Category Archives: Parties

Those obnoxious, unconscionable primary ‘referenda’

I got rattled and did a stupid thing in the voting booth yesterday.

I had been unaware of the fact that there would be mock-referendum questions on the GOP primary ballot. So they took me by surprise. (The Democrats had their own questions; I just didn’t see those.)

One of the questions on my ballot. (Sorry about the glare.)

One of the questions on my ballot. (Sorry about the glare.)

One asked whether unborn children should be protected by due process. The other was about doing away with the state income tax. Well, as you know, my main objection to abortion on demand is that it allows a single individual — and an extremely interested individual, the sort who would have to recuse herself were she a judge or juror in a court — to make a unilateral, irrevocable decision regarding life and death, one from which there is no appeal. So yeah, due process. And the last thing our tax system needs is to be thrown further out of whack by completely eliminating a leg of the three-legged stool.

So, since I was being asked to make a decision now, without further reflection, I said “yes” and “no.”

But I was uncomfortable with both answers, and went out feeling uneasy about them. And the reason why didn’t hit me until I was in the car: I shouldn’t have answered either of them!

I shouldn’t have answered them for two reasons:

  1. I don’t vote for candidates when I haven’t had the chance to go through a careful discernment process before going to the polls. It is my firm policy to leave those races blank. I refuse to be one of those careless, irresponsible voters who decides on the basis of name recognition or spur-of-the-moment gut feeling. So why would I do any differently with ballot questions?
  2. This is the big one: I am deeply, profoundly opposed to these gimmicks on primary ballots. There’s no way I should have participated in the farce in any way, shape or form.

First, I do not believe in direct democracy; it’s a terrible way to make important public decisions. Making decisions by plebiscite may not be the worst form of government, but it’s right up there. Or down there.

It’s not that the people are stupid and legislators necessarily wise. It’s the process itself. When you boil an issue down to a “yes” or “no” answer, you have usually oversimplified it, and guaranteed a bad policy decision by ruling out an in-between course. Second, the deliberative process (even though nowadays, with fixed partisan positions, precious little actual deliberation goes on) takes longer than a snap, thumbs-up or thumbs-down decision. A person who has days or weeks to think about an issue while it makes its way through a legislative body has far more time to study the issue, to talk with others about it, and think about it himself, and thereby make a more nuanced decision in the end.

Electing representatives to go through that process is part of the specialization that is a key characteristic of an advanced, modern economy. We are not independent yeoman farmers who produce all we need from our own land (and we weren’t in the late 18th century, despite what Thomas Jefferson may have fantasized). We may be smart people; we may be brain surgeons. But brain surgeons depend on other people to spend time learning to grow their food or build their smartphones or repair their air conditioners or, for that matter, operate on portions of anatomy other than their brains.

Most of us are too busy earning a living to study all the ins and outs and nuances of each issue, or engage in debate with people with differing views on the subject. So we elect people to go spend time doing all those things. They may be no smarter than we are, but that’s their job, and we rely on them to do it, or we elect someone else.

Second, those mock referenda may actually fool a lot of voters into thinking they’re deciding something — that it actually is a plebiscite — when they most emphatically are not. Which is another recipe for making people even more discontented with their government, when they see that what they voted for doesn’t happen.

Third, worse, the opposite can happen — partisans will actually use such ballot results as a guide to how they should vote, even how they must vote (because unfortunately, too few politicians understand that they are supposed to go and study and think and make decisions, rather than vote according to which way the wind is blowing). And you get calcified, immutable positions taken by lawmakers who think they don’t have the right to think for themselves and make a better decision.

That was the case with the most offensive of these mock referenda ever — the question on the 1994 Republican primary ballot asking whether voters wanted to keep the Confederate flag flying atop the State House dome.

It was a purely party-building thing. This was the year of the Angry White Male in national politics, as you will recall, and this was seen as a way to entice said males — those of the “Fergit, Hell!” subgroup – to come out and choose a GOP ballot. It worked — or something did. The AWMs turned out in droves, and of course voted to keep the flag up there.

It you’ll further recall, it was right after that election that the GOP took over the SC House. The election itself almost got them there, then some defections completed the job. This was the year when I had been stirring up unrest against the flag (that year was when I started doing that, as it was my first on the editorial board), so one of the first things the new GOP House did — citing the results of their mock referendum — was push through a bill that put flying the flag into law. Before that, a governor could have gotten up one morning and decided to tell the building maintenance not to raise the flag, and that would have been that (at least, in one optimistic, theoretical scenario). After that, the Legislature would have to act for anything to happen on the flag.

So, yeah, in case you were wondering — it’s not just a matter of violating abstract principles of good government. These things can do actual, long-lasting harm to our state…

The new third party’s candidate for Scott’s seat

Now that the primaries are over, you’ll be hearing more — although, I’m guessing, not a lot more — about the candidates of the new American Party started by Jim Rex and Oscar Lovelace. So, to help that along, I share this release I got this morning from the American Party candidate for Tim Scott’s U.S. Senate seat:



We all have something in common — The American Party of SC.  We all believe that it is time for a change and we have all indicated our willingness to do something to bring that change about.  I have chosen to run for the United States Senate for South Carolina as a candidate under The American Party.  I am not doing this alone – I know that you are with me.  But we need to reach more South Carolinians.   There are “centrist” groups of like-minded American citizens all over the U.S. and there are many right here in South Carolina.  This is not just a state of right leaning conservatives.  They, like we believe, that to end the gridlock in Washington and to put our country back on track we need to start finding ways to work together again.  We need to put the partisan bickering aside and get down to the hard work of governing.  After yesterday’s primary, we all can see that it is possible to change the status quo when passionate people work together to make that change happen.


The South Carolina primary is over and I am facing, Tim Scott, in the general election.  Mr. Scott was appointed to his role as Senator.  He is also a “Career Politician”.  Tim has over $4 Million in his campaign fund.  In order to compete in this campaign I need your help. T.V. is expensive, and it will be critical to get our message out to the voters of South Carolina at the right time.  Print and mail is expensive, and it too will be critical to reach the voters we need to join us and help make history!  Won’t you help me today by donating online at:


If you don’t want to donate online, you can mail a check to the address listed below, made payable to:  “Jill Bossi for Senate”

You can also forward this email to your friends and family and ask them to help.  You can share our story with everyone you know and ask them to vote on November 4th.   People talking to people will help.  If you are willing to volunteer to help my campaign, please go to my website and fill in the Volunteer form.  As the song says, “It’s time for us to do something!”  Help me do something positive now for South Carolina, for our future and for America!


Thank you!



Jill Bossi for U.S. Senate

P.O. Box 213135

Columbia, SC  29221


Yes, it’s a bit weak. It needed an editor for the punctuation (“They, like we believe, that to end the gridlock…”), and the fact that Sen. Scott is a “career politician” is one of those lame, populist messages that leaves me cold (a fault which the new party is unfortunately prone to). But give her time. Maybe as time passes, she will offer reasons why Scott is doing a poor job, and why she would do better. Which would be helpful.


The most significant, positive thing you can do as a voter today is make sure Lindsey Graham wins outright

A still from a campaign video.

A still from a campaign video.

Where I live, I normally take a Republican primary ballot, because that’s the only way I get any choices, especially on local races.

But four years ago, I broke with that pattern because of one race: I wanted to vote for Vincent Sheheen. I was so disappointed by the whole Republican field for governor (even Henry McMaster, whom I had expected to like for the job, but hated the campaign he ran), and I wanted to have the positive experience of voting for somebody for governor, rather than trying to pick the least of evils on the GOP side. I did this even though it meant I was disenfranchised, unable to state a choice as a voter in several races in which the GOP primary was the election (and again, it is SO wrong that a voter has to make a choice like that — we should get a say on everyone who represents us).

Today, I went back to the GOP, so I didn’t have that problem. But still, as in 2010, my mind was on one race and one race only. Even if there had been compelling contests on the Democratic side that I wanted to weigh in on (there weren’t), I would have taken a GOP ballot simply to vote for Lindsey Graham. On this day, that was the best and highest use of my right and responsibility as a voter.

Totally apart from the fact that he deserves re-election and is a far better candidate than his challengers, the contest for his seat has much broader implications for our state.

The worst thing that can happen to South Carolina in today’s primaries would be for Graham to lose, and the second worst would be for him to get into a runoff.

If he loses (and a runoff makes it more likely that he might actually lose, if all the Graham haters unite behind one candidate), don’t ever expect to see a South Carolina Republican take a political risk in order to do the right thing for a long, long time. He would be the cautionary example of what happens if you think for yourself and stick your neck out.

Conversely, if he wins decisively today, it affirms the kind of thoughtful, principled representation of which we all know he, unlike his opponents, is capable.

The crowd of people running against him all smell blood in the water. Some are just dangerous extremists (Lee Bright) and others are opportunists willing to benefit from his vulnerability — and willing to cater to that same extremism in order to conquer. That must not be rewarded.

All sensible, moderate South Carolinians, regardless of party, should be asking for a GOP primary ballot today, and voting for Graham. And yet I know so many will find excuses not to.

One of my best friends, who for several years constituted the “liberal” wing of The State‘s editorial board (as he would tell you, though, more of a New Republic liberal than a Mother Jones liberal), wrote for a lot of Democrats and independents yesterday when he said:

“If those things happen, don’t EVER expect to see a South Carolina Republican take a political risk in order to do the right thing for a long, LONG time.”

When was the last time that actually happened? Has Lindsey Graham done anything in public during his current term that I actually am thankful for? I’d like to be wrong about this, but I can’t think of one thing in the last six years that I actually approve of. Anything?

It only took me a moment to come up with three good answers to that question:

1. He was the only Republican from SC to vote to reopen the government last fall — even as he was bracing himself for the current onslaught from the right.

2. Voting to confirm Kagan.

3. Voting to confirm Sotomayor.

The list of things that please me would be longer, but I was looking at it from Mike’s perspective. (The second and third points are particularly important, because they illustrate Graham living up to the principle he so often states — that elections have consequences, and unless a president’s nominees are simply unqualified, they should be confirmed. This is an incredibly important principle to the healthy functioning of our system of republican government, and all too rare today — it’s something that the ideologues of the left and right can’t even wrap their heads around. It’s the kind of thing that separates a statesman from a hack.)

It is SO easy for moderates (and the very few liberals in SC) to be turned off by Graham’s recent emphasis on messages that appeal to the hard right — opposition to Obamacare, going on and on about Benghazi, etc.

And of course, some of our friends — Bud and Doug come to mind — find that two-faced and deceptive. They’re wrong. And moderates (or liberals) who see only the things they don’t like, forgetting the things that they do like, are wrong as well.

There is absolutely nothing wrong, or deceptive, or duplicitous about stressing positions that you honestly hold that appeal to people who might vote for your opponents. An honest politician has not only a right, but an obligation to let voters who might be heavily critical of him know that he actually agrees with them on issues that are important to them. Graham has been a vocal opponent of Obamacare from the start; he and John McCain have been the main critics of the administration on Benghazi. And he is, just as he claims, a social conservative.

And moderates and those few liberals who may be turned off by this kind of campaign need to stop and think — this is the only way a guy like Lindsey Graham gets re-elected in this state. Your alternative is not Elizabeth Warren (God help us), or whoever you like out there. Your alternative is Lee Bright, or someone who in office would act like Lee Bright.

The kind of courage and thoughtfulness and sense of responsibility that Graham exhibits, at great political risk, on issues such as judicial confirmation, foreign aid, fiscal issues, immigration and energy are rare qualities. And no one else running for this office exhibits them.

For someone as high-profile as Graham to be brought low by the extreme Lilliputians of the Tea Party would be a tragedy for South Carolina, because nothing could be more guaranteed to make sure we don’t see his kind of courage in the future.

We can’t afford to lose this one guy who puts his country before party doctrine. We can’t afford to lose Lindsey Graham.

Another still from the same campaign video.

Another still from the same campaign video.

Tom Ervin says he’ll be on November ballot

Tom Ervin, the third-wheel candidate for governor, had a presser this morning over at the state election commission. I did not make it, but this apparently is what he said:

Ervin Campaign Assures Spot on November Ballot 
Tom Ervin, the Independent Republican candidate for Governor, assured himself a spot on the November general election ballot when he and his campaign submitted 20,137 petition signatures of registered voters today to the South Carolina State Election Commission.unnamed
The legal requirement of 10,000 valid signatures was easily swamped by Ervin, reporting signatures from every county in South Carolina.
“Today we are simply grateful that by the hard work of so many, we have given voice to the thousands of South Carolinians who say enough is enough, it is time to put South Carolina first,” Ervin, of Greenville, said in a press conference outside the State Election Commission in Columbia.
Ervin promised a series of education, economic and political reforms to shake up the race for governor.
“We intend to shape this campaign — and to win it — by offering a different vision for our great state,” Ervin said. “We must improve our education system — from Pre-K through college — so that we are competitive for the jobs of the future and that all of our citizens — all of our citizens — have access to the same quality education.
“We must have a bold economic plan — one that includes all South Carolinians, not just those lucky few who receive support from crony capitalism practiced here in Columbia. And we must restore trust in the state government by our citizens.
“For too long, Columbia has been controlled by professional politicians and their patron lobbyists, looking after one another, surviving — no thriving — after yet another embarrassing scandal. The self serving and political back scratching will come to an end when I am governor.”
Ervin will deliver a series of major policy speeches in the coming days, outlining in detail his three major areas of reform.


Now what in the world this means for November, I have no idea. Can he be a factor in the election? Can he actually pull enough GOP votes to put Vincent Sheheen within striking distance (something he’s not likely to achieve on his own the way things are going)? Or, conversely, will he split the anti-Haley vote with Sheheen, thereby giving the incumbent a bigger margin of victory than she could have achieved on her own.

If so, then this is significant. Otherwise, not.

Make no mistake, independents (and Democrats, of COURSE): Lee Bright does NOT want you to vote for him

Not that you would likely make that mistake, but just as a reminder, I pass on his release from this morning:

Establishment Republican Trying to Seduce Obama Voters

On the eve of Lindsey Graham having to face his top challenger, Lee Bright, at the polls, Team Graham is running a quiet campaign to woo Democrats. Publicly, Graham’s Campaign is saturating South Carolina TV stations touting his supposed “conservative credentials” – yet he is simultaneously using web ads and social media to target Democrats and to remind them they can vote for him in the Republican Primary.

“Well, he’s the liberals’ favorite Republican in Washington, so he is simply following form by trying to sneak past 50 per cent with some Democrat voters,” said Bright, who added, “This is really so predictable. In fact, we predicted it. This is the guy who voted for ObamaCare before he voted against it, and who is very close to John Kerry. He’s obviously reaching out to his true base.”

Edmund Wright, Bright’s Communications Director, said, “This is quintessential political cross dressing. It’s quite a little paradox too, targeting Democrats with web ads while using his lobbying money to spread the fabricated rumor that he’s a conservative on television.”


And did you like the oh-so-subtle cross-dressing reference? That Lee Bright, he’s such a smoothie…

Pope running for governor — in 2018. Thanks for the heads-up there, Tommy

His eyes are focused on the future -- the far, far future...

His eyes are focused on the future — the far, far future…

The campaigns just keep getting started earlier and earlier. But I think this is a first for me:

— Republican state Rep. Tommy Pope said Tuesday he plans to run for governor in 2018, calling the job an opportunity to advocate for statewide needs such as improving roads and bridges.

The 51-year-old York representative and former prosecutor said he made the decision after praying about it with his wife, adding that a formal announcement is likely two years away.

State leaders “need to focus on something larger than ourselves. The governor’s office gives the opportunity to lead in that direction on issues that are important to everybody, like state infrastructure,” he said. “We need to come up with a way to fund it, and we need to come up with a means of fairly distributing it.”

Pope’s comments come five months before voters decide who will be governor for the next four years. He is running for a third term in the House in November….

I really don’t remember when I’ve heard a prospective candidate state his intentions so definitely before the election before the one he intends to run in. It may not be the first time it’s happened, it’s just a first in my memory.

I mean, the guy just lapped the electoral cycle.

That said, I like that he’s talking about leading on infrastructure. Although I’m a little disappointed when he says, further down in the story, that “he stopped short of advocating for a gas tax increase statewide.”

If you’re getting such a long running start like this, it seems it would be because you were bursting to share some great new idea that no one else has had the brains and/or guts to put forth. Perhaps he’ll get back to us when he has one. No rush; there’s plenty of time…

Sheheen’s first TV ad of 2014: The Sheriff

First, I have to say something to head off the confusion: That’s not me in this Sheheen campaign ad. That’s my twin, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott.

Just so we have that straight.

Anyway, I’m sure that I’m breaking this story, because the campaign sent this to me only minutes ago with the message…


I wanted to send you a quick note to give you an exciting update! You’ve been one of our biggest supporters so far, and this campaign wouldn’t have achieved such success without you on the team. Because you’ve been such a great supporter, I wanted to make sure you’re the first to see our first television ad.

But here’s the reality – TV ads aren’t cheap and we need to raise $15,000 by midnight tonight to keep this ad on the air. Can you help us out? Click here to send an urgent donation before midnight >>

Click here to watch our first ad…

Your unwavering support of Vincent has helped us get to where we are today.

But now we’re down to the wire. We have to close our budget gap and keep this ad on the air. Nikki Haley and her extremist friends have already flooded our airwaves with misleading ads. It’s time for us to fight back….

… and so forth.

So, I’m special. But the Sheheen campaign must be in big trouble, because it sees me as one of it’s “biggest supporters,” and I’ve never given them a penny…

Endorsing Brad Hutto because ‘he’s not a felon’


Knowing the editorial board as I do, I had to do a double-take this morning when I saw Sen. Brad Hutto’s picture on an endorsement editorial in The State.

Not that Sen. Hutto is a bad sort of fellow or associated with other bad sorts — his mother, a longtime devoted reader of the paper with whom I corresponded regularly when I was the EPE, is a lovely lady, and she is the first association that comes to mind when I see his name — but my general impression is that he is at odds with positions taken by the board more often than he is in agreement. Or at least when he is at odds, he’s very visibly so. Also, he’s very much a Democratic Party happy warrior, gleefully engaging in the sort of partisan behavior that tended to set our teeth on edge.

Cindi (I assume) dutifully sets out arguments as to why he should carry the Democratic standard against Lindsey Graham, including one of our default reasons for slightly preferring incumbents, as long as they haven’t misbehaved:

AS POPULAR as it is these days to praise the virtues of outsiders, of political novices, the fact is that there is always a huge danger in electing someone who has never been active in their communities or engaged in public life, much less held public office.

S.C. Democrats, of all people, should understand this, after their disastrous encounter with Alvin Greene, the unemployed Army veteran who defeated a respected retired judge in the 2010 primary to win the U.S. Senate nomination and went on to become a serious embarrassment to the party and a distant loser to Republican Jim DeMint….

But the next sentence spoke more directly to the reason Sen. Hutto got The State‘s nod:

The danger is even greater when the unknown outsider has a criminal record.

State Sen. Brad Hutto has neither of these problems. The Orangeburg attorney is not a felon, and he has served respectably as an outspoken (which is to say high-profile) member of the Legislature for nearly two decades….

“He’s not a felon” may seem to be faint praise, one likely to lead us to lament that the standard should fall so low. But as a bottom-line standard, it’s hard to argue with…

Beth Bernstein campaign kickoff


I dropped by Rep. Beth Bernstein‘s re-election campaign kickoff on the way home this evening at the Tin Roof.

She had a pretty decent crowd — almost as many as I saw at the statewide stump meeting at Galivants Ferry last week. Which is a tiny group for statewide candidates, but a decent one for a House member.

And it was a diverse group, in the political sense. I saw longtime GOP operative Trey Walker (there as a USC governmental relations guy), Christian conservative Hal Stevenson (representing outdoor advertisers, not really himself), Michael Rentiers of Push Advocacy, and Rep. Rick Quinn, as well as a healthy number of Democrats and independents.

So, broad support, it seemed.

I don’t know anything about her general election opponent, Jeff Mobley, yet. If he’s having an event like this, I want to go to that, too. I haven’t heard from him, but he’s following me on Twitter, so…


The ads with Lindsey Graham’s little sister

I’ve always known that after their parents died when they were both still young, Lindsey Graham took over raising his younger sister.

For John McCain, it’s the story about his time at the Hanoi Hilton. For Graham, the personal anecdote that illuminates character to the candidate’s advantage is the one about him taking care of his sister at an age when most of us shouldered no responsibilities.

I’ve never heard the story told by the sister herself. So these ads are still something of a revelation.

The one above is the 60-second version. I actually think maybe the 30-second one is more effective.

And here’s a link to a radio ad that complements the TV spots.

You may say it has little to do with being senator, but I’d sure rather see these than more ads about how much the candidate hates Obamacare. That gets old.

Does it matter that Harrell’s PAC contributed to ethics panel members? Uh, yeah, I think so…

While I believe Kenny Bingham is saying what he truly believes when he says he would not be swayed by past contributions from a PAC associated with Speaker Bobby Harrell, I’m gonna have to come down on the side of those who would say that this means the House Ethics Committee should in no way be passing judgment on their boss:

The five Republican members of the 10-member House Ethics Committee — which House Speaker Bobby Harrell wants to decide allegations against him — have received some $13,000 in campaign contributions from a political action committee associated with the Charleston Republican.

Those committee members, who have received contributions from the Palmetto Leadership Council PAC, include Ethics Committee chairman Kenny Bingham, R-Lexington. In 2008, 2010 and 2012, Bingham received $1,000 contributions each election cycle from the Palmetto Leadership Council….

Actually… I would question the impartiality of the panel even if no one on it had received a dime from the PAC. But the money raises sufficient additional questions that the House ethics cops should leap to recuse themselves and let other competent authorities deal with this matter. Such as, you know, the attorney general

Oh, and on a related matter…

It looks like whoever did the coding on John Monk’s story had a bit of a Freudian slip. The story appears on the website under “Crime” instead of under “SC Politics.” Very interesting…


Legislative shocker: Bills sometimes don’t receive sufficient scrutiny

The “shocker” headline is, of course, ironic.

SC Democrats seem to thing they have a big “gotcha” in state GOP Chairman Matt Moore’s that “At times, things pass the legislature without much debate and scrutiny.”

Personally, that doesn’t seem like much of a news flash. But the Dems are making of it what they can:

BREAKING VIDEO: SCGOP Chairman Says GOP Majority Ineptly Passes Bills Without Scrutiny


Columbia, SC – Today, SCGOP Chairman Matt Moore stated that GOP leaders and elected officials in the state legislature regularly pass bills without looking at what’s in them.


In a press conference trying to distract from the mismanagement at Governor Haley’s DSS, the SCGOP chairman was asked about the massive Republican support for a bill the SCGOP was trying to use to criticize Sen. Vincent Sheheen. Moore said: “At times, things pass the legislature without much debate and scrutiny.”

SCDP Executive Director Conor Hurley released this statement:

“The comments by the SCGOP Chairman today are stunning and highly concerning. Exactly which bills has the SCGOP’s majority pushed through the House and Senate without knowing what’s in them? How long has this abdication of duty been happening? And, is it all GOP members as Chairman Moore implies, or just a select few?

“For the Chairman of a party to first call a press conference to attack his own members for being soft on crime, and then to claim that they are essentially incompetent at their jobs – the SCGOP and Haley campaign must be pretty desperate to distract from Governor Haley’s refusal to fix the mismanagement at her Department of Social Services that has allowed children to tragically die. The people of South Carolina deserve answers.”



Video of Vincent Sheheen at Galivants Ferry

Well, the video finally uploaded after I went to bed last night. So here it is, the missing piece from my report from the Galivants Ferry Stump Speaking.

This is almost the entire speech. I missed a line at the very beginning. It was something like, “Are y’all ready to win this?” — one of those lines designed to get the crowd to cheer, and they did cheer. I didn’t write it down because I was busy trying to get some still shots of him standing at the stump before switching to video.

As you can see, Vincent Sheheen made every effort to come across as a guy with a fire in his belly. But as I look back at it, he doesn’t seem all that comfortable with the effort.

His campaign is going to need something, something it doesn’t have yet, if he is to be even as competitive as he was four years ago, much less have a chance of beating Nikki Haley.

My report from the Stump Speaking

It was very warm -- a good day to be a speaker, and have a seat in the shade. That's John Land in the hat.

It was very warm — a good day to be a speaker, and have a seat in the shade. That’s John Land in the hat.

Well, to begin with, Fritz Hollings didn’t make it to the 2014 Galivants Ferry Stump Speaking, which he has been attending as long as I’ve been alive. He called Russell Holliday, who puts on the event started by her ancestors 138 years ago, late this morning to describe rather frankly an unpleasant side effect he was having from a new medication, and to explain he’d have to miss it.

Which was a disappointment. But there was still the keynote speaker, SC native and MSNBC commentator Jimmy Williams. And there were the candidates, with gubernatorial candidate Vincent Sheheen at the top of the ticket.

But there was a serious lack of attendees. And on a less notable level, a lack of energy, and a lack of ideas. I hate to say this because I know Russell works very hard to bring this event off, and I’m here to say that she and her family did as good a job as ever. All the pieces were there — people just had to show up and inspire. The fault lay with the candidates. I just didn’t feel the same spirit that I’ve felt at earlier stumps. Sure, there was Fritz on those occasions, and there was usually another draw such as Joe Biden (see Fritz introducing him at this event in 2006), making SC Democrats feel that while they might be beleaguered here in South Carolina, they were part of something vital nationally.

To his credit, Vincent Sheheen showed more fire and energy than I’ve seen from him yet (if the video ever finishes uploading to YouTube, I’ll show you). But the substance was lacking. He ran through the usual litany of complaints about Nikki Haley (the Department of Revenue breach, her refusal to expand Medicaid) and then said he hadn’t come to talk about the last four years, but the next four — which raised my hopes.

“Without a vision, the people perish,” he said, citing Proverbs. But the vision was… skimpy. Four-year-old kindergarten, Medicaid expansion, fixing up infrastructure — each with about one sentence devoted to it.

And then, suddenly, the five-minute address was over.

OK, the Stump is a party, not an occasion for extended oration. Still, I was disappointed.

And the disappointment extended across the spectrum. When Sen. Brad Hutto strung together a series of populist bromides about how that Lindsey Graham needed to stop worrying about the rest of the world and fix some potholes in good ol’ SC — as though he were running for county council rather than the United States Senate — we had reached the nadir. One hopes. I didn’t stay for the last of the down-the-ballot speakers.

Rhetorically, I think the high point came at the beginning, when young Johnson Holliday of Russell’s clan quoted Texan Jim Hightower saying “Everybody does better when everybody does better.”

Now that I could go for. That was a concept that would have been worth enlarging upon.

Sure, I like the communitarian overtones, but think about it: The saying not only states what Democrats believe in, but in a way that it’s hard for Republicans to argue with, and that could appeal to independents (like yours truly). After all, it’s not all that far conceptually from the Republicans’ “A rising tide lifts all boats.”

The thing that will lift this country out of the doldrums, and SC out of the back-of-the-line status that has plagued it in one way or another since 1865, is growth — growth in jobs and wages as well as in profits, productivity and innovation.

Surely there’s someone in the Democratic Party — or some party — who could take a concept like that and run with it. If that happened, we’d have some Stump meetings that everybody would want to attend, like in the old days, when everybody was a Democrat, and this was the place to be every two years.

Editor’s note: As I finish this, YouTube is telling me there are another 85 minutes to go before the Sheheen video finishes loading. If it loads — and a long upload like this often ends in tears of frustration — I’ll share it with you in the morning. In the meantime, enjoy the stills.


Follow my coverage of the Galivants Ferry Stump Speaking on Twitter this evening

Fritz Hollings at a previous Stump.

Fritz Hollings at a previous Stump.

Hey, y’all — I’m going to be on Twitter rather than the blog for the next few hours. I’m going to check out the 138th-anniversary edition of the Galivants Ferry Stump Speaking. Follow my comments @BradWarthen.

This venerable Democratic Party institution starts with music at 4:30 and speaking at 6, in case you’d like to come. Russell Holiday has written to me several times to remind me to come, so here I go. I don’t want to miss the chance to hear Fritz Hollings, who’s been attending the Stump for 60 years.

Here’s the last release I saw on the subject:

The families of Joseph Holliday and John Monroe Holliday announced today that MSNBC Contributor Jimmy Williams will be the Keynote Speaker at the May 12, 2014 Galivants Ferry Stump Speaking and former Senator Fritz Hollings will be the Special Guest Speaker.

A South Carolina native, Mr Williams graduated high school in Florence and is a graduate of the Citadel……. He is the Executive Editor of Blue Nation Review and is a 22 year veteran of Washington’s political scene and a regular MSNBC contributor. (bio below)

Senator Hollings will celebrate his 60 year anniversary of attending the History Stump Speaking…. He announced his bid for Lt. Governor in 1954 at the Stump and has been a fixture at the Stump until his retirement. The Stump celebrated 50 years of Stumping with Fritz in 2004 and are so pleased to celebrate 60 years in 2014.

Candidate for Governor, Vincent Sheheen and Lt. Governor candidate Bakari Sellers will speak along with 7th District Congressional candidate Gloria Tinubu… State, local and candidates for the US Senate will also speak……..(a complete list of confirmed candidates as of 5/5/14 is below)

The 2014 Stump will be held at Pee Dee Farms, the community’s century-old general store. Galivants Ferry, which is on the National Registry of Historic Districts, is located on Hwy 501 where it crosses the Little Pee Dee River. The Stump is listed in the Library of Congress as a Local Legacy and was nominated by Sen. Hollings in 2000. The Stump will follow the traditional festival format of bluegrass music starting at 4:30 p.m. The actual “speaking” will be begin at 6:00 p.m. featuring all local, state and federal Democratic candidates The public is invited to this free event. Chicken Bog will be available for sale…

Who knows? Maybe I’ll run into some of y’all. It’s happened before


Maybe Gowdy can help me understand the ‘why’ on Benghazi

Alternate headline: “Benghazi! Benghazi! Benghazi! Benghazi! Benghazi!”

You’ve no doubt seen the news by now that 4th District Congressman Trey Gowdy (you know him — he’s the guy who defeated Bob Inglis because Inglis, of all people, wasn’t “conservative” enough in the Tea Party year) will pitch for the GOP in the big game — that is, he’ll chair the select committee to investigate Benghazi, which a former White House staffer characterized recently with the immortal words, “Dude, this was like two years ago.”

As this was all breaking, I happened to watch the third season episode of “The West Wing,” “Ways and Means,” in which C.J. said:

Leo, we need to be investigated by someone who wants to kill us just to watch us die. We need someone perceived by the American people to be irresponsible, untrustworthy, partisan, ambitious, and thirsty for the limelight. Am I crazy, or is this not a job for the U.S. House of Representatives?

I don’t know what about this situation made me mention that. Unless the White House deliberately manipulated the House into doing this by releasing those emails.

Anyway, now that this is back before us, we ask the eternal question: Why?

Rep. Gowdy puts it this way:

“Twenty months after the Benghazi attacks, there remain unresolved questions about why the security was inadequate, our response during the siege itself, and our government’s interaction with the public after the attack. All of those lines of inquiry are legitimate and should be apolitical. Facts are neither red nor blue.

“While people are free to draw different conclusions from the facts, there should be no debate over whether the American public is entitled to have all of the facts. In a courtroom, juries are free to believe one witness over a hundred witnesses. But you cannot make that or any other credibility determination if you do not have access to all relevant witnesses, documents and other tangible evidence.

“Four of our fellow citizens were murdered, and a facility emblematic and representative of our country was attacked and burned on the anniversary of 9-11. Our fellow citizens are full well capable of processing the truth about the attacks and aftermath, and most assuredly entitled to hear it.”…

OK. If the hearings are going to focus on “why the security was inadequate” and “our response during the siege itself,” so that we might avoid such tragedies in the future, and make our embassies and consulates secure, let’s get started.

But where Republicans lose me is on the third thing, the thing they go on and on and on about: “our government’s interaction with the public after the attack.”

Frankly, I decided a long time ago that Susan Rice wasn’t the sharpest knife in the Obama administration’s cutlery drawer (although she looks awesome next to the kid who made the “Dude” crack). I was relieved when she didn’t become secretary of state, and disappointed when she became National Security Advisor. (As Sonny Corleone would say, “Nixon had Kissinger; look what I got.“)

I decided even longer ago than that that I had no interest in watching the Sunday morning political talk shows, and not just because I was busy going to Mass then. I figured out that if they made news, it would be on the wires (the Sunday shift has to write about something).

So what Susan Rice said on Sunday political talk shows doesn’t exactly rock my world.

Earlier in the week, I had seen reports that the administration had amended its initial assessment that the attacks were just about that horrendous anti-Muslim video. (Scout, I lost my link to that story, and you helped me find it, but I lost it again, so help!) I heard that within 24 hours of learning of the attack in Benghazi itself. I was satisfied.

If Susan Rice said something else, I’m not terribly surprised. But I’m not up in arms.

I find myself asking, “so what?” So Susan Rice tried to make the administration look good (if what Republicans keep saying is true). That seems to be pretty much in character for her.

I also find myself wondering why Republicans get so offended at the idea that the Muslim video triggered these attacks. It was causing demonstrations elsewhere. It just wasn’t crazy to think at first, however erroneously, it might have had something to do with Benghazi.

We know that expressions of disrespect toward the prophet on the part of private parties in the West had triggered violence in the Muslim world before. Why not now?

There’s some kind of dog whistle this issue blows on the right that is just inaudible to me.

But anyway, let’s collect those facts that are neither red nor blue, and figure out how to avoid this kind of deadly debacle in the future. But let’s not go on and on about irrelevancies that happen to scratch the itch of one end or the other of the partisan spectrum.

Statements regarding the passing of Butler Derrick

Members of the SC congressional delegation react to the passing of former 3rd District Congressman Butler Derrick

Congressman Clyburn Mourns the Passing of Butler Derrick

(Columbia, SC) – House Assistant Democratic Leader and South Carolina Congressman James E. Clyburn released the following statement on the passing of Butler Derrick, former South Carolina Congressman from the Third Congressional District, today:

“Butler and I got to know each other when I worked for Governor West and he was serving in the South Carolina legislature.  He was a kind man with a desire to better South Carolina and help those who called it home.  He loved this state and devoted his life to making it a better place for its citizens.  Our friendship grew when I was elected to Congress and he was serving as Chief Deputy Whip.  His leadership and dedication to South Carolina will surely be missed.


Wilson Statement on former Congressman Butler Derrick

(Washington, DC) – Congressman Joe Wilson (SC-02) issued the following statement on the death of former Congressman Butler Derrick (SC-03).

“South Carolina has lost a great statesman. Former Congressman Butler Derrick served the people of the Third Congressional District for twenty years with true distinction.  I am very appreciative of his willingness to cross the political aisle and work with the late Congressman Floyd Spence to promote new missions at the Savannah River Site.  Roxanne and I extend our heartfelt sympathies to all of the Derrick family during this difficult time.”

On the Passing of Butler Derrick

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) made this statement on the passing of former Congressman Butler Derrick.

“In Washington, Butler Derrick rose through the ranks of Democratic politics to become a strong voice for his party in the U.S. House of Representatives.  Closer to home, he was known for a very caring and effective constituent service operation which put the needs of his constituents first. 

“Butler was a good man and I will always be grateful for the assistance he provided to me in my transition to the U.S. House of Representatives. 

“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this time.”


Here’s hoping Sen. Graham doesn’t get even more grief from his primary opponents for saying nice things about a Democrat. Even when he has the excuse that this was the man he succeeded in Congress.270px-Butler_Derrick

And how about Joe Wilson, expressing appreciation for Derrick’s willingness to work across the aisle — anathema to a significant portion of the GOP today.

The name “Butler Derrick” hearkens back to when Democrats and Republicans managed to disagree while dealing with each other as mature human beings. There was such a time, boys and girls…

There’s nothing wrong with being a politician, per se

I just have one brief reaction to this email from Mia McLeod:

I’m a public servant, not a politician. There’s a difference.

One is committed to public service; the other, to that which is politically expedient.

And although I didn’t create the term, “OG,” you’ve gotta admit…when it comes to describing the corrupt, self-serving practices of the Old Guard…the glove definitely fits. And they’ve got their hands in it…from the Governor’s mansion…to the State House…and everything in between…all of these good ole boys and gals wanna do the deeds, but none of them want the “label.”
Fortunately, the voters of House District 79 didn’t send me to the State House to make new friends or become a willing participant in a corrupt “system” of governance that isn’t accessible, accountable or beneficial to the people it purports to serve. That’s “the system” I encountered when I was elected to the SC House four years ago, and that’s “the system” that I fight every single day.

And since so many members of the OG seem to question the definition and whether they’re appropriately “labeled,” please allow me to clarify for them what you and I already know…

The “OG” is defined by a self-preserving mindset and self-serving behavior, not age. There’s a difference.

Truth is…the OG is a very diverse group. Representing every age, race, ethnicity, gender, discipline and party affiliation, they are masters of deception and rhetoric. Why? Because if they can convince you to trust and believe what they say, you won’t pay close attention to what they do.

But if you’re still in doubt, just check these out. They’re some of the OG’s proudest moments:

Governor Haley’s ethics charges, although legitimate and substantiated, are unabashedly “dropped” by her OG colleagues…some of whom now stand with her in front of every camera they can find, “demanding” ethics reform

Former Richland County Elections Director recklessly disenfranchises thousands of voters in 2012, but is endorsed, elevated, insulated and just a few weeks ago, reinstated by the OG over the objections of outraged voters

Richland Two’s School Board Chair publicly confirms his support for the divisive, self-serving OG practices of the Superintendent, while they continue to disregard the voices of the majority, diminish the District’s diversity and discreetly plot to put even more of their cronies into high-paying positions at the District Office (“DO”)

Yeah…the OG is a narcissistic and seemingly invincible force, alright…united by greed and loyal only to that which strengthens and preserves their power.

Never principle. Never people.

Not surprisingly, I’m OG Enemy #1. Among their “faves” are threats to “take me out” (of this House seat) by finding and supporting an opponent who will advance their agenda. Self-preservation is always rule #1 in the OG’s handbook. Anyone who exposes their dirty deeds becomes their number one target.

And after two years of trying, looks like the OG has found me a “doozie” of a primary opponent…one that’s obviously in sync with their core mission. Disbarred for almost a decade, publicly reprimanded for “misusing” his clients’ money…now, that’s their kinda politician.

But before they get too excited, here’s a newsflash…

I write my own stuff…every word. My voice is not attached to or contingent upon “this seat” in the SC House. Neither is my ability to fight for what’s right. So whether I’m fighting “the system” at the State House or relaxing in the comfort of my own house, I won’t be bullied. I refuse to be silenced. And I definitely ain’t scared.

By now, even they realize…that’s the difference.

On June 10th, tell the OG they’ve got to GO! Vote to re-elect Mia for House District 79!

And my reaction is this: You may be right that the people of your district didn’t “didn’t send me to the State House to make new friends or become a willing participant.” But presumably they did send you there to be effective, and that means playing well with others and not being a constant irritant so that no one wants to work with you. Which I’m not saying Mia is. But her emails can really come across that way.

It’s understandable to take pride that “I write my own stuff…every word.” But maybe she could use a good editor.

Bottom line, there’s nothing wrong with being a politician. Yeah, they can be smarmy and phony and off-putting, but only if they’re not good at it.

You can have all the principles and dedication to public service in the world, and if you lack basic political skills, you’re not going to be much good to the public, or to anyone. I’d like to have seen someone with Jimmy Carter’s principles have the skills of Bill Clinton, or Ronald Reagan.

Richard Nixon was a guy with some decent policy ideas, but was dragged down by his many character flaws, including among them an inability to interact with other human beings in a way that wasn’t off-putting.

A politician is a person who is good at working with other human beings to get things done. And that’s not a bad thing to be, in and of itself.

No decision in Harrell/Wilson case


Three things to note from hearing this morning in Speaker Bobby Harrell’s effort to keep Attorney General Alan Wilson from prosecuting him:

  1. John Monk is making good use of Twitter today in covering this. For a blow-by-blow account, check his feed — including photos.
  2. As pictured above, the state’s last three AGs are standing behind Wilson in defense of his obvious constitutional authority in this matter. I hope The State doesn’t mind my showing this to you, seeing as how I’m urging you to go read their coverage and all. (And if they do, I’ll take it down immediately.)
  3. The judge put off a decision for a week. What Judge Manning is finding so tough about this bewilders me. Harrell hasn’t a leg to stand on.