the way, I enjoyed Eva Moore’s take on the swabs:

Actually, they had me throw mine away before scanning my completed ballot. Seems to me we missed a big opportunity today. We could have had everyone test themselves for COVID with those after voting.

Anyway, so I voted “no” on that, and on the other, less consequential, “advisory question.” I don’t expect my vote to make the difference. It will probably pass, because of the shamefully deceptive way it is worded. The people who will see that question and fail to understand it far exceed the number I can reach (and persuade) with my blog, and for that matter, that Cindi and the Post and Courier can reach. We can only do so much, when parties stoop to be this sleazy.

Ditto with my votes against Lindsey Graham and Joe Wilson. I went for Joe Reynolds and Michael Bishop — both of whom I believe would do better jobs than the incumbents, if they had a chance. But the real chance — as difficult as that, too, will be — will come in November, when both incumbents have credible Democratic opposition.

I did not vote for either of the guys vying to oppose my senator, Nikki Setzer, nor in the sheriff race. I tried last night, but could not find enough information to be sure which way to go on sheriff. The challenger’s efforts to explain his candidacy were so lame that I had a slight tendency to vote for the incumbent, but I found so little information on him that I couldn’t be confident about it. (He probably has one, but I had trouble even finding a campaign website for Sheriff Koon.)

And I’m not about to ever fall into the “name recognition” fallacy of voting for somebody just because I’ve heard of him. That would be insupportable. I always have reasons — as imperfect as they may be — to vote the way I do.

Anyway, how’d it go for you? I mean, if you voted today. And even if you voted absentee like so many — how did that go?

Vote against S.C. GOP effort to disenfranchise you

File photo from 2018 primary.

File photo from 2018 primary.

I’m voting in the Republican primary on Tuesday. The choice of which primary, of course, was easy. Where I live, there is no Democratic primary this year. Not one contested race.

Not that the choices offered on the GOP ballot are anything to write home about. There are some candidates running against Lindsey Graham and Joe Wilson, but what do you think their chances are? I am going to look more closely into one of the candidates running challenging Graham, after Scout said supportive things about him the other day. But bottom line, on these two positions we DO have good alternatives for once in the fall, so I’m going to be voting for Jaime Harrison and Adair Ford Boroughs. Jaime is an excellent candidate and I’m really pleased to have the privilege of supporting him, and while I don’t know Ms. Boroughs as well, I can tell she’d be better than Joe. Way better.

Lexington County Sheriff Jay Koon has opposition, but I know next to nothing about that. There’s the problem that the sheriff of the county I live in just doesn’t make news the way my twin over in Richland County does. He keeps a much lower profile than, say, Jimmy Metts did. So I need to try to get schooled up a bit by Tuesday. If I don’t learn enough to make an informed choice, I’ll skip that race.

But there’s one thing to vote on that I wouldn’t miss, that I would beat down doors to have the chance to have my say on: I’m going to vote against the Republican Party’s effort to take away my right to vote.

Oh, the wording seems innocuous enough, to anyone completely clueless about what’s going on: “Do you support giving voters the right to register to vote with the political party of their choice?”

Golly, who could be against that, right? Shouldn’t we have the right to back any party we want? Well, yeah — and it’s a right we already have, and one that is not even slightly endangered. There is no rule against backing a party, and no such rule is threatened.

What’s threatened here is the rights of those of us who don’t want to support a party, any party. If you know what’s going on, you read the question differently. I read it this way: “Do you support banning people like you from being able to vote?” Anyone who wishes to make his or her own decisions in future elections — rather than surrendering that power to a party — will read it that way.

Of course, what I mean is, vote in primaries. Which, the way Republicans have rigged things through the process of gerrymandering (as Democrats would have done if they’d had the chance, but they don’t, and haven’t had since the science of politicians choosing their voters got really sophisticated), are increasingly the only time we get a choice in who our legislators are.

That’s generally the case in congressional races, too — although as I said, this year is unusual in that Joe Wilson has a pretty good Democratic opponent in November. Of course, he and predecessor Floyd Spence have occasionally had other good opponents over the years (Jim Leventis in 1988, Jane Frederick in 2000) — but the district remains drawn for Republicans, so he still enjoys a great advantage in November.

As Cindi Scoppe explained in an enewsletter (let me know if you have trouble getting that link) the other day:

With obvious exceptions, primaries are probably more important than the general election. That’s because so many contests in South Carolina are decided in the primaries — a result of the GOP domination statewide along with the gerrymandering of congressional, legislative, county council and in too many places even school board district lines. (The gerrymandering sometimes benefits Republicans, sometimes Democrats and never, ever voters.)

But extremists in both parties want to make primaries private affairs, to make sure the nominated candidates are as extreme as possible. Used to be, party leaders opposed these efforts, and most elected officials still do, realizing that the way you win elections in November is by getting people bought into the candidates through the primaries. But the state Republican Party leadership was taken over a few years ago by people who want to stop the rest of us from voting in these most crucial elections unless we swear an oath of allegiance to their party, and again this year they’ve put a deceptively worded question on the GOP primary ballot aimed at locking us out….

Cindi was being rather mild there with that “deceptively worded question.” As the paper Cindi works for now put it in an editorial, it is “a grossly misleading question.” As that editorial continued:

The ballot question is designed by party officials who want to force all of us to register our allegiance to a political party — or else be barred from participating in primaries. The results have no force of law, but if a majority of Republican primary voters say “yes,” those party leaders will use it as ammunition to demand that the Republicans who control the Legislature change long-standing state policy to close the ballot to all but the most partisan among us.

That might not be such a huge problem if we had competitive elections in November, but we rarely do….

Oh, as for the business of this not being binding: Of course it isn’t. If it were an actual referendum, it would have to be worded differently to achieve its aim. But this not a legal device, it’s a political one, meant to achieve a political purpose. In this case, the purpose is to enable the party to say to its members in the General Assembly: How can you vote against our bill to close primaries? Didn’t you see how people asserted their right to partisan identity in the primary? Aren’t you, like them, proud to be a Republican?

The S.C. GOP has a long and shameful history of using this ham-handed device to bludgeon its own members into doing stupid and even terrible things. In case you’re forgotten, Cindi wrote a column a few days back to remind you how Henry McMaster, as party chairman, and other GOP leaders used their 1994 primary to wrap themselves in the Confederate flag for a generation. If you don’t remember that the way I do — as one of the most shameful things I’ve seen in SC politics in a long career — you should probably go read that piece, and be reminded.

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I have some sympathy for those poor wretches in Iowa. Some.

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In 2000, there was “Palm Beach stupid.” Now, we have Iowa.

At least, I could swear there was such a (pre-social media) meme as “Palm Beach stupid,” a rather unkind reference to Floridians who lacked the ability to punch a hole in a card corresponding to the candidate of their choice. Yet I can’t find it by Googling, so maybe I dreamed it.

But we definitely have Iowa today, and similar scorn is being directed at it. Especially by Trump’s minions, such as his campaign manager:

Mind you, this is coming from a guy who can’t spell “Democratic.” But hey, Iowa sort of asked for it, right?

The good news is, all this scorn could have a salutary result: Maybe it will finally spell the end of the Iowa caucuses, at least as anything the rest of the nation pays attention to. That would be a good thing.

But while we’re slinging insults at them, and pondering a return to older, more legendary ways of picking leaders:

… I have to admit to a certain fellow-feeling for those poor losers up in Iowa. I’ve kinda been there.

I’ve been the guy in charge of election coverage at three newspapers in my career, in three states: Tennessee, Kansas and South Carolina. Pulling together results from a long ballot and publishing them accurately in the next days paper is — or at least, was in those days — an extremely complex affair that required a lot of different things to happen in different places simultaneously, and without a hitch.

My fellow editors would kindly surrender the resources of the newsroom to me — a hundred or so trained professional would be at my disposal — but it was always on me to figure out exactly who would do what at precisely what time, and how it would flow through the newspaper production process without things clogging up, so that the presses would roll on time and readers would actually receive their newspapers crammed with all that information.

One piece of that puzzle was getting the numbers and putting them into tables — candidate by candidate, county by county, and in the metro area, precinct by precinct. The numbers not only had to get into the charts, but to the reporters writing the stories, so our numbers would match. (We generally kept the use of numbers in the stories to a minimum, though, to simplify the coordination somewhat.)

In other words, a part of my job was doing what the people in Iowa have failed so spectacularly to do.

It usually went pretty well, but not always.

One of the lowest points of my professional life occurred in the early ’80s in Jackson, Tenn. The Jackson Sun was then an afternoon newspaper, which meant we had all night and part of the next morning to get things right before going to press, which meant our report needed to be more complete and accurate than what the morning papers had. And it generally was.

But one election, things went horribly wrong. After working all day on Election Day, and then all night pulling the results together, at mid-morning — about an hour before the presses were to roll — I realized the tables were wrong. Completely wrong. All the totals were wrong, and we couldn’t figure out why. We’re talking about full-page tables, densely packed with numbers.

I’d been up and going at full speed for more than 24 hours, and my brain just froze. What was I going to do? There was only one thing to do. Check every single number, and try to find a pattern that showed us what had gone wrong.

At that moment, my boss stepped in. Executive Editor Reid Ashe was and is a very smart guy, for whom I’ve always had the greatest respect. And he had a lot of respect for me, respect that I valued. For his part, he valued excellence. He had this art deco poster, a reproduction of one that had once hung in French train stations, that had this one word over the image of a locomotive: EXACTITUDE.

Precision.

It was, if I recall correctly, the only decoration in his office. His walls bore that one message for the world. This is what mattered to him. Therefore, we understood, it needed to matter to us.

With a rather grim look on his face, he sat down at a table in a conference room with a calculator, and started to crunch all the numbers.

While he did that, I sat on the floor against the wall with my face in my hands. I had tried to sort it out, but my brain was too fried at that point — those numbers were sort of dancing around before my eyes. I had to wait while Reid had his go at it, with — at least, I imagined — steam coming out of his ears.

He figured it out (hey, he had had some sleep!), and we got the paper out. Eventually, I went home  and crashed.

I don’t know if there’s ever been a moment in my life when I felt more like a failure.

So as I say, I have some sympathy for those people in Iowa.

But it would still be great if this was not the way we started presidential elections going forward…

He had this one poster in his office...

Reid had this one decoration in his office…