Category Archives: Democrats

I miss our two former party chairmen, Matt & Jaime

In reaction to disclosures regarding Rick Quinn’s case, former state GOP Chairman Matt Moore Tweeted this:

I retweeted it, and former state Democratic Party Chairman Jaime Harrison responded:

Always a class act!

Yes, Jaime, and so are you.

I normally don’t care much for parties, as y’all know, but I often approve of some of their members. And Matt and Jaime were unusual party chairs. They were friends rather than enemies, and worked together when they could for the betterment of South Carolina. For instance, they stood shoulder-to-shoulder for removing the Confederate flag from the State House grounds.

Later, they both came out for reforming two of the greatest scourges of partisanship: gerrymandering and straight-ticket voting.

Our politics needs more guys like these two…

Matt, Yours Truly and Jaime celebrating the removal of the flag.

Matt, Yours Truly and Jaime celebrating the removal of the flag.

A brief, belated report on the Democratic debate

debate

I went to the debate between the Democratic candidates for governor sponsored by Progress South Carolina Friday night, intending to blog about it. But the sound was so bad, and my notes therefore so incomplete and uncertain, that I blew it off.

But looking back, I think I can make a couple of observations. If you want more, or if you want to check my impressions, here’s a video of the whole thing. Bryan tried watching it in real time, and reported that “It sounds like they are underwater.” Which is the way it sounded in the Convention Center — loud enough, but mumbly. The good news is that the video available now sounds pretty good, especially with earbuds.

Here’s my main observation: I still don’t know why Phil Noble or Marguerite Willis is running, or what they hope to achieve. Oh, I can write down the words they say as to why they’re running, but I have trouble connecting those words to anything out there in the actual world.

The two of them seem locked in a bitter battle to see which one can be less likable. You’d think this campaign had been going on for years and they were sick to death of each other and of James Smith, to the point that they could hardly stand to be on the stage with each other.

Smith comes across as a guy focused on winning the election — the one in November, which hardly seems to be on the radar screens of the other two. He started his opening remarks with an upbeat, “Who here is ready to win an election? How about it?” Which prompted cheers, because that would indeed be a novel, exciting experience to this crowd.

tick offAfter a weird 12-second pause after moderator Bakari Sellers introduced him, Noble started off with a rambling, ticked-off, populist-tinged diatribe about South Carolina, starting in 1756, when his ancestors arrived. You can hear his tone on the video. At right you see his expression as he was telling this story. I got pretty lost in the story, along about the point where he went into detail about the curriculum of a school that folks like his ancestors started soon after their arrival. Lots of Greek and Latin, apparently.

In Noble’s world, our elected leaders haven’t failed to do what he wants because they disagree with him, but because they’re all “bought and paid for.” (Which is what I meant on a previous occasion when I said Phil is styling himself as this election’s Bernie Sanders.)

Ms. Willis, who had just gotten into the race that day, set her own tone by saying, “OK, let’s get right down to it. I’ve asked Phil Noble to drop out of this race.”

Noble’s response was along the lines of “Perhaps she oughta withdraw from the race!”

It was a “Yeah? And so’s yer mother!” moment that exemplified a tone that ran through the whole event. There have been times in the past when I have faulted my home state for being too polite. On Friday night, I was missing that politeness a bit.

The snapping wasn’t just between the two of them. For instance, after James Smith said some perfectly harmless things about how humbled and grateful he was for all the support he was getting from women across South Carolina, Ms. Willis replied with a sarcastic, “Well, let’s see how many of those eleven thousand women will still be with him when I tell you what I’m gonna do.”

Noble’s main shot at Smith came when he accused him of getting rating of 100 from the NRA, which Smith dismissed, defending his record of trying to reduce gun violence.

That moment sort of crystallized the point I mentioned earlier. Here we have a Democrat running with what would be an asset in the general election — a respect for gun rights, if Noble’s accusation were true — and that’s the beef his opponent has with him. From the start, Noble has seemed to justify his candidacy by accusing Smith of not being enough of a doctrinaire Democrat. He seems bent on making sure that the party nominates someone who can’t possibly win in the fall,

As for Ms. Willis… it will be interesting to see how many of those 11,000 women she can peel away from Smith in the coming weeks. That would seem critical to her chances, as she seemed to repeatedly put her self forward as the candidate for women. I don’t think she made a really strong start on that Friday night.

But y’all go watch it — you should be able to hear it better than I did at the time — and let me know what you think….

Democratic race for governor just got even more surprising

Phil Noble's 'response to the response' last week was... eccentric...

Phil Noble’s ‘response to the response’ last week was… eccentric…

I’m trying to figure out what’s going on with the race among Democrats for governor.

Once James Smith made up his mind to go for it, it had looked like that was that. After all, Democrats had been urging him to run ever since he came back from Afghanistan, several election cycles ago.

Everybody who was anybody in the party was lining up behind him, and has continue to do so — Joe Riley from the Lowcountry and Dick Riley from the Upstate (my two favorite SC Dems), along with Jim Hodges and Steve Benjamin. He’s very popular among Democratic women, as evidenced by this list and this Facebook page. He seems pretty well-liked all around.

Yet Phil Noble came forth with his lonely quest. He has been endorsed by… Doug Jones of Alabama. (It seems I’ve heard of a list of actual South Carolinians supporting him, but haven’t found it. If you know where it is, I’ll link to it.) Jones is a pretty big name nationally right now; no doubt about it — but Smith more than cancels that out with Joe Biden.

Marguerite Willis

Marguerite Willis

Digression: Reading some of his Tweets the night of the State of the State, I reached a conclusion — Phil is aiming to be the Bernie Sanders of South Carolina, the spoiler who hobbles the obvious choice for the nomination. You know, the ideologue whose chief beef about the heir apparent is that he’s too moderate and sensible. It seems to really bug Phil that the Democrats might nominate a candidate that someone other than Democrats might vote for. His… eccentric (the videography reminded me of “Wayne’s World,” before Rob Lowe’s slick villain character took it over)… “response to the response” that streamed online that night confirmed it. You should watch it, especially if you already viewed the official Democratic response given by James. Phil kept talking about wanting to “break the back of the good ol’ boy system” in the State House. Which might be understandable if he meant the Republicans who run the place — but he was saying it about the Democrats.

And now, on the eve of the first Democratic debate, another candidate is jumping into it. And her reasons so far seem… unclear. Marguerite Willis says “I just thought, ‘If I don’t, who will?'” To which the obvious answer would be, James Smith and Phil Noble. So she must have a problem with those guys; she must see them as inadequate somehow. But her only complaint so far (that I’ve seen) is, “When I listen to both candidates, I don’t feel a dedication to immediacy.”

Which I must confess goes right over my head. But let’s give her a chance. Perhaps she’ll clarify when she actually announces, on Friday.

This is getting as crowded and active as the Republican race. And, you know, this is South Carolina. So what gives?

 

OK, Trav, this is kind of silly

This came in from SC Democrats over the weekend:

A PORNSTAR, THE PRESIDENT, AND HENRY MCMASTER
Henry McMaster rolled out the red carpet for President Trump, will he do the same for the president’s mistress this weekend?330px-Stormy_Daniels_2010
Columbia, SC — Over the last several days, the Wall Street Journal revealed that President Trump’s lawyer used a Delaware corporation to pay hush money to pornstar Stormy Daniels weeks before the 2016 election to keep her from revealing an affair she had with the president while he was married to his third wife, First Lady Melania Trump. This weekend, Stormy Daniels will be visiting Greenville for a public appearance in which she will certainly talk about the president.
“Henry McMaster and Catherine Templeton have gone above and beyond to associate themselves with everything related to President Trump,” said South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Trav Robertson. “From what we know about the president, Stormy is bound to be his fourth wife and I can’t believe that Henry and Catherine would miss the opportunity to seek her endorsement. It’s the perfect time for them to talk about their South Carolina values as she kicks off what she is calling her ‘Make America Horny Again’ tour in Greenville.”
###

Yes, the thing about the porn star is a part of the general pattern of sleaze (along with the “Access Hollywood” tape, the multiple allegations of sexual assault, the behavior running beauty pageants, the casinos, professional wrestling and reality TV) of the most unfit man ever to hold our highest office.

And yes, wrapping yourself in the Trump mantle means wrapping yourself in sleaze. It’s a legitimate point, as far as it goes.

But this effort to be cute kind of misses the mark. Perhaps it’s the “Stormy is bound to be his fourth wife” part that throws it off….

Typo of the day, courtesy of S.C. Democrats

This release came in a few minutes ago. I refer, of course, to the headline:

For Immediate Release
January 9th, 2018
SC HOUSE REPUBLICANS SET TO SUSTAIN VETO ON SCHOOL BUSS FUNDING
“There is nothing more important than our children’s health and education, but the Governor and Speaker are choosing to play politics with their safety instead of working with Democrats.” – SCDP Chairman Trav Robertson
Columbia, SC — At 2 PM this afternoon, South Carolina Speaker Jay Lucas will bring up a vote to override Governor Henry McMaster’s Veto 15 from the budget regarding school bus funding – money that is desperately needed to reinforce our aging fleet across the state – even though he does not have enough Republican votes to override the veto and he knows it:
“The Speaker is rushing to get it off of his plate because he doesn’t like the optics of having Republicans willfully endanger our children,” said South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Trav Robertson. “The truth is that the Speaker is putting South Carolina’s children in danger because Republicans refuse to work with Democrats to get them out of this terrible situation the Governor has put us in. Both Speaker Lucas and Governor McMaster would rather have our children suffer than work with Democrats. The people of South Carolina have to live with the consequences of this series of political stunts by the Republicans.”
###

Yep, we gotta do something about all that smoochin’ going on in our public schools…

Penalty for trains blocking streets is $20? Now I get it…

train

I just got this from the S.C. House Democrats:

Rep. Rutherford Pre-Files Legislation Targeting Train Obstruction of Roadways

Columbia, SC – Democratic Leader Rep. Todd Rutherford (D-Columbia), announced today that he will pre-file legislation to target the issue of roadway obstructions caused by trains. The proposed bill would significantly increase the penalty for train and railroad companies that have products or assets that block South Carolina roads for longer than five minutes.

Todd Rutherford

Todd Rutherford

The intent behind the legislation comes less than a month after two trains blocked Whaley Street, Assembly Street, and Rosewood Drive in downtown Columbia, halting morning traffic for over an hour. Unfortunately, trains and other objects impeding automobile traffic are too common of occurrences, in both urban and rural communities across South Carolina.
Under current state law, the maximum penalty for obstruction of a roadway is $20. Rutherford’s bill seeks to increase the fine to $5,000 per lane blocked, with the fine rising to $10,000 per lane if the violation occurs between 7:30 am and 5:30 pm.
Rutherford stated, “We cannot allow trains and obstructions to paralyze our roadways. Delays caused by these occurrences directly impact South Carolinians’ wallets and even worse, can be a matter of life or death. It is my hope that increased penalties and improved enforcement of the law will keep our roads clear and our cars moving.”
Rutherford continued, “South Carolinians should not have to suffer because they happen to live near a freight-train line. This issue threatens our quality of life, public safety, and economic growth.”
###

Can that even be right? $20? If so, it explains a great deal…

Trump and Clinton were the two most-despised nominees ever. How do we avoid that in the future?

Red_state,_blue_state.svg

The election that made Donald Trump president was an unmitigated disaster for America and for the world it has led since 1945. And it’s hard to see how the nation is going to extricate itself and recover.

But things would not have been a bed of roses had Hillary Clinton won the election as well as the popular vote. You think Congress has been feckless and obnoxious this year (it’s great achievement passing an unneeded, execrable tax bill)? In the event of a Clinton victory, Congress would have spent all its time launching attacks and investigations against the woman many of the GOP members have hated with every fiber of their beings almost (and with some you could leave off the “almost”) since they were children. The nasty partisanship of the Bush and Obama years would be looked back on fondly as a golden age of harmony.

It was a no-win proposition. Of course, a voter with judgment and a conscience had to vote for Clinton because Trump had to be stopped and she was the only person in a position to stop him. But still, things would have been pretty bad had she won — just not as bad.

The country couldn’t win in 2016, because Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were the two least-appealing nominees in the memory of pollsters. As FiveThirtyEight proclaimed in May 2016, “Americans’ Distaste For Both Trump And Clinton Is Record-Breaking.”

How did this happen? Of course, in part it can be explained as simply a function of our partisan polarization: The candidate who appeals most to one side is the most hated by the other. But it’s way more complicated than that. These people were little liked among us independents, either. And these candidates were unique. Never before has a party nominated someone who was in the White House 25 years earlier, and started being despised by a large portion of the electorate way back then. Nor has a party picked a famously sleazy businessman with zero relevant experience, knowledge, understanding, or principles. So no, it was not politics as usual.

This predicament was in no way inevitable. As recently as 2008, both parties had opted for their most broadly appealing candidates, leading to what I, as an independent who (like so many) liked them both, saw as a win-win proposition. I regretted that I couldn’t vote for both McCain and Obama.

So how do we avoid this in the future? Well, the dream option would be for both parties to fall apart and to have some better system of winnowing the field suddenly and magically replace them. Do you see that happening? I don’t. Or rather, I see the falling-apart part happening, but not the replacing-with-something-better part.

Another option would be for the parties to stick around, but clean up their act to where they can put forth candidates who appeal to someone outside their most-committed respective bases.

I’m not seeing this happening so far. I heard on the radio the other day (but for some reason am having trouble finding it now) that Democrats have been working on “reforming” (Democrats sometimes use “reform” loosely, the way Republicans do with regard to taxes) their nomination process. I can’t give you specifics since I can’t find it now, but it sounded to me like they wanted to make the process more democratic, so that party elites can’t stack things in favor of their preferred candidates. This to me sounds like the opposite of reform. The insurgencies of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are the best argument I’ve ever seen for smoke-filled rooms. But then I have to acknowledge the inconvenient fact that Hillary Clinton was the choice of party elites this time. So what that tells me is that they need new elites.

(OK, I found something about the Democratic reform process. But it’s not what I was looking for.)

Meanwhile, the Republicans are cursed with power, and obviously haven’t a clue what to do with it. All of their pathological dysfunction has been nakedly on display this year, which is why the party has accomplished nothing but a tax bill that looks like a parody of everything the populists who voted for both Sanders and Trump despise about the GOP. Really, fellas? This is the big achievement that you think will save you? Basically, the GOP has spent the year staggering from disaster to embarrassment and back again. And hey, in a few days the Republicans in the Senate will likely be welcoming Roy Moore, the ugliest baby yet produced by the polygamous marriage of incompatible factions that is currently the Republican “big tent.”

I don’t have a magic wand or I’d be waving it like crazy to prevent 2020 from being like 2016, which would be more than either party seems to be doing so far.

Perhaps you have some ideas…

Can Democrats bring themselves to reach out to those who are reachable?

I’ve been meaning to share some thoughts about this Ross Douthat column of Oct. 21, headlined “The Democrats in Their Labyrinth.”

Sure I think the headline was cool, although it provoked in me a twinge of guilt for never having finished that novel. (I had thought I would love it, because in 5th and 6th grades my history classes were in Spanish, and Bolívar and Sucre and O’Higgins and the rest were the heroes of the story we were told. Also, I felt that I should read some Márquez and it sounded more cheery than One Hundred Years of Solitude or Love in the Time of Cholera. But it wasn’t.)

Anyway, I like the column for what followed the headline, so let’s get to that:

America has two political parties, but only one of them has a reasonably coherent political vision, a leadership that isn’t under the thumb of an erratic reality television star, and a worldview that implies a policy agenda rather than just a litany of grievances.Douthat

Unfortunately for the Democrats, their vision and leaders and agenda also sometimes leave the impression that they never want to win another tossup Senate seat, and that they would prefer Donald Trump be re-elected if the alternative requires wooing Americans who voted for him.

Consider recent developments in the state of Alabama, where the Republican Party has nominated a Senate candidate manifestly unfit for office, a bigot hostile to the rule of law and entranced with authoritarianism.

And who have the Democrats put up against him? An accomplished former prosecutor, the very model of a mainstream Democrat — and a man who told an interviewer after his nomination that he favors legal abortion, without restriction, right up until the baby emerges blue and flailing from the womb….

But just as this post wasn’t about Gabriel García Márquez, it’s not about abortion, either. That’s just an illustration of the way Democrats push away people in the middle who might vote for them occasionally if not for their rigid, prickly ideological orthodoxy — and the fact that they think people who don’t subscribe to their more extreme manifestations of dogma are barbarians, people they wouldn’t want voting for them anyway, because they’re not the right sort.

The point, in other words, is the assertion that Democrats “would prefer Donald Trump be re-elected if the alternative requires wooing Americans who voted for him.”

This is a problem for Democrats, and a problem for the country. Because, you know, Trumpism needed to end a year ago. And if we wait for Democrats to do anything to end it, we might have to wait the rest of our lives. (We could depend on principle Republicans, the ones who know better, but so far they only seem to want to stand up and speak truth when they’re headed for the exits. As for us independents — well, we lack organization.)

Douthat’s “point is that a party claiming to be standing alone against an existential threat to the republic should be willing to move somewhat, to compromise somehow, to bring a few of the voters who have lifted the G.O.P. to its largely undeserved political successes into the Democratic fold.”

But perhaps you won’t. And admittedly, for those of you who lean Democratic, perhaps a conservative Catholic such as Douthat isn’t the messenger you’re likely to heed — although I believe in that column he means you well.

How about Rahm Emanuel, then? Here’s what he was saying earlier this year:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has warned Democrats they need to “take a chill pill” and realize that they are not going to take back national power anytime soon.330px-Rahm_Emanuel,_official_photo_portrait_color

“It ain’t gonna happen in 2018,” Emanuel said Monday at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business in California. “Take a chill pill, man. You gotta be in this for the long haul.”

As he did last month at an event in Washington, D.C., the mayor expanded on what he believes is the road map back to power for his party — putting moderate candidates such as veterans, football players, sheriffs and business people up in Republican districts, picking battles with Republicans, exploiting wedges within the GOP and fighting attempts to redistrict Congress on partisan grounds….

Remember how Emanuel did just that and won a majority in the U.S. House in 2006? Democrats don’t, near as I can tell.

The problem is, I have the feeling that too many Democrats are doing what the Republicans did after losing in 2008. Back then, egged on by ideological extremists such as our own Jim DeMint, the GOP leaped to the conclusion that they lost in 2008 because they weren’t extreme enough, because they had bet it all on relative moderate McCain. This led to the Tea Party and the Freedom Caucus and Steve Bannon and so forth, which led to our current national crisis.

If the Democrats want to be part of the solution to that crisis, they need to reach out beyond their “safe space” and engage with people who don’t entirely share their worldview. Because, ahem, most people don’t.

Yet there are a lot of people trying to pull the Democrats in the opposite direction. They take the DeMint approach, which goes: The Democrats lost in 2016 because they weren’t extreme enough. They needed more feeling the Bern and less Clintonian Third Way. Perhaps, as New York magazine wrote early this year, The Socialist Takeover of the Democratic Party Is Proceeding Nicely. If so, then the left will dominate the party. But they won’t be running the country, because they won’t be winning general elections.

Let me share one more thing with you, from The New York Times Magazine over the weekend. It begins with an anecdote about a conference call Nancy Pelosi made to House Democrats right after their disastrous defeat a year ago:

Several members on the call later told me they expected their leader to offer some show of contrition, an inventory of mistakes made or, at minimum, an acknowledgment that responsibility for the previous night’s disaster began at the top. Already, Trump’s sweep of what had for years been Democratic strongholds in the Rust Belt had led to a fast-congealing belief that the party had lost touch with white working-class voters.

But Pelosi sounded downright peppy on the call, noting a few vulnerable House seats that the Democrats had managed to hang onto. As for those working-class voters, “To say we don’t care about them is hard to believe,” Pelosi insisted, according to a transcript of the call I obtained. “I have to take issue and say I don’t think anybody was unaware of the anger.” The Democrats weren’t out of touch, she said. They just hadn’t made their case clearly enough to voters — or as she put it, “We have to get out there and say it in a different way.”

“It reminded me of that scene at the end of ‘Animal House,’ where Kevin Bacon is standing in the middle of all this chaos, screaming: ‘Remain calm! All is well!’ ” Scott Peters, a congressman from California who was on the call, told me. “After telling us before that we were going to pick up 20 seats, and we end up with six, underlaid with Clinton losing, I had no use for that kind of happy talk.” During and after Pelosi’s monologue, Democratic representatives who were listening texted and called one another incredulously, but Peters was one of the few who spoke up on the line. “I think we’re missing something,” he told Pelosi. “We’re just not hearing what’s on people’s minds.”…

Yeah, so what did they do? They held a quick leadership election, and stuck with the same crowd who had brought them to this low point. But before they did that, there was a brief moment of truth-telling:

In the end, her only opponent was Tim Ryan, a young congressman and former high school quarterback star from Ohio’s 13th District, the ailing industrial region surrounding Youngstown and Akron. Ryan offered a splash-of-cold-water speech just before the vote: “We got wiped out,” he said, according to a recording of his remarks. “We’re toxic in the Midwest, and we’re toxic in the South.”…

Jaime HarrisonThere are Democrats who acknowledge this — I think. This morning, The State reported that “Jaime Harrison knows how Democrats can win elections. Are Democrats listening?” The story, unfortunately, didn’t really explain what it is that Jaime knows. Perhaps I should give him a call and see if he’ll share the secret sauce.

Smith, if he goes about it right, has an opportunity to make a play for those of us in the middle. After all, the Republicans seem hell-bent on having the most extreme gubernatorial primary in living memory: Oh, yeah? Well I’ll see your imaginary sanctuary cities and raise you a Steve Bannon!

Can Smith, or anyone, reach out to the state’s sensible center and rescue us from Trumpism? I certainly hope so. Because we are in serious need saving. But they can only do it if they go after people who’ve fallen into the habit of voting the other way, and do it competently…

James Smith

Seriously? You think Wilson wants to name ANOTHER special prosecutor any time soon?

This release from Phil Noble today had me scratching my head, mainly because he didn’t say what he wanted a special prosecutor FOR until the third paragraph:

I’ve asked the AG for a Special Prosecutor

Dear Brad,

Today I sent a letter to the Attorney General of South Carolina to urge the immediate appointment of a special prosecutor to lead an investigation dissecting this disaster and, as justice dictates, bring appropriate charges against those whose negligence and willful disregard of the citizens’ interests have undermined confidence in our state’s government.

Such an investigation must be independent, comprehensive, and thorough. In my view, there are few state officials without apparent conflicts of interest that could compromise the integrity and objectivity of such an investigation.

In fact, most of the people investigating this outrageous malfeasance by SCE&G and Santee Cooper have taken money from one or both, and/or remained silent as these crimes unfolded under their watch.

There is a second concern as well:

South Carolinians should get back every dime of their money that was expended on this project. It has been reported that 18% of the monthly bills of SCE&G customers and eight percent of those of Santee Cooper customers have been invested in this project for years without meaningful oversight. It is disgusting that we, as customers, are still being forced to shell out $37 million a month to pay for this project.

A significant focus of my campaign is to bring accountability and justice back to our state government. It starts with making sure this investigation is done correctly and we get our money back.

I can’t do it without you. Please become one of our earliest supporters by contributing to my campaign for Governor here.

 – Phil Noble

At first, I assumed the “disaster” he was talking about was the State House corruption investigation, which made the release really weird. I mean, Wilson already appointed a prosecutor to that — Pascoe.

But once I saw “SCE&G” halfway through the thing, I went “Oh.” And then I thought, considering how things turned out for him last time, how eager do you think Wilson is to appoint another special prosecutor?

Speaking of which — someone who was in the courtroom yesterday told me that it was really weird how often Pascoe mentioned Wilson — in contexts in which the other South Carolina names that came up were of people who’ve been indicted.

Which, of course, added to the weirdness of reading this initially opaque release today

Smith promises to be the governor South Carolina needs

smith

Earlier today, I posted a speech from a young Republican — my own representative, and I couldn’t be prouder of him — who condemned our current governor for being so determined to hang onto his office that he has refused to lead. Henry just won’t take the chance.

Coincidentally, tonight Rep. James Smith — like Micah Caskey, a veteran of the War on Terror — stood before a crowd of supporters and promised to be a governor who “cares more about doing the job than keeping the job.” Which is the opposite of what Rep. Caskey accurately characterized our governor as being.

James said a lot of other things — about education, about health care, and about having an energy policy that benefits the people of South Carolina and not just its utilities and their lobbyists.

He spoke out against corruption and for transparency and accountability. Echoing my own Power Failure project, he spoke of a South Carolina that is no longer first where it should be last, and last where it should be first.

He did a good job. I was impressed. And you know what? I think he’s got a chance to win.

I tried to shoot video, but my phone ran out of storage room. I’ll try to clean it up and do better in the future.

Because this is going to be a fascinating, and fateful, election for South Carolina…

Smith with some of his comrades from the war in Afghanistan.

Smith with some of his comrades from the war in Afghanistan.

Joe Biden on James Smith

Biden at the Galivants Ferry Stump Meeting in 2006.

Biden at the Galivants Ferry Stump Meeting in 2006.

Seeing that Jim Hodges had become the latest Democratic heavyweight to endorse James Smith for governor reminded me that I meant to go back and read the P&C’s story in which Joe Biden explained why he’s backing Smith.

It’s not just because James led the unsuccessful Draft Biden effort in SC before last year’s election.

Here’s hoping the Charleston paper doesn’t mind if I share a good-sized chunk:

Why Biden is backing Smith: “I have met a lot of guys in my career … but this is a guy, I swear to God, that I would trust with anything. This is a guy who I watched, he never puts himself before anybody else.”

“He’s not about tearing the house down. … I look at him and I think this is a guy with the energy, the integrity, the experience that can really have South Carolina get up and start to walk.”

How Smith reminds Biden of his son: He said Smith possesses the sense of duty of his late son, Beau, who passed on taking his father’s Senate seat when Biden become vice president to remain Delaware’s attorney general. Both younger men went on military deployments to the Middle East while in political office.

“They’re kindred spirits. … I know it sounds corny but it comes down to honor, duty and again the guy (Smith) has all tools. He knows the issues. His instincts are right. He thinks you should be able to make a billion dollars if you could, but you ought to take care of people and just give everybody a chance.

“I remember saying to him once that I thought that one of the problems with the elites in both our parties, we don’t have a lot of faith in ordinary people any more. And James started talking about his grandfather and great-grandfather (working class men from poor backgrounds). Ordinary people can do extraordinary things if you give them half a chance. I’m convinced he believes that.”…

Sounds like he knows James. There’s a bunch more, just overflowing with Joe-ness, if you want to go read the whole piece.

I’m still waiting to hear who’s backing Phil Noble. He must be responding to something going on in the party; I’m just not sure what. I didn’t know there was a sizable contingent of Democrats who didn’t like James. I need to learn more…

Smith won’t get free ride to nomination after all

After a long period in which it looked like the Democrats might not have anyone running for governor at all, James Smith threw his hat in the other day.

And then, as tends to happen, someone else is jumping in, too:

Charleston businessman Phil Noble becomes the second Democrat to enter the 2018 race for South Carolina governor, joining state Rep. James Smith, D-Richland, in vying for the party’s nomination.

Phil Noble

Phil Noble

Noble is president of South Carolina New Democrats, a group founded by former S.C. Gov. Richard Riley, and a longtime Democratic activist.

South Carolina is “an amazing state with terrific potential, but a broken, dysfunctionally corrupt state government is keeping us from having all the things we ought to have,” Noble told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Noble, who has yet to file with the state Election Commission, will make a formal announcement on Wednesday. Smith announced his candidacy on Thursday….

I was going to refer you to the video interview I did with Phil back when he sought his party’s chairmanship in 2011, but the embed code isn’t working. If I get it up and running, I’ll share it so that y’all will know a bit more about him.

In the meantime… he and James might not be the only ones seeking their party’s nod next year. I’ve heard another name or two murmured out there. But so far, there’s nothing like the active, crowded bunch clamoring for the GOP nomination — despite the fact that the incumbent is Republican…

How can Democrats save the country from Trump, if they’re running off to the left?

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I read a column with an alarming headline this morning in The Washington Post:

Trump is on track to win reelection

More than half of Americans don’t think Donald Trump is fit to serve as president, yet he has a clear path to winning reelection. If Trump isn’t removed from office and doesn’t lead the country into some form of global catastrophe, he could secure a second term simply by maintaining his current level of support with his political base.

We have entered a new era in American politics. The 2016 election exposed how economic, social and cultural issues have splintered the country and increasingly divided voters by age, race, education and geography. This isn’t going to change….

Regarding that “splintering the country” part…

Just before reading that, I had seen this headline:

Shifting attitudes among Democrats have big implications for 2020

Partisan divisions are not new news in American politics, nor is the assertion that one cause of the deepening polarization has been a demonstrable rightward shift among Republicans. But a more recent leftward movement in attitudes among Democrats also is notable and has obvious implications as the party looks toward 2020.

Here is some context. In 2008, not one of the major candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination advocated legalizing same-sex marriage. By 2016, not one of those who sought the nomination opposed such unions, and not just because of the Supreme Court’s rulings. Changing attitudes among all voters, and especially Democratic voters, made support for same-sex marriage an article of faith for anyone seeking to lead the party.

Trade policy is another case study. Over many years, Democrats have been divided on the merits of multilateral free-trade agreements. In 1992, Bill Clinton strongly supported the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in the face of stiff opposition from labor unions and others. He took his case into union halls, and while he didn’t convert his opponents, he prospered politically in the face of that opposition….

And so forth and so on.

So instead of trying to appeal to all of us people in the middle who are so appalled by Trump, and maybe try to win over some mainstream Republicans who feel the same but don’t have the guts to oppose him, the Democrats are careening off to a place where they will appeal only to the more extreme people in their own party.

What madness. What sheer, utter madness…

Another Democrat who apparently can’t afford a razor

Trent

 

I had to smile at this.

Remember I told you about that OZY profile of Jaime Harrison, in which I was quoted again noting that I’ll believe Democrats are serious about winning a congressional seat when they recruit a candidate willing to shave for the campaign?

Well, the writer of that piece sent me this today:

This website made me laugh and think of you — Dem running in a R-leaning Georgia seat formerly repped by centrist John Barrow. https://votetrent.com/

Whoa! That boy’s taking the whole facial-hair thing and squeezing it until it hollers!

He’s a little different from the hirsute ones who have run in South Carolina. Arik Bjorn and Archie Parnell, both being graybeards, had a sort of professorial look — they looked like they wouldn’t be out of place teaching a graduate-level course called “Marxist Perspectives on Shifting Gender Roles in Patriarchal Societies.”

Trent Nesmith, by contrast, has more of a hipster look going, and not just because of his youth. He seems to be saying, “Call that a beard? Check out this waterfall of fur!” Fortunately, his smile prevents you from thinking “Rasputin.”

Watch: I’ll get a lecture from Bud about focusing on style instead of substance. But that would be missing the point. The point isn’t the beard. The point is, how committed is the candidate? And when’s the last time you saw someone with a beard elected to high office in this country? And how big a deal is it to shave?

Yeah, you’re right — a beard is a stupid reason not to vote for somebody. But knowing how few bearded men (and even fewer bearded women, I’ll add for those who think I’m failing to be inclusive) get elected, you really have to wonder about the commitment of a candidate who won’t take the minimal step needed to remove a possible obstacle…

First video for James Smith’s campaign-to-be (one hopes)

Joel Lourie shared this with me this afternoon, and I’m sharing it with you.

Rep. James Smith is apparently moving closer and closer to launching a campaign for governor, and I think that would be a pretty exciting development. Because, frankly, I’m not terribly inspired by any of the other choices we have before us next year.

I had thought we could look to Henry McMaster for good things, in spite of the inexplicable aberration of his endorsement of Trump. After all those years of Sanford and Haley, both determined not to work constructively with the Legislature, it looked like we might have someone willing to lead.

But nope. What was his first significant act, the one that defned his first legislative session as governor? After Speaker Jay Lucas and other GOP leaders had had the guts to stand up and both fund and reform our roads, Henry stabbed them in the back with a veto, an action that had nothing to do with leadership and everything to do with craven political calculation.

If others now eyeing the office would be better, they haven’t shown it yet.

But James Smith is a guy who has worked with Republicans and his fellow Democrats to try to make South Carolina a better place for its citizens. This is a guy who has served in the trenches for 20 years, not just somebody who has been all about the next big office.

James embodies service, in every sense. This is the man who, with a comfortable billet as a JAG officer, gave it up to enlist as just another dogface so he could go fight after 9/11. He was told that’s what he would have to do to join the infantry, so that’s what he did. He went through basic training as just another another grunt — except he was twice the age of the recruits he was determined to keep up with. He made it, and ended up in combat in Afghanistan, serving with his fellow South Carolinians — Republicans, Democrats and independents.

Y’all know me. Y’all know how much I respect that sort of thing. But the kind of character he showed in that has been borne out in his conduct as a lawmaker.

Have I always been a James Smith supporter? Nope. We didn’t endorse him the first time he ran. We liked him and his Republican opponent, but we went with the Republican. He’s spent all the years since showing me that we might have gotten that one wrong.

Anyway,  this should be good. Ginger, get the popcorn

Capt. Smith takes aim...

Capt. Smith takes aim…

Why doesn’t the political mainstream back the only commonsense approach to paying for healthcare?

single

The first time I wrote about single-payer, in a column at The State, my headline was “Can anyone (any viable candidate, that is) say ‘single-payer?’

That was 2007. As I said at the time:

CAN ANYONE among those with a chance of becoming president say “single-payer?” If not, forget about serious reform of the way we pay for health care.
It doesn’t even necessarily have to be “single-payer.” Any other words will do, as long as the plan they describe is equally bold, practical, understandable, and goes as far in uprooting our current impractical, wasteful and insanely complex “system.”
And the operative word is “bold.” Why? Because unless we start the conversation there, all we might hope for is that a few more of the one out of seven Americans who don’t have insurance will be in the “system” with the rest of us — if that, after the inevitable watering-down by Congress. And that’s not “reform.” Actual reform would rescue all of us from a “system” that neither American workers nor American employers can afford to keep propping up.
But the operative word to describe the health care plans put forward by the major, viable candidates is “timid.”…

Which is what led us to “Obamacare,” an overly complex, timid approach that still leaves millions of Americans uncovered.

But when I wrote that, I knew we weren’t likely to do any better than that, because the only “name” Democrat willing to say “single-payer” was Dennis “The Menace” Kucinich.

And today, the charge is led by… Bernie Sanders. And even he wants to call it something other than single-payer — namely, “Medicare for All.”

The somewhat better news is that he has 15 senators with him this time (all Democrats, of course) — only 45 votes short of what it would take to get the proposal through the Senate before it went down in flames in the House, as it surely would.

Never mind that EVERY alternative advanced looks insanely over-complex and inefficient next to a system that simply covers everybody. No more worrying about making too much money, or too little money, or getting laid off and losing your medical coverage. Or sticking to a lousy job for the benefits, rather than going out and doing something bold and courageous that might help build our economy. No more of doctors having to employ people who spend all their time trying to navigate the bewildering array of different kinds of coverage their patients have.

And I’ve never heard a reason not to do this that didn’t sound idiotic. The most devastating argument opponents come up with is that you might have to wait for certain kinds of procedures. Which certainly beats waiting until you die if you don’t have coverage under the current non-system.

Other countries, including those most like our own — Britain and Canada — adopted this approach long, long ago. But in this country, we have this completely irrational resistance that makes it impossible even to have a calm conversation about what makes sense.

It’s time we got over that. And we may be making progress in that direction. But we have such a long, long way to go…

Nice, informative piece about Jaime Harrison

Matt Moore, me and Jaime Harrison in 2015.

Matt Moore, me and Jaime Harrison in 2015.

A couple of weeks back, I got a call from Daniel Malloy, formerly of the Atlanta paper, who was writing a profile of former state Democratic chair Jaime Harrison for OZY. It ran over the weekend.

Why a profile of a former state chairman? Because Jaime’s a next-generation up-and-comer, a guy who — in Jim Clyburn’s own estimation — could replace him in Congress one day. Democrats don’t have much of a bench, and Jaime’s got qualifications that are rare among young Dems.

Much of that experience has been out of our sight up in Washington, such as when he was floor director for the House majority whip before he was SC party chair.

Daniel called me to see what I thought about Jaime’s optimism for the party in SC’s future. I wasn’t encouraging. I said a lot of positive things about Jaime, though, as well as about his counterpart, former GOP state chair Matt Moore.

As I say, I said a lot of things, but I kind of knew what he was going to use as soon as I said it. It was something I’d already said to y’all, and Democrats who read the Malloy piece will no doubt groan once again:

From a small state party office suite in downtown Columbia, South Carolina, Harrison expresses optimism for Democrats in South Carolina, Alabama and other crimson states. Starting in October, the DNC will send $10,000 per month to every state party and launch an additional $10 million innovation fund for states.

Some national Democrats have argued for more selective spending, and South Carolina hardly seems primed for a blue comeback. Brad Warthen, a PR consultant and former editorial page editor for Columbia’s The State, quips that after a string of bearded professor types, he’ll know Democrats are serious about winning when their candidates start shaving. “We will have to have a revolution — something akin to the constitutional convention in 1787 — to start seeing more Democrats elected to the [U.S.] House in South Carolina,” Warthen says.

Despite his facial hair, South Carolina Democrat Archie Parnell nearly pulled off a shocking special congressional election win in June with comparatively little national money. Harrison says more early investment in ground staff could have tipped the low-turnout race. With most of the U.S. political map drenched in red, there will be plenty more opportunities to test his theory.

Y’all should go read the whole thing, though.

Who can be as foolhardy and reckless as Trump? The Democrats…

900px-Flag_of_South_Korea.svg

Here’s an excellent example of why it won’t be the Democrats who save us from Trump.

At least, not these Democrats.

Possibly the most foolish thing Trump has done in the last few days (and yeah, I know there are a lot of exciting entries in a crowded field) is this, at the very moment we’re facing an increased threat from North Korea:

President Trump has instructed advisers to prepare to withdraw the United States from a free-trade agreement with South Korea, several people close to the process said, a move that would stoke economic tensions with the U.S. ally as both countries confront a crisis over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

Withdrawing from the trade deal would back up Trump’s promises to crack down on what he considers unfair trade competition from other countries, but his top national security and economic advisers are pushing him to abandon the plan, arguing it would hamper U.S. economic growth and strain ties with an important ally. Officials including national security adviser H.R. McMaster, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and National Economic Council director Gary Cohn oppose withdrawal, said people familiar with the process who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal White House deliberations.

Although it is still possible Trump could decide to stay in the agreement to renegotiate its terms, the internal preparations for terminating the deal are far along, and the formal withdrawal process could begin as soon as this week, the people said….

You know why those top aides don’t want him to do this, especially now? Because they have brains. They know that free-trade agreements bind nations closer together, aside from producing more wealth overall.

This is absolutely no time for slapping allies in the face in that part of the world — or anywhere, of course.

But fortunately, there’s a loyal opposition out there poised to the save the country from this nonsense, right?

Uhhhh… no (imagine I said that in a Butthead voice). This was in the Post the same day as the above:

 Democrats facing reelection next year in states President Trump won are seizing on trade at this early stage as a crucial issue and a Republican vulnerability.

But rather than jeer Trump’s protectionist positions, Democrats are echoing them and amplifying them, arguing that Trump has failed to fulfill his dramatic campaign promise to rip apart trade deals.

“When we say renegotiating NAFTA, we mean a transformation, something substantial, not just going through the motions,” Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) told union leaders recently, referring to the administration’s talks over the North American Free Trade Agreement.

For Democrats, Casey’s pitch signals a wholehearted revival of their labor roots and a sharp departure from the free-trade tilt of the past two Democratic presidents, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton….

So, according to these Dems, the trouble with Trump is that he’s not Trumpy enough.

Notice how eager they are to repudiate the views of the last two Democrats who won presidential elections?

Brilliant, just brilliant….

Cashing in on Joe Arpaio, from all directions

Arpaio

As you probably realize, one of the reasons we are so politically divided in this country is that there’s a whole industry that exists to keep us that way.

There are the parties, of course, but there are loads of other entitities out there that exist to make you angry and keep you angry at those other people, and to keep you giving money so that the destructive process continues forever, in a self-perpetuating, self-financing loop.

About a month ago, I got on a mailing list from another universe — one in which Donald Trump and his fellow travelers are the most wonderful things ever. I get message after message begging me for money to fight “liberals,” which are defined as everything from Democrats to mainstream Republicans — Mitch McConnell is a favorite target.

Two or three times a day, these appeals came behalf of ex-Sheriff Joe Arpaio, for his defense.

Of course, it’s not only the right that tries to cash in on that barbarian. After his pardon, I got this from a usual suspect on the left:

Brad —

We’re sick to our stomach. Donald Trump just pardoned Joe Arpaio — a fellow birther, convicted for illegally targeting and abusing communities of color.

This makes a mockery of the rule of law. It’s disgusting. And Republicans continue to REFUSE to hold Trump accountable for this latest in a string of racist acts.

We need to kick Republicans out of office and take back the House for Democrats. Please contribute right away so we can have the resources to do it.

$10 $25 $50
$100 $250 Other

Thanks,

Team Pelosi

Well, of course. When there’s a demon at hand, get the begging cup out.

You’re probably thinking, “Well, at least the right has no excuse to ask for help on this matter any more.” Oh, how foolish you are! The excuses why you as a partisan should give never end:

 

Sheriff Joe Arpaio Legal Defense Fund

 

BREAKING: Sheriff Joe Pardoned
by President Trump

Friend,
I just received some incredibly good news! President Trump has just issued a pardon on my behalf.Honestly, I could not be more thankful to President Trump for seeing my bogus conviction for what it was: a political witch hunt by hold overs from the Obama justice department. 

I am certain that President Trump was able to see the TRUTH so clearly because he too has been the victim of a character assassination by the liberal media and Democrat establishment on many occasions.

HELP SHERIFF JOE! Contribute $150 >>

While I am humbled and incredibly grateful for this very good news, I can’t help but be concerned about a bit of bad news I received recently.
I am still facing tens of thousands in legal bills from my fight to clear my name. Going up against the full force of the federal government was not only personally taxing, it was incredibly expensive.

Remember Friend, I am just a retired local law enforcement officer. 

The only reason you now my name is because the liberal media decided to launch a national campaign to paint me as a monster for my hard belief in upholding the Constitution and against illegal immigration . . .

HELP SHERIFF JOE! Contribute $75 >>

Frankly, the DOJ thought that I would back down and take a plea bargain to avoid the enormous expense of a legal battle on this scale. I was not going to let them intimidate me into to admitting to a crime that I did not commit, so I had to fight to clear my name.
Now, my wife Ava and I are still facing significant legal bills. . .

HELP SHERIFF JOE! Contribute $50>>

Friend, I know that you work hard for your paycheck which makes this very difficult to ask of you, but if you are financially able will you please make a contribution to my legal defense fund today? Every dollar you donate will go directly toward paying off my legal bills and putting this awful chapter behind me.
I cannot thank you enough for supporting me through this incredibly trying time,

Sincerely,


– Sheriff Joe Arpaio
Maricopa County, Arizona

 

The PEOPLE are demanding that I run for office! Sort of…

Based on the website, these young persons are a better fit for the group...

Based on the website, these young persons are a better fit for the group…

You know how politicians are always claiming that? Well, in my case it’s true!

Sort of.

I got this completely unsolicited email in my actual IN box today:

Brad, here’s something thing we know after Trump’s rally in Arizona last night: You are smarter, kinder, and more empathetic than our president. And all of those qualities would make you a great candidate for office.

I want you to run. I’m asking you to consider it — and at least sign up to learn more about it. Or if you’re sure that now isn’t the right time, ask a friend. Ask ten friends.

If Donald Trump, a man whose grasp on our current situation seems tenuous at best and monstrous at worst, can be president, then you can run for a local office.

Are you in? Good. Go to runforsomething.net/run-for-office and sign up right now.

Amanda

Amanda Litman
Co-Founder
Run for Something

Thank you, Amanda — whom I have never met or worked with previously…

… but this isn’t exactly a cri de cœur from “the people” themselves. It’s an organization that exists to urge people to run. But not people like me. They want “progressive” people, which mean, you know… not me.

Also, they want people under 35. Apparently, Amanda saw a picture of me and made a perfectly understandable mistake.

But I appreciate the thought. Or I would, if I believe a decision to contact me had been made by an actual person, rather than a flawed algorithm…