Category Archives: South Carolina

McMaster’s outrageous kick in the face to public education

McMaster

I keep putting off writing about this because I haven’t had time to sit down and fully vent about it. But I might as well post something to get the conversation started.

This guy that you my fellow citizens elected governor had $48.5 million at his disposal in the governor’s discretionary education part of the money Washington sent South Carolina under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act passed at the start of the pandemic emergency in March.

He decided to send $32 million — just under two-thirds of it — to private schools!

In all these years that the worst kinds of Republicans in South Carolina have tried to find ways to shift public funds away from public education and use it to pay parents to abandon those schools, I’ve never seen anyone even suggest attempting to do anything as bald, as naked, as outrageous as this.

As the Post and Courier put it, in this one swoop, McMaster has accomplished “unilaterally what advocates have tried to push through the Legislature for 16 years.” “Advocates,” of course, being a polite way to refer to enemies of public education.

As bad as we thought Mark Sanford was, he never did anything like this. Then again, he never had the opportunity. Of course, I have to admit that Sanford being Sanford, he would have spent all his energy trying to prevent the federal money from coming to South Carolina to start with. There are different kinds of crazy.

This isn’t crazy, though. It’s just hostile — to the very idea of public schools, to the bottom-line concept that all of South Carolina’s children should have an opportunity to get ahead in the world — or at least to start catching up. And of course it’s an utter rejection of the idea that the state has an obligation to help them get that opportunity.

He can’t order South Carolinians to wear masks to save lives. That would be too bold. But he can do this.

Good to see my friends connecting on Twitter

Doug and Mandy

Wonder what Doug Ross is up to during his year without blogging (due to a New Year’s resolution that he has impressed us all by keeping)?

Well, he’s doing pretty much the same stuff, only on Twitter.

I had to smile today at the exchange pictured above in a screenshot.

It’s nice to see two of my friends getting together to work on issues on Twitter.

Of course, as I reported earlier, Doug is also a contributor to Mandy’s re-election campaign. So, good for him there, as well.

As for the issue itself, of course… I’m kinda “meh” on it. Either way, whatever. I sort of get the impression Mandy feels the same way. I can’t remember whether I’ve ever discussed it with her.

I know I’ve discussed it with James, though. In fact, I went and dug up a statement I put together for him about it during the campaign. It’s not something we ran on. But a reporter in Charleston was doing a story about it, and asking various pols for statements. I wasn’t crazy about commenting on things we weren’t running on — I had ambitions of imposing message discipline — but we didn’t turn our noses up at it the way we did stupid “have you stopped beating your wife” questions like “Do you want to abolish ICE?”

Anyway… here’s what I put together on it. I have no way of knowing whether we actually put it out like this. It’s just in a random Word file, not a release or anything. So James might have had me change it before giving it to the reporter:

I’m for regulating it and getting the revenue that the state is missing out on now.

I’m not pro-gambling per se. But this is a matter of common sense, and an example of what I mean when I say it’s not about big government or small government – I’m for smart government.

As everyone knows, people are already betting on sports in South Carolina, big-time. But it’s happening in the shadows, and its an invitation to crime.

We need to regulate it, and keep criminals from controlling and profiting from it.

And the state of South Carolina can certainly use the revenue. I’ve seen figures that estimate Rhode Island could net $25 million from sports betting. If that’s correct, South Carolina would easily see quite a lot more, since we have five times the population. That’s money we could really use, for schools, for infrastructure, for healthcare, for public safety.

So, you know, we were for regulating it if you really wanted an answer. Assuming that was the official statement. I don’t think anyone but that one reporter ever used any of it.

McMaster’s position, by the way, was that he was dead set against it, as his mouthpiece said: “It flies in the face of everything South Carolina stands for.” Highly debatable, of course, but you knew where he stood.

We were much more definitely for medical cannabis, which if if I remember correctly was one of the reasons Doug not only gave to our campaign, but voted for us. Not an issue I would have chosen to back our ticket over, but then I’m not a libertarian like our friend Doug….

So much for ‘the common sense and wisdom of the people’

Henry still

Last night, Mandy tweeted this:

I had to respond, “Does that mean his ‘faith in the common sense and wisdom of the people’ has been shaken?” (Y’all remember that, right? It’s the underlying idea in everything Henry has done — and especially in what he has not done.)

Perhaps it has — but only shaken, not abandoned. He’s clinging to the notion that people will spontaneously coordinate collectively to do what needs to be done to turn back the resurgence of COVID — the resurgence which daily asserts itself, with today’s total of new cases again being the highest ever — with nothing from him but occasional verbal encouragement.

Thanks, senator. It’s good to hear our votes count

text from Graham

Just got this text from Lindsey Graham’s campaign on my phone a few minutes ago.

I look forward to the day when he realizes that the support of those of us here on the blog — and millions of others who are just as disgusted by him for taking pride in attaching himself to Donald J. Trump — was what really mattered all along.

Maybe we can prove that to him in November.

Expect to see more about that in the coming months…

In SC, we continue to set new records for coronavirus cases

I found this image of the coronavirus on Wikipedia.

I found this image of the coronavirus on Wikipedia./file

Just thought I’d post this, and see what y’all think of it:

Here are some more details on that.

As for what I think of it — well, I think people trying to go back to “normal” is crazy. Of course, I’m one of those people who could stand to keep going like this pretty much indefinitely — as long as I could hug my grandchildren.

Vote against S.C. GOP effort to disenfranchise you

File photo from 2018 primary.

File photo from 2018 primary.

I’m voting in the Republican primary on Tuesday. The choice of which primary, of course, was easy. Where I live, there is no Democratic primary this year. Not one contested race.

Not that the choices offered on the GOP ballot are anything to write home about. There are some candidates running against Lindsey Graham and Joe Wilson, but what do you think their chances are? I am going to look more closely into one of the candidates running challenging Graham, after Scout said supportive things about him the other day. But bottom line, on these two positions we DO have good alternatives for once in the fall, so I’m going to be voting for Jaime Harrison and Adair Ford Boroughs. Jaime is an excellent candidate and I’m really pleased to have the privilege of supporting him, and while I don’t know Ms. Boroughs as well, I can tell she’d be better than Joe. Way better.

Lexington County Sheriff Jay Koon has opposition, but I know next to nothing about that. There’s the problem that the sheriff of the county I live in just doesn’t make news the way my twin over in Richland County does. He keeps a much lower profile than, say, Jimmy Metts did. So I need to try to get schooled up a bit by Tuesday. If I don’t learn enough to make an informed choice, I’ll skip that race.

But there’s one thing to vote on that I wouldn’t miss, that I would beat down doors to have the chance to have my say on: I’m going to vote against the Republican Party’s effort to take away my right to vote.

Oh, the wording seems innocuous enough, to anyone completely clueless about what’s going on: “Do you support giving voters the right to register to vote with the political party of their choice?”

Golly, who could be against that, right? Shouldn’t we have the right to back any party we want? Well, yeah — and it’s a right we already have, and one that is not even slightly endangered. There is no rule against backing a party, and no such rule is threatened.

What’s threatened here is the rights of those of us who don’t want to support a party, any party. If you know what’s going on, you read the question differently. I read it this way: “Do you support banning people like you from being able to vote?” Anyone who wishes to make his or her own decisions in future elections — rather than surrendering that power to a party — will read it that way.

Of course, what I mean is, vote in primaries. Which, the way Republicans have rigged things through the process of gerrymandering (as Democrats would have done if they’d had the chance, but they don’t, and haven’t had since the science of politicians choosing their voters got really sophisticated), are increasingly the only time we get a choice in who our legislators are.

That’s generally the case in congressional races, too — although as I said, this year is unusual in that Joe Wilson has a pretty good Democratic opponent in November. Of course, he and predecessor Floyd Spence have occasionally had other good opponents over the years (Jim Leventis in 1988, Jane Frederick in 2000) — but the district remains drawn for Republicans, so he still enjoys a great advantage in November.

As Cindi Scoppe explained in an enewsletter (let me know if you have trouble getting that link) the other day:

With obvious exceptions, primaries are probably more important than the general election. That’s because so many contests in South Carolina are decided in the primaries — a result of the GOP domination statewide along with the gerrymandering of congressional, legislative, county council and in too many places even school board district lines. (The gerrymandering sometimes benefits Republicans, sometimes Democrats and never, ever voters.)

But extremists in both parties want to make primaries private affairs, to make sure the nominated candidates are as extreme as possible. Used to be, party leaders opposed these efforts, and most elected officials still do, realizing that the way you win elections in November is by getting people bought into the candidates through the primaries. But the state Republican Party leadership was taken over a few years ago by people who want to stop the rest of us from voting in these most crucial elections unless we swear an oath of allegiance to their party, and again this year they’ve put a deceptively worded question on the GOP primary ballot aimed at locking us out….

Cindi was being rather mild there with that “deceptively worded question.” As the paper Cindi works for now put it in an editorial, it is “a grossly misleading question.” As that editorial continued:

The ballot question is designed by party officials who want to force all of us to register our allegiance to a political party — or else be barred from participating in primaries. The results have no force of law, but if a majority of Republican primary voters say “yes,” those party leaders will use it as ammunition to demand that the Republicans who control the Legislature change long-standing state policy to close the ballot to all but the most partisan among us.

That might not be such a huge problem if we had competitive elections in November, but we rarely do….

Oh, as for the business of this not being binding: Of course it isn’t. If it were an actual referendum, it would have to be worded differently to achieve its aim. But this not a legal device, it’s a political one, meant to achieve a political purpose. In this case, the purpose is to enable the party to say to its members in the General Assembly: How can you vote against our bill to close primaries? Didn’t you see how people asserted their right to partisan identity in the primary? Aren’t you, like them, proud to be a Republican?

The S.C. GOP has a long and shameful history of using this ham-handed device to bludgeon its own members into doing stupid and even terrible things. In case you’re forgotten, Cindi wrote a column a few days back to remind you how Henry McMaster, as party chairman, and other GOP leaders used their 1994 primary to wrap themselves in the Confederate flag for a generation. If you don’t remember that the way I do — as one of the most shameful things I’ve seen in SC politics in a long career — you should probably go read that piece, and be reminded.

sample

Not a thing you expect to see happen in Columbia

A police car burns in downtown Columbia.

A police car burns in downtown Columbia.

Two weeks ago, my church started having live masses again. I continued to watch them online, but they were happening. Now, they’ve been stopped again — by a curfew, in response to violence.

I didn’t post about this yesterday, because I was hoping to know a lot more if I waited. I still can’t say I know a lot. Local media seem to be trying hard, but there are more questions than answers.

So I’m still where I was when I saw the first reports of violence and gunshots near the police station downtown. My reaction then was, Hold on. Something is really, really off here. Things like this don’t happen in Columbia.

And they don’t. Normally, public demonstrations — particularly those having to do with issues touching on racial tension — are very much in the dignified, MLK tradition of civil witness. I’ve certainly been to plenty of them, with regard to the flag and other matters. And there are certain things you expect — things that make you proud to live in a community such as this one.

Columbia has a long tradition of this. In the early and mid-’60s, both black and white leaders in the community looked around the country, and they began talking to each other to try to get us through desegregation without the strife seen elsewhere. This was harder than it looks from today’s perspective. There was no venue for such conversations — black and white folks coming together as equals — to take place. Then-president Tom Jones offered to let them meet on campus at USC. These conversations led, among other things, to a relatively peaceful desegregation of downtown businesses.

Out of those conversations grew the Greater Columbia Community Relations Council, whose board I felt honored to serve on for several years (until just a few months ago). We didn’t accomplish anything so dramatic during my time, but the spirit that those meetings in the ’60s represented — let’s get together and figure out how to solve this — seemed reflected in how we talked about difficult issues in Columbia.

Even when horrible, evil things happened in South Carolina — such as the murders of those nine good people in Charleston in 2015 — I remember seeing comments from people wondering why South Carolina didn’t explode violently the way other places had with less provocation. Instead, leaders came together to mourn, and then to take action, together, to get rid of the flag. Yep, all they did was something that should have been done decades earlier — which means that yes, we still have plenty to be ashamed of in South Carolina — but they did it.

So when I saw that there would be a demonstration in Columbia about the death of George Floyd, I figured it would be a demonstration that would show other places how this kind of thing is done — sober witness, a sharing of grief, an airing of frustration that would demand respect.

And, from what I have heard, that’s what happened. There was such a demonstration at the State House.

But then later, several blocks away, all hell broke loose. Violence. Police cars — and a U.S. flag — set on fire. Rocks thrown. Shots fired. Fifteen cops injured. It’s probably happened before, but I can’t remember when one cop has been injured in a riot in Columbia. Certainly nothing like this.

I’m not seeing these comments in the paper this morning, but yesterday I kept hearing from family members (as y’all know, I’m not much of a TV news watcher) that local leaders such as Mayor Steve Benjamin and Sheriff Leon Lott were saying (if you can help me with a link, it would be appreciated) the violence was the work of people from out of town.

In other words, their reaction sounds like it was the same as mine: Things like this don’t happen in Columbia.

Mind you, these are leaders who themselves had expressed their outrage at what happened to George Floyd. But they weren’t going to let people tear this town apart with pointless violence.

In Columbia, people protest. But they do it in a civilized manner, as we saw at the State House.

This was something else. And thus far, local officials are reacting appropriately to calm things down: Honoring those who express their grief and concerns in a rational manner. Stopping those who do things that don’t help any cause.

There’s a lot more to be done, locally and especially nationally. There are a lot of conversations to be had, and action to be taken. But for a community that’s unaccustomed to this kind of violence, we seem to be responding to it pretty well so far…

Henry finally steps up; makes SC last Southern state with ‘stay-home’ order (sort of)

henry

Editor’s note: I pulled the trigger pretty quickly on this post yesterday, before realizing that Henry’s was a “sorta kinda” stay-at-home order, and maybe I was giving him credit for doing more than he was doing. So I added the “sort of” in the headline…

As recently as Friday, Henry McMaster was saying we didn’t need a “stay at home” order from him, even though every other Southern state had one, on account of the fact that we are “unique.”

Hope that made all y’all feel special.

Anyway, I’m grateful that today we are somewhat less, shall we say, singular, as he has finally done the thing we’ve been waiting for him to do, and which it seems to me he had to know he was going to have to do eventually.

The order takes effect Tuesday.

Let’s hope he’s done it in time to prevent SC infections, and deaths, from increasing exponentially…

Thoughts?

I found this image of the coronavirus on Wikipedia.

I found this image of the coronavirus on Wikipedia.

How did your precinct vote? NYT has a cool interactive map

big map

I find that the most convenient place to find that hyperlocal information, right down to my neighborhood level, is…

The New York Times. I tried finding it at thestate.com, and maybe it’s there (in fact, I feel like it MUST be), but I couldn’t find it.

Anyway, they have an awesome interactive map. And I see that in my neighborhood, my man Joe cleaned up, with a higher percentage of the vote than he got overall in Lexington County.

Here are the numbers for my precinct:

Quail Hollow

 

To get your precinct, just go to the link, zoom in on your county, and roll the cursor around until you see your own polling station.

The best of all possible primary results!

Post Joe

I was really hopeful, but I never would have guessed that, once South Carolina FINALLY got to have its say, things would have gone as wonderfully as this.

JOE WINS

The best shot I could get from where I was standing.

Joe CRUSHED it.

South Carolina DELIVERED.

Now, finally, you can see national media — who have seized every opportunity to be as dismissive of Joe as possible — saying that he has emerged as the man to stop Bernie Sanders.

Joe was always the candidate for real Democrats wanting to save their party, and beat Trump. (And he was the candidate for a lot of us independents, too.) People — especially African-American voters — in South Carolina knew that. Today, they told the rest of the country.

And the rest of the country is taking note.

Will it be easy? No. This helps on Super Tuesday, but it’s impossible to predict anything with so many variables. But right now, at this moment, the race has taken on its proper shape, and I am hopeful.

Just a few thoughts before I sign off for the night:

  • Now, the only person who might be able to contest for the role of moderate savior of the party is Mike Bloomberg, who has been spending like crazy trying to win Super Tuesday while everyone else was campaigning. After Tuesday, we’ll know whether he’ll still be a factor or not. But even though he wasn’t on our ballot, South Carolina has passed judgment on him — only about a fourth of voters viewed him favorably in exit polls. Biden was favored by about three-fourths of respondents.
  • Tom Steyer, the guy who spent $23 million just on media trying to be a spoiler in South Carolina, has dropped out. I don’t know why he was disappointed at the result. He got third place. But he won’t be terribly missed as we go forward.
  • Will one of the other moderates — say Amy Klobuchar — drop out and throw her support to Joe? Or just drop out, in which case Joe is the most likely beneficiary anyway.
  • Pete Buttigieg will probably wait and see if he does better on Tuesday. If he doesn’t, he will likely quit. And when he does, he should leave the race feeling pretty good about how well he did. He made a tremendous, positive impression on the country, and has laid a good foundation for a stronger run when he has more life experience under his belt.
  • Thank you, Jim Clyburn. The country owes you one. I think Joe would have won without your endorsement, but he wouldn’t have won like THIS.
  • Joe got more votes than Sanders, Steyer, Buttigieg and Warren combined. Just in case you didn’t notice…
  • Also, notice the map of South Carolina in the screenshot below. You can take a closer look here. Joe won every single county in the state.

That’s all for now.

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty excited to see what happens next…

NYT SC

If you live 100 years, you may never again have a chance like this to influence the course of the nation

JRB-about-11

The last few days, I’ve been increasingly conscious of just how momentous this primary is today. I’ve felt the weight of it more and more.

I can’t think of a time when South Carolina played such a dramatic role in the selection of a president. Which is a big deal in and of itself. But the possible effects go far, far beyond that, sending ripples through our national politics that could be felt for a generation and more.

In the short term, one of two things will happen, depending completely on what my fellow South Carolinians do:

  1. Joe Biden will emerge as THE moderate that mainstream Democrats can get behind and stop Bernie Sanders from capturing the nomination. He’d still have a long road to travel to get there, even if his momentum from South Carolina leads to significant rewards nationally on Tuesday. But at least someone — and you know I believe he’s the best someone for this purpose — will be a position to deny the nomination to Sanders.
  2. Sanders will cement his standing as the front-runner, the majority of the Democratic electorate will remain fatally divided still among too many candidates, and Sanders will cruise to nomination on the strength of his passionate support among a minority of the party.

The second option, of course, will almost certainly lead to the re-election of Donald Trump, possibly with the kind of historic win that he lied about having in 2016.

Oh, it would be possible that enough Americans could die of coronavirus, and enough fortunes be wiped out on Wall Street as a result, for anybody, even Bernie, to beat Trump. But I certainly don’t want to see such a disaster. I don’t know about you.

And if something along those lines did happen, it’s extremely unlikely that Bernie will have a Democratic majority in either the House or the Senate. While voters might reject Trump personally over a pandemic, those moderate-to-conservative voters who elected moderate Democrats in 2018, giving that party its majority, will be sufficiently horrified at the prospect of President Sanders that they’ll vote to switch those districts back into the red.

Even if — and this is impossible — Democrats could keep the House while electing Bernie, and miraculously win the Senate, Bernie won’t be able to get his agenda through Congress. With both chambers being Republican, and the Republican base up in arms (in some cases possibly even literally) because of the defeat of Trump, he’ll get nothing but the back of the legislative branch’s hand. He’ll sit there in the Oval Office with his face getting redder and his arms flailing about, fulminating at how the system is rigged against him.

And he will keep his base as stirred up and angry as Trump keeps his. Because he promised them things, and they actually believed he could deliver. Nothing left to do but hate the billionayuhs even more, because obviously, obviously it will be their fault — in the Bernieverse.

But that wouldn’t be the worst news for the Democratic Party. The worst news is that it would be as dead as the GOP, and from basically the same kind of cause — its capture by someone who is not actually a Democrat, and who has crushed real Democrats on his way to nomination.

And in a way, the situation would be more overt than outsider Trump’s capture of the other party. Trump had always been kind of all over the place about his affiliation until just before the 2016 campaign. Bernie Sanders has made no bones about the fact that he is not a Democrat, and has refused to called one. And since calling himself a Social Democrat would be too tame, too mainstream, he has gone with the label “Democratic Socialist.” More in-your-face. More I-dare-you-to-vote-for-me. That’s Bernie.

You might think that after making such a strong run at the nomination in 2016, and obviously intending to try again, he might have softened a bit on his insistence that he was not a Democrat. But he didn’t; quite the contrary. It’s either Bernie’s way or the highway; he doesn’t bend even to appear to be a team player.

After Trump’s election, decent people who care about the country could at least place some hope in the Democratic Party, which had not yet gone off the rails. Surely the Democrats could find a way to beat this guy, and return our nation to the standards of decency and sanity that we were able to expect with our first 44 presidents.

Knowing the stakes, Joe Biden — a guy who had done his duty for his country for longer, and gone higher in public service, than any other member of the party — stepped forward to offer himself as the vehicle for that national return to sanity. He did so when almost anyone else would have sat back and enjoyed his grandchildren full time.

And if South Carolina comes through for him today, he’ll have a shot at accomplishing the mission. Just a shot, mind you. Nothing is guaranteed, but the alternative is to be resisted with all our might.

The stakes just couldn’t be higher. And it’s all in our hands. We will decide the course of the nation.

Inez Tenenbaum speaks up for Joe Biden

Joe Biden swears in Inez Tenenbaum as chair of the Consumer Products Safety Commission. That's Samuel in the middle looking justly proud.

Joe Biden swearing in Inez Tenenbaum as chair of the Consumer Products Safety Commission in 2009. That’s Samuel in the middle looking justly proud.

My good friend Samuel Tenenbaum shared with me a link to the radio ad Inez did for Joe.

It helps drive home my point in my previous post, about the folks Democrats have backed in the past pretty much all being for Joe — something I hope Democratic voters take to heart tomorrow.

Here’s the link, and here’s a transcript I just typed up, so blame any errors on me:

This is Inez Tenenbaum, your former state superintendent of education.

When I was chosen to lead the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission, the person who swore me into office was Joe Biden.

In the Obama-Biden administration, we worked together to keep our children safe, and Joe Biden was a champion for families all across our country, and South Carolina.

Joe Biden knows South Carolina. When our economy was in crisis, Joe Biden oversaw the Recovery Act, getting hundreds of millions of dollars for South Carolina schools.

For eight years, Joe Biden was loyal to President Obama. He had President Obama’s back, and stood by his side.

Now we have the opportunity to build on President Obama’s legacy, and beat Donald Trump. But that starts with nominating Joe Biden.

South Carolina, you can vote for Joe Biden on Saturday, February the 29th.

See you there!

[I’m Joe Biden, and I approved this message.”]

[Paid for by Biden for President.]

Thanks for taking the time to share those thoughts with us, Inez!

If you voted for James Smith — or any of these other top SC Democrats — then you should be voting for Joe Biden

Joe Biden campaigning with us in October 2018.

Joe Biden campaigning with us in October 2018.

In some very important ways, the Joe Biden campaign for president in South Carolina is, in my view, a continuation of the James Smith for governor campaign.

It’s not just that James himself is supporting Joe, as Joe supported him. At the recent Biden event at 701 Whaley, I was struck by how many of our key people from the 2018 campaign were continuing the mission by supporting Joe. It’s something I’d been aware of for some time, but hadn’t really thought about for a simple reason — it just seemed the most natural thing in the world.

At the top, you have Kendall Corley — who was our political director in 2018 — heading up Biden’s campaign in South Carolina. And Biden’s state political director is Scott Harriford, who was James’ driver and “body man” in 2018, and held the title of deputy political director. Scott was the first person James hired for the campaign, back in the summer of 2017, and was right there at his side from then through Election Day. (I thought I had an intense, whirlwind experience those last eight days on “the bus,” but Scott had been doing it for way over a year.)

Smith campaign alumni Ashley Medbery Floyd, me, and Noah Barker at a Biden event on Feb. 11.

Smith campaign alumni Ashley Medbery Floyd, me, and Noah Barker at a Biden event on Feb. 11.

At the 701 Whaley event I ran into Noah Barker, who assisted me with social media in 2018. Noah, who I think has reached the ripe old age of 19, is now working for the Biden campaign while attending college.

And while she’s not actually working in the Biden operation — she’s helping Jaime Harrison run against Lindsey Graham instead — Ashley Medbery Floyd, our finance directer in 2018, was at the 701 event, too. She and Noah and I marked the occasion with a selfie.

All this is natural because, well, there is such a bond between Joe and James. Their shared values are such that I don’t see how anyone who really believed in James in 2018 — and as his communications director, I certainly did and do — could possibly do anything but support Joe.

One of the things that drove me nuts back during the campaign was the way the political reporters went ape over anything having to do with 2020 presidential candidates coming through the state. They’d call me and ask what we’d be doing together with so-and-so on his or her swing through the state, or what we had to say about it, and it would put me in a bind. We didn’t want to say anything unkind about these national Democrats, but at the same time, we couldn’t have cared less about their visits. They were here for themselves, not for us.

But not Joe. Joe was our guy, and we couldn’t wait to see him. We knew he was coming, and we were really disappointed when he had to postpone his initially planned event because of complications related to the hurricane. But finally, on Oct. 13, he came down to Charleston to do a fund-raiser for us, and it was possibly the best day of my time on the campaign. And I could tell it was a high point for everyone else. (It was such a big deal that upon arriving in Charleston, Campaign Manager Scott Hogan went to a shop on King Street and bought himself a suit, and wore it to the event. You have to know Hogan to get what a big deal that was. He normally dressed like a guy about to go out and mow the lawn.)

Anyway, I could go on and on about the way one campaign flows into the other, but I have a point to make here, and it is this: If you voted for James, if you believed in James, you should believe in Joe Biden, and vote for him. I don’t see how you work it out any other way.

James is not authorizing me to say this (I haven’t asked him). I’m saying it myself.

As communications director, I think I have as good a grasp of what the Smith campaign was about as anyone does. It was a campaign for all the people of South Carolina — black, white, old young, male, female, Democratic, Republican and independent. It was a campaign that would Leave No One Behind.

And Joe is running the exact same kind of campaign for the soul of the nation.

One more point, an elaboration on that one: Maybe James Smith isn’t your favorite Democrat. He should be, but maybe he isn’t.

Still, if you are a Democrat, or someone who frequently votes for Democrats, you should take note that pretty much every Democrat you have nominated and/or voted into statewide office in the past 20 years and more is supporting Joe Biden for president. And for good reason.

I’m talking not just James, but Vincent Sheheen, who was your standard-bearer twice.

And Jim Hodges, our state’s last Democratic governor.

And Dick Riley, the last Democratic governor before Hodges. (And speaking of great public servants with that name, the greatest mayor of his generation in the country, Joe Riley.)

And Inez Tenenbaum, the last superintendent of education who was (and still is) a Democrat.

Now, Jim Clyburn — the current highest-ranking Democrat in the state, and one of the most powerful in the country — has joined that list. And it’s a long list. The Post and Courier put most of it together a few weeks ago, before Hodges had come out for Joe.

These are people who embody the heart, the core, of what it means to be a Democrat in South Carolina. No one could be more in touch with what South Carolina Democrats care about.

Still speaking to Democrats and people who sometimes vote for them here (let’s call you DAPWSVFTs for short)… These are all people you have believed in in the past, in whom you have placed your trust. Scoff at endorsements all you like, but I’m telling you these are smart people who know these candidates, who know the country and its needs, who know South Carolina, and they are for Joe. They’re putting their reputations out there in support of him, and you might think that’s a small thing, but it isn’t.

These people know what they’re about, and they’re for Joe. And most of you DAPWSVFTs have indicated your respect and support for these people in the past. These are people who share your values.

So it makes all the sense in the world that you would join them in voting for Joe Biden for POTUS on Saturday.

That's Smith campaign veteran Kendall Corley whispering in Joe's ear as he works a crowd on MLK Day in Columbia.

That’s Smith campaign veteran Kendall Corley whispering in Joe’s ear as he works a crowd on MLK Day in Columbia.

Clyburn stands up for America, backs Joe Biden

Still from a video posted on Biden's Twitter feed today.

Still from a video posted on Biden’s Twitter feed today.

You think I’m being overly dramatic there? I’m not. This is a dangerous moment for our country, and only thing that will save us from it will be Joe Biden winning on Saturday, and going on to do well on Super Tuesday.

And this is now about much more than me liking Joe Biden. It’s now increasingly about the alternative.

I thought Tom Friedman put it well in his column today (more about that column later; it was a really good piece):

If this election turns out to be just between a self-proclaimed socialist and an undiagnosed sociopath, we will be in a terrible, terrible place as a country. How do we prevent that?

That’s all I am thinking about right now…

Me too, Tom. Me too.

So it matters that Clyburn stepped up at long last today and endorsed Joe. By the way, I’m not complaining when I say “at long last.” I really think his endorsement came at the best possible time. If he had given it months ago when everyone else (and I mean everyone else who’s anyone among S.C. Democrats) was endorsing Joe, it would have been forgotten by now. Now, whatever effect it will have is amplified.

Before we get into a big debate about whether endorsements matter, let me just head that off with this observation: If endorsements matter at all, can you imagine anyone’s mattering more than Clyburn’s at this moment? I can’t.

The AP story today claimed that “It had long been expected that Clyburn, the House majority whip, would support Biden.” Really? Then how come I didn’t know it? If you’d made me bet, sure, I would have said Jim would back Joe. But I also would have said we wouldn’t be calling Bernie Sanders a front-runner at this point, and that Donald Trump wouldn’t have been the GOP nominee in 2016.

So I don’t rest easy with conventional wisdom these days. And as an American and a South Carolinian, I’m very grateful to Jim Clyburn for what he has done this day.

There was some suspense over this, at least for me. Just a couple of days ago, The New York Times had a prominently-played story that suggested Clyburn might have a liking for Tom Steyer. It was another one of those stories about Steyer’s efforts to buy the black vote here (something I remain very concerned about). It quoted Clyburn as telling CNN, “I think Steyer is doing an incredible job.” Which is far short of an endorsement, but it still made me nervous.

Anyway, Jim Clyburn has done a fine thing today — for Joe Biden, for the Democratic Party, for South Carolina, and for America. And I appreciate it.

Video of Biden’s speech in Columbia last night

It’s a good thing I decided against trying to post this video last night before going to bed. I’d have been up half the night.

I’ve been having trouble moving video and images from my phone to this new computer. And of course 18 minutes of HD video make for a HUGE file.

So after a process that involved a phone, two laptops, and a flash drive that I had to empty in order to use, I can finally show you the speech.

Enjoy, and be edified…

A panoramic view of the room just before Joe came out.

A panoramic view of the room just before Joe came out.

Wow, what a gross misrepresentation of reality!

downcast

This blew me away.

Being a fair-minded guy, I wanted to stress that not everyone in the working media lacks perspective. You know that one headline from this morning that I cited and dissected in my previous post? I was going to confess it was a bit of an outlier, and that for every guy like that one, there’s a sensible soul such as Frank Bruni, whose column this morning made the same point I did:

Yes, Bernie Sanders won the state’s primary on Tuesday night. And that victory, coming on the heels of his functional tie with Pete Buttigieg in the dysfunctional Iowa caucuses last week, makes him the indisputable front-runner for the Democratic nomination.

But look at how closely behind him Buttigieg finished, despite furious attacks from Sanders and other rivals over recent days. Look at the sudden surge of Amy Klobuchar, whose strong third-place finish demonstrates not only how unsettled the contest is but also how many Democrats crave a moderate — or female — alternative to Sanders.

Note that while Sanders is hugely well known in New Hampshire and beat Hillary Clinton by 22 points in its Democratic primary in 2016, he squeaked by Buttigieg this time around, as many people who voted for him four years ago obviously didn’t do so on Tuesday night.

And so forth. The real story being the inability of moderates thus far to settle on ONE candidate.

But before adding that, I decided to check my email, and saw an enewsletter from that same, sensible Frank Bruni, and the headline was “What in God’s name happened to Joe Biden?”

OK, fine. Yes, it would have been better had Joe been on the top of the stack of moderates rather than the bottom in New Hampshire, but still — I’m still in a good mood from Joe’s rally at 701 Whaley last night.

And then I saw the picture that ran with the eblast, and my jaw dropped.

I was there. I saw Joe and how he conducted himself. He was as upbeat and ebullient as ever. In fact, if I can ever get the freaking thing to upload to YouTube, I’ll show you every second that he was at the podium, and challenge you to find the split-second reflected in that photo above, in which he seems to be delivering a concession speech with a crushed spirit.

Until I can get that up and running (and finally, here it is), here are some representative images:

You can almost always get a picture like that NYT one. You can play a fun game if you use the “burst” function on your phone (akin to the motordrive of old film cameras), and you’ll see all sorts of expressions flash across a person’s face, some of them quite comical and many of them highly misleading as to the person’s emotional state at the time.

But this one is a prize-winner. And I’m shocked that it was used by the NYT, even in an email…

THIS is a representative image illustrating Joe's mood at the event.

THIS is a representative image illustrating Joe’s mood at the event.

What did Harpootlian say that was so bad?

debate NH

I watched the Democratic debate the other night — or most of it — but wasn’t interested enough to Tweet about it or anything.

I almost did at one point, but I wanted to take time to do a little research — refresh my memory.

What I had wanted to say was, “What was it Dick Harpootlian said that was so bad that Steyer thought it could be damaging to Biden?”

So I went back and read the stories about the contretemps between Dick and Jerry Govan — neither of them any stranger to confrontation — and came away still wondering that same thing.

It all started with a Tweet from Harpo:

That one was followed up by this:

Then, this happened:

After the state House and Senate let members out of a joint session, the Legislative Black Caucus met in a closed-door meeting, and then held a press conference in the State House lobby. As members of the caucus exited their meeting, Harpootlian waved and said ‘hello’ to Govan, who stared back and waved his index finger in the air…

At the press conference, Harpootlian was accused of being racist. Harpootlian disagreed, and said “I will not be silenced by those who use race as a shield from criticism.”

By the way, only certain members of the Black Caucus backed Govan in this:

State Sen. Marlon Kimpson, a Charleston Democrat and Biden supporter, noted that he and several other members of the Black Caucus did not participate in the press conference.

“It was to his benefit to give the impression that it was a Black Caucus press conference but it simply was not,” Kimpson said.

Kimpson argued Steyer “took advantage” of an internal dispute between SC lawmakers and “distorted the the facts” to hit Biden…

For his part, after the debate, Tom Steyer couldn’t answer Dick’s question about what Govan has done for the money:

“I’m not the person running the campaign,” Steyer said. “I know he’s a senior advisor and I know he’s been working for us. Exactly what that means, I don’t know.”

So I guess I should have sent that Tweet during the debate. Because I still don’t see what Dick said that was so bad. I mean, especially by Harpootlian standards.

But Steyer isn’t trying to convince me. He’s trying to sow enough doubt among Biden’s black support in South Carolina to damage him.

Which seems to me like a pretty cheesy move. I had been sort of neutral on Steyer before this. This knocks him a notch lower than that now in my book…

If my guy loses, I know exactly what I’ll do: Prepare for four more years of Trump

debate

In his daily enewsletter, David Leonhardt poses this question:

Many Democrats haven’t enjoyed the past week. It started with the Iowa chaos, and went on to include President Trump’s State of the Union address, his acquittal, his vindictive celebration of that acquittal and a few polls that showed his approval rating rising.

How should Democrats respond? My column today tries to answer that question, by arguing that Democrats will be hurting themselves, and the country, by exaggerating the differences between progressives and moderates.

The current moment, when nobody knows how the primaries will end, is a good time for both sides of the Democratic Party — left and center — to ask themselves how they’ll respond if their side loses the nomination. Reacting negatively would be a big favor to Trump. I instead ask both moderates and progressives to think about the strengths of the other side of their party.

Hey, I’ve thought about it, and my answer is this: If Joe Biden loses, I’ll prepare for four more years of Donald Trump as president of my country. Or what used to be my country, perhaps I should say.

Of course, Leonhardt isn’t talking to me. He’s addressing Democrats. His column’s headline is, “The Question All Democrats Need to Ask Themselves.” But I get used to that. I long ago grew accustomed to too many people, and definitely too many journalists, assuming that the world only consists of two kinds of people, and that therefore the only people concerned about Donald Trump dragging our country through the gutter are Democrats. (This is particularly strange because he talks so often with Ross Douthat — they do a podcast together every week. You’d think he’d realize, “Hey, maybe there are more people like Ross?”)

It’s a thoughtful column, inspired in part by my friend E.J. Dionne’s latest book, Code Red. And he makes a good point when he writes:

A Sanders or Warren presidency would have more in common with Dwight Eisenhower’s presidency than a second Trump term would have with either of them….

Good point, as I say, but not very comforting. But it does make me think: Why can’t one of our two political parties come up with an option as attractive as Ike? Or Adlai Stevenson, for that matter?

The closest we can come to the kind of sanity Eisenhower and Stevenson offered is Joe Biden.

Yeah, I know, there are other “moderate” choices: Buttigieg and Klobuchar. But I don’t see either of them winning the general election. I just don’t. I also think it’s kind of nuts to nominate either of them when you have Joe Biden available, whose experience is light years beyond Mayor Pete’s. The experience gap is not quite as great with Sen. Klobuchar, but I don’t see her as being as likely to get the nomination, either.

And if it’s Warren or Sanders, Trump wins in a walk.

Donald Trump is an idiot, but again and again he demonstrates a sort of animal cunning with regard to what it takes to win — or at least, what it takes to keep his base behind him and motivated.

And that low, Hobbesian instinct caused him to betray our country’s interests in an effort to bring down Joe Biden. That’s the guy he doesn’t want to run against. And he’s right to see it that way.

After the farce of Iowa, everyone’s trying to write Joe off. Not the sensible people, of course, but a large coalition of others, from ideologues to journalists, who’ve been itching to write Joe’s political obit from the start.

Listen, folks. Here’s the way I’ve looked at it from the start: I didn’t really expect Joe to win Iowa, and wasn’t particularly optimistic about New Hampshire. I’ve been holding my breath waiting to get through those ridiculous, unrepresentative contests, hoping we could get to the point that the rest of us, most of the country, could have a say in the matter.

And what’s happening? The wave of negativity out of Iowa, and increasingly out of New Hampshire, is reportedly causing cracks in Joe’s South Carolina firewall. Although I’m not seeing it yet.

But folks, if he doesn’t succeed here and beyond… well, I’m telling you, and no malarkey: Get ready for four more years of Trump…,

 

State Chamber takes on Act 388. I wish it luck and success

A chart the Chamber shared in context of the issue. Source: Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and Minnesota Center for Fiscal Excellence 2019

A chart the Chamber shared in context of the issue. Source: Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and Minnesota Center for Fiscal Excellence 2019

I’m kind of busy at the moment, so I’m not going to rehash all the reasons why Act 388 was an execrable piece of legislation that distorted our state’s system of taxation and made it both unfair and ineffective.

You can go back and read where I’ve done it before.

But while I’m thinking about it, I wanted to make sure you read Ted Pitts’ op-ed on the subject in The Post and Courier. Ted — my former House member — is the head of the state Chamber, so naturally he’s against something that shifted so much of our tax burden from owner-occupied homes to businesses.

I particularly appreciate that in this piece, he emphasizes the extreme regressivity of the Act, causing renters to pay as much as three times as much in property taxes as homeowners do.

Anyway, just go read the whole piece. His column refers in the lede to a recent column on the subject by Cindi. Read that, too.

Both of them, being astute and fair-minded observers, see Act 388 as one of the worst things our Legislature has done so far this century.

They’re right. That doesn’t mean anything’s going to happen. It should, and Ted is right to point to the current discussions about how we fund schools as a great opportunity. But it’s a tall order. Act 388 is the kind of dumb, irresponsible legislation that makes lawmakers popular with some of their loudest constituents. The voice of reason seldom shouts that loud.

USC mess: My question is, what’s Henry’s motivation?

Wherever possible, folks stood in the shade....

Wherever possible, folks stood in the shade….

I went down to the demonstration, to get my fair share of heat stroke.

I’m talking about this one, over at USC:

Jennifer was ONE of the speakers, along with Steve Benjamin, Bakari Sellers, and students and faculty members I didn’t know. I’m not sure who all ended up speaking, but this was the official roster in advance:

  • Todd Shaw – Associate Professor of Political Science
  • Zechariah Willoughby – Student
  • Christian Anderson – Associate Professor of Education
  • Steve Benjamin – Former UofSC Student Body President & Mayor of Columbia
  • Jennifer Clyburn Reed – Alumna & Center Director, College of Education
  • Elizabeth Regan – Department Chair, Integrated Information Technology
  • Bakari Sellers – Law School Alumnus & Former SC State Representative
  • Lyric Swinton – Student

And all through it, I kept wondering what I’ve been wondering from the start about all this: What’s Henry McMaster’s motivation? Why stir this pot?

The thing is, what he’s done is get a lot of folks who didn’t care one way or the other about this Caslen guy to get all mad because of the ham-handed way he’s gone about it.

What will happen on Friday? What’s happening behind the scenes between now and Friday? Is all this worth it? And if so, to whom?

Some of the speakers, awaiting their turns...

Some of the speakers, awaiting their turns…