Category Archives: Elections

Hillary, you should get to know who your SC supporters are

Just got around to looking at this release from yesterday:

Richland County Officials Announce Support for Clinton Following Launch of Hillary for Richland 


Columbia, SC — Following a successful “Hillary for Richland” kickoff with James Carville, 12 new local officials in Richland County announced their support for Hillary Clinton. Citing Hillary Clinton’s vision to boost middle class incomes to help South Carolinians get ahead and stay ahead, the following local officials are joining the campaign and supporting Hillary Clinton:

  • City of Columbia Mayor Pro Tem Sam Davis
  • Columbia City Councilwoman Tameika Isaac Devine
  • Mayor Mark Hugely of Forest Acres 
  • Mayor Geraldine Robinson of Eastover
  • Richland County Treasurer David Adams
  • Richland County Councilwoman Joyce Dickerson
  • Richland County Councilman Jim Manning 
  • Richland County Councilman Kelvin E. Washington Sr.
  • Former Richland County Councilwoman Bernice G. Scott
  • Former Richland County Councilwoman Kit Smith
  • Richland School District 1 Commissioner Aaron Bishop
  • Richland School District 2 Commissioner Dr. Monica Elkin-Johnson

Last week, Hillary for America Chair John Podesta visited Columbia to outline Clinton’s plans on issues like income inequality, health care, Social Security, climate change and college affordability.  In addition, former Governors Jim Hodges and Dick Riley announced their endorsements of Clinton.

A few weeks ago, Hillary for South Carolina kicked off “Mayors for Hillary” with the endorsements of Mayor Steve Benjamin and former Mayor Bob Coble following Clinton’s Mayors Summit in Columbia. During the summit, mayors and Clinton discussed education and infrastructure investments in cities along with plans to fight systemic racism and fight for criminal justice reform.

“Hillary acts like a good mayor – she innovates, improvises and solves problems. As a friend and partner to our nation’s Mayors, Hillary will work closely with our cities to tackle tough issues. She will fight everyday to listen and come up with solutions for our cities and states on issues like raising wages for working Americans, reducing racial disparities in our prisons, and providing quality, affordable health care to our residents,” said Mayor Steve Benjamin of Columbia and President of the African American Mayors Association. 

“As we’ve seen in Columbia, good things happen when government and business collaborate, which is why we need an ally in the White House that will keep a laser focus on jobs, small businesses and economic development. In partnership with our Mayors, Hillary Clinton will work with cities both large and small to innovate and grow our economy,” said former Mayor Bob Coble of Columbia. 

“There are a lot of people who aren’t making ends meet, which is why we need Hillary Clinton’s tenacity to even the playing field and help hardworking South Carolinians get ahead and stay ahead. It is far past time for us to embrace full diversity in our elected offices and I can’t wait to see Hillary in the Oval Office,” said Columbia City Councilwoman Tameika Isaac Devine.

“Hillary Clinton listens to local leaders, which is why she’s the partner we need in the White House. She’ll work to make government efficient and find solutions to the problems facing local communities across the country,” said Richland County Treasurer David Adams. 

“Hillary Clinton is a champion for women and girls, and her leadership will help bring women into the 21st century on issues like equal pay and paid family leave” said Richland County Councilwoman and former Senate candidate Joyce Dickerson. “At a time our country faces new and emerging threats and challenges both at home and abroad, our country needs a strong leader. Hillary has a proven record of bold leadership as Secretary of State and a long record of providing support to our veterans and military families.”

“If we want to tackle tough issues facing women, children and families, we need a tenacious and courageous woman like Hillary Clinton in the White House. Hillary has spent her career standing up for what’s right whether it was advocating for children incarcerated in adult prisons in South Carolina or helping create the successful Children’s Health Insurance Program,” said former Richland County Councilwoman Bernice G. Scott. 

 
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Now, I don’t have time to go down the list and check each and every one of these, but one of them jumped out at me.

I am not familiar with a “Mayor Mark Hugely of Forest Acres.”

Could they have meant Mayor Mark Huguley, not “Hugely,” of Arcadia Lakes — you know, the former SLED agent who is married to my old newspaper colleague Sally Huguley?

I don’t know. (I’ve emailed Mark to find out.) But the mayor of Forest Acres is named Frank Brunson.

That’s just Hugely embarrassing…

Are national media losing their respect for SC Republican voters’ ability to pick winners?

NBC's Ali Weinberg at the SC State House, August 2011.

NBC’s Ali Weinberg at the SC State House, August 2011.

I alluded to this in my last post, but decided this point was worth a separate headline…

By this time four years ago, NBC’s Ali Weinberg (daughter of the famous Max) was already a fixture in the local media scene. She was here for the duration to cover the SC primary.

Week before last, I got an email from Alexandra Jaffe of NBC that began: “I cover politics for NBC News here in Washington and I’m emailing because I’ll be heading down to South Carolina in December or January to cover the primary there, and was hoping to connect with you because I’m a fan of your blog…”

Alex Jaffe

Alex Jaffe

In December or January

When we spoke later on the phone, she confirmed that her bosses figured that, since SC blew the call in 2012, it wasn’t worth the resources expended on it last time around.

Four years ago, SC Republicans were still known nationally for their habit of always (at least, for a generation) picking the eventual nominee in their presidential preference primaries. That’s why we’ve grown accustomed to seeing so many national candidates — and so much media — trooping through here every four years. South Carolina picks winners. Or at least, it did.

But after SC Republicans had a fit and picked Newt Gingrich in 2012, some of the gloss went off the reputation.

And now, at least one major news organization is making real, dollars-and-cents decisions based on that one primary. Of course, with Trump leading a poll with 30 percent of the vote here, the Gingrich victory is looking less like a one-off…

Has SC gone mad? Trump at 30 percent? Really?

For some time, I’ve been assuring people of what I regard as a verity: Yes, Donald Trump is leading in polls. But you can dominate a poll with 20 percent support when there are 16 or 17 candidates. When it gets down to two or three candidates, 20 percent isn’t so great. And surely, surely, surely 20 percent is Trump’s ceiling.

That 20-percent assumption would seem consistent, for instance, with this bit of data that George Will cited in his Sunday column headlined “Trump’s immigration plan could spell doom for the GOP:”

A substantial majority of Americans — majorities in all states — and, in some polls, a narrow majority of Republicans favor a path for illegal immigrants not just to legal status but to citizenship. Less than 20 percent of Americans favor comprehensive deportation….

Yep. Makes all the sense in the world, except for this:

The 2016 Donald Trump phenomenon is not going away.

The New York real estate mogul holds a commanding lead in a poll released Tuesday of likely S.C. GOP presidential primary voters.

Trump received 30 percent support — doubling the second-place contender, retired surgeon Ben Carson, according to the poll from Monmouth University in New Jersey.

They are followed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at 9 percent, former executive Carly Fiorina at 6 percent, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio at 6 percent and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas at 5 percent.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina each received 4 percent. The two had been vying for second place in spring polls….

Thirty percent. With 30 percent, Trump could still be in the running in a three-way race, much less with 17.

So, the question is: Has South Carolina gone mad? Was the fit of irrationality that led to Newt Gingrich winning the 2012 primary here more than a one-time thing?

This is a question with national implications. Already some of the gloss has worn off the reputation that the SC GOP had been earning for a generation, the one that has enabled Republican leaders to boast,: “We pick presidents (or at least, eventual nominees).”

Some in the national media have practically written off South Carolina as worth covering, based on that one slip…

Something like this latest poll showing Trump at 30 percent is not likely to restore our rep as a state that knows how to pick ’em…

Let’s not use the term ‘Trumpism,’ please. That gives it too much dignity

A piece by Ruth Marcus in The Washington Post today began:

We’re going to have Donald Trump around for a while, which prompts the question: What is Trumpism? Or, to put it more tartly, is there a coherent political philosophy underlying his candidacy?

Spoiler alert — no…

Please, let’s not use that word. “Trumpism.” It suggests that there is a system of thought lurking nearby, and that is an insult to everyone who values thought, or for that matter has ever had a thought.

Like Ferris Bueller, I don’t think much of -isms. But I think enough of them not to have them dragged down to this extent…

Jeb Bush on the Veterans Administration

This release from SC Democrats reminded me of the Jeb Bush event I attended Monday evening:

SC Dems: “Jeb Bush’s Plan to Privatize Veterans Health Care Services Would Be a Disaster
Columbia, SC—The South Carolina Democratic Party released a statement from Beaufort County Democratic Party Chair and retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Blaine Lotz regarding former Florida Governor and Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush campaigning in the Palmetto State today.
“Jeb Bush’s plan to privatize veterans’ health care services would be a disaster for South Carolina veterans. As Governor of Florida, Bush proposed a similar plan that was so disastrous, it was replaced shortly after he left office. Jeb Bush continues to support outdated policies that prove as President, he would look out for his wealthy donors and special interests over our veterans and military families.”

 

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What are they talking about?

Well, Bush had released several proposals with regard to veterans’ benefits on Monday, in advance of the Concerned Veterans for America event I attended over at Seawell’s. (I went basically to take my Dad there, who as a veteran was invited. We didn’t stay for all of it, which is one reason I didn’t write about it before now.) Here’s how Military Times described the proposals, in part:

Bush’s VA reform plan, to be unveiled later today in advance of an appearance with Concerned Veterans for America in South Carolina tonight, includes expanding “choice” options for care outside the department without cutting funding for VA hospitals and medical staff.

Instead, he promises that extra funds can be found through “cutting excess administrators (not caregivers)” and eliminating “billions of dollars in waste, fraud, and abuse.” That includes more competitive bidding for department contracts and firing poorly performing employees.

“Ample resources exist within the VA budget to improve the quality and scope of care,” Bush’s policy paper states. “In other government agencies, common-sense reforms have saved billions. The VA must get its house in order and send savings into improving veteran choice and veteran care.”

He’s also promising better online health care access systems for veterans, calling existing offerings too cumbersome and outdated….

The video clip above shows him talking about his proposals — not in any detail. I just share it to give you some flavor of the event…

Bush speaking to veterans. For those of you who notice such things, Sen. John Courson is in the red shirt on the left-hand side of the image; Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster is seen at the extreme right. McMaster is backing Lindsey Graham; I don't know where Courson stands.

Bush speaking to veterans. For those of you who notice such things, Sen. John Courson is in the Marine Corps red shirt on the left-hand side of the image; Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster is seen at the extreme right. McMaster is backing Lindsey Graham; I don’t know where Courson stands.

James Smith is among those waiting for Joe Biden to run

James Smith, shouting over the band in conversation with our own Lynn Teague at the second flag rally this summer.

James Smith, shouting over the band in conversation with our own Lynn Teague at the second flag rally this summer.

Bryan was dismissing the idea that a South Carolina Democrat endorsing Hillary Clinton was news, and I begged to differ — in South Carolina, there are a number of prominent Democrats waiting for Joe Biden to get into it.

After that exchange with Bryan, I picked up the phone to talk with one: Rep. James Smith.

James was quoted in The Wall Street Journal as someone urging the Veep to run just the other day, which was a change of pace, as it seems to me that the person most quoted on the subject by national media has been Dick Harpootlian. And of course, South Carolina was where Biden chose to get away from it all last week and ponder the matter. His ties to South Carolina, and not just to SC Democrats, are noteworthy.

As James told me, it’s not just about him and Dick. “We have a long list of Biden supporters… community faith leaders, business leaders and elected leaders.” And he said “We’re building an organization, on the chance” that he’ll jump into the race.

Why Biden? Smith starts with his broad experience, with issues both foreign and domestic. He said Biden is “the leader we need for these times,” someone “respected across the spectrum,” particularly in the Senate.

“The rest are just very polarizing figures, like something from a bad reality TV show.”

I could see why he’d say that about some of the GOP candidates, but Hillary Clinton, who will likely head up his party’s ticket next November? “She can be a very polarizing figure,” he insisted.

Smith said the time at Kiawah was “a very important week” for Biden, and he seemed hopeful.

But isn’t it too late for anyone to mount a serious challenge to Hillary’s inevitability? That’s what The Fix said yesterday, in a piece headlined, “It’s too late for Democrats to start rethinking Clinton’s 2016 viability.” Aren’t the important fund-raisers and others are taken now?

“I promise you that is not the case,” Rep. Smith said. He didn’t get into specifics, but implied that some fund-raisers have indicated their enthusiasm for a Biden candidacy.

So, there you have it — a South Carolina Democrat who is definitely not endorsing Hillary Clinton at this time. And he is not alone…

Dick Riley endorses Hillary Clinton

This endorsement from such a respected quarter comes at a good time for the Clinton campaign (a time when some other South Carolinians, such as Dick Harpootlian, are hoping to see Joe Biden run). Of course, it’s no surprise: Gov. Riley, who served as Bill Clinton’s secretary of education, backed her in 2008 as well, unless my memory fails me:

Former Governor and Former Secretary of Education Dick Riley Endorses Clinton

Greenville, SC – Citing Hillary Clinton’s record as a tenacious fighter for hard-working Americans, former South Carolina Governor and former U.S. Secretary of Education Dick Riley announced his endorsement for Clinton for President.  Riley praised Clinton’s newly released higher education plan – the New College Compact – in a letter this morning.

“Hillary Clinton has spent a lifetime getting results for women, children and families.  She will spend every day as President working to help hard-working South Carolinians get ahead and stay ahead.

“Hillary is smart, grounded and focused on the issues that matter most to South Carolinians.  Back in the 1970s, she came to South Carolina to help children.  As first lady of Arkansas, she and I worked together to reduce infant mortality rates in Southern states.  She wants to get things done and will fight for the underdogs – that’s the way she’s always been.”

Riley was Governor of South Carolina from 1979-1987 and U.S. Secretary of Education from 1993-2001.

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Video illustrates why Clinton team is nervous

End of last week, The Washington Post had a story headlined, “Clinton’s team went from nonchalant to nervous over e-mail controversy.”

An anti-Clinton video from the America Rising PAC helps illustrate, in a visceral way, why that might be. Imagine you’re a Clinton campaign staffer, and feel your guts tighten up as you watch.

The video was brought to my attention by Jennifer Rubin, who described it this way:

Hillary screengrab

Rep. Beth Bernstein won’t run for Lourie’s Senate seat

Beth Bernstein at her campaign kickoff last year, with the back of Joel Lourie's head in the foreground at right.

Beth Bernstein at her campaign kickoff last year, with the back of Joel Lourie’s head in the foreground at right.

Well, it looks like Joel Lourie’s departure from the S.C. Senate won’t produce a Democratic primary contest between two House incumbents. Mia McLeod is going to run, but Beth Bernstein is not:

Bernstein: How I Can Best Serve 
Columbia, SC – State Representative Beth Bernstein released the following statement in regards to a possible bid for Senate District 22, currently held by Joel Lourie, who announced last week that he won’t run for re-election.
“Leadership.  An interesting concept and one not easily grasped.  In fact, I just concluded a 2 year-long course on this same topic through the Aspen Institute’s prestigious Liberty Fellowship Program.  In this program, we studied different leadership styles, philosophers such as Aristotle, Plato, and Hobbes, and instrumental leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Ghandi, and Margaret Thatcher, among others.  What I learned and what I am still learning is a good leader has to make tough decisions, not rash decisions but well studied and thought out decisions.

Last week, my state Senator Joel Lourie announced that he would not be seeking re-election in 2016.  For our community and state, he has exemplified the qualities of a great leader.  He will be sorely missed and we will suffer a great void without him, but while I know this decision must have been a difficult one, it was one that was not made in haste.  And I thank him for the incredible sacrifices that he has made for our community.

With his departure came the likely inquisition on whether I would seek to run for his vacant seat.  While I wish he was given at least one day before any announcement was made to replace him, allowing him the respect and deference deserved for a career of public service coming to an end, I felt pressure to quickly make a decision.  Although, I personally needed time to study and determine if filing for Senate District 22 would be the best decision for my family and me and the community that I love and cherish.

After much prayer and personal reflection, my conclusion is that while serving in the Senate would be an exciting opportunity, I believe my recent appointments to the House Judiciary and Ethics Committees allow me to be more effective in representing this community in the House of Representatives. Therefore, at this time, I do not intend to file for Senator Lourie’s vacant Senate seat.

I am able to effect positive change for my constituency through the legislative process, and I believe I can make a bigger impact for our community by continuing to serve in the House.  Many of the bills that I have co-sponsored this year have passed, including the Cervical Cancer Prevention Act, of which I was the primary sponsor.

I feel so privileged and honored to be able to serve our community at the Statehouse and intend to file for re-election for House District 78 in March.  I want to continue advocating for our public schools, road funding and ethics reform, as well as fighting for women’s health issues, the elderly, and children’s issues.  I hope you will continue to support me.”

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So, was that a dig at Mia? I refer to the part that said, “I wish he was given at least one day before any announcement was made to replace him.” Yeah, that was kind of a dig at Mia. I think…

Lindsey, baby, ya gotta work on the RBF thing…

gettyimages483181798.jpg.CROP.promovar-mediumlarge

I’ve mentioned before that one of my current fantasy jobs is working on the Lindsey Graham presidential campaign. Seriously, if he called me right now, and offered to pay me enough to pay my bills for the duration, I’d jump. Why? Because aside from the fact that I’ve always liked him, I think his campaign would be loads of fun. He’s in that “I can’t win, so I might as well say what I think and have fun” zone, and there’s really no more gratifying place to be in the political universe. I could really enjoy that.

But since I haven’t gotten that call, I just have these imaginary conversations in which I’m coaching him, telling him stuff that somebody should be telling him. And today, I’d be having a serious talk — more a rant, really — about his performance during the JV debate last night.

Not that I saw it or anything. But since this is all in my imagination, I figure I might as well be the kind of brilliant campaign strategist who can extrapolate all that he needs to know from a single, low-res still shot. And of course, in my imagination, the candidate is so impressed with me that he actually listens to my brilliant flashes of intuitive insight.

And the great thing is, unlike the punk kids likely advising him on media, I’m older than he is, and therefore entitled to talk to him like a Dutch uncle.

The tiny scrap of data I’d be riffing on today would be the above photo, which ran with a short Slate item that said in part:

Lindsey Graham was subdued, almost morose during much of the early Republican debate…

And then yadda-yadda. The rest is irrelevant; I have what I need. And here’s what I’d say:

Lindsey, baby, you’re killing me here! What’s with the RBF! Yes, men can have it, too — I mean, LOOK at you! Who died? Who killed your dog? Yeah, I know, you don’t dig standing there with the rejects and having to wait your turn — it sucks, OK? I feel your pain. You’d rather be the only guy with a mic, cracking jokes with a small group of yokels at a Shoney’s in New Hampshire, making like the cracker Henny Youngman, but come ON! You’re on national TV! You didn’t have to bend over for some crypto-fascist twit who made a billion selling patio furniture to pay for this! Show some gratitude! Enjoy it! Give people a sliver of a chance to maybe, God forbid, LIKE you! Ditch the sad bastard routine, or I am outta here!

Really, the man has a problem, and he needs to listen to me and fix it.

Did you see him at the historic, miraculous press conference when Nikki Haley stood up with top leaders from both parties and promised to take down the flag? This was his chance to look like a hero! People who saw the stills later wouldn’t know he didn’t have a speaking part; for all they would know, he helped make this happen. But not when they see that face:

I mean really… and look at me when I’m talkin’ to ya, or I’m outta here! So what if you’re a Pip to Nikki’s Gladys here? Who cares? What did you have to do to get here? NOTHING! You’ve been invited to share the glory for FREE! This is a MAJOR feel-good moment that people will remember for the rest of their lives, and they’re going to see this image over and over, and you’re gonna stare at the ceiling like you’re in detention? What’s the MATTER with you? And no, this is not just some unfortunate moment — I was watching, and you did this THE WHOLE TIME. Yes, serious and determined would be fine — look at Clyburn — but detached, disinterested and ticked off to be here ain’t gonna cut it…

And after this talking-to, the candidate straightens up and flies right. The “I’m outta here” threat always works. Because I’m just that good. I’m the pro from Dover, baby! You know it..

Graham RBF

Thoughts on the GOP debate(s) last night?

debate_closingstatement_080615

Y’all are likely better situated to comment than I am.

First, I missed the early, junior-varsity debate. I was still at work, on a deadline. Then, at 9, I tried to tune in, and found Fox didn’t want to let me do that, even streaming on my laptop. I fumed about that for half an hour or so before Tweeting this:

I mean, seriously: I don’t DO cable these days. Who needs it, with Netflix, Amazon and HBO NOW? And in the 21st century, what major content organization doesn’t want the whole world buzzing about it when it has an exclusive such as this? Dumb. Fox should be looking for viable ways to move away from old-school cable, the way HBO has.

But the nice thing about griping on Twitter is that people go out of their way to offer you solutions. Soon, I was watching it on the SkyNews app on Apple TV. (And apparently Fox even tried to shut that down, but missed the Apple TV avenue.)

So I saw more than an hour of it, and you know what? I was pretty impressed. It could have been SO much worse with that many people on the stage, especially when one of them is Donald Trump. But even The Donald, while bombastic and so red-faced I thought he was about to bust a blood vessel, actually seemed to be trying to be a serious candidate, after his fashion.

The Fox people were really putting their best foot forward, and the moderators — Mike Wallace’s boy, the hot blonde with the late-’60s eyelashes, and the earnest, round-headed kid — were taking their jobs seriously. Fox REALLY should have been paying people to watch this, rather than trying to limit the audience, because it would have made a good impression on people who haven’t seen them lately.

The three were asking serious, tough questions, and following up very professionally, as former Greenville News editorialist Paul Hyde noted on Facebook:

Much to their credit, the Fox News journalists are acting like journalists, challenging the individual candidates on economic policy, abortion, and their own divisive, sexist and strident statements.

You know they were doing a decent job, because a lot of the so-called “conservatives” watching were really ticked off at them. They were all like, “Et tu, Fox?” Only not in Latin, of course.

As for the candidates, I actually felt like I was getting some useful impressions of them, despite the fact that there were far too many of them. Not that I changed my mind or anything — I had previously had the most positive impressions of (in no particular order) Bush, Rubio, Christie and Huckabee, and I came away feeling about the same.

My biggest regret, aside from missing most of the first hour, was that I would have liked Lindsey Graham to be there. I think he would have held his own pretty well. I didn’t really care to see him with the second-tier, although I would have watched if not for the work conflict. That said, I think the criteria for choosing who made the varsity game was fair.

It was interesting. There was plenty of foolishness to put me off, but there was food for thought. And I didn’t expect that from such a crowd scene…

moderators

The moderators — Mike Wallace’s boy, the hot blonde with the late-’60s eyelashes, and the earnest, round-headed kid — did a good job.

Thanks to the Voting Rights Act, we’re a better, fairer country — no matter what the Democrats say

LBJ and MLK at the signing of the Voting Rights Act.

LBJ and MLK at the signing of the Voting Rights Act.

Within the past two or three hours, I’ve received three releases marking the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act — from Jim Clyburn, the Hillary Clinton campaign and the S.C. Democratic Party.

Unfortunately, none of these communications are as celebratory as they should be. They’re all, “the Voting Rights Act is great, but our rights are in terrible danger.”

Which is a shame, because the Act deserves an unqualified hurrah.

Clyburn’s release is typical:

CLYBURN STATEMENT ON 50TH ANNIVERSARY
OF THE VOTING RIGHTS ACT OF 1965

WASHINGTON – U.S. House Assistant Democratic Leader James E. Clyburn (SC) released the following statement on the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965:

“On this day fifty years ago, surrounded by leaders of both political parties, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act. It was a moment worthy of both celebration and reflection. Today, we stand at a similar crossroads.

“The right to vote is the cornerstone of democracy and the foundation upon which all other rights are built. Nearly a century after the ratification of the 15th Amendment, which protected the franchise in theory but not in fact, the world watched as peaceful protesters were brutally attacked and beaten by police while marching for voting rights on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. Just five months later, the Voting Rights Act was signed into law, and millions of African Americans were finally able to exercise their right to vote.

“Sadly, in 2015, this fundamental right is under threat yet again. Two years ago, the Supreme Court gutted a key component of the Voting Rights Act and made it easier for states to discriminate against minority, elderly and disabled Americans by deliberately making it harder for them to exercise their right to vote. Republican leaders in Congress have thus far refused to take up bipartisan legislation to restore the Voting Rights Act, as states continue to erect new barriers to the ballot box.

“Today, as we celebrate the proud legacy of the Voting Rights Act and reflect on symbolic victories like the furling of the Confederate battle flag in my home state of South Carolina, we must also take substantive action to restore the Voting Rights Act. I call on my Republican colleagues in Congress to do more than issue statements celebrating the past—I urge them to look to the future and work with us to protect the voting rights of all Americans for the next fifty years and beyond.”

– 30 –

No Democrat, it seems, can mention the Act without also bemoaning either of the following, or both: The first is the Supreme Court opinion that lifted the onerous burden from some jurisdictions (and not others, which is key) to get advance approval from the Justice Department before proceeding with any change to its local laws bearing on voting. The second is the ongoing efforts by Republicans to require picture IDs to vote.

What the Supreme Court did was rule on the constitutionality of two provisions in the Act:

Section 5, which requires certain states and local governments to obtain federal preclearance before implementing any changes to their voting laws or practices; and Section 4(b), which contains the coverage formula that determines which jurisdictions are subjected to preclearance based on their histories of discrimination in voting.[3][4]

On June 25, 2013, the Court ruled by a 5-to-4 vote that Section 4(b) is unconstitutional because the coverage formula is based on data over 40 years old, making it no longer responsive to current needs and therefore an impermissible burden on the constitutional principles of federalism and equal sovereignty of the states.[3][4] The Court did not strike down Section 5, but without Section 4(b), no jurisdiction will be subject to Section 5 preclearance unless Congress enacts a new coverage formula.[5]

… which makes sense to me. What did NOT make sense, what was unfair, was the presumption of guilt of anyone residing within particular geographical areas, based on what other people did or did not do 40 years previously.

Why should these jurisdictions not be governed by the law in the same way that all the other jurisdictions in the country were: by getting in trouble if they actually violated the law, rather than having to get advance permission to act based on a presumption of guilt?

As for the Voter ID laws: As I’ve expressed many times before, I find the positions of both the Republicans and Democrats unpersuasive. The Republicans fail to convince me that there’s this huge fraud problem that we need such laws to address, and the Democrats fail to persuade me that the ID requirement is an onerous burden.

I’ll say this for the Democrats: Between the two positions, theirs (that barriers to voting should be low) sounds way nobler than the Republicans’ (that certain people — a category Republicans would describe, unconvincingly, as people trying to vote fraudulently — should be prevented from voting).

But the bottom line, of course, is that one strongly suspects that on a certain level Republicans want these laws because they think they will increase their chances of winning elections, and Democrats oppose them because they think the Republicans are right about that.

In any case, couldn’t we have just one day in which we celebrate a good thing without adulterating the celebration with another reminder of how awful we think those OTHER people are?

So let’s hear it for the Voting Rights Act: Hip-hip…

Why on Earth did Jeb Bush say ‘women’s health’ when that’s not what he meant?

What’s amazing about Jeb Bush getting into trouble over what he said about Planned Parenthood — which led to his having to issue a clarification — is that he essentially handed the cudgel to his critics and begged them to beat him with it.

Here’s what he said:

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush, who has been criticized recently by some conservatives for serving on the board of a charity that gave money to Planned Parenthood, called for the organization’s defunding during an interview Tuesday with a Southern Baptist leader.

“If you took dollar for dollar, though, I’m not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues,” said Bush, to the cheers and applause from the audience of 13,000 Southern Baptists during his interview with Russell Moore at the denomination’s missions conference….

Obviously, what he meant to say was, I don’t think we need to send half a billion in tax dollars to the nation’s largest provider of abortions. Because, you know, that’s what we do. And that was the context of the statement.

But instead, he adopted the language of the people who use “women’s health” as a euphemism for abortion. This is something we all know and understand, whatever our positions on the issue. If we didn’t know that, we would have a terrible time following political debates. Anyone who thinks “women’s health,” in a political context, refers to fighting breast cancer or putting free clinics to promote overall health in poor neighborhoods is a person who’s going to be very confused about what is being discussed.

So why would Bush use the preferred euphemism of his opposition on this issue, thereby enabling them (with towering cynicism) to paint him as actually being opposed to, you know, women’s health? (Which is something that no one is against, which is why they say that instead of “abortion.”)

It’s inexplicable. Will he continue this trend? Will he start stating his position on abortion to be “anti-choice?” Will he express his objection to Planned Parenthood as being that it “prevents us from controlling women’s bodies?” Will he start wearing an actual sign on his back saying, “Kick Me, Hard?”

We all know that Donald Trump has said some stupid stuff lately. But on this, Jeb Bush voluntarily stuffed both feet in his mouth, completely unnecessarily.

Making machine-gun bacon with Ted Cruz (now THAT’S what I’M talkin’ about…)

The Ted Cruz presidential campaign hasn’t received a lot of attention from this blog, and that’s for a simple, obvious and perfectly fair reason: He just hasn’t been trying hard enough.

Other candidates have done whatever it takes to get our attention. Lindsey Graham has conscientiously shown us multiple ways to destroy a cell phone. Donald Trump has demonstrated his seriousness by outDonalding himself, in spades.

Finally, Sen. Cruz has shown he cares about the real issues. He has provided us with video of himself cooking bacon by wrapping it around the barrel of an assault rifle and firing off several magazines of ammo — and with pretty fair accuracy.

Meanwhile, Chris Christie is trying hard, offering to punch a national teacher’s union in the face. Big talk, but so far no video! No cigar, Chris.

I’ll continue to bring you the campaigns that care enough to show us something really cool, something that would have made the boys in my 9th-grade class at Bennettsville High School say, “GOTTAWMIGHTY!”…

How about it, Jeb Bush? Whatchagot?

It depends on what the meaning of ‘Christian’ is…

I'm using this photo from Scott Walker's website not because it particularly goes with this post, but to be helpful: If I were to write a post headlined, "Top Five GOP Presidential Candidates I'd Have Trouble Picking Out of a Police Lineup," he'd make the list.

I’m using this photo from Scott Walker’s website not because it particularly goes with this post, but to help y’all get used to seeing him: If I were to write a post headlined, “Top Five GOP Presidential Candidates I’d Have Trouble Picking Out of a Police Lineup,” he’d make the list. And it occurs to me that maybe some of y’all would have the same problem. Or maybe not. Other people watch more TV than I do…

Scott Walker is in hot water again — with Democrats, anyway, which probably isn’t keeping him up nights — for expressing something short of 100 percent certainty on whether POTUS is a Christian:

“You’re not going to get a different answer than I said before,” the Wisconsin governor said. “I don’t know. I presume he is. … But I’ve never asked him about that. As someone who is a believer myself, I don’t presume to know someone’s beliefs about whether they follow Christ or not unless I’ve actually talked with them.”…

Walker wrapped up his answer by saying, “He’s said he is, and I take him at his word.”…

OK, yeah, I get it. Obama is a special case. Expressing anything short of total acceptance of his avowed Christianity hints at birtherism. Dog whistles and all that.

But… suppose for a moment that Walker said that about any one of the other 7 billion and something people on the planet. In those cases, I would say his caution was entirely defensible.

This interests me for reasons totally unrelated to Barack Obama and the paranoid fantasies about him to which some fringe folk subscribe. It has to do with the proper use of the word “Christian.”

I’ve always felt a little uncomfortable myself answering the question, “Are you a Christian?” Not because of the denotative meaning of the word — one who professes belief in Jesus Christ and his teachings — but because of the connotations that attach to it.

Once, it was used among English speakers to mean something like “normal,” or civilized. For instance, the historical novelist Patrick O’Brian would put it in the mouths of his Regency Period characters when they were talking about the normal, proper way of doing a thing. The physician Stephen Maturin, despite years at sea, remains such a landsman that he can’t climb the rigging the way seamen do and must ascend to the top through the “lubber’s hole.” So his friend Jack Aubrey might speak of his inability to get up there “like a Christian.” Aubrey, who is just as incompetent on land as his friend is at sea, is a terrible gardener, so his rose bushes do not resemble “anything planted by a Christian for his pleasure.”

That sense has gone out of favor. Most people would find it confusing today, and like as not take offense at it.

Nevertheless, many English speakers today seem to use the word as a sort of honorific, as something describing a person who has arrived spiritually. This is most common among those who are in the habit of describing Christians as people who are “saved,” as opposed to people who are merely striving to follow the teachings of the carpenter/rabbi from Nazareth.

If I was sure everyone understood it in that striving sense — as describing someone who believes, and wants to live up to the standards set by the teachings of Jesus, and tries to do so — then I’d be perfectly comfortable telling one and all that I am a Christian. Or at least, attempting to be. (After all, I must ask myself always, am I even a Christian in the sense of striving? Am I really trying hard enough to qualify?)

But I fear they may take it the other way, as some sort of self-congratulation on my part — which to me would be contradictory to the whole belief system. In other words, if I said “yes” without mixed feelings, would I be disqualifying myself?

Anyway, if Scott Walker or anyone else says he can’t know whether I am truly a Christian, I’ll congratulate him on his humility in admitting he doesn’t know something he lacks the power to truly know, since it’s a point upon which I can even confuse myself.

But then, I’m not Barack Obama.

Graham manages to get first mention out of 14

The Washington Post‘s story on the New Hampshire cattle-call event last night was headlined, “14 Republican candidates not named Trump did some political speed dating. Here’s how they tried to stand out.

Apparently, the most successful at standing out was Lindsey Graham, because he got the first individual mention in the story:

In perhaps the most searing criticism of the evening, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) said he is “fluent in Clinton speak” and accused former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, of lying about her private e-mail server in the same way Bill Clinton misled the country about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky…

He got two other mentions, first in regard to ISIL:

Graham, whose lines were a hit with the crowd, summed up his outlook this way: “A clenched fist and an open hand — you choose.”

And then the final graf of the story:

“Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill saved Social Security by working together after they had a drink,” said Graham. “Maybe we need to drink more in Washington.”

SCDP interviews Hillary Clinton in rocking chair

Clinton rocking chair

Here’s an interesting series that the South Carolina Democratic Party is offering — half-hour interviews with presidential candidates, sitting in rocking chairs.

Why, Hillary looks so natural there, I could swear she was sittin’ out on the porch of the family home in Bennettsville, shelling butter beans with my grandmother.

Or not. In any case, I couldn’t help making that connection since Jaime Harrison’s first question to the candidate is about how she feels about being a grandmother. The interview is about eight minutes in before it moves past the subject of relearning how to change diapers.

So yeah, it’s kinda softball. But hey, take a look and toss whatever you learn from it into the hopper with the rest of what you know about the candidate.

And then check out the “chair chats” with Bernie Sanders, Lincoln Chaffee and others.

The embed is below:

Mia says ‘I’m all in,’ running for Lourie’s Senate seat

Well, that didn’t take long.

The news that Sen. Joel Lourie was not running for re-election in 2016 was only a few hours old when Rep. Mia McLeod said she was definitely running for the job:

I’m all in…

Sen. Joel Lourie has announced he won’t seek reelection in 2016. I hope you’ll join me in thanking him for his service to our state.Since I was first elected to the SC House in 2010, you’ve never had to wonder where I stand on the issues.From day one, I’ve been fighting the status quo…standing up for what’s right, fair and equitable–regardless of party, race or gender…working across party lines for stronger public schools, more jobs, better roads, and greater access to quality, affordable healthcare…advocating for our state’s most vulnerable citizens, as well as comprehensive domestic violence reforms and better race relations.
From the Richland County Elections Commission to the Governor’s Office, I’ve led the charge to demand transparency and accountability from every elected and appointed official at every level of government.I don’t shy away from the tough issues. Never have. Never will.NOW is the time for bold, new leadership. With my family’s support and encouragement, we ask that you continue to pray for God’s guidance as we prepare for this next phase of our journey.Let’s take our fight for a better, stronger South Carolina to the Senate!

With your prayers and support, I plan to file to run for Senate District 22 next year because I’m confident that together, there’s so much more we can do!

I’m all in! Hope you are too…

As reported over the weekend, Rep. Beth Bernstein was also considering running for the seat. If she is “all in,” too, you’ll have two incumbent female House members running to be the second woman in the Senate.

That will be an unusual sort of race — two actual incumbent Democrats (which are kind of thin on the ground) vying for the same job.

Is ‘populist’ sometimes a euphemism for ‘stupid?’

I sort of felt like Gerald Seib, the Wall Street Journal‘s Washington bureau chief, was tiptoeing around something in this political analysis, which seems to go nowhere really, reaching no coherent conclusion (it read less like something a senior political writer is inspired to write than a reply dragged from a schoolboy by the question, “Compare and contrast these two politicians…”):

Could the nascent 2016 campaign turn into one of those elections that shakes up the system?

The question arises most obviously because of the summer sensation of Donald Trump, billionaire populist with a long history of giving to Democrats who has somehow tapped into a deep vein of working-class anger to become a current (though temporary) leader in the Republican presidential field. There are enough mind-bending contradictions in that sentence alone to at least raise the question of whether something broader is going on. The thought is only enhanced by the fact that the single hottest political draw right now is Sen. Bernie Sanders, a 73-year-old socialist who favors a $15-an-hour minimum wage and the breakup of big banks….

In fact, those are just two forces at work suggesting the system is straining to break loose from some of its traditional moorings. The combination of a wide-open race, populist strains at the base of both parties and big demographic changes all open the doors to destabilizing forces.

Polls suggest Mr. Trump’s resonance is greatest with disillusioned lower-income voters, illustrating that Republicans are trying to come to terms with a party that has grown more blue-collar, working-class and antiestablishment as it has grown….

Seems to me like he’s straining with that “populist” label in an effort to come up with a word that describes the appeal of both Trump and Sanders. With Sanders, I can see it, but with Trump? Really? A populist billionaire who revels into  his own excess? How can a guy who’s best-known catchphrase is “You’re fired!” be any kind of a populist?

Seib describes the GOP as “a party that has grown more blue-collar, working-class and antiestablishment,” but is that really who is applauding Trump right now? There’s a word that seems to be missing, and it describes a long-standing tradition in American politics: anti-intellectual.

I wouldn’t apply that label to the GOP in general. But it’s definitely the impulse that Trump is tapping into.

From the election of flat-Earther Andrew Jackson over the supremely qualified John Quincy Adams to the present day, there has been a perverse streak in the electorate that causes significant numbers to go for whoever is dumbing down politics the most.

I’m not saying the voters themselves are stupid (that would be anathema in American politics, right?), I’m just saying that sometimes, some voters have a sort of fit that causes them to convulsively embrace whoever is making the biggest jackass of himself on the political stage.

And at the moment, that is unquestionably Trump.

And yeah, there is a disturbing simplicity to Bernie Sanders’ vision of how to build a more perfect union. But to the extent that the two share a trait, is “populist” really the word for it?