Category Archives: Democrats

Yes, this COULD be the winning formula for Democrats

Can the New Deal Coalition rise again?

Can the New Deal Coalition rise again?

David Leonhardt had a good piece in the NYT last night. He promoted it this way:

There’s a roiling debate about whether Democrats should move to the political center to win back Trump voters or focus on energizing the party’s progressive base. On some issues — like abortion, guns and immigration — Democrats really do face this difficult choice. The policies that excite progressives alienate many of the white working-class voters who swung the 2016 election to Donald Trump, and vice versa.

But there is also one huge area where no such tradeoff exists: economic policy….

In the column itself, he asserted  that economic stagnation and inequality added up to “the defining problem of our age, the one that aggravates every other problem. It has made people anxious and angry. It has served as kindling for bigotry. It is undermining America’s vaunted optimism.”

And people across the political spectrum have lost patient with timid, incremental approaches to the problem. Which helps to explain both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.

Leonhardt writes:

Some observers remain confused about all of this. They imagine American politics as a simple two-dimensional spectrum on which Democrats must move to the center. But every issue isn’t the same. Yes, there are cultural issues, like abortion and guns, on which the country is classically divided. On these, moving to the center, or at least respectfully acknowledging our differences, can help Democrats. Representative Conor Lamb recently showed how to do it in Pennsylvania.

Economic policy is different. Most voters don’t share the centrist preferences of Washington’s comfortable pundit class. Most voters want to raise taxes on the rich and corporations. They favor generous Medicare and Social Security, expanded Medicaid, more financial aid for college, a higher minimum wage and a bigger government role in job creation. Remember, Trump won the Republican nomination as a populist. A clear majority of Americans wants the government to respond aggressively to our economic problems….

So, the smart thing would be to drop the topics that divide us — the culture war stuff, the Identity Politics, the “pussy hats” and such — and set out a vision for a rising tide for all.

But are national Democrats willing to do that? The occasional Conor Lamb aside, it remains to be seen.

In South Carolina, it’s not such a leap. SC Democrats — those who have actually served in office and understand political realities — have long understood that they have to reach across superficial barriers and appeal to as many voters as possible. You wonder why I like James Smith for governor? One reason is that he manifests that smart, inclusive approach. He’s identified with issues that could benefit all of us, such as trying to liberate renewable energy from artificial caps.

This is underlined when you look at his opposition: Phil Noble hits Smith for not being orthodox enough, for instance for being (allegedly) insufficiently hostile to gun-rights advocates. Noble is one of those Democrats who wants to divide the electorate into sheep and goats. Marguerite Willis seems to be pinning her hopes on getting women to vote for her simply because she’s a woman — despite Smith’s strong support within that largest of demographics.

So, the question is whether Democrats — on the state as well as the national level — are willing to take Leonhardt’s sensible advice, and identify themselves with issues that unite rather than divide. Mind you, he’s not talking about moving to a hypothetical center, but embracing issues with broad support among everyone but the most libertarian folks on the right.

I think they will in South Carolina, but polls tell us that’s far from certain. And nationally? I just don’t know…

Again, who in South Carolina backs Phil Noble?

noble-kennedy

It’s kinda fun that there’s an Obama-Biden sign in the background, since Biden has endorsed James Smith…

Phil Noble has pulled off another coup, by the standards of his campaign — touting the endorsement of yet another person who can’t vote in South Carolina:

One candidate to be South Carolina’s next governor is touting a 50-year-long Kennedy connection with his latest endorsement.

Charleston Democrat Phil Noble received the endorsement Monday of Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the former lieutenant governor of Maryland and daughter of the late U.S. Sen. Bobby Kennedy.

“For years, I’ve watched Phil fight tirelessly for the causes and concerns that have long inspired my family’s commitment to public service,” Townsend said….

 

First Doug Jones in Alabama, now a member of the extended Kennedy clan. And again, the support arises from old family connections, rather than anything Phil Noble has done.

But wait… there are those two guys in South Carolina who have endorsed him. Which means exactly half of the people endorsing him can actually vote in this state, unless I’ve miscounted.

There have to be other people, right? But I haven’t run across them. Of course, one might ask the same thing about Marguerite Willis, although we know who her chief backer is — Marguerite Willis. She’s has kicked in $460,000 of her own money.

This is one of the most eccentric campaigns for governor I think I’ve ever seen…

In stunning reversal for people of SC, utilities manage to kill solar bill AFTER it passed overwhelmingly

It's like if, after the Death Star was destroyed, Darth Vader used the Force to snuff out the Rebellion anyway...

It’s like if, after the Death Star was destroyed, Darth Vader used the Force to snuff out the Rebellion anyway…

If you had any lingering sympathy for the big utilities in South Carolina, this should wipe it out:

Under pressure from the state’s major utilities, the S.C. House killed a solar bill Tuesday that was intended to protect thousands of jobs and save customers money on their monthly power bills.

The bill’s defeat, a stunning reversal from a House vote last week, brought withering criticism from many lawmakers, who said the House caved in to opposition by Duke Energy and SCE&G, derailing the legislation. Utilities have expressed concern about how competition from solar could affect them.

State Rep. James Smith, the bill’s chief sponsor, also blamed Republican Gov. Henry McMaster. Smith, a Democratic candidate for governor and potential opponent to McMaster in November’s general election, said the Republican urged some lawmakers not to vote for the bill — a point McMaster’s office hotly disputed.

“He called House Republican leadership and raked them over the coals,” Smith said he was told by fellow legislators. “It was giving me a victory. But it ain’t about me. It ain’t about Henry.”…

The solar bill died Tuesday in the House after utility boosters raised a technical point, saying passing the bill would require a two-thirds majority vote. The House voted for the legislation, 61-44, but that was short of the two-thirds required for approval….

Wow. This is bad on so many levels — particularly if our governor got involved in order to screw over his likely Democratic challenger. But even if he didn’t, this is a stunning example of bad faith, and the kind of oligarchic, anti-democratic maneuver that almost makes the anti-elite paranoia of a Bernie Sanders sound sane.

Matt Moore, the former GOP chair who has been heading up Palmetto Conservative Solar Coalition, reacted this way:

Ten-plus years? I think that’s an understatement. In my more than 30 years of covering SC politics, I haven’t seen the likes of this. You have to go back to before my time. There probably hasn’t been a case of the powers-that-be frustrating the public will to this extent since the Old Guard found a way to disqualify charismatic gubernatorial candidate Pug Ravenel on a technicality in 1974.

The will of the people, acting through their elected representatives (which is how you do it in a republic), had been clearly expressed. The best people in the General Assembly were all for it — Democrats, and both flavors of Republican (Regular and Tom Davis).

And now, the people who gave us the shaft on the nuclear fiasco have shown us what they think of that. And of us.

So… what are we going to do about it?

Belated congrats on a bipartisan solar victory

A shot of the voting board posted by Boyd Brown...

A shot of the voting board posted by Boyd Brown…

I was deliberately avoiding actual news the end of last week while at the beach, but now I want to congratulate James Smith and his allies of both parties on their big victory in the House last week.

Their bill to lift the cap on solar power passed the House 64-33 Thursday, after representatives rejected a competing bill pushed by the big utilities — which obviously don’t have the clout they had when they passed the Base Load Review Act.

Out of those 64, Matt Moore of the Palmetto Conservative Solar Coalition particularly thanked   and my own rep, .

See how everybody voted on the board above.

Now, on to the Senate!

Ms. Willis takes a, um, DIFFERENT approach from Henry…

Willis video

Do not labor under any delusion that Marguerite Willis’ campaign for governor will be anything like that of Henry McMaster! Here’s proof that it won’t be…

In this new ad — which she either did on the cheap or paid extra to make it look that way — she leaps right to her point:

There’s no doubt in my mind that Donald Trump is a racist. He’s a horrible racist. He’s the worst kind of racist, which is a racist who pretends he isn’t a racist….

The ad… lacks context. I feel like I walked in in the middle of a conversation. I want to ask her for an example or two to support her assertion, but I don’t get the chance to interrupt. And anyway, without any sort of transition or pause, she’s immediately off in a whole other direction: “How could we elect a man who says such horrible things about women?…”

Interesting. Not that I disagree with any of the particulars, but gee… where’d all that come from? I mean, gimme a little prelude, or something. Take a moment to tee it up first. Explain why you’re addressing the subject. Is electing Trump the issue before us? Does she think one of her rivals for the Democratic nomination is partial to Trump, or what?…

If these guys are all for solar, who can be against?

Matt Moore, Sen. Tom Davis and Rep. James Smith in front of the rally crowd.

Matt Moore of the Palmetto Conservative Solar Coalition, Sen. Tom Davis and Rep. James Smith in front of the rally crowd.

I dropped by the pro-solar rally at the State House awhile ago, and I had to ask: “When AND AND are all for liberating solar power in SC, who can be against? (Aside from the big utilities, that is…)”

And there’s the rub. The big utilities, and their dozens of lobbyists and those who do their bidding. Who are those who do their bidding? We’ll be able to see that clearly, since right now there are two competing bills — H. 4421, which would lift the cap that the big utilities placed on net metering, and H. 5541, the bill that aims to essentially kill solar power in South Carolina.

There is seldom a choice that’s as black-and-white as this one.

Joining Smith, Ballentine and Davis — representing the three main “parties” in the Legislature (Democratic, Republican, and those other Republicans) — were Reps. Mandy Powers Norrell and Gary Clary, and Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant. My own representative, Micah Caskey, showed up as the rally ended, apologizing for being late.

The crowd standing on the steps behind the pols were mainly folks employed in the solar installation industry. Which makes sense, since their phony-baloney jobs are on the line, gentlemen!

This was one of those reverse rallies where the demonstrators were all up on the steps behind the speakers, and the audience consisted of media and a few lobbyists.

This was one of those reverse rallies where the demonstrators were all up on the steps behind the speakers, and the audience consisted of media and a few lobbyists.

SC Sierra Club endorses James Smith for governor

Sierra Club - Rep. James Smith

Aside from more of Trump’s stupid protectionism, there’s not a lot of news out there today. But this item did come in a little while ago:

South Carolina Sierra Club Formally Endorses James Smith for SC Governor

COLUMBIA, SC – Today, on the beautiful banks of the Congaree River in downtown Columbia, the South Carolina (SC) Chapter of the Sierra Club formally endorsed Representative James E. Smith, Jr. for Governor of the state. This endorsement was unanimously voted upon by the Steering Committee of the state Club following the Midlands’ area John Bachman Group of the Club also unanimously voting to endorse Representative Smith in his gubernatorial bid.

 This is the first time in its history that the SC Sierra Club has endorsed a gubernatorial candidate prior to a primary election.

Current Chapter Vice Chair and former longtime Chairwoman during the majority of Rep. Smith’s House tenure Susan Corbett said, “James Smith has done more for environmental protection and citizens’ rights to protect South Carolina’s natural wonders than any other lawmaker in the history of this Chapter’s work in this state. It’s not just his work to advance renewable energy, protect ratepayers, promote enforceable water standards and oppose offshore drilling; it’s his work on the ground which he has done day-in and day-out to stop tremendously bad legislation from being enacted throughout the years that also matters.”

Chapter Chair Ben Mack added, “Ever since I was present to hear James call for a citizens’ Environmental Bill of Rights as an amendment to our state’s Constitution while introducing the state Club before the House of Representatives, I knew we had a real leader and champion for natural resources before us.”

James Smith has been a longtime advocate of the work of the SC Sierra Club. He has been a regular supporter and speaker before the Midlands’ John Bachman Group of the state Chapter.

Conservation Chair Bob Guild noted, “Most recently, James drafted well over 200 amendments to do everything he could to stop a ham-fisted bill seeking to significantly roll back citizens’ rights to challenge bad government environmental permitting decisions. The bill, known as the rollback of the automatic stay, gives waste giants, toxic incinerators and tree-cutters, among others, the tools they need to remove the public from the process of moving forward on doing environmental harm. The current Governor signed the bill into law last week, showing his disregard for the people who James had so courageously fought to protect.”

“This is a no-brainer; no other candidate even compares,” concluded Ms. Corbett. “We’re talking about the Representative that pretty much single-handedly stopped polluters from passing a bill to take away citizens’ rights to stop illegal pollution in our state.”

The South Carolina Sierra Club has over 20,000 members and supporters across South Carolina and is dedicated to its mission to explore, enjoy and protect our state. The Sierra Club is the nation’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization with over 3 million members and supporters.

 

The legislative showdown between SC utilities and reformers

solar panels

As long as I’m throwing tweets at you, let’s contrast Henry McMaster’s fatuous nonsense with what’s going on among people at the State House who actually care about issues that matter to South Carolina.

We’ll start with this:

Oh, there goes that Brad Warthen promoting James Smith again! Well, not just him. We’re talking about a bipartisan coalition of actual leaders who are standing up to the pro-utility interests that brought you the Base Load Review Act.

This is what’s going on in the State House in this universe, as opposed to the one Henry lives in. In this universe, there’s a battle going on between people who continue to push the narrow interests of the utility industry and those who’d like us to be able to declare independence from them.

As a blog post over at the CVSC site says:

Let me set the scene for a big showdown that’s about to take place at the Statehouse…

There are two bills…

One bill was practically written by the utility monopolies. Not surprisingly, this bill would reward them for their role in the disastrous V.C. Summer debacle. Also, not surprisingly, this bill was introduced and rushed through subcommittee almost overnight by House members who’ve received thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from utility monopolies.

The other bill would promote the growth of solar energy in South Carolina. This bill rewards consumers by treating them fairly and ensuring that our state’s solar energy market will continue to produce good-paying jobs and affordable energy for our families. Not surprisingly, this bill has been challenged at every step….

Here’s a comparison of the two bills:

DY0N0L3UMAASRd8

I did, however, run across a Willis supporter…

Willis bumper sticker

As unsuccessful as I was trying to find out who (other than the three people he’s named) is backing Phil Noble, I ran across a Marguerite Willis supporter the other evening without even trying.

willis closeup

Sorry about the bad resolution. It was dark…

I carefully smudged out the license number, so the individual supporter is anonymous — although you get a feel for the issues that motivate this voter from the rest of the information freely shared with the world. This is a maker of statements.

I have no idea whether this means the typical Willis voter is a Bernie supporter (frankly, I would have thought those votes would go to Noble) or believes war is not the answer. As y’all know, I’m way intuitive, but a sample of one falls a little short of what even I need to extrapolate from.

In the end, though, beyond this one sticker, I’m even more in the dark about where her support comes from than I am with Noble. But perhaps we’ll see some endorsements coming at some point…

Who is supporting Phil Noble’s candidacy?

No, I really want to know. That’s not just an indirect way of saying, “Phil Noble has no support.” I’d really like an answer to the question.

I have this vague memory that someone — perhaps someone here on the blog, or elsewhere — told me several months ago about having seen a list of Noble supporters. At the time, I dutifully hunted for such a list — on Google, on his website — and came up dry.

I got to thinking about it again today when I got this release:

 

Friend,

Awesome news: Today, Former SC State Senator McKinley Washington, Jr. endorsed my campaign for Governor.

I’m incredibly humbled to have Senator Washington’s recognition—he’s a true blue community leader with over 25 years of public service under his belt and I respect him deeply.

He had this to say about the endorsement:

“[Phil]’s commitment to civil rights, equality, and the economic and social advancement of the African-American community is unmatched. It is a sense of duty and humanity that I know to have been deeply rooted in his upbringing. Phil’s father is a Presbyterian minister and civil rights legend who went toe to toe with the Alabama KKK back in the 1960’s. He set a courageous example for Phil as he stood unwaveringly as he rose to the top of the KKK’s Alabama hit list.

Phil has been courageous enough to call out failure and corruption and then do something about it. Seeing the mass disenfranchisement in our state back in 1984, he started the Palmetto Project and one of the first initiatives helped register over 150,000 new voters in SC. Seeing the toll high prescription drug costs had on the poor and the elderly, he started Welvista to provide free prescriptions and preventative care to those populations. I’m endorsing Phil Noble because his track record proves he is the best person, Democrat or Republican, to lead our state.”

With his endorsement, Sen. Washington joins a growing list of leaders—including Alabama Senator Doug Jones and Anderson Mayor Terence Roberts—who believe my campaign is the best choice for our state because of its unwavering commitment to economic, racial, and social equality for all.

… and so forth. And no, there was no link to a list where it said, “a growing list of leaders.”

I had wondered the same last week when I got a release about the other South Carolinian he mentioned above:

Dear Brad,

The mayor of Anderson, Terence Roberts, just announced his support for Democrat Phil Noble’s campaign for governor.

At the Anderson County Democratic Party convention Tuesday night, Roberts told the crowd he is impressed with Noble’s background as a business and technology consultant and that Noble “is not a politician — he’s a businessman.”…

… and more of the same. That one, of course, mentioned the Doug Jones endorsement.

When I got that one, I responded to the email asking, “Who else, besides Doug Jones and the mayor of Anderson, have endorsed Phil? I heard there was a list somewhere of Phil’s SC supporters, but I haven’t been able to find it…”

It’s been seven days since I sent that question, but I’ve received no reply. Maybe it’s one of those “no reply” addresses that you can’t answer — although that would be weird, since it was a fund-raising email.

And now, there’s this additional announcement, bringing his official total support (that I can find) to three. One of whom can’t vote in South Carolina. (James Smith has a prominent supporter like that, too — Joe Biden.)

Oh, wait — I think Bud said he might vote for him. So that’s four.

I seriously doubt that that’s it. But it’s weird I can’t find more than that.

Can you? If so, please share…

Again, THIS is how you get things done, people…

Funderburk

This is another little object lesson for Phil Noble and other Democrats who think the way to get worthwhile things done is to be more partisan, in a red state.

This came to my attention today because James Smith retweeted it, saying, “Great work ! Thank you for your leadership:”

Note that Democrat Funderburk makes a particular point of thanking, along with the speaker, Republicans Newton, Pope and Clary, as well as fellow Dems Beth Bernstein and Mandy Powers Norrell.

Here’s the bill in question.

Because, you know, this is how you get things done. By ignoring the partisan junk and working with anyone who wants to make our state better. Just as Smith himself has been demonstrating with his bill to raise the cap on solar, which has considerable Republican support.

Note also the shout-out to our own Lynn Teague. She’s one of those lobbyists who provides valuable information and input to lawmakers — you know, one of those people some of you think don’t exist…

Micah and the freshmen take on Power Failure, big time

micah release

I got this release today from my representative, Micah Caskey. I’ve told you he’s been pretty bold — in good ways — for a freshman. Now, he’s outdone himself — and brought a bunch of other frosh along with him.

They’re calling for no less than a constitutional convention to address the deep structural problems in our form of government in South Carolina. Here’s the main thrust of the release:

A bi-partisan group of twenty-six freshman members of the South Carolina House of Representatives and the South Carolina Senate introduced a bold plan today to reform state government. Lawmakers from across the state called for the adoption of a new state constitution. Bills introduced in both bodies seek to replace the legislatively-dominated and antiquated framework of the South Carolina Constitution of 1895. In the most ambitious reform effort since Gov. Carroll Campbell’s restructuring work in the early 1990s–and the first such endeavor led by the legislature–the plan unveiled today will result in an improved, more transparent, and more efficient state government that is accountable to the people.

Micah Caskey cropped

Caskey in 2016

The 1895 Constitution, the seventh in South Carolina history, was notoriously borne out of “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman’s explicit motivation to elevate the power and influence of white South Carolinians at the expense of black citizens. The resulting state government structure diffused responsibility throughout the General Assembly and subjugated the executive and judicial branches of government to the legislature. The legacy of Tillman’s effort continues to shackle us today.

Today’s initiative seeks to restore balance in state government. South Carolina’s governor must have the authority and control to lead the executive branch through a cabinet form of government that is not dominated or micromanaged by the legislature. Likewise, the judiciary must be an equal branch of government that is appointed with participation from both the executive and legislative branches. Reforming state government will reduce the legislature’s outsized influence and restore three, co-equal branches of government.

The bills introduced today propose a ballot referendum for South Carolina’s citizens to call only for a state constitutional convention; this process cannot in any way, whatsoever, limit the freedoms and liberties guaranteed under our United States Constitution….

The problems are basically the same ones I — and a large portion of The State‘s then-considerable newsroom — addressed in the huge “Power Failure” series in 1991 (tagline: “The Government that Answers to No One”), when Micah and many of these other folks were in grade school, (if that old). But the diagnosis didn’t originate with me or Cindi Scoppe or any of the others on the Power Failure team. Some of the main remedies we wrote about then had been recommended by one blue-ribbon panel after another since about 1945.

Micah, et al., are proposing to go a step further, calling a con-con. I always stopped short of that, because anything could happen in one of those, depending on who the delegates are. A convention could come up with proposals that make things worse, so I’ve always been leery.

In fact, my original idea for Power Failure came from a series of op-eds written by Walter Edgar and Blease Graham in 1990, in which they did advocate a convention. But I still preferred to advocate “do this, specifically” to lawmakers, rather than having them call a convention and see which way they went.

But maybe it’s time. After the partial restructuring of 1993 after our series (and with Gov. Campbell pushing it hard), reform has languished, although every few years we’ll get a small additional piece — for instance, we’ll be enacting another bit of it when we elect the lieutenant governor on the same ticket as the governor (if the General Assembly ever figures out the rules).

Several years back, Vincent Sheheen suggested taking the plunge, and even then I worried about buying a pig in a poke. But South Carolina needs fundamental reform, and it’s been so long, so maybe it’s worth the risk now.

I’ll watch with interest to see how their elders respond to this call for deep and needed change.

Gun control rally at the State House

Feeling the need to show the flag a bit, and finding myself wearing a tie for once, I decided to drop by the State House and see what was up.

The first thing I saw was this gun control rally, sponsored — I’m just going by the T-shirts here — by Moms Demand Action – SC. Here’s their Facebook page. It was a modest-sized crown (click here to see), but passionate.

I listened for awhile, went inside to see what the House was doing (not much), then came back out. When I got back, Sen. Greg Gregory was speaking. He was (to my knowledge) the only Republican to speak. He and Marlon Kimpson are sponsoring a bill to close the “Charleston loophole.”

He was saying various things the crowd applauded — such as noting that if his father had seen a “hunter” show up with a 30-round magazine, he’d have laughed him off the field. Then he talked about how hard the issue was on his side of the aisle. He noted that too many Republicans feared that any concession on gun control would send us down the slippery slope to eliminating all guns.

At that point, one or two people started to cheer, and I thought, No, folks, that’s not an applause line. You’re not helping your cause there… But they seemed to think better of it right away; it wasn’t taken up. And maybe they just weren’t listening. It was a very encouraging, applauding kind of crowd, which I guess is what you get when you have “Moms” in your name.

The speeches kept coming. There was a preacher, a teacher, and a couple of high school students. Then, with exacting neutrality, the mistress of ceremonies introduced “two candidates for governor,” with the first being James Smith. You can hear most of his speech above — I started shooting the video about a minute in.

Then came Phil Noble, and he said the usual things Phil Noble says. I’ll say this for him, though — he was more self-restrained than usual. He carefully explained that the NRA was pure evil, and that evil had agents in the Legislature, and some of them were Democrats and some of them were Republicans. I didn’t hear all of it, but I’m pretty sure he held back from actually saying “James Smith.” But I wasn’t always looking right at him, so he could have been jerking his head in that direction.

One of the speakers used the occasion to encourage those present to elect more Democrats — which didn’t seem terribly polite to Sen. Gregory, but he’s probably used to it.

Joe Cranney of the Charleston paper reports that earlier, the group had been present at a hearing in which consideration of S. 516 — Gregory’s and Kimpson’s bill — was postponed….

Phil Noble speaks to the rally. That's James Smith with Mandy Powers Norrell to the right.

Phil Noble speaks to the rally. That’s James Smith with Mandy Powers Norrell to the right.

 

 

 

If I go back to school, I want Noble to fill out MY report card

nra

This is a followup on a topic from yesterday — the one about Phil Noble’s attempts to hang the NRA around James Smith’s neck in the wake of last week’s school shooting in Florida.

Have you seen the bogus “NRA Report Card” Noble’s campaign created for Smith? It’s above. Phil tweeted it out with a volley of the angry, chip-on-the-shoulder, self-righteous rhetoric that has become the calling card of South Carolina’s own Bernie Sanders: “I’m dismayed by hollow, hypocritical words of condolences by politicians like James Smith. Smith has voted over and over again with the NRA, getting A ratings and now tries to fool people that he is on the right side….” And so forth.

Yep, James Smith has gotten good ratings from the NRA a couple or three times, generally because of voting on a noncontroversial bill along with pretty much everyone else in the Legislature, including Democrats Noble has supported in the past. One such item he mentioned when I asked him about it yesterday was a bill (I think it was this one) that said it you build a house way out in the country next to an existing shooting range, you can’t bring a nuisance action for noise against the owners and operators. That sort of thing.

The thing is, James Smith isn’t someone who blanches at the site of a firearm. He knows exponentially more about assault rifles with large magazines than most of the people who own AR-15s because he’s used them himself — in combat (you know, for the purpose for which such weapons were intended). The Democratic Party used to be full of guys like him. Not so much anymore. And no, the GOP doesn’t have a lot of room to brag on that score, either.

But still, there was something fishy about that “report card.” Rep. Mandy Powers Norrell, a Smith ally (which is to say, a normal, mainstream Democrat) decided to dig into those “grades.”

The phony report card cited two sources. One was the NRA itself, and since you had to be a member to look up the scores, she turned to the other source, VoteSmart.org. There, on the James Smith ratings page under the “Guns” heading, you’ll find the apparent source material for Noble’s “report card.”

The site said that in 2012, the NRA gave Smith a rating of 79 percent — which Noble recorded as an “A-minus.” I know South Carolina recently watered down the values of letter grades, but I hadn’t seen anything this lenient.

But that was nothing compared to Noble’s generosity in 2016. That year, the NRA rated Smith at 43 percent. Noble called that a “C.”

Rep. Norrell tweeted, “My kids would love it if those were C’s and A-‘s, but I know of nowhere that that’s the case.”

Yeah… I don’t know of any place like that, either…

ratings

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…