Category Archives: Parties

SC House Democrats come up with a solid plan for remaining the minority party

This just in from the SC House Democratic Caucus:

SC House Democrats Release 2014 Legislative Priorities
Columbia, SC – South Carolina House Democrats released their list of 2014 legislative priorities on Tuesday. House Democrats will focus on six main issues this session including more funding for education and teacher pay, establishing a state-mandated minimum wage, Medicaid Expansion, road funding, and early voting. The caucus will also propose legislation addressing immigration, workplace discrimination, and higher education this session.
2014 House Democratic Caucus Legislative Priorities:
1. Raise teacher pay to the national average
2. Restore cuts to base-student-cost.
3. Establish a state-mandated minimum wage.
4. Bring home our tax dollars by expanding Medicaid
5. Provide a funding solution to fix our crumbling roads and bridges
6. No-excuse early voting
House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford said 2014 was the year to get serious about funding our priorities.House Dems
“House Democrats are serious about tackling the issues that face our citizens each and every day,” said Rep. Rutherford. “Our hard-working teachers deserve a raise and their students deserve a fair shot at success. We will never be able to be competitive with rest of the country if we continue to underfund our schools and underpay our teachers. Democrats understand that a thriving K-12 school system is directly tied to a thriving economy – we can’t have one without the other.”
“When it comes to finding a stable and responsible funding solution for our crumbling roads, all options must be on the table,” said Rutherford. “And Governor Haley’s ‘money tree’ is neither stable nor responsible.”
“South Carolina is one of only four states in the nation without a state minimum wage,” said Rutherford.” In order to compete in the 21st century economy we have to do away with 19th century ideas that are holding us back. We need to modernize all areas of South Carolina’s economy. We cannot compete in a global world or even with our neighbors without an adequate minimum wage structure.”
“We refuse to be silenced when it comes to bringing our federal tax dollars home to reform and expand Medicaid, said Rep. Rutherford. “Many Republican Governors across the country have put aside partisan politics and embraced Medicaid Expansion. We will continue to ask Governor Haley and House Republicans to stop playing national politics with the health of South Carolinians and to stop wasting our tax dollars on silly political games. Refusing this money is fiscally irresponsible and morally indefensible.”
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Let’s zero in on those six priorities:

  1. Raise teacher pay to the national average
  2. Restore cuts to base-student-cost.
  3. Establish a state-mandated minimum wage.
  4. Bring home our tax dollars by expanding Medicaid
  5. Provide a funding solution to fix our crumbling roads and bridges
  6. No-excuse early voting

There’s nothing wrong most of those goals, taken individually. Except maybe the minimum wage. I’ve always thought the conservatives had a pretty good argument when they say raise the minimum wage, reduce the number of jobs at that end of the spectrum.

Oh, and the early-voting thing. I don’t hold with that at all. People should take voting seriously enough to go to a little trouble to do it. And that includes standing in a queue (unless, of course, you do have a good excuse).

A case can be made for each of the other four items — taken by itself. The fact that this state refuses to accept the extremely generous Medicaid deal the feds are offering is nothing short of insanity. Concentrate on that — something you could get a lot of business leaders to support you on, and you might get somewhere. But include it on this list, and you just sound like you’re offering Obama Light.

When you say “This is it; these are our priorities,” you give political independents, much less wavering Republicans, no reason even to cooperate with you on things you agree on, much less come over to your side.

By saying these are THE things that matter most to you, you’re establishing yourself firmly as the Political Other to the majority of SC voters. You’re saying, We don’t even stop to think about issues; we just buy into whatever the national Democratic Party puts out as this year’s talking points.

Which is not going to get you far in South Carolina.

Out of those six priorities, there is one item that you might be able to get the broad center behind: “Provide a funding solution to fix our crumbling roads and bridges.” And the Dems fail to be bold enough on that to say what that funding solution would be.

You could get, once again, considerable business support for an increase in the gas tax for infrastructure, if you had the guts to stand up for that. With support like that, you could actually expand your support base a bit, and have a real chance of accomplishing one of your priorities. Nikki Haley’s “money tree” is a ridiculously unstable basis for something as important to economic development as our road system. But you give it the same weight as raising the minimum wage, and it’s like you’re just taking marching orders from the national party.

As this list of priorities stands, it is a formula for going nowhere, a sermon to read to the choir, a map to staying in a political rut.

Haley looking very Chris Christie today. I just hope she doesn’t put on unhealthy pounds

windbreaker

While typing my last post, I was listening to Nikki Haley’s live presser about the weather. Occasionally, I would glance over, and was struck by how the gov had adopted the standard Chris Christie disaster couture, with the dark blue windbreaker and everything. (Although she added a stylish white turtleneck.)

I’m telling myself this doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t mean she’s going to stop lanes of I-20 going through Kershaw County just to punish Vincent Sheheen or anything. And so far, it doesn’t look like she’s packing on any unhealthy pounds.

Apparently, this has become the national standard for a governor wanting to show that he or she is in Complete Weather Disaster Command and Control Mode. Like a general getting out of Class A’s and into fatigues — or rather, like what that would have meant decades ago, before generals started going to the office every day in BDUs.

Anyway, it just struck me as an interesting visual. Increasingly, we think in visual symbols rather than words, don’t we?

And are we next going to see Gov. Haley walking alongside President Obama, showing him the devastation wreaked on our state? Probably not… although I see she has sought a federal emergency declaration, which I found ironic…

article-snl-1118

So I’m in Hilton Head, and I’m OK. Honest

That's me, blown up beyond recognition, during the panel discussion.

That’s me, blown up beyond recognition, during the panel discussion.

Concern has been expressed that I haven’t posted since Friday.

But I’m OK. I just had a busy weekend, and a busier Monday.

Today, I drove down to Hilton head to moderate a panel at PRT’s annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism and Travel. Really; it’s a thing. It has a hashtag and everything.

I moderated a panel of legislators talking tourism topics. Panelists were:

  1. Sen. Yancey McGill, D-Williamsburg
  2. Rep. W. Brian White, R-Anderson (chairman of Ways and Means)
  3. Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg
  4. Rep. Shannon Erickson, R-Beaufort

Mostly they were all very friendly to tourism. Rep Erickson wasn’t the only one favoring beach renourishment, for instance, even though she was the only one from an entirely coastal district.

If there was a split, it came when we talked about funding for construction and maintenance of roads and bridges.

And it wasn’t a particularly stark division.

The audience was very much against using tourism-directed funds, such as the hospitality and accommodations taxes, for roads. The entire panel expressed sympathy with that position. But when it came to increasing the gasoline tax, only the Democrats — who don’t have to worry about Tea Party opponents in upcoming primaries — were unapologetically for it.

But Chairman White seemed to be willing to go for the idea theoretically, at some unspecified point in the future.

It’s interesting — in my experience, the gas tax is the one tax that conservatives (regular, old-fashioned, Chamber of Commerce-type conservatives, not the latter-day Tea Party kind) are usually willing to back. But it’s a problem for Republicans in SC, after the governor’s promise to veto any such increase.

It’s going to be interesting to see how this issue develops going forward — IF it develops…

Slate writer sticks up for Tim Scott

William Saletan, over on Slate, defends Tim Scott from the scurrilous things that the head of the NC NAACP said about him in Columbia recently:

Let’s set aside, for the moment, the policy disputes between Democrats and the Tea Party. You may think, as I do, that most of the Tea Party is wrongheaded, and that much of it is unhinged. But that’s not the point here. The point is that William Barber has never met Tim Scott. And none of Barber’s reported comments address Scott’s legislation or his career.Tim Scott

To put it in terms any NAACP leader should understand, Barber has prejudged Scott. He has prejudged him as a puppet based on the senator’s color and his party. This prejudgment fits a long tradition of epithets: Uncle Tomhouse negrooreo. The fact that these epithets tend to be used more by black people than by white people doesn’t change what they add up to: a racial stereotype.

We can argue all day about the Tea Party, Republican policies, and what Martin Luther King would have stood for today. To me, the core of his message was the right to be treated as an individual. His dream was, in his words, a nation in which his children would be judged not “by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Tim Scott has that right, too…

Saletan is completely right.

But even if he weren’t, I’d sit up and take notice, because of the relative novelty of reading such an opinion on Slate. It would mean even more if he were a typical Slate writer, rather than sort of being their house iconoclast (he calls himself a “liberal Republican”). Because any reasonable person — left, right or (best of all!) UnParty — should be fair-minded enough to stick up for Scott’s right to be considered as an individual.

Joe Biden apparently can’t think of Hillary Clinton’s name

… because, you know, that’s the one reason most of us can think of for Joe not to run.

Anyway, watch the video, in which he tells CNN’s Kate Bolduan why “there’s no obvious reason for me why I think I should not run” for the top job in 2016.

Personally, I’d like to see Joe run, and not just because he’s fun. But, if you’ll excuse a locution even more convoluted than the Veep’s, I’m certainly not at a loss for coming up with a reason why he would decide not to.

Haley versus Deal on handling the snowstorm

The S.C. Democratic Party rather joyfully brings attention to this item that describes the back-and-forth between Nikki Haley and the office of her counterpart in Georgia, Nathan Deal.

The piece quotes this from the Charleston Regional Business Journal about Nikki’s complaints in a speech to a civic club about the mess in Atlanta:

Haley, who was in Charleston on Tuesday for a speech to members of the Historic Rotary Club of Charleston, said her brother was stuck on an interstate in Atlanta for 27 hours because of the snow and ice.

“While I was trying to fix South Carolina, I was furious at Georgia for not taking care of that,” she said.

She complimented South Carolina’s Department of TransportationDepartment of Public Safety and other law enforcement agencies, as well as the state’s National Guard, for their work during the storm.

“When you go through a storm, whether it’s a hurricane or winter storm, our team stands ready,” Haley said. “I am very proud of team South Carolina and the way they handled the storm.”…

And then it provides this response from the Georgia governor’s office:

Deal spokesman Brian Robinson offered this when confronted with Haley’s jab:

“To say South Carolina did a better job responding to the storm than Georgia is like saying Tennessee did a better job than Louisiana responding to Hurricane Katrina. We experienced completely different weather events.”

Hodges endorses Anthony for superintendent

This just in:

Former SC Governor Jim Hodges endorses Mike Anthony for Superintendent of Education

 

Anthony

Mike Anthony

“Mike Anthony has spent his life dedicated to public schools – as a classroom teacher and state champion football coach. He’s the kind of person our public schools need – a proven leader with a track record of success in our schools. I have every reason to believe he will be that strong advocate for kids, parents and teachers we desperately need.”

 

Governor Jim Hodges is best known for his leadership in bringing the Education Lottery to South Carolina, securing over $1 billion for school construction without raising taxes. He also launched the ‘First Steps to School Readiness’ program. 

 

Representative Mike Anthony said he was very grateful for Governor Hodges’ endorsement.

 

“Governor Hodges was truly an ‘education governor,’ said Rep. Anthony. ”He made public education his highest priority and as a result our schools made great strides during his tenure. His work to establish the education lottery and ‘First Steps’ program have done wonders for South Carolina public schools. I’m truly honored that Governor Hodges has decided to support my candidacy.” 

 

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Not sure what to make of it. But assuming that a Democrat still has a shot at this office in a race without an incumbent, then having the endorsement of the last Democratic governor has to be a help. To the nomination, at least. Anthony currently has one Democratic opponent, Montrio Belton.

Finding fault, reluctantly, with the new American Party

American

On Friday, I said I’d post something from the new American Party’s big announcement at the State House, and I meant to; I really did. But it didn’t happen. Not that I didn’t try. While rabbiting away at my day job, I tried twice to upload the video I had shot at their presser, only to see my internet connection (and presumably, that of others at ADCO) slow way down, so I aborted each time. HD video is great, but 14:15 of it can really be a drag on bandwidth. At least, I assume that’s what was happening.

That night, I took a look at the video, only to find that it had no sound. I’ve had that happen a couple of times lately. I think my iPhone 4 is wearing out. So I had been wasting time as well as bandwidth.

None of that should have stopped me from posting about it, but the opportunity for a timely post just got away from me. And there was another reason… I didn’t have much that was constructive to say.

I have a great appreciation of both Oscar Lovelace and Jim Rex, and what they are trying to do, in terms of breaking the death grip that the two parties have on our politics. I think they are operating from the purest of motives, and that they have been sensible and pragmatic in going about it, according to their own understanding of things. And before I get into my fault-finding, here’s some normal coverage of their thing on Friday.

I want to be a cheerleader for them. Hey, I’d even like to get involved, or even (gasp!) run for office, if I could honestly embrace the alternative that they’re offering.

I think I expected too much.

That Jim Rex in particular would start a party that would appropriate the ever-popular trope of term limits is in keeping with a pattern. As state superintendent of education, he played upon the popularity (in certain circles) of “school choice” to  push public school choice. And now again, he’s trying to pair something that might poll well among portions of the electorate to push something that he thinks would be good for the state and nation.

But all I could do, listening to them make their announcement, was find fault. Worse, when Oscar and Jim each came up to me afterwards, rather than play reporter and ask questions, I told them what I didn’t like about what they were doing. Which was obnoxious of me, I know. And I could sense, after each had come up to me and initiated a conversation, that they both were ready to talk to someone else almost immediately. They had come to launch a party, not listen to criticism. I didn’t blame them a bit.

But I couldn’t help it. Because to me, we so badly need a good alternative to the two parties that when I finally see the only sustained effort to establish one that I’ve seen in my 26 years of observing SC politics, I hate to see it going wrong.

And here’s how I see it going wrong. There are two main problems:

  1. The term limits thing. This wouldn’t be a big deal, except that one item is likely to define this party. I suspect that most people walking away from their pitch are likely to think of it as “the term limits party.” That’s because most of the rest of the things they call for – honesty, ethical behavior, etc. – are things that everyone says they want. And if you’re going to hang your identity on something, the term limits gimmick is a poor vehicle. It is popular to believe that “career politicians” are what’s wrong in politics today. Therefore, term limits as a popular silver bullet. But that’s not what’s wrong. In fact, inexperienced politicians are at least as much of an expression of the real problem as are those who’ve been in office forever. More about that real problem in a moment. But the fact is, one can cause a lot of mischief in the 12 years the American Party is talking about allowing politicos. And you get a lot of ignorant blundering about to boot, with legislative bodies full of people who lack basic knowledge of how things work. Calling for term limits – particularly limits as loose as 12 years – is a way of seeming to do something measurable without accomplishing anything at all.
  2. The second problem is something I hadn’t noticed in my interactions with this new party: On Friday, I heard a lot of talk, particularly from Dr. Lovelace, about “career politicians beholden to corporate interests” At times, I felt I was at a séance that was conjuring up the ghost of Occupy Wall Street. And folks, it might have a certain populist appeal, but the problem with our politics is NOT that there are a bunch of wicked rich men pulling strings behind the scenes. If that were happening, I think, frankly, you’d see more pragmatic policymaking. Big business types, for instance, would in a skinny minute increase our gasoline tax so as to maintain our roads, because good roads are good for business. But that doesn’t happen because of the populist games both parties play with the gas tax – Republicans playing on reflexive resistance to any tax increase, and Democrats opposing anything that would place a burden on the poor.

And that gets us to the real problem with our system, and that is the parties themselves. The American Party correctly diagnoses the problem when it says what we need is “elected officials who place the common good and problem-solving above party loyalty and partisanship.” The parties are about themselves. They are about perpetuating themselves, and that means constantly stoking the fires of resentment among their respective constituencies toward the OTHER side. Everything is framed in terms that make it difficult for any office-seeker to stray from the party line, lest he or she be judged one of THEM.

Every vote, every statement, is geared toward helping the party gain a majority, or expand a majority, or if the party in question is stuck hopelessly in the minority, make things hard for the majority party.

Assembling consensus on policies so as to pass legislation that all or most could support is not only discouraged, it’s rendered practically impossible.

The point of a third party – one that addresses our real needs – should be to break that stranglehold that the existing parties have, with their never-ending quest to achieve a majority plus one. To go on about career politicians and rich, powerful folk behind the scenes is to misdiagnose the problem, and to create distractions. Which is what the parties do.

Yeah, I know how silly it can seem for me to be holding out for the purity of my UnParty – which offers no silver bullets, which demonizes no scapegoats, but simply attacks the real problems created by the two parties, working together to ensure that nothing gets done.

And I know that a pragmatic person looks for gimmicks that sound good to rally people around a banner, such as term limits and blaming those wicked “corporate” interests (I keep wondering – what is it about incorporation that makes an entity evil?).

After all, no group of people has ever stood up behind ME at a press conference to express support for the UnParty.

But I still believe that something is needed to explode the two-party system, and the American Party, as currently presented, isn’t it.

New party ready for State House debut

Jim Rex and Oscar Lovelace

Jim Rex and Oscar Lovelace

Remember that new political party that Jim Rex and Oscar Lovelace have been planning to launch? Well, it’s having its State House debut tomorrow:

American Party Supporters!

Finally, we are ready for our press conference on Friday January 31st at 11:00 A.M. at the State House.

Please disregard an old message that was sent by mistake that may confuse you as to the time.

The press conference is at 11:00 A.M. tomorrow on the 1st floor lobby of the State House.

If you are able to come, try to be there at least 20 minutes before to get through security.

If you are on Gervais looking at the State House, the entrance is on the far left.  There are metered parking spots around the State House on Sumter Street.  There is also a parking garage on Assembly.

We look forward to seeing you if possible.  Your support has meant so much to the success of the new American Party.

Jim and Oscar

I’ll try to drop by if I can get away at that time. But even if I can’t maybe you can…

This is not, mind you, to be confused with the UnParty. This new party has taken the name of George Wallace’s old party (although there the resemblance ends), and has tenets that, by existing, violate the very first fundamental, inviolable tenet of the UnParty — which is “unwavering opposition to fundamental, nonnegotiable tenets.”

Of COURSE she has a ‘commanding lead,’ when no one can think of another Democrat

Thought this headline on an email alert from The Washington Post kinda odd:

Hillary Clinton (has a) commanding lead over Democrats for 2016, poll finds

Hillary_Clinton_official_Secretary_of_State_portrait_cropWell, yeah. Duh. I mean, since I can’t think of a single other Democrat being seriously spoken of as a 2016 candidate, one would assume she would have a “commanding lead.”

OK, yeah, Joe Biden. But we already knew she would swamp Joe Biden. I mean, I like Joe, but let’s be serious.

The Post further reports:

The race for the Republican nomination, in contrast, is wide open, with six prospective candidates registering 10 percent to 20 percent support….

What that means is that there is someone who has had a lead (if not a “commanding” one) over on the GOP side, too, but he’s in a lot of trouble.

And so, my little fantasy of having two acceptable people who were shoo-ins for their nominations, possibly avoiding the tears and flapdoodle of the sort of musical chairs game the Republicans played last time around, is to remain a fantasy. As, of course, I knew it would.

Democracy is so… messy

Chris Christie no longer the front-runner. This week.

Taegan Goddard over at Political Wire says it’s “Time to start calling Chris Christie the former GOP frontrunner.”

And he presents good arguments in support of that statement. He says Christie’s main strength was his crossover appeal — the GOP base loved him not — but according to a new poll, he’s lost ground among Democrats, Independents and women and:

Without holding the electability card, Christie has little chance of winning the Republican presidential nomination. It’s just one more example of how quickly fortunes can turn in politics.

Yes, exactly. I seem to recall that in the fall of 2011 and into early 2012, the GOP field had a different front-runner every week. And then the musical chairs game ended, and Mitt Romney, the original front-runner, was the only one with a seat.bak3jqccqaeb15s

So Chris Christie is out of it this week. And next week, too. But who knows what will transpire during the 145 weeks left until Election Day 2016? People are disenchanted with Christie now, but that’s in a vacuum. Whom will they love better? And what will be that person’s “electability?”

The most important question in politics is, “Compared to what?” Or perhaps I should say, “Compared to whom?” And the comparisons have not yet begun.

How the media contribute to political, governmental dysfunction

Meant to mention that I liked the point (in boldface) made in this piece in the WSJ yesterday, headlined “Obama Is No Lame Duck“:

There are more than 1,000 days until the 2016 elections, about as long as the entire Kennedy administration. But you’d never guess it from today’s political discourse. How badly will Bridgegate damage Chris Christie’s race for the Republican presidential nomination? Will Republican opposition research undermine the narrative of Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton‘s forthcoming memoirs? These are the “issues” that dominate the conversation.

A lengthy new profile of President Obama in the New Yorker feeds this tendency by adopting a distinctly elegiac tone. As New Yorker editor David Remnick puts it, “Obama has three years left, but it’s not difficult to sense a politician with an acute sense of time, a politician devising ways to widen his legacy without the benefit of any support from Congress. . . . And so there is in him a certain degree of reduced ambition, a sense that even well before the commentariat starts calling him a lame duck he will spend much of his time setting an agenda that can be resolved only after he has retired to the life of a writer and post-President.”

Call me naïve and old-fashioned, but I object to this entire way of thinking. Policy debates may bore the press, but that’s no excuse for defaulting to horse-race coverage. Only journalistic complicity can allow the permanent campaign to drive out concern for governance. For their part, elected officials should understand that they cannot afford to leave the world’s greatest democracy on autopilot for the next three years. When it comes to advancing a national agenda, surely there’s a midpoint between grandiosity and resignation….

Yep, that’s what the media do — and have long done. And the press are almost as guilty as the broadcast people.

News people tend to treat politics like sports, because it’s simple — it fits into the idiotic binary view of the world, where there are only two teams and two choices, such as winners and losers — and because it’s easy, and fun. You don’t have to think very hard about who’s going to win the next election. So you write about that and write about it and build up this pitch of excitement like the buildup to the big game, and then you cover the election, and extensively cover the aftermath of the election.

And then, you start writing about the next election. And everything that happens, from events to scandals to policy debates, are couched in terms of how they will affect candidate’s chances in the next election. (James Fallows wrote an excellent book on this subject back in the early ’90s, called Breaking The News: How the Media Undermine American Democracy. I reviewed it at the time. Nothing has gotten better since he wrote it.books

And so we get this foolishness of treating a president as a lame duck from the moment he wins a second term, because hey, he has no election coming up — which means all too many reporters just can’t come up with a reason to be interested in what he does. If it doesn’t have an impact on his electoral chances, it has no meaning to them. Oh, they’ll try to work up enthusiasm about the unrelated subject of how his party will do in the next election, but their simple little hearts just aren’t really into it.

(I say “unrelated” because it’s unrelated, and decidedly uninteresting, to me. But in their simplistic, dichotomous worldview, one member of a party’s fate has tremendous meaning to other members of that party, because there are only two kinds of people in the world, rather than six billion kinds, and only two ways of thinking.)

Anyway, this is the media’s big contribution to the sickness in our political system, and the dysfunction of our government. By taking this either-or, column A or column B, approach (when in reality there are thousands, millions, an infinity of possibilities in each policy question), they make it difficult for Americans to frame political questions in any way other than hyperpartisan terms.

Here we go with the opposition response shtick again

I think Rep. James Smith is one of the best people in the SC Legislature, and I’m glad his colleagues think so much of him. But I could do without this:

Representative James Smith to deliver 
Democratic Response to State of the State
 
Columbia, SC – State Representative James Smith (D-Columbia) will deliver the Democratic Response to the State of the State immediately following Governor Haley’s address on Wednesday night. Representative Smith will present the Democratic vision for greater accountability and responsible leadership for South Carolina. Smith, 46, a decorated combat veteran who has served in Afghanistan, is a small business owner and attorney. He has represented district 72 in the South Carolina House of Representatives since 1997.
 
The official Democratic response will take place immediately following the State of the State in a live press conference in the 3rd floor Senate conference room in the State House. Representative Smith will tape a message on the Democratic vision for building a stronger South Carolina earlier in the day, which will be available to all media outlets around the state and air on ETV.

I’ve really, really disliked this convention ever since it developed on the national level. It’s a formalization of our two-party disease (some call it a two-party “system;” I prefer to be more descriptive), and I don’t hold with it. The perpetual competition between the parties doesn’t deserve such ritual recognition.

If Democrats want to react to the governor’s speech, let them do so right along with Republicans and the rest of us — in man-on-the-street or lawmaker-in-the-chamber-type reaction roundups. Reverse the party names, and apply the same thought to the national level. The party out of power doesn’t have to have, and is not entitled to, a formal, separate-but-semi-equal speech, through which the media and viewers on the telly are expected to sit with the same patience and respect that they afforded to the actual, elected Chief Executive.

The people chose the governor, or president, or what have you. Who chose the responder? A caucus of party insiders.

If you want to deliver the State of the State address, get elected governor. If you want to deliver the State of the Union, get elected president. If you’re unable to do that, wait until the next election.

Video: Sheheen explaining his restructuring bill in 2008

I was looking for a picture of Vincent Sheheen to go with the last post, and ran across this video clip that I had forgotten.

It’s from the meeting on January 29, 2008, when he unveiled his restructuring plan to Cindi Scoppe and me, in the editorial board room at The State.

It’s short — the camera I used then would only shoot video for three minutes at a time — and there are several other clips from after this one that I did not upload.

But I share this one because in it, he shows how well he understood the actual power situation in South Carolina.

When talking about South Carolina’s unique situation as the “Legislative State” (even back in 1949, when some other Southern states had some similar such arrangements, political scientist V. O. Key called South Carolina that in his classic. Southern Politics in State and Nation), we tend to use a lazy shorthand. We say that SC lawmakers don’t want to surrender power to the governor.

That glosses over an important truth, one that we elaborated on in the Power Failure series back in 1991, but which I don’t stop often enough to explain any more: It’s that the Legislature, too, lacks the power to exert any effective control over state government. This leads to a government in which no one is in charge, and no one can be held accountable.

There was a time, long ago — pre-WWII, roughly, and maybe for awhile between then and the 1960s, which saw expansions of government programs on a number of levels — when lawmakers actually could run executive agencies, at least in a loose, informal way. On the state level, agencies answered to boards and commissions whose members were appointed by lawmakers. On the local level, they ran things more directly, calling all the shots. This was before county councils were empowered (more or less) in the mid-70s.

But as state agencies grew, they became more autonomous. Oh, they kept their heads down and didn’t anger powerful lawmakers, especially at budget time, but there was generally no effective way for legislators to affect their day-to-day operations. And while lawmakers appointed the members of boards and commissions, they lacked the power to remove them if they did something to attract legislative ire.

And on the local level, the advent of single-member districts broke up county delegations as coherent local powers. Yes, we have vestiges of that now — the Richland County elections mess is an illustration of this old system, as is the Richland recreation district and other special purpose districts, all legislative creations — but largely, they’re out of the business of running counties.

Increasingly in recent decades, the main power wielded by the Legislature has been a negative power — the ability to block things from happening, rather than initiate sweeping changes. And that’s what the General Assembly is best at — blocking change, for good or ill. That’s why the passage of this Department of Administration bill is such a milestone.

Anyway, while he doesn’t say all that stuff I just said, in this clip, Sheheen shows that he understands that no one is actually in charge, and that someone needs to be, so that someone can be held accountable. Or at least, that’s the way I hear it.

You may wonder why I think it remarkable that a state senator would exhibit such understanding of the system. Well… that’s just rarer than you may think.

If Nikki Haley’s playing politics, that’s good news, too

So if Thigpen's right, we're much less likely to see scenes such as this one this year.

So if Thigpen’s right, we’re much less likely to see scenes such as this one this year.

Having trouble finding anything substantive not to like in Nikki Haley’s education and other proposals, some critics are saying she’s just playing election-year politics.

Well, if that’s the case, that’s good news, too. In fact, unless you’re a Democrat trying to unseat her, it’s hard to see where the downside is for you here.

That occurred to me reading the following, written by Schuyler Kropf at The Post and Courier:

Democrats — and even some political talking heads — were quick to point out Haley’s attention to education and mental health could easily be seen as attempts to neutralize her Democratic opposition.

“They must feel it’s a more moderate electorate out there,” retired Francis Marion University political scientist Neal Thigpen said Monday in assessing her administration’s 2014 spending ideas.

Thigpen, who has followed Republican politics in the state for years, said the most obvious political target in her budget is announced Democratic challenger, state Sen. Vincent Sheheen of Camden.

Haley’s camp must see a need in “trying to block him out,” Thigpen added, “and being ahead of him in trying to blunt those issues that he may be able to use.”…

Look again at what Neal Thigpen just said…

“They must feel it’s a more moderate electorate out there…”

If Nikki Haley and her people are looking around them and seeing a more reasonable world than the one that elected them in the Year of The Tea Party, then that’s gotta be a good thing, right?

So, if that’s correct, her speeches this year will be less about throwing red meat to people who hate government, and more about good governance. Which Vincent Sheheen will be doing as well, because he always does that. Which means that no matter which of them is elected, that person will be committed to such basic things as better schools, and better care for the mentally ill.

Which as I say, is a good thing for all South Carolinians…

If not Christie, then who? I’m serious here…

TonySoprano

I’ve had this image in my head of a strong, pragmatic New Jersey-style leader. Oops, wrong image…

If Chris Christie is truly knocked out of the running for the GOP nomination in 2016, then who will take his place?

No, that’s not a setup for a list. I was wondering whether y’all had anybody in mind. I can think of only two categories:

  1. Unbending ideological extremists.
  2. People most of us, possibly including me, have never heard of.

Regarding that second category: You may say that there’s somebody great out there that I’m not thinking of. But in my book, someone I haven’t heard of has next to no chance to gain my confidence between now and 2016. When it comes to doling out (more or less) extreme executive power, trust is a cumulative process with me. It takes time for me to be able to see someone as president.

I was feeling pretty good there looking at a Clinton-Christie matchup, as it meant the choice would be two people I felt moderately good about. That is to say, I wouldn’t have seen the election of either as a disaster, which gave me a small measure confidence about the nation’s future. After her four years as SecState, I felt better about Hillary than I did in 2008. And after watching Chris the last couple of years, I thought I saw the kind of pragmatic governor that I like.

In any case, he was the only Republican I could think of that I felt kinda OK about (while Hillary is kinda the only Democrat I can think of, good or bad).

So… if he’s knocked out… what happens?

Nice to see Tom Davis backing away from nullification

I’ve always seen Tom Davis as a (mostly) reasonable man, and have been distressed to see his drift into extremism over the last couple of years.

So I’m pleased to see him take a deliberate step away from the antebellum notion of Nullification:

Davis,TomCOLUMBIA, SC — A Republican lawmaker says he plans to take the “nullification” out of the Obamacare nullification bill before the state Senate….

“The conversation really has gotten off the rails a little bit,” Davis said Wednesday, after holding three public hearings across the state that drew hundreds. “Everybody talks about nullification. This isn’t nullification. We can’t nullify.”…

Amen to that, senator. No, we can’t. That’s been pretty clear ever since 1865, if not sooner.

But it’s a bit disingenuous for Tom to act like other people have somehow gone “off the rails” with all this nullification talk:

  • I remember his presence at this Ron Paul press conference at which nullification was spoken of approvingly.
  • Then there was his speech at a… Nullification Rally… at which he praised John C. Calhoun as “a great man who has been maligned far too long.” And by the way, Tom himself called it a “nullification rally” when he thanked someone for putting up video of his speech.

So… Tom no longer wants to nullify Obamacare. However, he does want to sabotage it, to do all he can to make it fail. Which is not the most positive attitude I’ve ever heard of with regard to respecting laws legitimately passed by the Congress.

But this is progress…

Mia stirred up again, this time over what she sees as pseudo-religious hypocrisy

The latest release from the often-indignant Rep. Mia McLeod:

Must we be hypocrites about everything in this state?   I mean…since we wanna wear the “Bible Belt” like a badge of honor, shouldn’t some of our actions reflect it? As we head into the 2014 legislative session one week from today, I pray that our elected leaders will one day practice what they preach.While browsing through countless Christmas cards from my colleagues, complete with Biblical scriptures and picturesque family poses, I was reminded that God can’t be pleased when “the majority” claims to be Christians in one breath and deliberately defies His very essence in the next.
Too many legislative decisions are calculated, self-serving and hypocritical.  We wanna separate church and state, but only when it’s politically expedient…pushing God out of our schools, our workplaces, our thoughts/decisions…while hiding behind our self-righteous, self-proclaimed “Christian” labels to push our own destructive political agendas.Think about it…Your lawmakers love to protect fetuses in the womb. Why? Because the gift of life is one of God’s most precious, of course. But there’s nothing Godly about our refusal to assist or help protect that same precious life, once it is manifested outside of the womb. In South Carolina, when the umbilical cord is cut, so is the concern and compassion.  Funny how one goes from being God’s chosen to society’s forgotten by simply passing through the birth canal.

We love to flaunt our state’s sordid “heritage.”  And we’ll fiercely defend that good ole divisive, oppressive and offensive confederate flag at all costs.  Now tell me, where is God in all of that, again?

We relish our attention on the national stage. From being #1 in domestic violence homicides to being hailed as one of the most corrupt states in the nation, we’re last (or first at being last) and lovin’ it.

Add to that our newest designation as “most idiotic state” in the country because of one so-called leader’s flagrant dishonor of Nelson Mandela’s life and legacy, and it’s easy to see why we’re the laughing stock of the nation.

And when I receive legislative emails from “Christian” coalitions that spew hatred for others in His name for their own political purposes, I can’t help but wonder what “God” these people serve.

Surely not mine…

We love talking the talk.  We just hate walking the walk.  And we do our “dirty” work openly, unabashedly,…without flinching, without feeling and without fail.

But my Bible reminds me that “whatever you’ve done unto the least of these… you’ve done unto Me (Him).”  So how do we justify denying 300,000 South Carolinians access to healthcare coverage?  More proof that in our “great” state, partisan politics trumps “Christianity” not just any day, but every day.

And “you lie!” if you even think we’re interested in accepting or supporting “anything Obama.”  It just ain’t happening. No way.  No how.  Not here. Why?  Well…according to Rep. Kris Crawford, it’s not (politically) popular for the Republican Party to even try to work with the black man in the White House.

Yep, that’s good ole pure, unadulterated racism…just one of many “elephants” in the room.

So tell me…where is (your) God in all of that?

Saying we’re Christians is one thing.  Behaving like Christians is another.  Deliberately disenfranchising voters, denying healthcare, equal educational and economic opportunities to certain South Carolinians, refusing to pass tougher gun laws and failing to protect our state’s most vulnerable are just a few examples of ways in which God’s will has been preempted by power-hungry, good ole politicians who carelessly and callously hide behind His to invoke their own.

Don’t be confused.  Our Governor and lawmakers are much more adept at “playing God” than acting Godly.

I believe God is love.  And if you ask most of my colleagues, they’ll say they do too.  So why are our legislative agendas and priorities saturated with hatred, intolerance and indifference? I’m not a theologian.  But even if I weren’t acutely aware of who God is… it wouldn’t take long in the SC Legislature to figure out who He isn’t.

My fervent prayer for the 2014 legislative session and beyond is that the hypocrisy will end and lawmakers will decide to represent all of the people of South Carolina, in word and in deed.  If that happens, you’ll soon begin to see more of His will in our legislative decisions and actions and much less of ours.

I know who my God is.  The question is…do they?

How delusional can some liberals be? There’s no limit…

Did you shake your head when you read this, which appeared under the Bizarro-World headline, “Clyburn too conservative?

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn is used to political foes calling him liberal. They’ve been doing it for years. Now, though, prominent liberals are coming after him for being too conservative.

The patron saint of delusional Democrats.

The patron saint of delusional Democrats.

Several left-wing groups are criticizing South Carolina’s Clyburn, the No. 3 Democratic leader in the House of Representatives, for his relationship with one of the party’s influential centrist policy organizations.

The founders of that think tank, Third Way, attacked U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., last week for pushing tax hikes for the rich and increases in Social Security benefits, and for taking other stances that they said represented risky fiscal approaches and bad political strategies.

Allies of Warren, a freshman lawmaker who is a rising star in Washington, struck back quickly.

Four liberal groups asked Clyburn of Columbia and 11 other Democratic members of Congress who are “honorary co-chairs” of Third Way to repudiate the condemnation of Warren and sever their ties with the organization…

Do you recall, back during the Democratic Convention last year, when I highly praised a speech by Bill “Third Way” Clinton? Aside from the fact that it may have been, as I said, the most skilled and powerful political speech yet in this century (and as I noted at the time, that was coming from “the editor who presided over an editorial board that was tied as first in the country to call on him to resign after he admitted lying to us”) – certainly the best I ever heard from Clinton — my positive impression of it was heightened by the fact that it followed an atrocious rant from Elizabeth Warren, which I characterized as follows: “She gave one of those speeches full of resentments and blame, the kind that makes me dislike political parties so much.”

Which is, you know, pretty much par for the course for her. These allies of hers, if anything, tend toward even sillier rhetoric:

“We’re calling on James Clyburn to do the right thing and immediately drop his affiliation with the Wall Street-backed Third Way…”

“Wall Street-backed” being a very powerful epithet among these people. Because, apparently, business is evil by its very nature in their belief system.

Embracing the Third Way.

Embracing the Third Way.

It’s interesting to me that, just as John Boehner is finally reining in the loonies in his party — and they’ve been on quite a rampage for several years now — the left wing of the Democratic Party is going on a delusional tear of its own.

The only way this embrace of Sen. Warren as presidential timber for 2016 makes sense for Democrats is that it would provide Hillary Clinton with a way of looking sensible and mainstream by contrast (which she is, by contrast), putting her in a strong position for the general election.

But I don’t think these folks are thinking that way. I think they actually believe Sen. Warren represents a direction in which they can pull the country. Hence my use of the word, “delusional.”

U.S. House passes bipartisan budget deal without childish theatrics. No really; I’m not making this up…

See, you can read about it in black and white:

The House passed an 2-year bipartisan budget deal Thursday evening, possibly signaling a truce in the spending showdowns that have paralyzed Washington for the past three years.

Approval of the budget was the House’s final action of 2013. Earlier Thursday, lawmakers agreed unanimously to approve the National Defense Authorization Act, which sets military pay and policy, and to extend current agricultural policy after negotiators failed to complete a new Farm Bill….

The budget deal appeared to mark a significant shift by House Republicans away from the uncompromising confrontation of recent years fueled by tea party-aligned politicians and outside conservative advocacy groups. After multiple standoffs and threatened defaults and one actual shutdown, polls show that the Republican brand has been badly damaged among voters, and even some of the most conservative Republicans said they were ready for a breather.

If the Senate approves the budget bill next week, as expected, members of the House and Senate appropriations committees would then work over the holidays to prepare funding bills for individual government agencies, which are likely to be combined into a single omnibus bill. …

Doesn’t that sound almost like the way grownups would legislate? This is not being hailed as the long-sought “grand bargain” or anything, but it’s something remarkable anyway, given the material we’re working with here. Which is to say, the membership of the House.

Here’s a press release from Joe Wilson about it:

Wilson Statement on the Passage of the Bipartisan Budget Agreement  

(Washington, DC) – Congressman Joe Wilson (SC-02) released the following statement after the House passed a bipartisan budget resolution.  This legislation provides two years of budget certainty for the federal government. In years past, the federal government has operated under continuing resolutions.

 

“When I was elected to Congress, I promised to help make a difference. The status quo is not working,” Congressman Joe Wilson said. “Government overspending while racking up trillion-dollar deficits is irresponsible, especially when we know that our children and grandchildren will be faced with the burden.

 

“House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan was able to reduce spending from its current levels to help pay down our debt without raising taxes.  For years, House Republicans have spent the better part of December in battles with Washington Democrats in hopes of not raising taxes so that the American people could keep more of their hard-earned paychecks.

 

“Additionally, President Obama’s sequester, which targets the military, has already limited our Armed Forces’ abilities to protect themselves and defend our freedoms.  Military installations across South Carolina and the Savannah River Site have faced challenges, which undermine our national security.  I have warned against the horrible impacts sequestration would impose and have done my best to advocate for those who are suffering within South Carolina’s Second Congressional District.  I am very pleased that Chairman Ryan was successful in finding common-sense reforms to replace sequestration that will not place families at risk.

 

“The road ahead will be difficult as budget debates continue for years to come.  However, we must remain hopeful that we can achieve spending reductions while promoting limited-government solutions that create jobs and spur economic growth.”

Yeah, I know — “President Obama’s sequester.” I didn’t say the partisans up there had stopped with the silly talk. But let’s focus on the action rather than the words here.

Meanwhile, Lindsey Graham says he will not vote for the deal when it reaches the Senate:

Graham to Oppose Budget Agreement

 

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today said he would vote against the budget agreement when it comes to the Senate floor.

 

“After careful review of the agreement, I believe it will do disproportionate harm to our military retirees,” said Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.  “Our men and women in uniform have served admirably during some of our nation’s most troubling times.  They deserve more from us in their retirement than this agreement provides.”

 

Graham noted the budget deal contains a one percent reduction in cost of living benefits for some military retirees.  The provision could significantly impact military retiree benefits.  For example:

 

·         A 42-year old who retires as an enlisted E-7 could lose a minimum of $72,000.

·         A 42-year old Lt. Colonel could lose a minimum of $109,000.

Source: Military Officers Association of America (MOAA)

 

“I support comprehensive, not piecemeal, pay and benefit reform to deal with rising military personnel costs,” said Graham.

 

“I truly appreciate Congressman Paul Ryan and Senator Patty Murray for their work trying to write a budget that provides relief to the Department of Defense,” concluded Graham.  “But this agreement doesn’t do enough to protect those who have spent their lives protecting our nation.”

 

#####

This is actually fairly consistent for Graham, who since the start has found the sequester appalling because of what it did to the military.

But isn’t it intriguing that in this moment when even Tea Party types are disciplining themselves to pass compromise legislation, trying to make up for the damage they’ve done to the GOP, Lindsey Graham is the guy standing up and saying, “No?”