Category Archives: Parties

Toby Ziegler didn’t get it, but Jed Bartlet did

Here’s my third post on my “people (even politicians) are people” theme…

Two nights ago, as I was still thinking about my arguments on Cynthia Hardy’s radio show in opposition to the cynical approach to politics, I saw an episode of “The West Wing” that illustrated my point.

It was the 10th episode in the 5th season, “The Stormy Present.” Here’s a synopsis:

Bartlet clears his schedule to attend the funeral of a former President whose conservative views often clashed with his own while he monitors a potential firestorm in Saudi Arabia as freedom protesters threaten civil war and surround a worker’s compound that includes dozens of Americans. Elsewhere, Josh mediates a post-Civil War fracas between a representative from North Carolina who demands that her Connecticut counterpart return her state’s copy of the Bill of Rights — stolen long ago by a Union soldier — and C.J. is flustered after meeting a Pentagon scientist whose security innovations could threaten privacy. En route to the funeral, Bartlet shares sobering thoughts with two other men who appreciate the weight of the Oval Office — Speaker Walken and ex-President Newman.

Toby Ziegler is on the plane carrying the president, along with officials from the administration of the former president, to the funeral. Toby is tasked with writing a eulogy for Bartlet to deliver at the funeral. Toby is a basket case. He’s deeply appalled at being on the same plane with these people he regards as dangerous wing-nuts. He spend most of his time on his cell complaining to his colleagues back in the West Wing about what hell it is to be in the company of such people. He’s sincerely stressed out. He gets into Air Force One’s liquor supply and gets too wasted to be much good in writing the speech. (Looking back, I’m not entirely sure who DID write it in the end.)

But there are a couple of good scenes in which Bartlet reveals that, while his overly partisan staff may see the previous GOP administration as the embodiment of evil, he has learned to get over that. He has come to value his predecessors as the only human beings on the planet who understand what he is experiencing as president. He has come to see past the ideological differences and political competition between the parties. He, and especially the former presidents, are past that.

There is a good scene with a former Democratic president who’s along for the ride who talks about how furious he was at Bartlet, and was going to call him up and chew him out… until he was talked down by their conservative Republican predecessor.

I got really disgusted with Toby watching this, as he seemed to embody everything that was bad about hyperpartisanship today — he was so wrapped up in his hostility toward the opposition that he couldn’t function, which made him a metaphor for everything wrong with Washington today.

But the human connection and understanding between the current and former presidents held out hope of a way our system could work, if the parties, staffs and interest groups could just shut up for awhile, and let people listen to each other and work together, deliberately…

If you have Netflix, I recommend you go back and watch this episode.

SC GOP leaders back reauthorization of Ex-Im Bank

South Carolina’s top Republicans are all signing on for reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, breaking with the “conservative” wing of their party in the U.S. House:

Governor Haley, Senators Graham and Scott Support Ex-Im Bank Reauthorization

WASHINGTON – South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott have written to congressional leaders in the House of Representatives and Senate expressing support for the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank.

“As elected officials from a state where thousands of hardworking families benefit from exports, we urge you to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im) before its charter expires this year,” wrote Haley, Graham and Scott.  “As the official export credit agency of the United States, Ex-Im is a vital export finance tool to the businesses in our state – at no cost to American taxpayers.

“Ex-Im allows South Carolina businesses to compete globally on a level playing field.  Without Ex-Im our local businesses would be forced into a global market with foreign competitors that receive extensive support from their own export credit programs.  Allowing Ex-Im to expire will deliberately disadvantage American businesses and lead to increased unemployment.”

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This shouldn’t be surprising, for two reasons:

  1. The Ex-Im Bank is hugely important to Boeing, which is in turn hugely important to SC politicos.
  2. The GOP sentiment for shutting it down seems pretty much confined to the extreme wing in the House, and outside advocacy groups. Senate Republicans are broadly supporting reauthorization.

ICYMI: The Thomas Ravenel announcement

FILE PHOTO: Ravenel during 2006 interview.

FILE PHOTO: Ravenel during 2006 interview.

Still catching up on stuff I saw over the long weekend, and was too lazy to comment on then.

Did you take note of Thomas Ravenel’s formal announcement of his independent candidacy for U.S. Senate? Here it is:

THOMAS RAVENEL ANNOUNCES U.S. SENATE CANDIDACY

“Southern Charm” Star To Challenge Two-Party Status Quo in South Carolina

Businessman, reality television star and former South Carolina State Treasurer Thomas Ravenel will run as an independent for the United States Senate seat currently held by liberal “Republican” Lindsey Graham.  Ravenel made his Senate candidacy official prior to attending a Fourth of July rally in Greenville, S.C.

“It’s time for voters across our state and this country to declare their independence from a failed two-party system – one that no longer represents their interests or the interests of Americans to come,” the star of Bravo’s ‘Southern Charm’ said.  “Election after election of choosing the lesser of two evils has our economy and our freedoms on a downward slide – but there’s still time to change the road we’re on.  To do that, though, we need a real debate and a real choice – candidates who are offering real ideas to turn things around.”

Ravenel, 51, said his campaign would offer specific policies aimed at redefining the relationship between citizens and their government – something neither major party is willing or able to do.

“Government doesn’t belong in your boardroom, your bedroom or your email inbox,” he said.  “But its presence in every aspect of our lives continues to grow.  Democrats keep dictating choices in our marketplaces and Republicans keep telling us who we can and cannot love.  And both parties want to keep spending like there’s notomorrow while they spy on us to make sure we don’t step out of line.  All of this leads to less prosperity and liberty – and more dependency and fear.”

In declaring his candidacy, Ravenel spoke frankly about his past – including the ten months he spent in a federal prison following a 2007 drug arrest.  He said he expected to be attacked over the issue – and was ready to defend himself.

“I’m an imperfect messenger, I know that – but somebody’s got to stand up for the message,” Ravenel said.   “Also, the last time I checked there are plenty of ‘perfect’ messengers out there who are bankrupting our Treasury, destroying our economy, and sending our sons and daughters off to die and be disfigured in places we have no business fighting.”

Ravenel said crafting a new foreign policy would be a centerpiece of his campaign.

“Ill-conceived interventions and this constant flip-flopping of allegiances between terrorist organizations does not make us safer – it only makes another attack on our homeland more likely,” Ravenel said.  “We absolutely must have the world’s strongest military to protect our borders and secure our national interests – but our national defense is weakened by politically motivated pork projects, failed attempts at nation-building and picking up the tab for wealthy countries that won’t defend themselves.”

Ravenel will submit his signatures to appear on the November 2014 ballot to the S.C. Election Commission (SCEC) next week.

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Several observations…

  • He certainly isn’t shying away from his negatives. In fact, in at least one instance he’s embracing them. Note that the release identifies him as a “reality television star,” both in the subhed and in the lede, before mentioning that he was state treasurer — and then reiterates it in the next graf. In fact, it emphasizes this to such an extent that I wondered whether the TV production company is somehow involved in this campaign, perhaps even helping with drafting releases. Bravo is certainly promoting the idea of his candidacy.
  • This probably won’t mean much to anyone who doesn’t write for a living, but the release is slightly unusual in that it is written as a mock news story, even making observations about the manner of his announcement, as though it were written by a neutral third party: “In declaring his candidacy, Ravenel spoke frankly about his past…” That’s a slightly odd voice. It’s not unique; I’ve seen the device used before. But it struck me.
  • If one were inclined to take this candidacy seriously, that would be undermined by this, in the first graf: “liberal ‘Republican’ Lindsey Graham.” One thing Lindsey Graham most certainly is not is a liberal. And it takes the kind of gall that few besides Thomas Ravenel can muster to refer to the actual nominee of the Republican Party — a distinction that Ravenel did not seek — as a “Republican,” in quotes.
  • He calls himself “an imperfect messenger,” but he may be the perfect messenger for the message he bears. He may be the most Randian figure in South Carolina. He is self-admiring (watch this video to get a sense of the Ravenel ego, or this one), self-centered, self-indulgent, and presents it all boldly as a philosophy instead of as evidence of a flawed character. Mark Sanford has always been about Mark Sanford, but even he would not dare to flaunt his egomania the way Thomas Ravenel does.
  • Speaking as the founder of the UnParty, why is it that any time someone does run as an independent in South Carolina, it’s someone who’s too extreme, too ideological, for the UnParty? OK, so maybe Tom Ervin is a bit of a centrist (too soon to tell). But the rest of the time, independents seem to be people who are, to use one of my favorite early-19th-century expressions, not quite the thing.
  • Finally, whom is Ravenel helping, and whom is he hurting by running? I was chatting with a former Graham staffer recently who thought Ravenel would take votes from Brad Hutto, who can ill afford to lose them. I’ve assumed the opposite from the first rumors of this ego trip. Ravenel is likely to appeal to the less discriminating Paulistas, and other elements from the libertarian segments of the Republican coalition, ranging from the elitist Club for Growth/Wall Street Journal crowd to the far more populist Tea Party (although more from the former than from the latter). He doesn’t fit perfectly with any of those groups, but he overlaps enough with them to pull some of the folks who voted for Graham’s opponents in the primary.

Anyway, those were my first thoughts. What were yours?

First the snakebite, now this: CVSC endorses McCulloch

This just isn’t Kirkman Finlay‘s week. First he gets bitten by a snake, now the CVSC backs his opponent:

Conservation Voters of South Carolina Endorses Joe McCulloch for Election to House 75

COLUMBIA, S.C. (July 3, 2014– The Board of Directors of Conservation Voters of South Carolina (CVSC) has announced the endorsement of Joe McCulloch for election to House District 75.10438919_551578684954322_776524793762138046_n

“We were delighted to learn of Joe McCulloch’s decision to run again for elected office. We know he will stand up to polluters and protect South Carolina from the special interests who would turn our state into a dumping ground,” said Ann Timberlake, Executive Director of CVSC.

“I am honored to accept the endorsement of CVSC. They have been an outspoken and effective leader in holding elected officials accountable for their votes on conservation issues,” McCulloch said. “I will continue to be a strong advocate for the protection of our state’s s natural resources. I am proud to stand with CVSC.”

McCulloch will challenge incumbent Kirkman Finlay in a rematch of their 2012 race which was decided by just 308 votes.

Conservation Voters of South Carolina is coming off a primary election season which saw all 13 of its endorsed candidates earn victories.

About Conservation Voters of South Carolina

Conservation Voters of South Carolina is the only nonpartisan, nonprofit statewide organization holding elected leaders directly accountable for a safe, clean and healthy South Carolina.

CVSC on Facebook and Twitter

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It will be interesting to see how the CVSC’s won-lost record holds up through the general election. If this is part of a pattern of endorsing Democrats, that 13-0 record seems unlikely to hold up in the fall.

Tom Ervin won’t say how HE’D pay for roads, either

Well, we know that Nikki Haley wants to fix SC roads, but doesn’t want to say how she’d pay for it — at least, not until after the election.

Vincent Sheheen at least says he’d issue bonds for pay for part of our infrastructure needs. Beyond that, he’s vague. From his website:

South Carolina is too dependent on the “gas tax” and needs to diversify how it pays for roads and bridges. In addition to the $1 billion Vincent helped secure for road reconstruction in 2013, he believes we should continue using South Carolina’s bonding authority to make long-term infrastructure investments, dedicate more General Fund revenue from surpluses to roads, and look at new revenue sources to help make our roads safe again. All options must be on the table for discussion.

What I’d like to see from Sheheen an elaboration on what he means when he says SC is “too dependent on the ‘gas tax’,” and therefore must go on some grail-like quest for mysterious “new revenue sources.” I suspect what he means is that SC is simply unwilling, politically, to raise our extremely low gas tax. He certainly can’t mean that he thinks it’s too high.

Meanwhile, independent candidate Tom Ervin takes the governor to task for not saying how she’d pay for roads, and then declines to say how he would do it:

Greenville: Independent Republican candidate Tom Ervin issued the following statement:

Governor Haley’s “secret plan” to fund improvements for our roads and bridges is nothing more than a “secret tax increase” and another blatant example of her lack of transparency and accountability.20140525_0138-300x300

Call Governor Haley now at (803) 734-2100 and demand that she disclose the details of her secret funding plan.  When Nikki Haley hides the ball on funding, that’s her political speak for taxpayer’s having to foot the bill.  Haley’s secret plan shouldn’t surprise anyone.  It’s Haley’s lack of leadership that has forced a county-by-county sales tax increase to make up for her failed leadership.  This has resulted in a back door sales tax increase on top of her “secret plan” to raise taxes next year.

And I’m shocked about Governor Haley’s stated approach.  We are a legislative state.  For Haley to say she will “show the General Assembly how to do it” confirms just how irresponsible Haley’s approach is to our serious infrastructure needs.

If South Carolinians want to maintain or roads and bridges and invest in our infrastructure, it’s going to require a change in leadership.  When I am governor, I will work with our elected representatives to build a consensus for long term funding for our crumbling roads and bridges. And I’ll be honest with you up front that all suggested solutions are on the table for debate.  The legislative process is a deliberative process.  We already have a dictator in Washington, D.C.  We don’t need another one in Columbia.

Tell, me — in what way is the governor’s promise to come out with something after the election different, practically speaking, from “When I am governor, I will work with our elected representatives to build a consensus for long term funding?” Yeah, I get that he’s saying he’d respect lawmakers more than the incumbent does. But beyond that, he’s doing the same thing she is — declining to say what he would propose until after the election.

Are we supposed to read “And I’ll be honest with you up front that all suggested solutions are on the table for debate” as some sort of code that the one responsible plan, raising the gas tax, will be part of his plan? Maybe. But why not come out and say it? It’s not like he’d be endangering his chance of getting elected, because that chance does not exist. (When one is tilting at windmills, why not go for broke and propose the right thing, rather than being cagey?)

So, having surveyed the field, one thing I must say in Todd Rutherford’s behalf is that at least he’s proposing something, even though it’s a really bad idea.

Another centrist video message from an SC Democrat

There’s nothing terribly surprising about South Carolina Democrats gravitating toward the center — they’ve done it as long as I’ve been following politics in my home state.

But I’m definitely seeing a pronounced trend toward setting out those positions very definitely, so you make no mistake.

You saw the recent Tombo Hite video, stressing limited government and keeping taxes low (not lowering taxes, but keeping them low — a truthful distinction you won’t often hear from Republicans, who tend to pander to the erroneous belief that taxes are high in SC).

Now here’s one featuring Vida Miller from the Georgetown area, stressing “Community. Integrity. Responsibility.” Communitarian values that sound sort of conservative because they ARE conservative in the traditional sense of the word — as distinguished from all the anti-institutional bomb-throwers who call themselves “conservative” these days.

vida miller

The passing of Howard Baker

baker

This came in a little while ago from The Washington Post:

Former senator Howard H. Baker Jr. of Tennessee, who framed the central question of the Watergate scandal when he asked “what did the president know and when did he know it?” and framed portraits of history with his ever-present camera while Senate majority leader and White House chief of staff, died June 26 at his home in Huntsville, Tenn. He was 88.

The cause was complications from a stroke, said longtime aide Tom Griscom….

That’s me with Baker in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1980. I had just arrived to cover him as he campaigned for the presidential nomination. It’s a shame that he didn’t do better than he did.

And it’s a greater shame that there are so few pragmatic centrists like Baker left — a fair-minded conservative who did not hesitate to grill the Nixon administration to discover the truth.

We still have Lamar Alexander, who comes out of that same commonsense Tennessee Republican tradition — people who gained high office before the Reagan revolution, and before the hardening of ideological positions on both ends of the spectrum. Our own Lindsey Graham is made from a similar mold — although, being of a later generation, he is more marked by the partisan wars than Baker ever was.

But the Howard Bakers, the Sam Nunns, the Scoop Jacksons… they’re all gone. And we’re worse off for it…

‘We Shall Overcome (But We Shall Be Miserable Doing It)’

I’ve seen this a couple of times today. Chris Cillizza of The Fix claims it’s the “Best. Vine. Ever.”

Well, I dunno. But boy, is it painful to watch.

Somebody apparently thought it would just be inspiring as all get out for Democratic and Republican leaders to link arms and invoke Freedom Summer by singing “We Shall Overcome” together.

At least the Democrats knew the words, but none of them look like they’re on the happy side of miserable.

Frankly, though, the Vine version doesn’t do the incident justice. To see enough of it to understand just how awkward it was, complete with sound, you have to watch this clip from C-SPAN (the awkwardness starts at 21:00, and continues for a little over two minutes):

But who’d sit still for a ‘Lincoln-Douglas’ debate today?

Lincoln_Douglas_Debates_1958_issue-4c

Rep. Bakari Sellers reacted to Henry McMaster’s victory in his bid for the GOP nomination for lieutenant governor as follows:

Rep. Bakari Sellers challenges Henry McMaster to five Lincoln-Douglas style debates across South Carolina 

Columbia, SC - State Representative and Democratic Nominee for Lt. Governor, Bakari Sellers, tonight challenged Republican Nominee Henry McMaster to a series of five Lincoln-Douglas style debates to be held across South Carolina during this summer and fall.

“Now that the nominees have been chosen, it’s up to the nominees to let the people hear how they stand on the important issues facing our state. Voters should be able to listen directly to the candidates discuss and debate issues and decide for themselves who has the best vision to lead our state as our next Lt. Governor”, said Rep. Sellers.

Sellers said that there are clear distinctions between the two candidates and he hopes to draw those distinctions during the upcoming months. Sellers said, “My opponent represents the status quo and is a decades long career politician who has been running for office for close to thirty years. This election is not about what was South Carolina was, nor what South Carolina is, it’s about what South Carolina can be. We have an opportunity to retire the “good-ole boy network” in Columbia.  Fresh leadership and fresh ideas is what I will bring to our great state as our next Lt. Governor.”

Sellers pointed out that the voters chose a little known state representative named Nikki Haley in the governor’s race over McMaster in 2010. Sellers’ campaign slogan is “We can do better,” and he hopes that South Carolina voters believe that as well.

NOTES:

Rep. Sellers is from Denmark, SC and represents House District 90 which covers parts of Bamberg, Barnwell and Colleton Counties. He is also a member of the House Judiciary Committee. Sellers is a candidate for Lt. Governor. The campaign’s website is www.sellers2014.com.

Sellers offered this definition of such a debate:

In a Lincoln/Douglas debate, the person speaking in support of the issue, called the Affirmative, is allowed a six minute segment to construct their argument. The opposition, or Negative, then has three minutes to ask questions of the affirmative, followed by seven minute to state the Negative case and argue against the Affirmative. The Affirmative has three minutes to cross-examine, then is allowed four minutes to rebut, using evidence from both their argument and the Negative argument. The Negative is allowed a final six minutes to rebut, summarize and plead for support from the judges, followed by a similar three minute period for the Affirmative. Including preparation time, the entire debate round takes approximately 45 minutes.

Yeah, well, that’s not the way I remember it from the history books. Forty-five minutes would have been considered just warming up in those days:

Lincoln and Douglas agreed to debate in seven of the nine Illinois Congressional Districts; the seven where Douglas had not already spoken. In each debate either Douglas or Lincoln would open with an hour address. The other would then speak for an hour and a half. The first then had 30 minutes of rebuttal.

But who today would sit still for, and listen to, such a marathon? No one, that’s who. So yeah, a Lincoln-Douglas-style debate today would have to be greatly streamlined…

Campbell releases ad on eve of runoff

Seeing this ad today reminds me of I neglected to mention last week, what with getting knocked on the head and all.

I ran into Mike Campbell at the State House the day of all the excitement over McGill becoming Senate president pro tem, McConnell resigning, McGill becoming lieutenant governor, Massey giving his “coup d’état” speech, and Leatherman becoming president pro tem — whew, I have to take a breath after saying all that.

I asked him how he thought he was doing, and he said the same thing that campaign manager Hogan “Chuckles” Gidley said in that story in The State over the weekend — that “the scoreboard has been reset” for his lieutenant governor runoff against Henry McMaster, that even though McMaster did a lot better in the original vote, it’s all about who turns out for the runoff (which is tomorrow, in case you’ve forgotten), and you never know what will happen.

After all, as he reminds me, he got the most votes in the initial vote for this same office in 2006, only to have Andre Bauer — who was everywhere, campaigning tirelessly and visibly in his cast after his plane crash — come from behind and beat him. It was a bit of a stunner, widely attributed to Bauer’s pluck and indefatigability.

Some other random thoughts on this lieutenant governor runoff:

  • It’s interesting to me to see Hogan managing the Campbell campaign, while Rick Santorum — whose 2012 campaign Hogan helped run — is endorsing McMaster. Meanwhile, Campbell has the backing of Mike Huckabee. Another interesting thing about this (to me, anyway), is that Campbell (through his late father) and McMaster are both guys I identify with the GOP’s mainstream, while both Santorum and Huckabee reflect different flavors (Santorum Catholic, Huckabee evangelical) of the religious conservative wing. Not sure what all that means; I just found it interesting to draw the connections in my head.
  • Campbell is focusing more than McMaster on the Office of Aging part of the job, for what that’s worth. But he makes sure you know he’s for limited government, too.
  • The State is still using that picture I shot for my blog in 2006 for its go-to mug shot of Campbell. So I’m still contributing to the paper, in an oh-so-subtle way. I told you these would be random thoughts…
  • If you ask me to pick a winner, I say it will be McMaster. But Campbell’s right, it’s about the turnout, which will be miniscule. So which of these guys has the best ground game, identifying supporters and gigging them to go vote tomorrow? I don’t know…

SCEA backs Sheheen for governor

Not a big shock or anything — the state education association supporting the Democrat — but I pass this release on for your perusal:

The SCEA Recommends Sheheen for Governor

COLUMBIA (June 17, 2014) – The South Carolina Education Association (The SCEA), the state’s oldest professional organization for educators, today announced its official recommendation of Senator Vincent Sheheen for Governor of South Carolina.

“Senator Sheheen is the best choice for South Carolina, particularly because of his leadership and advocacy on behalf of public education,” said Jackie B. Hicks, President of The SCEA. “He is a product of public schools in the Camden area, and both of his parents were professional educators. His children now attend the same public schools he attended as a boy. In addition, as an attorney and business owner, Senator Sheheen is keenly aware of the profound connection between quality public schools and our ability to sustain and grow a viable workforce.”

During his service in the General Assembly, Senator Sheheen expanded access to 4-year-old kindergarten, because he understands the importance of investing in early learning. Moving forward, Senator Sheheen will continue to work tirelessly on increasing early childhood education opportunities, improving K-12 education, and strategies to make college more affordable for all.

“He doesn’t just talk the talk,” Hicks said. “Senator Sheheen is actively involved in our public schools. In fact, he still volunteers his time reading to elementary school students. You won’t see him turning away millions of our own federal tax dollars for education. Not on his watch.”

Senator Sheheen also supports increasing South Carolina teacher compensation to the national average and developing a more equitable state funding formula that distributes education resources based on need, not zip code and property value.

“Our citizens deserve better leadership from the Governor’s Office,” Hicks said. “Vincent Sheheen is the right man at the right time for South Carolina.”

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Unusual split between McCain, Graham on Iran, Iraq

This WashPost headline (“Wait, John McCain and Lindsey Graham are at odds? Yes — on Iran and Iraq“) grabbed my attention this morning:

Pick your favorite foreign policy debate and odds are hawkish Republican Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) will be on the same side. Not so when it comes to the escalating situation in Iraq.

McCain on Monday warned sharply against the idea of collaborating with Iran to help the Iraqi government push back against radical Islamist fighters…

“It would be the height of folly to believe that the Iranian regime can be our partner in managing the deteriorating security situation in Iraq,” said McCain in a statement….

Appearing on the Sunday news shows, Graham cautiously endorsed the idea, provided certain conditions are met.

“Well, we’re going to probably need their help to hold Baghdad,” he said on CBS News’s “Face The Nation.”

On the same program, Graham said, “We need to all make sure Baghdad doesn’t fall

It’s not really a huge split, except that McCain’s language (“height of folly”)  is so emphatic. But worth making note.

Frankly, I’m intrigued by the implications of working with Iran for other issues. No, I don’t expect us to become big buddies and see them immediately drop their nuclear program for their new pals, but crises breed opportunity, and there could be one here — aside from the immediate tactical situation, which sees Iran in a better position to act than the U.S.

It’s going to be tough to work with the mullahs while simultaneously pressing Maliki to be less of a Shi’ite chauvinist (thereby making his regime one more worth saving), but it’s worth exploring.

So I think Graham’s being the more pragmatic and flexible here…

Editor’s note: The above video clip — one of my most popular ever — is NOT from this week. It’s from May 15, 2007.

Tombo Hite shows how you run as a Democrat in SC

There’s no one thing that’s particularly remarkable about this web video for legislative candidate Tombo Hite of Abbeville.

But it strikes me as a good example of how different it is to be a Democrat in South Carolina.

Strategist Tyler Jones brought this young attorney to my attention, saying:

Just want to forward you the new web ad for Tombo Hite, our House candidate in District 11 (Abbeville, Anderson). This guy is a rock star and has all the potential of any candidate I’ve seen in years. Keep your eye on him.

This district was held by a Democrat (Paul Agnew) until 2012 when a Democrat and a Democratic petition candidate split the votes and elected a republican, Craig Gagnon.

Yet, although according to that we should assume this is fairly safe territory for a Democrat, I’ve listened to this video twice, and if he mentioned being a Democrat, I missed it. (This is possible, because I was doing other stuff as I listened. But I know for sure he didn’t stress it.)

Then, there’s the fact that the first thing he wants you to know about him, policywise, is that he’s a fiscal conservative. Although he expresses that with a slight difference from Republicans. You have to listen carefully for it.

He says he wants to “get government out of the way and to keep our taxes low.” A Republican would want to lower taxes. Tombo is subtly telling you that our taxes are already low — which they are — and that he’s just going to keep them that way. (And indeed, I find his promise to fight a gas tax increase — an essential step to addressing our infrastructure problems — disturbing.)

After that, he sounds like a fairly typical Dem, SC-style. He wants to raise teacher salaries and revamp DSS.

And fight partisanship. So, good for him there. (Of course, if you’re a Democrat, you have extra motivation to want the General Assembly to be less partisan, so that maybe the majority will listen to you occasionally — not something that happens a lot in the House.)

Anyway, nothing dramatic here. I just thought I’d point those things out, for anyone unfamiliar with South Carolina Democrats and how they differ from the national variety.

tombo

Tea Party seeming more and more an actual, separate party

Some time ago — and it’s frustrating me that I can’t put my hands on it at the moment — Brad Hutto gave a speech somewhere in the Upstate in which he announced that Democrats were in the driver’s seat in the SC Senate.

That startled some who heard it, but there’s a certain truth to it, if you consider how divided the Republican caucus is. There are only 18 Democrats in a body of 46, but it’s not unusual for the Republicans to split between, say, 16 regular Country Club, Chamber of Commerce Republicans, and the rest voting solidly Tea Party. (The numbers break differently, according to the issue.) That gives Democrats a solid plurality, when they stick together. (Which they don’t always do; you might even see Gerald Malloy teaming with a Tea Partier to hold up something other Democrats want.)

Democratic muscle can exert itself in some seemingly surprising ways — such as when John Courson became president pro tem based on Democratic support.

Anyway, we keep seeing signs that increasingly, Tea Partiers wear their “R” designation lightly, placing greater emphasis on their snake-flag loyalties.

A small example of that was in this release today from Lee Bright, in the wake of his getting crushed by Lindsey Graham:

Bright Campaign Falls Short – But Accomplished Much


Lee Bright and five other challengers could not hold well-funded Lindsey Graham under the needed 50 per cent threshold in South Carolina’s Republican Senate PrimaryTuesday night – but the insurgent campaign of the Upstate Senator did defy gravity – and Bright was the dominant challenger from wire to wire. While all the financial figures are not in yet, Bright for Senate will clearly have the best vote to dollars spent ratio.
 
Bright ended up with 15.4% of the vote, almost double his nearest competitor – Richard Cash.  He held Graham well under 50% in Spartanburg and Greenville Counties, and doubled up Nancy Mace in Charleston County.
 
“Our team and our volunteers worked extremely hard, and even though we fell short, we have a lot to be proud of,” said Bright, who added, “With Eric Cantor’s defeat in Virginia, some good things happened for the country on Tuesday, even if not in our race. We’re going to continue to fight for what we believe, and we understand that the fight for liberty never ends.”
 
Bright added that he was “humbled by the work of our volunteers – from making phone calls to making signs – these people kept me going. I am proud to have been in this fight with them.” Bright also said that he hopes “Lindsey Graham’s recent aversion to ObamaCare will continue, now that the Primary is over. We’re going to hold him to that.”

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See that? “With Eric Cantor’s defeat in Virginia, some good things happened for the country on Tuesday…”

It’s not at all surprising that he’d say that, but sometimes it’s instructive to stop and think, “He’s celebrating the defeat of his own (supposed) party’s majority leader.” And realize that Tea Party Republicans are getting less Republican each day…

What’s ironic is that Republicans who sympathize with the Tea Party are sometimes the first to call real, traditional Republicans “RINOs.” When of course, it’s the other way around.

SC Republican voters on Tuesday showed that they’ve picked up on that, in their utter rejection of Lindsey Graham’s challengers…

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:

Hello!

 

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:https://secure.piryx.com/donate/pD4SkU1m/Jill-Bossi-for-U-S-Senate

 

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 atwww.bossi4senate.com 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

Jill Bossi for U.S. Senate

P.O. Box 213135

Columbia, SC  29221

803-417-1036

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.

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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.”

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