Category Archives: Parties

I thought Templeton had one good idea. I was wrong…

When I saw that Catherine Templeton had put out a “Conservatives Issues platform” on Monday, I assumed it would be more of the same. Which is to say, another instance of an intelligent woman trying to appeal to the most atavistic blood-and-soil reflexes of a traumatized Republican Party, in keeping with her strategy of trying to out-Bannon Henry McMaster.

Templeton

Templeton

But then I was delighted to see one good idea — or at least, to see what I initially thought was a good idea: The State reported that she wanted to protect “Home Rule.”

I was impressed. Too few people understand the problem of the Legislature’s utter failure to fully implement the Home Rule Act of 1975, maintaining its feeble influence over local matters and keeping local governments weak.

If she was standing up for Home Rule in South Carolina, it would be the second time in a week that someone had stood up for a long-overdue “Power Failure” reform — the other time being the freshmen’s proposal for a constitutional convention to address fundamental structural problems in our state government.

But I was wrong, as I realized when I saw a release in which Jim DeMint (remember that guy?) was praising her position. This was NOT a case of someone standing up for fixing an actual problem that plagues South Carolina (and which far too few people understand). Nope. She was just touching another far-right base, trying to get the ganglia to twitch.

She was sticking up for “Home Rule” in a way that only makes sense to people who keep up with the latest fetishes of the far right. She, too was seeking a constitutional convention — only in her case on the federal level, and to address nonexistent problems:

  • Make South Carolina a signatory of the Convention of States movement.

“Our Founding Fathers intended for this government to be of the people, by the people, for the people,” Templeton explained. “The U. S. Constitution gives South Carolina the right and duty to make sure the federal government doesn’t interfere where it is not welcome. Today, the federal government exercises control over our very livelihood.  Every day Congress takes more and gives us less. As governor, I will support the current push by conservatives in South Carolina’s General Assembly who are fighting to take back states’ rights from a bloated, bureaucratic, overbearing federal government. While the President fights top down, I join him in our fight from the states up.”

Today, former United States Senator Jim DeMint commended Catherine Templeton’s courage in fighting for conservative values.

“States must do more to chart their own course for the future and reign in the out-of-control federal government.  I commend Catherine Templeton for her wisdom and courage to support the Article V Convention of States Project.  It is the only constitutional way to save our country and our state.”
-Jim DeMint, March 5, 2018

Remember the recent resurrection of Nullification? Well, it receded for awhile, but apparently it’s back. You just can’t keep a bad idea down in South Carolina.

What does it tell us that a bunch of House freshmen can take a bold and risky stand in favor of a sweeping, needed and too-little-understood reform, but a viable candidate for governor of the whole state sketches out a vision that is nothing but one knee-jerk pander after another?

Anyway, she got my hopes up for a second, but then crushed them…

Arnie Vinick on what the presidency was about

This morning during my workout on the elliptical, I was watching “The West Wing” on the Roku, and saw the end of the penultimate episode in the penultimate season. It’s the one in which Arnie Vinick accepts the GOP nomination for president.

And even more than usual, I was made wistful by the evocation of what we once expected from the presidency — that the one who held it would at least do so with a modicum of honor and respect for the office. It was a great speech, especially when he was talking about the president he hoped to replace. He drew some boos from the partisan convention floor when he first mentioned the Democrat, but pushed past that to say:

It is with great humility that I accept your nomination for president of the United States.
Before I share with you my vision for America I want to say a few words about the man who I hope is my predecessor: President Josiah Bartlet.
He has graced and honored his office.
The highest in the land.
The most powerful in the world, some would say. Myself included.
He has served this country steadfastly and laudably and I say this despite our political and philosophical differences.
For in the end, a presidency is more than a simple catalogue of policies pursued, crises weathered, battles lost or won.
It’s a stewardship, a sacred trust, a commitment to sacrifice every fiber of your being — every thought, every moment, every — Every everything in service to your nation.
President Bartlet has done this well and ably and he deserves nothing less than our humble appreciation and heartfelt gratitude.
… my commitment to strive to be worthy of the example of the great men who have gone before.
Presidents walk in giant footsteps.
They have magnificent legacies to uphold.
I stand here on this day and put my name forth as one who aspires to their example, who will daily make that sacrifice.
Who will honor not just the office, but the people that office serves.
Their president of these United States of America…..

Imagine that. A president, or presidential nominee, who could say such words with conviction and not a trace of irony: “a stewardship, a sacred trust, a commitment to sacrifice… (a) commitment to strive to be worthy of the example of the great men who have gone before” — to honor the office and the trust invested by the people. To care about them, and about those things, more than about himself and his fragile ego.

Some of my friends understand this, but others don’t: The thing we have lost in the past year is the dignity of the office. That’s shattered, gone with the wind. And now I can only find it in TV fiction. Good TV fiction, but still make-believe.

Anyway, at this point, as I make my way through the series yet again each morning in the coming days, Vinick has my vote. Matt Santos is going to have to work to change my mind…

westwing_vinick1

Micah and the freshmen take on Power Failure, big time

micah release

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

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

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

Micah Caskey cropped

Caskey in 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The conservative case for clean energy

The solar panel (get it?): Rep. Nathan Ballentine, Charles Hernick of CRES, Bret Sowers of the SC Solar Business Alliance, Tyson Grinstead of Sunrun, Inc., and moderator Matt Moore.

The solar panel (get it?): Rep. Nathan Ballentine, Charles Hernick of CRES, Bret Sowers of the SC Solar Business Alliance, Tyson Grinstead of Sunrun, Inc., and moderator Matt Moore.

There’s something odd about that headline, isn’t there? One shouldn’t have to make such a case, seeing as how “conservative” and “conservation” derive from the same root.

But our modern politics are sufficiently strange that the case must be made — and increasingly, more conservatives are prepared to make it.

They did so this morning over at the convention center Hilton, at a breakfast co-sponsored by the Palmetto Conservative Solar Coalition and Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions out of Washington.

Erick Erickson

Erick Erickson

The program started with a brief keynote by Erick Erickson of The Resurgent (and formerly of RedState), who came to say, “We conservatives don’t have to be afraid of clean energy.” Mind you, “We don’t need to subsidize it” the way he says folks on the left want to do — it’s more about getting out of the way and letting markets do the job.

The main thing standing in the way of that is the owners of the current infrastructure. Erickson, who lives in Macon, says he keeps hearing from Georgia Power, telling him that solar might burn his house down, and anyway, it’s not efficient — it doesn’t work on a cloudy day.

“Why are you so scared of it, then?,” he asks.

After Erickson sat down, Matt Moore — new head of the Palmetto Conservative Solar Coalition and former chairman of the S.C. GOP — gave out awards to some conservative friend of clean energy, including my own Rep. Micah Caskey. Others recognized were Rep. Nathan Ballentine, and Sen. Greg Gregory.

Gregory got credit for passage of Act 236 in 2014 — the legislation that allowed net metering in South Carolina. Which was a start toward putting solar on a firm footing in the state.

But the main order of 2018 for these organizations is repealing a problematic provision of that legislation — a 2 percent cap on the amount of energy allowed to be generated by solar, something the utilities insisted on in 2014.

So we heard a lot, during a panel discussion featuring Ballentine and three others and chaired by Moore, about H. 4421, which would remove that cap and let solar compete freely — an idea suddenly quite popular, with SCANA and Santee Cooper in the political doghouse.

We’re getting close to that 2 percent cap, which Ballentine said would cause the disappearance of 3,000 jobs in South Carolina in the installation business (also represented on the panel). That’s one of the reasons he’s for lifting the cap.

He praised H. 4421, saying how good it is to see a “bipartisan effort” behind it.

And it does have bipartisan support. What Nathan did not say, with so many Republicans in the room, is that the bill’s prime sponsor is Rep. James Smith. He was concerned, apparently, that some in his party might oppose it just to keep James from having a big win when he’s running for governor.

Which would be really petty of them, but that’s the state of party politics in the Year of Our Lord two thousand and eighteen. For some people, anyway.

Frankly, I’m having trouble imagining any good reason why anyone would oppose such commonsense legislation. Maybe you can think of one, but I can’t.

The bill is supposed to come up in subcommittee again Thursday…

the room

Gun control rally at the State House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

nra

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ratings

Rick Quinn won’t go to prison as Pascoe wished

State House

David Pascoe didn’t get his way on Rick Quinn, as the former lawmaker was sentenced to community service and probation Monday.

A judge Monday sentenced former state Rep. Rick Quinn, R-Lexington, to one year in prison and then suspended that sentence.

Instead, Quinn will have to do 500 hours of community service and serve two years of probation.

Quinn, 52, a 20-year House veteran known for his political influence, entered a guilty plea to misconduct in office in December. The offense carries a maximum prison sentence of one year.

Quinn’s sentence had been the subject of speculation and a fierce behind-the-scenes legal battle between prosecutors and defense attorneys since his unexpected guilt plea in December….

This is not terribly surprising. Although Pascoe at a recent hearing presented a 30-minute Power Point detailing crimes allegedly committed by Quinn, the Republican’s guilty plea only covered “one, basically, technical violation — failing to report a one-time payment of roughly $28,000 by the University of South Carolina, an institution that lobbies the Legislature, to a company that Quinn had a link to….”

Pascoe had portrayed the younger Quinn as the worst of the worse, saying “There has been no one more corrupt than Rick Quinn.”

And this is all he can successfully pin on him? The prosecutor wanted Quinn to spend a year in prison. But the judge suspended the sentence.

Not that this corruption investigation is over. Sen. John Courson’s trial is coming up.

And we have yet to see whether Pascoe’s allegations about AG Alan Wilson will lead to anything…

I miss our two former party chairmen, Matt & Jaime

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

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

Always a class act!

Yes, Jaime, and so are you.

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

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

Our politics needs more guys like these two…

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

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

If you’re a white Southerner and you think your ancestors owned no slaves, you should probably dig a little deeper

EDITOR’S NOTE: Here’s a correction that proves the point of this post. While I knew I had quite a few ancestors who owned slaves, just for contrast I mentioned one great-great grandfather (Henry Waller) who did NOT. I was wrong. A first cousin has written to let me know Henry owned at least one slave, whom he mentioned in letters home. I hope to get copies of those letters soon. So even I am guilty of falsely believing that one ancestor owned no slaves…

Last week, Catherine Templeton used the standard cliche rationalization for why she’s proud of her Confederate heritage:

“It’s important to note that my family didn’t fight because we had slaves,” Templeton said to a room mostly filled with university students. “My family fought because the federal government was trying to tell us how to live.”

We won’t get into the fact that the one thing white Southerners — the ones in charge — were afraid the federal government would make them do was stop owning slaves. And I’ll point out only in passing that if your ancestors owned no slaves and took up arms for the Confederacy, then they were victims of a major con job. Some of my own ancestors were duped in the same manner.

But not all of them. I’ve long known that some of my ancestors were slaveowners. But it wasn’t until I started seriously building out my family tree that I realized how many of them fit that description.

As much as I love talking genealogy — as y’all know, to your sorrow — I hesitated to post this. But my tree is the only one I know this well, and I think what I have found argues against the claims that all too many white Southerners make. And I think people should know that. So here goes…

Patrick Henry Bradley

Patrick Henry Bradley

At first, I had thought that slaveholding was limited to my paternal grandmother’s people, the Bradleys (for whom I’m named). Patrick Henry Bradley, her grandfather, was one of the leading citizens in his part of Abbeville County. When the War came, he raised his own company and led it in the field, but soon returned home to serve out the rest of the war in the Legislature. His eldest son stayed at the front, and was killed at Trevillian Station in 1864.

I would have assumed that the Bradleys were slaveholders just because of Patrick Henry’s service in the Legislature, which was largely made up of the slaveholding class. But I don’t have to assume; I have documentary and anecdotal evidence to that effect. I don’t know whether he had a lot of slaves, but he had some.

James Chesnut Jr.

James Chesnut Jr.

I had accepted this as fact long ago, but I had assumed that my ancestors in other branches of the family were generally innocent of having owned other humans. Not based on anything, really, beyond the fact that none of them were quite as upscale as the Bradleys. Of course, when I say “Bradleys,” I’m lumping in a lot of folks who bore different surnames — pretty much that whole quarter of my tree. For instance, James Chesnut — husband of famous diarist Mary Boykin and one of the leading men in Confederate South Carolina — is a 3rd cousin four times removed. (That means my 6th-great grandfather, Alexander Samuel Chesnut, was his great-great grandfather.) He was in that Bradley fourth.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The following paragraph is dead wrong. Henry Waller DID own at least one slave, I am reliably informed. I hope to have evidence of that soon…)

But I had liked to think that another great-great grandfather, William Henry Waller, was more typical of the rest of my tree — just an ordinary soldier who got caught up in forces bigger than he was. I’ve never seen or heard anything to indicate Henry owned slaves, or money or much else. But admittedly, I don’t know a lot about him. He went AWOL to visit the family farm in Marion County when his unit was marching north toward Virginia. My great-grandmother — who died when I was 4 years old (yep, that’s how recent that war was: someone who lived then overlapped with my life) — was born nine months later. She, my mother’s father’s mother, never knew her father, because Henry died of disease at the siege of Petersburg. Consequently, I know practically nothing about him. I don’t even know who his parents were, or whether he had siblings. That line is the shortest on my tree, because of that break.

The old lady is the daughter of Henry Waller. The big-headed kid on her lap is me.

The old lady is my great-grandmother, the daughter of Henry Waller, who died at Petersburg. The big-headed kid on her lap, grooving on the apples, is me. This was 1957.

I picture Henry as being one of those guys like Virgil Caine in “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” A sympathetic character caught up in events and trying to get by the best he could. And I tended to lump others from the non-Bradley portions of the family into that category.

But I was wrong, as I learned from early census records after I finally paid to join Ancestry and gained access to that site’s documentary “hints” about my forebears. Later census records name everyone in a household (although their names are often spelled wrong). But in the early decades of the 19th century, the records would just name the “head of household,” and then give a demographic breakdown of the rest of the household — X number of “Free White Persons – Males – 16 thru 25,” and Y number of “Free White Persons – Under 16.”

But the really revelatory data comes under such headings as “Slaves – Males – 26 thru 44.” I assume the records were kept that way so each slave could be counted as three-fifths of a person for the sake of electoral apportionment.

Perusing these records can be a real eye-opener. While Henry Waller may not have owned slaves, others on my mother’s side did. Take, for instance, my 4th-great grandfather Henry C. Foxworth, also of Marion County: There were six slaves in his household in 1820. This sort of thing will pop up again and again in a white Southern family. However humble and righteous you may think your ancestors were, a family tree is likely far more diverse — here I mean economically diverse in particular — than you give it credit for being. And the people who bore your surname are only a tiny fraction of the people from whom you are descended who lived during the centuries of slavery. Until I really got into building my tree, I had no idea I was descended from anyone named “Foxworth.”

Wesley Samuel Foxworth marker(By the way, like Patrick Henry Bradley, Henry Foxworth also lost a son in the war. My great-great-great grandfather Wesley Samuel Foxworth was also killed during that Petersburg campaign. Fortunately for me, his daughter from whom I am descended had been born 12 years earlier.)

I am three-fourths South Carolinian, but hey, at least I won’t find any of that slavery stuff among the Warthens up in Maryland, right? So I thought — somewhat irrationally, since Maryland (although it stayed in the Union) was a slave state.

My great-grandmother Rebecca Jane Rabbitt — who married my great-grandfather Warthen — died in 1898, two days after the birth of her sixth child. She was 35. But I’ve been a lot luckier tracing her tree than poor Henry Waller’s, taking it back to the Middle Ages. (Through her, I’m a Tudor, making Henry VIII a cousin.)

But one of the more interesting things I’ve found on that line is much more recent — it involves her grandfather, John Thomas Rabbitt Jr., 1779-1863. It’s an indenture contract. One William Frumfree, described as “a colored man,” owed $40 to the state of Maryland, and was in jail in 1829 because he couldn’t pay it. My ancestor paid it for him, in exchange for which… well, here’s a quote from the document Mr. Frumfree signed:

… I do hereby bind myself to the service of said Rabbitt in any manner in which he may chose to use me for and during the term of one year from the date hereof to be considered and treated as the slave of said Rabbitt during my term of service as contracted by this paper…

Oh, and just in case you thought that would be lighter service than being a permanent slave, there’s this language:

… the said Rabbitt is to be subject to no liability for his treatment or chastisement of me which he would not own in the case of one of his own slaves for life…

But hey, don’t think the only thing Mr. Frumfree got was out of the jail. He was also paid “the sum of one cent.” No, really. It’s all in the document signed on May 13, 1829.

About all I can say for John Thomas is that as of the 1820 and the 1840 censuses, he didn’t own any slaves. So, there’s that.

Why do I tell you all of this? To shame myself, or to perversely brag about what wheeler-dealers my ancestors were? No. Of course I’m uncomfortable with this topic and these details, but my point is that I highly doubt that my tree is unusual. Note that these slaveowners I’ve mentioned had nothing to do with each other. They never met. They were from very different families living in different places under different circumstances. In other words, these incidences of slaveholding were independent of each other.

And it crops up often enough that I can’t believe I’m anywhere near alone in this. Almost half of white South Carolina families (46 percent) owned slaves. What do you think the chances are that none of the many families that led do you owned human property?

If other white Southerners really knew who their ancestors were, you’d seldom hear a proud neoConfederate say, ever-so-self-righteously, that his (or her) ancestors didn’t own slaves. The odds are against it being a fact.

It is a wise child that knows his own father, and a wiser one who knows even more of his forebears, and faces up to reality.

A brief, belated report on the Democratic debate

debate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Democratic race for governor just got even more surprising

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marguerite Willis

Marguerite Willis

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

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

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

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

 

Does that mean I’d actually have to WATCH the Super Bowl? Henry, you ask too much…

6CgncNxu_400x400

And the silly beat goes on…

Yesterday, we had Catherine Templeton actually seizing upon that silly mistake in The State and spinning it into a tale of deliberate persecution — of herself, of course. (Politicians these days are so whiny, and take things so personally. Someone is always being mean to them.)

On the same day, we had this foolishness from Henry McMaster:

On Tuesday, McMaster issued a statewide proclamation designating Sunday as “Stand for the Flag Super Bowl Sunday.”

The governor’s proclamation encourages all South Carolinians to stand for the playing of the national anthem before the Super Bowl LII matchup between the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles, according to a news release from McMaster’s office.

“Standing for the national anthem recognizes and honors the sacrifice of generations of men and women who have chosen to serve in the United States Armed Forces,” McMaster said in the news release. “I ask that all South Carolinians show the world our state’s resolute commitment to supporting our troops by standing for the national anthem wherever you watch the Super Bowl with your loved ones this Sunday.”…

All I could say to that was this:

As y’all know, I’m sympathetic to veterans who are sincerely affronted by this particular form of protest by football players. But I can’t for a moment feel sympathy for this kind of shallow, calculated manipulation…

proclamation

Latest Templeton releases have a déjà vu quality

Templeton 1

Apparently, Catherine Templeton has changed her name.

It’s now “Conservative Outsider Catherine Templeton.” I know this because headlines on releases from her campaign start out that way. (Or at least, two in row did. One more, and we’ll call it a trend and send it to Lifestyles.)

Which is weird. I mean, once you say all that mouthful, you’re about out of room for a normal headline, and you still haven’t gotten to a verb.

Consequently, when I see a release from her, I think I’m seeing the same one — but no, eventually I get to a word that’s different. It just takes patience.

Actually, I just looked again and realized the part that doesn’t vary a whit is longer than I initially thought. With these two examples, the release starts “Conservative Outsider Catherine Templeton Issues Statement” before it gets to a single word that varies.

This is an odd communication style. Usually, writers of releases seek to engage your attention way sooner. But the campaign seems to have decided that positioning her as “Conservative Outsider” is more important than actually saying something — more important even than her name.

Maybe going forward, they could abbreviate it to something like “ConOut Templeton…,” in the interest of moving things along and getting to the point.

 

Templeton 3

OK, Trav, this is kind of silly

This came in from SC Democrats over the weekend:

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

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

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

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

Now you’re acting more like yourself, Sen. Graham

I don’t know what LIndsey Graham thought he was doing the last few months, building his new reputation as the “Trump Whisperer.” Did he think he could manage the grossly unfit POTUS, guiding him gently toward wise policy on immigration and making him think it was his idea?

Whatever his plan was, it didn’t work, and the moment that became fully apparent seems to have been the infamous “s___hole” meeting a week ago.

Now, he seems to have decided to concentrate his attention on actual grownups, people with whom he can have intelligent conversations and not feel the need to delouse afterward. He sent out this release yesterday:

Momentum Growing for Immigration Reform Proposal

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today welcomed the support of Republican Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Mike Rounds (R-South Dakota) for a path forward on DACA and immigration reform.Graham-080106-18270- 0005

They will join Republicans Graham, Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) and Cory Gardner (R-Colorado) in backing this measure and working to protect Dreamers.

“It’s imperative that Congress act quickly so that young people who were brought to the United States as children, through no decision of their own, can stop living in fear of deportation.  I have talked with Dreamers living in Maine who have grown up in our State and have known no other country as their home,” said Senator Collins.  “This issue transcends political divisions, with members of both parties expressing sympathy for the Dreamers and support for a legislative solution.  I am proud to join this growing bipartisan group of leaders in advancing this important effort that will fairly address the needs of the DACA population, strengthen border security, and help improve our immigration system.”

“President Trump and the bipartisan members of Congress who met at the White House ought to be able to agree on a proposal that both secures our borders and provides a solution for DACA recipients,” said Senator Alexander. “I intend to support such an agreement which is why I’m cosponsoring the Graham proposal as a starting point for reaching consensus and will support other responsible proposals.”

“I am proud to be a part of this bipartisan solution for the Dreamers,” said Senator Murkowski. “We should not punish children for the actions of their parents. Those who were brought to this country by their parents, were raised here, educated here, lived here, and dreamed here, should be welcomed to stay here. They should have the right to work and a path to citizenship. Fulfilling that dream renews our American Dream. I have consistently cosponsored legislation to provide just that, and I am heartened to see so many diverse voices supporting a legislative solution for the Dreamers.”

“I thank Senator Graham and others for their commitment to strengthening border security and fixing our broken immigration system,” said Senator Rounds. “The current proposal is an important first step in more immigration reform that secures our borders and transitions to a merit-based system. Legal immigration is a proud part of our nation’s history, and today it plays an important role in our economy – including South Dakota’s own workforce which depends on temporary, H2B visa workers to fill jobs during the busy tourism and construction seasons. While this bill is not perfect, I will continue to work on a product that includes appropriate e-verify provisions, a stronger border security system and lays the framework for more reform, including work visas. These are the provisions required for me to support the bill in final form so we can get to the next phase, in which permanently increasing the cap of H2B visas will be a top priority for me.”

“I’m very pleased that our bipartisan proposal continues to gain support among my Republican colleagues,” said Senator Graham. “Our hope is to bring forward a proposal that leads to a solution the President can embrace. The goal is to begin fixing a broken immigration system by fairly dealing with the DACA population, securing our border, and moving toward a merit-based immigration system. This proposal would receive wide support and is a good solution for Phase I as we move to Phase II, comprehensive immigration reform.  As we debate how to fix a broken immigration system and who to allow to become an American, we must not change what it means to be an American.  As I’ve always said, America is an idea defined by its ideals – not by its people.  The idea of self-determination and freedom to speak one’s mind, to worship God as you see fit, and to be served by the government – not the other way around.  I believe there is bipartisan support for that concept.”

 Highlights of the bipartisan proposal include:

  • At Least Ten Years Before a Dreamer Can Become an American Citizen:  It would be at least ten years before a Dreamer can become an American citizen.  The legislation calls for a 12-year waiting period, but select Dreamers who registered for DACA could earn up to two years credit for time. Dreamers – who do not receive any federal assistance or welfare today – will likely continue to be ineligible for welfare and federal assistance for the first five years they have legal status.
  • The current Diversity Visa Lottery will be abolished, and a new merit-based immigration system instituted in its place. Half of the Diversity Lottery visas would be allocated to a new system for ‘priority countries’ who are currently underrepresented in visa allocation.  A new merit-based system would ensure those visas are awarded to those most ready to succeed in the United States.  The other half of the visas would be allocated to recipients of Temporary Protected Status (TPS).  After the TPS backlog is cleared, all of the former Diversity Lottery visas will be allocated to nationals of priority countries under the new, merit-based system.
  • Additional Border Security Measures: The proposal contains $2.7 billion in border security improvements, including the planning, design, and construction of a border wall and additional surveillance and technology along the border. There will also be several provisions from border security pieces of legislation related to border infrastructure and Customs and Border Protection operations and oversight.
  • Down Payment on Chain Migration: Parents of Dreamers would be eligible for 3-year renewable work permits.  There are no new pathways for them to obtain American citizenship.  If they brought a child who becomes a beneficiary of the Dream Act into the country, they would be ineligible to be sponsored for lawful permanent residence or citizenship by any of their children. Additionally, lawful permanent residents would only be able to sponsor their nuclear family members, their spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21.

They may not succeed, but at least he’s now working with people highly unlikely to disrupt a bipartisan meeting with an obscene racist rant…

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

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

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

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

Yep, that’s exactly how a republic is supposed to work

The Caskey boys, spotted together at an event in 2017. No, I don't know exactly how they're related...

The Caskey boys, spotted together at an event in 2017. No, I don’t know exactly how they’re related…

Bryan posted this about his kinsman and my representative, Micah Caskey:

Yep, that’s exactly the way our representative democracy is supposed to work. Elected representatives are not your agents whom you send to do your bidding. They’re people you delegate to go do what, in a complex modern economy, most people don’t have time to do: Go to the capital and study and debate complex issues until they understand them better than they otherwise would — and then act accordingly.

A lot of Americans, maybe most of them, don’t understand that. They expect the following from elected officials:

  1. That they make very specific promises when running for office.
  2. That those promises appeal directly to what they, the voters, want to hear.
  3. That, once elected, the representatives do exactly what they promised, without amendment or deviation.

I don’t expect those things at all. With me, it’s more like:

  1. I don’t care to hear specific campaign promises, because I don’t want that person, once elected, to have his or her hands tied.
  2. To the extent that such promises are made, it’s not necessary that they align with what I think should be done. Sure, if the candidate is promising a lot of stupid stuff I’m dead-set against, I’ll oppose him or her (in part for the simple fact of making pandering promises, whatever their content). But I don’t expect agreement across the board. Since I don’t buy the prepackaged sets of values the left and right sell, there’s never been a candidate with whom I agreed on everything.
  3. Once elected, I expect the representative to buckle down and study, and debate matters with people with different views, and learn, and become wiser about the issues than he or she was during the campaign. And if that means breaking a stupid promise that was made when the candidate was less wise, then I hope my representative has the courage and integrity to do so — like George H.W. Bush ditching the “read my lips” thing.

But as I said, too many people have the first set of expectations, and that misunderstanding has led to many of the ills our country is suffering today. The Tea Party and Trumpism were both outgrowths of the frustration of people who were mad because the people they had elected had not followed through on stupid promises they had made.

The danger in that, of course, is that you can arrive at a point at which people who will actually follow through on stupid promises get elected.

Which is where we are today…

Which is why a fine representative like Micah is good to find. Which in turn is why, once I met him and saw how bright, serious and thoughtful he was, I gave up my crazy thoughts of running for the office myself. I didn’t see how I would do a better job than he would. I don’t remember any of his positions in particular; I just remember that the way he approached issues made me trust him to address them wisely in the future.

And that, boys and girls, is how our system is supposed to work. And yes, this will all be on the final exam…

There is something truly unAmerican in the way Pence prostrated himself before Trump

I’d been hearing about the way the veep prostrated himself before Trump in the Cabinet meeting Wednesday, lavishing treacly praise upon him, slathering it shamelessly.

I just watched it, and I’m sorry I did. It’s bad enough having this man who demeans our country every moment that he holds the presidency. It’s even more depressing to see the man who would replace him, if we could rid ourselves of him, abase himself in such a orgy of sycophancy.

He lowers himself so, I hear overtones of something that doesn’t belong in America, or anywhere else in the West. I hear an Eastern potentate being addressed as the “Flower of Courtesy, Nutmeg of Consolation, Rose of Delight,” by a 19th-century supplicant begging forgiveness for imposing his miserable self upon the time of such a glorious personage.

Not to cast aspersions on other cultures or anything, but we just don’t talk to anyone this way in this country. At least, not before now.

The fact that we can’t see Pence’s face offers me a sliver of hope: Perhaps his eyes are blinking Morse Code: “T-O-R-T-U-R-E”…

toady

Republicans in Washington actually do something

Today, Washington Republicans, nearly a year after capturing total control of both political branches, actually did something they had said they would do.

They passed a huge, complicated tax package that no one has made a convincing case the nation needs, that is startlingly unpopular (“24 percent of Americans say that the Trump-backed tax plan is a good idea, versus 41 percent who believe it’s a bad idea“), and that the experts predict will significantly increase the national debt.

Whatever it does to the country, the bill has made one man very, very happy...

Whatever it does to the country, the bill has made one man very, very happy…

But hey, they did something, whether it was a good idea or not, and they’ve wanted to do something for so long, so they’re excited about it. So, congrats, guys. I guess…

Paul Ryan can die happy now, his heart’s desire having been achieved. They say he’s been working toward this since 1993. Which tells you a lot about Paul Ryan.

I am not excited, partly because it is about money. And I just find it hard to get interested in money, even my money, during those anomalous periods of my life when I have some. Needless to say, I have not tried to decipher any of those stories out there that would tell me how I would fare under this boondoggle. Just don’t tell me, OK?

Anyway, that would not be the criterion I’d go by in judging whether this is a good move or not. The point is whether it’s good for the country. And I just can’t begin to tell you whether it’s a bad idea, or a worse idea. (Yes, hypothetically it could be a good idea, but I’ve been watching this come together, and that seems fairly unlikely. Perhaps I’ll be surprised.)

But perhaps some of y’all have passionate opinions on the subject, or even salient observations to make.

So here’s your chance…

Scrap restructuring process; shut out legislators and parties

Gerrymandering goes before SCOTUS next week...

Gerrymandering goes before SCOTUS next week…

In response to this Tweet today from Andy Shain:

… I had this response:

  1. Scrap the system. It has made a mockery of our system of representative democracy. The real election should be in the fall, not in the primary. Parties should not own districts.
  2. Take it away from lawmakers. For too long, we’ve let legislators pick their voters rather than the other way around. Courts have allowed incumbents to protect themselves this way.
  3. Shut both parties out of the process. Set up a truly independent commission to draw the lines — political scientists, demographers and the like. Don’t allow anyone who has run for office under the banner of either major party to be on the commission.

OK, that last qualification may be tough, but it still leaves the third of us with no party affiliations, and that’s plenty of people to choose from. And here’s my first nomination for the commission: Bubba Cromer, who served honorably in the House after being elected and re-elected as an independent. (Once, then-Speaker David Wilkins pointed to Bubba crossing the street and said, “There goes the chairman of your caucus.” I agreed.)

But I’ll admit it’ll be tough to find unaffiliated people who know what they’re doing. So I might have to back off on that one requirement. Fortunately, there are honorable Democrats and Republicans out there.

The biggest problem, though, is figuring out a good way to choose the commissioners. Who will elect or appoint them? I can’t see going the popular election route or letting lawmakers pick them. So how do we get a good group of line-drawers? Ideas?

Don't let anyone currently elected to serve in this building onto the commission.

Don’t let anyone currently elected to serve in this building onto the commission.