Category Archives: South Carolina

Columbia’s ‘Justice for All’ initiative

Passing on this release, about the city of Columbia’s response to Ferguson and Staten Island:

Mayor Benjamin announces new “Justice for All” initiative

Columbia, SC. – Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin was joined by Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook, Members of Council and leaders from across the community to announce his major new “Justice for All” public safety initiative.

“We are committed to building a world class Police Department and in order to do this we must commit to strengthening the foundation of trust and accountability that exists between our communities and our law enforcement agencies,” said Mayor Benjamin. “This is about more than public safety. This is about justice.”

Comprehensive in its approach, the Justice for All initiative focuses on Training, Diversity, Accountability and community Engagementthrough a series of new and expanded policies which include:

  • Providing new and ongoing cultural sensitivity, conflict resolution and de-escalation training.
  • Appointing minority community representation on CPD’s police hiring board.
  • Establishing a citywide Human Rights Commission.
  • Appointing civilian representation to CPD’s Internal Affairs Review Board.
  • Publicly publishing an Annual Internal Affairs Report.
  • Recording all violent crime suspect interviews.
  • Organizing ongoing listening sessions in communities across Columbia.
  • Providing body cameras to all uniformed personnel.

(Justice for All initiative outline attached)

For more information, contact Michael Wukela at 803-413-5052.

####

Here’s the news story in The State today.

Thoughts?

 

Meanwhile, in SOUTH CAROLINA, a white cop is charged with murder for shooting an unarmed black man

Just thought I’d run this for the pure irony of it. We have protesters all across the country who are convinced that cops can kill black men with impunity, and yet, right here in the first state to secede, we have this:

A white police chief who fatally shot an unarmed black man in South Carolina in 2011 has been charged with murder, and his lawyer says prosecutors took advantage of national outrage toward police to get the indictment….

Combs was the police chief of Eutawville in 2011 when he fatally shot Bernard Bailey during a struggle outside town hall.

Prosecutor David Pascoe said at a bond hearing Thursday that he told Combs’ lawyer last year that he would pursue a murder charge if a judge rejected Combs’ self-defense claim. The judge rejected the claim this week.

Interesting, huh? Note that this is David Pascoe, the prosecutor who doesn’t fool around with law-breakers, whoever they might be…

Here are some basic, immutable truths about SC politics. Now, someone please, please go prove me wrong…

I was inspired by this piece by Chris Cillizza of The Fix, who was in turn inspired by this John Harris piece in Politico., headlined “The Dark Art of Political B.S.”

For much of my career writing political opinion, I have been told by various people that I shouldn’t keep banging my head against walls and expecting the impossible, because things are just a certain way, and they’ll always be a certain way.

Except that things do change. They do. As Cillizza writes:

“Current trends never continue indefinitely,” Harris write. “Politics especially is an infinitely fluid process, refreshed continually by new issues, new circumstances and, above all, new voters with different generational perspectives. Politicians are intelligent people, whose ambitions naturally orient them to accommodate change and find a way to prosper in it.

The central contention of Harris’ piece is that modern politics — cable TV, Twitter, You Tube and all the rest — moves at a pace that makes predicting anything beyond the next few days virtually impossible. And that fact makes the entire political media industry — which prides itself on seeing around corners — on shaky ground even when at its best. “A lot of what political journalists write as we try to divine larger meaning from election results involves a whiff of bovine byproducts,” writes Harris.

He’s right.  And I’ve become more and more convinced of that fact the longer I have been writing about politics….

Presidents always lose seats in their second midterm election. Until Bill Clinton in 1998. Senators don’t get elected president. See Obama, Barack. The South will always be solidly Democratic. There will be no white Democrats in the Deep South in the 114th Congress….

Things that were never going to happen, happen. The Berlin Wall is an absolute barrier, until one day it just comes down. The IRA and the Brits will never reach a peace accord, until they do. Nixon is the most implacable anti-Communist, until détente and ping-pong diplomacy. Hitler and Stalin have a non-aggression pact, until they don’t. John Kerry voted for it before he voted against it. Barack Obama holds the firm belief that “that marriage is the union between a man and a woman,” until he doesn’t. Mark Sanford is a dedicated family man, until, you know.

Black people have to be drawn into majority-minority districts for black candidates to have a chance, because they can’t get elected at-large. Until Tameika Devine, Steve Benjamin, Tim Scott and Barack Obama.

To cite one very recent change close to home: Even though it was the one constitutional office that it made the least sense to elect, adjutant general was the one elective office that wasn’t ever going to switch to appointive. That’s because adjutants general continued to dance with the one that brung them, and their subordinates always followed their lead, and the Legislature and the rest of the electorate went with what the Guard wanted. And then, we get an adjutant general who favors reform, and bang! Things change.

Oh, and Bobby Harrell will never be made accountable for his mishandling of campaign funds, because he’s the speaker.

Never say never. Because things change.

With that in mind, I’d like to make a few absolutist statements about South Carolina, in the hope that I will in short order be utterly humiliated for having been so wrong. Here goes:

  • The Republican majority in the Legislature will never take down the Confederate flag from the State House grounds.
  • Nikki Haley and her allies will never see how absurdly irrational and harmful it is to South Carolina to refuse Medicaid expansion.
  • We’ll never see the ridiculously large numbers of school districts in South Carolina reduced, because it’s always in the interests of lawmakers to protect the status quo in their home communities.
  • The promise implied in the recent Supreme Court decision in favor of poor school districts will never be realized, because powerful suburban white Republicans will never devote the kinds of resources that are needed to poor, rural districts.
  • South Carolina taxpayers will continue to support the more than 500 unnecessary, duplicative little governments called “special purpose districts,” because most people don’t know they exist, and the districts themselves are too good at political self-preservation.

Maybe you have some eternal verities of your own you would like to toss onto the trash heap of history as well. Be my guest…

This morning’s CRBR legislative panel

Sen. Joel Lourie, Rep. Nathan Ballentine, Rep. Beth Bernstein, and Otis Rawl of the state Chamber.

Sen. Joel Lourie, Rep. Nathan Ballentine, Rep. Beth Bernstein, and Otis Rawl of the state Chamber.

I went to this morning’s “Legislative Lowdown” breakfast sponsored by the Columbia Regional Business Report. I waited and let Chuck Crumbo go ahead and write about it, since he gets paid to, and here’s his report. Use that as a baseline.

The panel was the same as this one in 2010, only with Rep. Beth Bernstein in place of Rep. James Smith.

Here are a few random impressions I formed:

First, while I think these annual sessions have been highly informative and fair to all viewpoints, CRBR should probably make an extra effort to get more Republicans on the panel, just to more accurately reflect realities. I wouldn’t take any of the Democrats away; I’d add a couple more Republicans — maybe Kenny Bingham and John Courson, or Katrina Shealy.

Here’s the one thing I Tweeted out during the session:

Otis wasn’t saying we shouldn’t have ethics reform, but he certainly seemed to regard it as a distraction, as a plate of vegetables with no meat, saying, “I know they’ve got to do this,” but… His tone reminded me of the bank examiner in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Remember George Bailey, all animated, telling him about the fact that his brother is going to the White House to receive the Medal of Honor from the president, and the bank examiner says, without a shred of interest, “Well, I guess they do those things….”

Well, that’s Otis being told about ethics reform. He supposes legislators have to get this ethics stuff out of their system, but he’ll be glad when they’re done and move on from it.

Now in his defense, he sees the urgent need for workforce preparation, infrastructure and other things that bear on our economic well-being, and he should be focused on those things. But he was really a wet blanket on the ethics stuff.

Others were more interested in the topic. Rep. Bernstein predicted that, again, the sticking point will be independent oversight, instead of lawmakers policing themselves. She said that was key, but signaled willingness in a pinch to accept a “hybrid” approach, with some lawmaker participation.

On Medicaid expansion, Sen. Joel Lourie said two things that interested me. First that Christian Soura, the guy Nikki Haley just appointed to replace Tony Keck at HHS despite his never having done anything like that, is a very impressive guy. I’ve gotta meet this guy, if Joel thinks that. Or at the least, hear an elaboration on what impressed Joel. Then, he said he appreciates the position of those who oppose Medicaid expansion because they’re worried about the state having to pay 10 percent of the cost after three years. I usually don’t hear Democrats say things like that.

As Chuck noted in the lede of his report, there was pretty much a consensus that for lawmakers to act meaningfully on paying for roads, there would have to be a lot of pressure on them from outside the State House. Sen. Lourie said there are three kinds of people in the Legislature on this — those who clearly see the need to come up with road funding, those who can maybe be talked into it, and “the not no, but ‘hell no’ group.” Republican Nathan Ballentine said that was accurate, and “The majority in the House, the majority in my party, are in the ‘hell no’ category.” He says he’s not afraid of raising the gas tax, and noted that he voted for the cigarette tax increase awhile back. But getting the rest to go along will take heavy lifting, especially with the governor’s veto threat. There was discussion of raising fees for driver’s licenses. Otis Rawl noted that we only pay about $2 a year for those, and certainly, he asserted, it’s worth more than that for our families to travel on safe roads (and for our goods to get to market, he was quick to add).

It was predicted that roads, ethics and one other matter — reacting to the Supreme Court decision saying the Legislature hasn’t done enough to educate children in poor, rural districts — will dominate the session. The general consensus among these suburban lawmakers was that whatever is done for the poor, rural districts, it not be taken away from the affluent suburban districts. Which to me indicates more money would have to come into state coffers, although I didn’t hear anyone say that overtly.

And of course, more than money is needed. After talking about how bad things are in Marion County, Sen. Lourie said, “Maybe we don’t need three districts in Marion County.”

That caused me to break my rule about not asking questions at such events. I rose to suggest that everyone talks about school district consolidation until it strikes close to home. I agree that there shouldn’t be three districts in Marion County, but I asked, “should there be three districts in Richland County, and five in Lexington?”

He actually had a good answer. As he said, if the state is going to help out Marion County in ways that Richland and Lexington districts aren’t asking it to do and don’t need it to do, then there’s an extra expectation that Marion should do some things it can do on its own — like getting rid of duplicative administration. Rep. Ballentine agreed, saying there’s a much greater imperative to consolidate in districts with fewer students total than you would find in a single school in the city.

Yes, they’re right. The case for consolidation is much more compelling in the rural districts. But that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be a good thing in the big counties, as well.

Anyway, that’s my rambling report…

 

Pelosi, Clyburn keep their House posts as Democrats opt for more of the same

Democrats in Congress evidently think they’ve been doing everything just right for the last few years, based on this:

House Democrats on Tuesday elected Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her top four lieutenants to remain atop the party in the 114th Congress.clyburn cropped

The move was hardly a surprise, as none of the current leaders — including Pelosi, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.), Assistant Leader Jim Clyburn (S.C.), Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra (Calif.) and Vice Chairman Joe Crowley (N.Y.) — faced challengers in their bids to lead the party for the next two years.

But the leadership votes came amid some grumbling from rank-and-file members that the Democrats need a new direction after failing to take the House majority in three straight election cycles. In two of those cycles, 2010 and 2014, they were clobbered.

Pelosi and Hoyer have been in the top spots since 2003, fueling anxiety among a younger crop of Democrats who aren’t able to move up….

I can certainly understand the grumbling.

Meanwhile, down on the ground level, a couple of party operatives reminded us of what parties are all about. I liked this take on it, from Ed Rogers:

A leaked e-mail thread started by two Hillary Clinton operatives, Robby Mook and Marlon Marshal, has drawn some ire from Republicans who take offense at their message. Highlights include operatives calling themselves “Deacon” and “Reverend,” and threats to “smite Republicans mafia-style” and “punish those voters.”…

Can you imagine if these e-mails had been sent by a Republican –- say, Karl Rove? I can picture the New York Times and the other usual suspects swooning in faux shock, weeping and gnashing of teeth, their eyes rolling back in their head, struggling to maintain consciousness while pounding out another tired piece about how the Republican Party has destroyed politics and debased our political discourse with their cynical hate speech or whatever. Gasp!…

What does the Democratic Party stand for today if not just grabbing power, holding power, government for government’s sake and offering and maintaining dependence in exchange for votes? The Democratic brand and what it means to be a Democrat should get a hard look after the party’s six years in power. These recent incidents are not isolated -– they are indicative of a party that is moribund and needs a new reason to justify its existence.

And yet today, they just decided to continue on their merry way, doing what they’ve been doing…

Yet another reminder politicians are people

Two quick contact reports:

  • Yesterday afternoon, I grabbed a cup of coffee with Mike Cakora, who recently returned to the blog as a regular commenter after a five-year absence. It was great to have him back, and I was happy to get to catch up with him. I knew Mike from before I started blogging. He was one of the guest columnists we recruited at The State, back in the days when we had the money and staff time for such things. We’d have these column-writing contests, and I was always gratified to see the hundreds of entries that would come in (considering that the rules required submitting three columns with little hope of their being published). Then we’d pick 8 for a year, and they’d each write a column a month, and we’d pay them a nominal amount for the columns. Mike was one of our winners one year. Anyway, we had a wide-ranging conversation about politics, working for a living in the New Normal, espionage (specifically, the TV show “The Assets”), and the social alienation that forms people like Edward Snowden. Mike and I see eye-to-eye on a lot of things, but not everything.
  • Earlier, I’d had breakfast with Rep. James Smith. We talked about a number of things, too, such as whether he might run for governor in four years (he doesn’t know) and if he did, what lessons he might have learned from his friend Vincent Sheheen’s failed campaigns. (As it happened, Sheheen texted James while we were eating. He was in a deposition, and trying to adjust to getting back to earning a living with the campaign over.) At one point in the meal, Attorney General Alan Wilson came over to say hey. Any casual observer could see he and James get along well. But then, I’ve noticed Alan gets along well with a lot of Democrats, and James does so with a lot of Republicans. Alan turned to me, pointed to James and said, “This is my lawyer!” Rep. Smith represented his re-election campaign. After Wilson left, James said he has a lot of clients in the Legislature, including a number of Republicans. (So obviously, Kevin Hall and Butch Bowers don’t have all of them.) I noted that if he did run for governor, he might find a formidable opponent in his client Alan Wilson. He agreed. He said the same might be true of Tommy Pope (whose Twitter feed says he’s “working toward sc governor in 2018“).

Anyway, it was a perfectly ordinary slice of life, illustrating gently the point I try to make so often, because so many voters don’t seem to understand. Politicians aren’t just Democrats or Republicans. They’re not monolithic. At least, the good ones aren’t. They’re many-faceted. They’re actual, complete, three-dimensional people, who are capable of interacting with each other in normal, human ways, instead of as partisan automatons.

But y’all probably get tired of me making that point. Which I know sounds like such a stupid point: Of course they’re people, right? Well… I often think we don’t get that, going by what I see written and hear said about politics.

And maybe I do it in part because, after another election season in which most elections are foregone conclusions because of the way we’re separated into districts in which one or the other party dominates, I need to remind myself…

 

Are yard signs gone yet in your neighborhood?

The morning after the election, a black sedan was stopped on my street. A man got out and removed a campaign yard sign from the yard of one of my neighbors, got back into the car and drove on toward the next one. I didn’t recognize the guy, couldn’t see whose sign it was and couldn’t remember having noticed it before.

But I was impressed with this one campaign’s diligence in cleaning up post-campaign clutter.

Beth Bernstein reminds me that the process of cleanup continues:

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

A necessary evil of campaigning is the proliferation of campaign signs, and I really appreciate those who agreed to put a yard sign in their yard.  The day after the election, my family and I worked diligently to collect as many yard signs as possible.  Although we collected around 300 signs, I am sure we still have some out there.  If you have a sign that needs to be picked up, please let me know.

The last of my billboard signs was picked up yesterday. Unfortunately, it was more labor intensive to collect those so it took a little longer to coordinate that effort.

Thank you for the honor and privilege of serving you and our community in the Legislature!

Warm regards,

So, are all the signs gone in your neighborhood?

Court rules for poor kids in 21-year-old lawsuit, says SC hasn’t done enough to educate them

I hadn’t intended to post today beyond the Open Thread, but this is major, historic news.

I wish Steve Morrison, who led the charge on this for so long, had lived to see this:

The South Carolina Supreme Court has ruled that state government is not doing enough financially to guarantee a “minimally adequate” education for public school students in poor areas of the state.

The court ruled 3-2 Wednesday in favor of plaintiff districts in the 21-year-old school equity suit.

The court rejected state lawmakers’ arguments that decisions on school funding belong to the General Assembly, not the courts. Lawmakers had argued that they alone should determine what the state constitution’s “minimally adequate” means.

Justices, however, found that the school districts must better identify solutions for their districts’ needs and work with state lawmakers on how to fix them….

Of course, the big, billion-dollar question is, What will South Carolina DO about it?

It is, unfortunately, up to our General Assembly. As Chief Justice Jean Toal wrote:

“it is the Defendants who must take the principal initiative,” the ruling states, “as they bear the burden articulated by our State’s Constitution, and have failed in their constitutional duty to ensure that students in the Plaintiff Districts receive the requisite educational opportunity”

But WILL they? They, after all, are the ones who have fought this. How can the Court compel action in this case? I don’t know enough to say…

The Quinn sweep

FYI, Richard Quinn and Associates has been celebrating for the past week:

RQ&A Celebrates Election Sweep

(COLUMBIA, S.C.) Richard Quinn & Associates (RQ&A), celebrated another successful election on Tuesday.  Our firm helped lead numerous Republicans to victory in the Nov. 4 General Election.

“It truly is a great honor to work with such talented leaders at every level of government,” said company founder and president Richard Quinn.  “We regard playing a small part in helping them win election as our own special form of public service.”

RQ&A’s roster of winners was led by five successful statewide candidates — a list that included nearly half the state’s Constitutional officers.  RQ&A clients U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, Attorney General Alan Wilson, and State Treasurer Curtis Loftis all won re-election, while clients Henry McMaster and Molly Spearman were elected Lt. Governor and State Superintendent of Education respectively for the first time.

Columbia-based RQ&A also assisted Congressman Joe Wilson, the dean of South Carolina’s Republican federal delegation, in his re-election victory, as well as a group of victorious State legislative races, including Reps. Kenny Bingham, Jenny Horne, Ralph Kennedy and Rick Quinn.

The 2014 elections may be over, but the RQ&A team isn’t taking any time to rest.  We are already planning for next year’s local elections and the upcoming South Carolina GOP Presidential Primary.

 

Of course, it helps to be a Republican consulting firm in a year such as this, and a number of their clients had no, or only token, opposition.

But you can certainly see why they’re celebrating. A year such as this is good for business.

SC’s American Party feels good about inaugural outing

They didn’t get anybody elected, but the new party started by Jim Rex and Oscar Lovelace is counting its blessings after Tuesday’s vote. And if you think about it, they did pretty well in their initial effort to break up the mindless two-party paradigm:

THE AMERICAN PARTY SHINES DURING INAUGURAL ELECTION

Columbia, S.C. – The candidates of South Carolina’s newest political party, the American Party, received more votes than that of any other third party’s candidates in Tuesday’s elections.

While only nine months old, the American Party of South Carolina out performed every other party except for the two major parties on Tuesday with American Party candidates receiving, collectively, more than 153,000 votes.unnamed

“We are extremely proud of our candidates and the positive way in which they ran their races,” said American Party Chairman Dr. Jim Rex. “With few financial resources and no television ads, we showed that ideas do matter and that voters are seeking more options at the polls than they have been getting.”

Rex pointed to the extremely low voter turnout at about 43 percent as a sign that voters are disenchanted with the status quo candidates.

As it stands now only a handful of voters in one of the major parties, during their primary, decide who our leaders are in South Carolina. Voter participation in general elections is getting lower and voter apathy is growing. Voters are getting fed up with the two-party status quo system and are staying home on election day.

While the major parties are becoming more and more extreme, the American Party is  focused on problem solving and governing from the middle.

According to Rex, it’s not just about who won or lost on Tuesday. The American Party is in this for the long haul to change South Carolina . Change does not occur overnight, but the American Party has made great strides in a very short time. The party believes that the political middle represents the largest portion of our electorate and that those voters are hungry for a fresh approach to politics.. “We will work to get beyond a system hijacked by partisan extremists and get back to governing. It will take a few election cycles, but we are on our way,” said Rex.

During 2015 the American Party will be organizing in each of South Carolina’s 46 counties while working on the party’s “Recall Election” initiative launched in September. The initiative is aimed at enhancing governmental accountability by amending the State Constitution to give registered voters the option to recall elected officials who violate the trust placed in them by the electorate.

More information on the American Party of South Carolina can be found on facebook and on line atwww.americanpartysc.gov.

The number of South Carolinians voting straight-ticket is sickening

straight

Pursuant to a conversation some of us had earlier about the election results, our own Doug Ross took it upon himself to crunch some numbers. And what he came up with was appalling.

Here’s his spreadsheet. Read it and weep. I almost did.

As you know, I get thoroughly disgusted at the idea that anyone, anywhere in this nation, would cop out of his duty as a citizen to the extent of voting a straight party ticket. That an American citizen, much less a fellow South Carolinian, would completely forego the responsibility of carefully considering each candidate, and surrender his precious birthright to anything so low and destructive as a political party — letting the party choose and think for him, on the most important decisions he must make as a citizen — is utterly shocking to me.

I don’t think the straight-party option should exist on ballots. It should be constitutionally banned. Short of that, I think the device should be used as a test to see whether you’re ready for the responsibility of voting: Choose the straight-ticket option, and your entire ballot should automatically be thrown out. If you can’t be bothered to think about each candidate and each position, you don’t deserve the franchise.

Given my thoughts on the matter, you can imagine my horror at the numbers Doug put together (based, I think, on the election commission’s numbers — Doug can elaborate on that).

According to Doug’s spreadsheet, almost half — 49 percent — of all voters in South Carolina Tuesday chose the straight-ticket option. Half of our fellow citizens just… couldn’t be bothered… to carefully consider each decision with which they were entrusted. They just made one decision — to not make any decisions for themselves, leaving them all to a party.

Twenty-three percent of them chose straight Republican; 25 percent went straight Democratic.

The numbers choosing a straight-party vote were particularly horrible in poorer, more rural counties, where the preference was usually Democratic. In Lee County, 72 percent of ballots were straight-ticket. The percentages weren’t as bad in the suburbs, but the raw numbers almost were.

Why, oh why, do people even bother to register to vote, if this is all they’re going to do?

ONE bit of progress in SC: We’ll no longer elect adjutant general

OK, I’m shaking off the doldrums here…

Let’s talk about something good that happened in yesterday’s election: We changed our constitution so that South Carolina is no longer a banana republic wannabe. We will no longer politicize the state’s highest military post. We will no longer elect our adjutant general. Instead, the AG will be appointed by duly constituted civilian authority, according to specific requirements, according to actual qualifications.

No, it’s not as big a deal as if we stopped electing, say, the superintendent of education. But it’s something. Set it alongside the decision in the last election to stop separately electing the lieutenant governor, and the elimination of the constitutionally perverse Budget and Control Board, and we’re starting to get a state government that is organized at least for the 20th century, if not the 21st.

Of all the executive-branch posts that, against all reason, we have continued to elect separately from the governor (thereby fragmenting the already-weak executive), the adjutant general was the one that most obviously needed to change. We were the only state in the nation that chose its top-ranking officer in a popularity contest — a partisan popularity contest, which produced the obscene situation of having a serving officer declare a party affiliation.

But it also seemed like the office that was most resistant to reform. The incumbent AG was always opposed to it (politicians dance with the one that brung them, and we required our AGs to be politicians), and those serving under him tended to follow his example, and the public at large tended to give the Guard what it wanted.

But things changed in South Carolina, and that is something to celebrate. Leadership in both parties embraced change, and most importantly, the incumbent AG did, too. And the rest of us followed suit.

And so we took a step forward in South Carolina yesterday. And that’s something to celebrate.

The results are in: More of the same

Two weeks ago, I wrote of being dispirited by the prospects of the upcoming election. I was sufficiently down that Bryan Caskey did a Ferris Bueller to my Cameron Frye and took me skeet-shooting, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

But now, the election results are in, and they did not disappoint. They contain nothing likely to instill enthusiasm.

The bottom line is, things will stay the same in South Carolina — and in the nation, too. Anyone who thinks it matters which party controls the Congress is seriously deluded. It’s the same bunch of people, playing the same game (the “Which Party is Up Today?” game) the same way. I see that Harry Reid is out of power, and I go, “Yay!” and I see Mitch McConnell rise to power and I go, “Oh, dang.”

The way I feel (and yes, I’m talking about feelings rather than thoughts, which shows I’m just not myself today), overall, about this election is captured well in this datum, which The Washington Post describes as “The single most depressing number in the national exit poll“:

One of the fundamental truisms of American life is this: Your kids will have a better life — more opportunities, more creature comforts, more whatever — than you did/do.  Except that people don’t believe that any more, according to preliminary exit polls.

Almost half of all Americans — 48 percent — said they expected life for “future generations” to be “worse than life today,” while 22 percent said it would be better. Another 27 percent said life would be about the same. Do the math and you see that more than twice as many people are pessimistic about the future that they will leave their kids as those who are optimistic.  (Not surprisingly, among the 48 percent who believe future generations will be worse off, two thirds of them voted for Republicans in today’s election.)

Those are stunning — and depressing — numbers. And they are far from the only evidence that the American Dream is, if not dead, certainly dying in the eyes of many Americans….

How do you like them apples? Well, I don’t either, but there it is. And I think it reflects the national mood, as expressed in this election. Americans are fed up with politics, and have lost faith in its transformative power. They’re unhappy about the way things are going, but they don’t see a way to make them go better. So they express their dissatisfaction in the standard way — they punish the president’s party in the “midterm” election. They don’t have high hopes for change or anything, but they’ve expressed their pique.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. Good things happened. I’m happy that Lindsey Graham won. I’m glad to have him as my senator, and I get tired of everybody ragging on him. I’m not disappointed, exactly, that Vincent Sheheen lost because I expected him to. We’d be a lot better off if he’d won, and I probably wouldn’t be such a Toby Zeigler today, but that was never in the cards.

And good for Alan Wilson and Beth Bernstein and a number of others. I’m glad the Lexington 2 bond referendum passed.

But unless you are one of the winning candidates, or related to one of the winning candidates, I doubt that you are elated by the mushy gray events of yesterday.

Yeah, I think it’s nice that a black man was elected to the U.S. Senate, and a black Republican at that — anything that bumps us out of the usual ruts of partisan voting patterns is good. But I’d feel better if I thought he had inspired people somehow with ideas for how to better our nation. I can’t really put my finger on anything that I know he wants to do in office. We just, as a state, found him unobjectionable. He had the office, and we saw no reason to remove him from it. Tim Scott’s election is something that will look more exciting in the footnotes of history than it actually was.

OK, one other good thing happened that represents progress for South Carolina. I’ll write about it in a separate post. Don’t get your hopes up. It’s not exciting…

It took me 17 minutes to vote. A normal person would have taken 10, tops

The Quail Hollow precinct, at 8:21 a.m.

The Quail Hollow precinct, at 8:21 a.m.

Well, so much for the long lines that had been anticipated at Lexington County polling places, partly because of the plethora of referenda on the ballot.

From the time I got out of my car until the time I got back into it, 17 minutes passed. I figure at least seven of those were due to:

  1. My obsessive carefulness about voting. I’ve always been this way, since my first time voting in 1972 (I stood in the booth agonizing over the fact that I saw Nixon as an abuser of power, and McGovern as an incompetent, and trying to decide which was least bad). Once, in the days of actual booths with curtains, a poll worker asked, “Are you all right in there, sir?” When we used punch cards, I would put the card in and take it out a couple of times to make sure it was aligning properly, then take the completed ballot out, make sure the numbers next to all the holes corresponded to the numbers of the candidates I had meant to vote for, then run my hand up and down the back of the card a couple of times to make sure there were no bits of cardboard stuck there (this was before I knew they were called “chads”), and hold it up to the light to make sure all the punches were clean and complete. To this day, I find it absolutely inconceivable that anyone in Florida could have inadvertently voted for the wrong person in 2000. I always made sure. (And I preferred the cards to electronic machines because there was a physical thing proving how I’d voted.)
  2. The fact that the machine offered me two chances to go back and check — when it offered a summary of how I’d voted, and when it asked me to make sure that the races I’d left blank were intentionally left that way. I went back and reviewed everything both times, and then once more before hitting “confirm.” I take my vote very seriously.
  3. I took pictures of the how-I-voted summary pages, so I could remember how I voted, and not only for blogging purposes.
  4. When I initially got back to my car, I realized I hadn’t gotten an “I Voted” sticker, so I went back for one.

Then, of course, there was the small matter of making 27 separate voting decisions. Sure, I’d already made up my mind on most, but I took a little “are you sure?” couple of seconds on most of them.

Some stats and trivia:

  • I voted for three Democrats, seven Republicans, and one member of the new “American Party.”
  • I voted a straight State newspaper ticket, where applicable (they endorsed in some S.C. House races other than mine, and did not endorse in any of the Lexington County referenda).
  • I voted “yes” on four of the five referendum questions, and “no” on the other.
  • I left seven places blank, including, of course, the execrable, contemptible straight-party option, which should not be allowed under the law. Most of these involved unopposed people, but some involved competition between candidates with whom I was unfamiliar. And my standard rule, which I only occasionally break (see next bullet), is not to vote when I’m unsure of the candidates.
  • I voted for myself as a write-in for Congress. I had to choose three candidates for Lexington Two school board. I was not familiar with any of them. I wrote in my wife and my Dad (my Dad actually ran for the board once, many years ago), and the guy who had shaken my hand outside the polling place. That was my one whimsical, irresponsible, uninformed, against-my-own-rules vote. He had an honest face.

Overall, it went smoothly. There were three people in line to sign in ahead of me when I walked up, and one of those was gone before I could get out my phone and shoot the picture above. I had been handed several sheets of paper with explanations of the referenda, supposedly so I could study them in line, but I had no time in line even to glance at them.

The picture ID thing afforded me no trouble, beyond the hassle of digging it out of my wallet.

So how’d it go for you?

I had to go back for it, but I got my sticker.

I had to go back for it, but I got my sticker.

Just how uncompetitive the U.S. House elections are

house map

Click on the map above to go to a page where you can interact with it, and explore just how few House districts across the nation are competitive. It’s accompanied by various other charts that show graphically just how stacked the deck is across the country.

The dark red and dark blue districts are settled, foregone conclusions, thanks to the awful miracle of modern redistricting algorithms, which enable Legislatures to draw districts so that they are guaranteed to go for one party or the other — so that the only real contests are in primaries, which have the effect of pulling both parties farther and farther from the political center. The only thing most members of Congress fear is primary opponents who are more extreme than they are.

Of course, we know that there is no chance for the minority party in any of South Carolina’s seven congressional districts. That’s because ever since the redrawing that occurred after the 1990 census, the 6th District has been drawn as a super-extreme “majority-minority” district. I remember Jim Clyburn saying, way back in the 90s, that he didn’t really need his district to be gerrymandered to the extent that it was in order to win. Well, since then, if anything, our GOP Legislature has been even more generous with the state’s one Democratic congressman.

Why? because every black voter they can shove into Clyburn’s district makes the other six districts that much safer for Republicans.

This is, after all, how they came to power in the Legislature to start with. Black Democrats were unsatisfied with the number of majority-minority districts Speaker Bob Sheheen and the other white Democrats were willing to draw after the 1990 census. So they joined forces with the Republicans to pass a plan that created more of them — and consequently made the surrounding districts whiter, and more Republican.

And abracadabra — we had a Republican House, and Sheheen wasn’t speaker anymore. And a few years later, the Senate followed suit. And the Black Caucus got a few more members, but they were now all in the minority party, which meant the caucus had traded away much of its ability to get anything done once elected.

But I digress….

The larger issue nationally is that voters no longer have a viable choice in general elections for Congress. Which is a terrible thing to have happened to our representative democracy.

THE most cringe-inducing political ad of the 2014 election

Doug Ross brought this to my attention in a previous thread, and he was castigated for seeming to criticize these ladies for their appearance.

Which I don’t think he meant to do.

In any case, what’s wrong with this painful ad has nothing to do with anyone’s relative attractiveness.

This is, without a doubt, the most cringe-inducing ad I’ve seen this election year. Terrible idea, very badly executed. Or maybe it just seems like a bad idea because it’s done so badly…

No… No… It was a bad idea, compounded by the poor acting skills of the principals. Or maybe they’re wonderful thespians, but were so put off by the material that they just weren’t at the top of their game. Dying is easy; comedy is hard. And dark, twisted comedy is the hardest, apparently.

Next time, if there is a next time, just have Jenny endorse her. Leave out the way-too-creepy joke…

FYI, Legislative Black Caucus DID have a white member

black-caucus

Members of the Legislative Black Caucus, circa 2009.

On a previous thread, we got into the whole why-can’t-there-be-whites-only-organizations-when-there-are-blacks-only-organizations thing (get enough white guys together, and this will eventually come up — you know how those people are), with the Legislative Black Caucus being mentioned, as per usual.

Which reminds me…

Last time we had such a discussion, I got an enlightening DM from Bakari Sellers. Our conversation follows:

Harvin

Huh. “She paid her dues and asked.” Doesn’t sound like a terribly high bar.

By the way, here’s evidence, if you need it.

Cathy Harvin, for those who don’t recall, was elected to the SC House in 2005 in a special election to replace her late husband, Alex. She served for five years until her own death, at the age of 56, from breast cancer.

To my knowledge, the caucus does not currently have any white members.

How much weight should we give to bad jobs news in SC?

tumblr_inline_ne0b8ni5Iw1r3abgt

The state Democratic Party has been sending out a steady stream of bad SC jobs news as a way of undercutting Nikki Haley’s big strength — the narrative that, whatever else you think of her, she’s done a good job of recruiting jobs for the state.

I’ve been inclined to ignore these, because, let’s face it — companies are always going as well as coming, or shrinking as well as growing, and you can’t disprove a trend with anecdotal evidence.

Also, you have to wonder how seriously the party takes these bad-news announcements, since on the “Haley’s Smoke and Mirrors” website, they accompany each one with a cutesy GIF, like the one above. As a guy who’s spent a good bit of time unemployed after being laid off, I find myself wondering what’s so funny about these situations. Even if the overall trend in SC is good, each of these items is very bad news for some individual South Carolinians.

But in the last few days, the sheer volume of these news items has worn away my doubts to the point that I’m wondering whether this is an unusually bad streak of developments.

I don’t know. But you can peruse them at the website. And here are the headlines of the last 11 such releases I’ve received, over just the second half of this month:

  1. PTR Announces Layoffs One Week After Haley Visit
  2. SC’s economy slows, jobless rate jumps
  3. S.C. foreclosure filings above national average despite 11% decrease
  4. Jobless rate now highest in state
  5. S.C.jobless rate up to 6.6 percent in September
  6. Bi-Lo to cut jobs at former Mauldin headquarters
  7. Heinz to close Florence facility employing 200 workers
  8. Truth Check: Is SC’s economy ‘one of fastest growing on East Coast’?
  9. 200 to lose jobs as Orangeburg plant closes
  10. Major Upstate employer announces relocation to NC
  11. GE Prepares Global Layoffs, Some Greenville Jobs Affected

OK, one of those is out of place — Jobless rate now highest in state — since some part of the state will always be the highest in the state, regardless of how good things are. But the other 10 provide a fairly steady drumbeat of actual bad news.

Now, here’s a HUGE grain of salt: These were not real-time announcements. They were from over a much-longer period of time than the dates of the releases would indicate. Some weren’t even from this year. So consider that.

By the way, did you make the connection on that first one? That’s the gun manufacturer that caused our governor’s eyes to light up so…

Nikki gun