Category Archives: South Carolina

So, is anyone paying ANY attention to the races for governor?

Sorry about the picture quality. ETV's online video doesn't have an HD option...

Sorry about the picture quality. ETV’s online video doesn’t have an HD option…

I sort of hesitate to post about the Democratic gubernatorial debate last night, since not one of y’all commented on the GOP one the night before.

I wonder: What was the viewership of those debates? I’m going to go out on a limb here and say it was probably lower than the deeply shameful turnouts we get in the actual primaries.

As Cindi noted in her column earlier this week, just 14 percent of registered voters bothered to vote in the state primaries two years ago, and 16 percent in 2014.

Really. Let that sink in. While it’s sinking, reflect that for a huge number of state offices, the primaries ARE the election, with no alternative offered in the fall.

If my guess is correct, and even fewer people watched the debates, that means even among that select few, a lot of people will be voting on June 12 with minimal information about the candidates. Which means that they’ll be voting blind. And while in this race, if not in others, there will be a choice offered in the fall, if it’s between, say, Catherine Templeton and Phil Noble, we are really up a creek.

But let’s not dwell on that.

If you DID watch the Democratic debate, or both of them, what did you think? My own opinion of the three Democrats in no way changed — James Smith is the obvious choice among them, and I’ve yet to see his two challengers offer any reason why they would be better nominees. In fact, they consistently offered evidence to the contrary — although I will say that this debate wasn’t nearly as vapid, to use Republican Micah Caskey’s term, as the GOP one.

Beyond that, just to start things off (or to attempt to start things off), I’ll offer some faves from among my real-time tweets:

Y’all know me. I like to end on a positive note. Throw everybody a bone, why not?… :)

Thoughts on last night’s GOP debate?

GOP debate

Actually, it seems a bit jarring to use any form of the word “thought” in relation to that sorry spectacle. My Republican representative put it well:

There just didn’t seem to be much thinking going on on that stage. In fact, I found myself wondering whether, after all these years, even the GOP base has gotten sick of hearing the same pandering cliches stated over and over, ad nauseam.

Of course, there were exceptions to the right-wing cliche thing:

Old times there are not forgotten. At one point during the debate, someone asked me about McGill, “Is that the one they call Foghorn Leghorn?” No, no, I replied — you’re thinking of Henry. Although even he doesn’t have as firm a claim to that as Fritz Hollings. Of course, with Fritz, you never had the feeling someone was pulling a “Chatty Cathy” string. Fritz always spoke his mind.

My most popular tweet during the debate — 15 likes, which isn’t much by usual standards but I think this was a fairly low-viewership event — came with a typo, I’m embarrassed to say (and with Twitter, once there’s been a like or a retweet, I always hesitate to delete and start over). Substitute “rude” for “ride:”

Lynn Teague had an apropos reaction to that:

Indeed.

In retrospect, I felt a little bad about this one, as I worried it may have been misunderstood:

I didn’t mean to say our lieutenant governor is crazy. I mean he’s got the extreme territory staked out. He’s pretty out there. But at least he’s an extreme conservative, instead of, say, a “buzzsaw,” which means there’s some legitimacy to him, or at least consistency.

Did I have anything positive to say about anybody? Yes, I did:

So good one there, Henry. Nice to hear someone talking about an actual problem that exists in our state, instead of nonexistent things such as “sanctuary cities.” Of course, we know who talks the most about those.

My nominees for lowest point in the debate:

Henry talking about how proud he is to be helping Trump patrol the border down in Texas.

Catherine Templeton expressing her eagerness to execute some prisoners.

You may have your own favorites. Suggestions?

In any case, I didn’t hear anything that made me want to go out and take down my James Smith sign

You can be ‘bold,’ OR you can be ‘conservative.’ Choose.

Just caught Catherine Templeton’s latest ad. At the end, she says:

It’s time for a governor as bold and conservative as the people of South Carolina.

Um… you can’t be both of those things at the same time. You can be bold if you choose. Or you can be conservative instead. You have to choose.

Otherwise, words have no meaning. And who wants to live in a world like that?

“Bold and conservative” is as nonsensical as, well, “conservative buzzsaw.” Again, you can be one of those things, but not both…

Cath

Lynn Teague on the Legislature’s unfinished business

When I saw this Tweet yesterday, it gave me an idea:

In my church, we confess every week as follows: “I confess to almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do…”

That last part is where I, personally, fall down the most. So I take it seriously.

I asked Lynn if she would write us a blog post on what our lawmakers “have failed to do.” She kindly obliged, and here’s her report:

What Remains at the State House

The General Assembly just canceled their scheduled return to Columbia for May 23-24 to work on unfinished business. The conference committee on S. 954 and H. 4375 has been scheduled for Wednesday, but there will be no meeting of the whole House and Senate until the end of June. What haven’t they done? What should they be doing before the days dwindle down to a precious few?

Lynn Teague

Lynn Teague

Their work for the remainder of 2018 is defined by the sine die resolution, passed before their departure from Columbia on May 10. Under that resolution, they can return to deal with the state budget, anything related to V. C. Summer, legislation to make the state tax code conform to changes in the federal tax code, bills that have been passed in both houses and are now in conference committee, and some local legislation. They have given themselves until November to do this. That is far too late for some of the remaining bills.

First, the state needs a budget. The government won’t shut down if the budget doesn’t pass by July 1, but it would surely be better to let agencies know what they have to work with at the start of the fiscal year. The budget also includes important provisos that are there in part because the General Assembly failed to pass other needed bills. Legislators should be working now to resolve their differences on those.

What else should legislators do when they return? They must surely bring our tax system into conformity with changes in the federal tax code, either by reconciling H.5341 and S. 1258 in conference or by writing a new bill. This is an area in which failure to act could be costly for South Carolina’s citizens.

And then there are the utilities. Of course, the utilities, which everyone said were the sole focus of the 2018 session. And yet, bills to resolve both short-term and long-term issues arising from the catastrophic failure of V. C. Summer remain to be passed. Some of the delay can be attributed to differences between House and Senate. Some can be attributed to a Senate Judiciary subcommittee that was not inclined to haste. I wouldn’t say that they were slow, but substantial parts of the Greenland ice sheet collapsed between meetings. So now a significant amount of work remains to be done.

S 954 is best known for the ongoing battle between House and Senate over the amount of a temporary rate suspension, whether 13% or 18%. With each passing day, we pay more to SCANA for something that we aren’t getting because this isn’t resolved. However, in the long term the more important aspect of this bill is the PSC schedule, which would give all participants certainty of a schedule to resolve the complex issues surrounding SCANA and its exorbitant rates. This schedule is especially important given SCANA’s stonewalling of discovery requests from intervenors and the Office of Regulatory Staff (ORS) at the PSC, delaying the ability of stakeholders to examine material evidence.

Other surviving utility bills include H.4375, amending the Base Load Review Act (BLRA) that made the V. C. Summer catastrophe possible. Retroactive repeal would be lovely, but is pretty surely unconstitutional. The most important elements of H. 4375 are preventing future use of the BLRA and introducing a definition of prudency, a central concept in evaluating whether SCANA’s costs at V. C. Summer were legitimately incurred. Another bill, H. 4379, creates a consumer advocate and removes the serious conflicts currently embedded in the ORS mission statement. The first two of these bills are on the agenda for the Wednesday conference committee, but H. 4379 is not yet in conference. Legislators must be working to resolve their differences on these bills before proceedings at the PSC and in the courts move further forward.

Those are the absolutely necessary bills for June. We are sure that legislators expect to dig in and move fast when they return to Columbia, but there is a lot to do. November is too late for much of it. July is too late for some of it.

Two other important utility bills, H. 4377 and H. 4378, were never heard in Senate Judiciary subcommittee, but nevertheless could and should be taken up under the sine die resolution. No one has indicated any intention to do this, but it is possible and needed so it is worth mentioning. H. 4377 makes important changes to strengthen the qualifications of members of the PSC and improve their access to information. We need that. PSC members shouldn’t be just representatives of local areas there to look out for local interests, they must be technically and legally competent to address the complex issues before the PSC.

H. 4378 revised the membership of the powerful State Regulation of Utilities Review Committee (PURC) that oversees the whole regulatory system. It gives the Governor appointments to this important body and ensures that legislators are not a majority on the committee. We badly need this. However, at present H.4378 does not go far enough. We should also prohibit members of PURC, their immediate families, and the businesses with which they are associated from receiving income, donations, or gifts from any regulated monopoly. At present they can receive all of these benefits from the industries that they oversee. This should end, now.

So, with all that time until November, there is no good reason for the General Assembly not to take up these other bills and actually reform our regulatory system.

Lynn is more diplomatic about all that than I would be, but she sure knows her stuff, and I felt a post from her would be far more informative than one from me…

Archie Parnell’s shameful secret (which hasn’t shamed HIM enough to get him to bow out)

headshot

Well, I guess I feel pretty foolish for having given Archie Parnell a hard time for not shaving his beard.

But you know why political consultants will tell you to do that? So that voters won’t wonder what you’re hiding.

It turns out Parnell has been concealing something far, far worse than a weak chin:

Top South Carolina candidate refuses to quit congressional race after abuse discovery

Archie Parnell, a Democratic congressional hopeful who earned national attention after nearly winning in deep red South Carolina last year, is resisting pleas to withdraw after his campaign staff discovered that he physically abused his ex-wife in the 1970s.

In divorce records obtained by The Post and Courier, Kathleen Parnell said the marriage deteriorated after two years in 1973 because of “unwarranted accusations” from her husband.

In October 1973, Archie Parnell, then a University of South Carolina student, was locked out of some friends’ apartment to protect Kathleen Parnell, who was staying there. At 2 a.m., Archie Parnell used a tire iron to break a glass door, the complaint said. He made more unspecified accusations to Kathleen Parnell before striking her several times. She said she was beaten again later that evening.

After the “acts of physical cruelty,” Kathleen Parnell said she feared for her life and did not want to stay married. She obtained a restraining order against Archie Parnell after seeking the divorce, according to court documents. The divorce was finalized in early 1974….

When this came out his campaign manager immediately quit, saying “He has no business running for Congress and he never did.”

But Parnell himself won’t quit.

I feel ridiculous for having to say this, but he should. A man doesn’t hit a woman. Ever. Even when it was a long, long time ago.

Oh, and by the way — his party agrees with me:

SCDP CHAIR STATEMENT ON ARCHIE PARNELL
Columbia, SC –South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Trav Robertson released the following statement on Monday after the Post & Courier reported that he physically abused his then-wife in 1973:
““In light of this sad revelation, Archie Parnell has no choice but to withdraw from the race for the 5th Congressional District. His actions, though long ago, directly contradict the values of the Democratic Party.”
###

Et tu, Publix? (And more embarrassing news from SC)

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Mike Fitts brought it to my attention first:

Then, to my horror, I discovered that The Washington Post was also prominently playing this deeply embarrassing South Carolina story:

South Carolina grocery censors graduation cake inscription

CHARLESTON, S.C. — A South Carolina woman isn’t happy a grocery store censored her honor graduate son’s cake, which was supposed to include the Latin phrase “Summa Cum Laude.”

Cara Koscinski told The Washington Post a cake online from Publix that was supposed to say “Congrats Jacob! Summa Cum Laude class of 2018.”

She says the online message box did not like the word “cum,” the Latin word for “with.” The computer marked it as a naughty word and substituted three hyphens….

Yeesh.

It’s not that I’m saying everyone should have at least two years of Latin the way I did (although, of course, they should). I’m saying that to be ignorant of what cum laude means indicates that not only did you not graduate with honors, but you don’t even know anybody who maintained a 3.0 or better.

Some good news: I looked back a few minutes ago, and that story was no longer being played as prominently on the Post as it had been this morning. Whew.

But here’s the bad news: THIS is now the very top story under the Post‘s National heading on my iPad app:

A short circuit unlocked cells at a South Carolina jail. Now two murder suspects are on the loose.

Two men facing trials for brutal murders managed to overpower a jail guard and escape into the trees outside a small town in South Carolina, authorities say, after a short circuit caused their cell doors to automatically open.

Tyshon Demontrea Johnson and Curtis Ray Green fled the Orangeburg Detention Center on Saturday — initially escaping with an accused carjacker from the same cell block. The third inmate has since been recaptured, but a manhunt had not found Johnson and Green by late Monday, leaving the jail’s frightened neighbors demanding to know how its systems could so utterly fail.

It was not the first time that a cell door at the 1960s-era facility released an inmate because of a malfunction: Last June, a man serving a sentence for a probation violation noticed that his door had failed to lock, according to WRDW, and he enjoyed a few hours of freedom before police caught him in an alley.

Oh, boy…

embarrass

 

Another perfectly good blog post, ruined by gratuitous, over-eager journalistic enterprise

Grabbed this from Meg's Twitter feed. Hope she doesn't mind...

Grabbed this from Meg’s Twitter feed. Hope she doesn’t mind…

Dadblastit!

I’ve been giving key personnel at the Post and Courier unmitigated hell for having ruined a perfectly good, really fun blog post that I was almost finished writing when they had to stick their noses in:

This is what had me ticked off:

And what did I get from Andy Shain, the Columbia bureau chief? A bunch of sass:

And his boss, Executive Editor Mitch Pugh, was no better, thoroughly enjoying my pain:

I fired this back at Andy:

Fortunately, I was then able to taunt them a second time-a with this:

But enough of my fulminations. Some of you may wish to comment on the substance of the breaking story.

Frankly, I’m surprised she went with a guy with such a mainstream pedigree, given her desire to be seen as a destructive force, an “outsider buzzsaw,” yadda-yadda. The answer to the standard South Carolina question, “Whose his Daddy?,” is respected former federal appeals judge Billy Wilkins.

And his uncle is even more establishment — our former speaker and ambassador to Canada, David, a throwback to the days when South Carolina Republicans voted for people with names like “Bush” instead of “Trump.”

So maybe she’s not quite the rebel she wants Trump voters to think she is. Or maybe she was just excited to hear that he was a “Young Gun.” Because, you know, she likes guns. Or likes us to think she likes them, anyway…

That 2010 picture was an expression of something good, and rare, in our politics

My original caption on this picture was, "Dogs and cats, living together -- Republican Rick Quinn and Democrat James Smith at the Benjamin victory party."

My original caption on this picture was, “Dogs and cats, living together — Republican Rick Quinn and Democrat James Smith at the Benjamin victory party.”

Remember the night Steve Benjamin was elected mayor back in 2010? It was a heady evening, and a lot of people, including people you might not expect, were excited about it.

There were the usual suspects, of course. A lot of black voters were thrilled to have had the chance to elect the first black mayor of a major South Carolina city, only 15 months after seeing Barack Obama become president. And even though this was a nonpartisan election (as all elections should be), it was quite natural that white Democrats would be happy, too. Steve had been their party’s nominee for attorney general several years earlier, and had also served as an agency head in Gov. Jim Hodges’ administration.

But Benjamin’s appeal was much broader than that. There were some very prominent Republicans at his celebration, and they were as happy as anybody. In all my years in South Carolina, I had never seen these people at the same victory celebration:

But the best part of all? Seeing the happy Democrats (James Smith, Anton Gunn, Boyd Summers, etc.) and Republicans (Rick Quinn, Butch Bowers, Kevin Hall — at least, I heard Kevin was there) together there, and hearing the chant, begun by the mayor-elect, of “ONE Columbia.”

Reminds me of that awesome night in that same building when the people chanted “Race Doesn’t Matter!” in celebrating the Obama victory in the SC primary…

(By the way, if you’re not all that involved in politics, you might not know just how Republican Butch Bowers and Kevin Hall are. They were law partners at the time, and their clients included pretty much every statewide elected official in the state — all Republicans, of course — as well as much of the congressional delegation. We’re talking big-time GOP lawyers and movers and shakers behind the scenes.)

What I meant by that observation about Obama’s SC victory was, it was almost like people at the Benjamin thing were chanting, “Party doesn’t matter.” And you know what music that would be to my ears, feeling as I do about parties. I definitely got caught up in it myself, in a way I wouldn’t have back when I was at the paper:

It was pretty awesome being in the room when Steve made his victory speech. I was right up front, and when I congratulated him, I got one of those regular-guy combination handshake-hugs — which was also embarrassing for a serious journalist, but I was happy for him. In fact, I was caught up enough in the moment to Tweet this, which DID actually post, during his speech:

This is awesome. I’m happy for Steve, for everybody in this room, and for Columbia…

And I meant it. It was a big moment. I mean, the man had tears coursing down his face as I sent that out. And if you didn’t get a contact high from being in that crowd, you’ve got ice water in your veins….

So, in that atmosphere, with everyone enjoying the moment, I ran into James Smith and Rick Quinn at the same time and said something to them like, “This is not a sight you see every day. I’ve got to get a picture of this!”

So that political Odd Couple, in the spirit of the moment, gladly posed for me, and then went back to the celebration.

Why were so many different kinds of people happy about this result? Well, Rick’s motive was pretty clear — his Dad’s political consulting business had worked to get Benjamin elected. But the next question is, Why would the Quinn’s — as solidly identified with Republican candidates as anyone in South Carolina — work for this Democrat, even in a nonpartisan election?

I can’t answer that precisely because I don’t think I ever asked. But it seemed natural to me that such lines were crossed. My impression at the time as to why his support was so broad was because his message had been so unifying. Check out my shaky video from his victory speech, which he started out by repeating his campaign slogan: “We are ONE Columbia.”

His campaign had been about pulling together a fragmented community — not just split by party and race and class, or by town and gown or government and private sector, but by the fact that government itself here is the most fragmented I’d ever seen in my career when I arrived at The State to become governmental affairs editor in 1987. I came here from Wichita, Kansas — a city of about the same size at the confluence of two rivers, with a deep cultural split between the east and west sides of the water. Sound familiar? But it was easy for Wichita to move forward together because it was one city in one county with one school board and so on.

The economic community of Columbia is split not only between two politically incompatible counties, but into about 10 municipalities, seven school districts, and a confusing array of little special purpose districts that provide services cities and counties should provide (Richland County Recreation Commission, anyone?).

Benjamin had spoken of all of that as ONE Columbia, with optimism about what we could do together, with eloquence and Kennedyesque vigor (vigah?), and people were pumped about it.

So it was a night when it looked like it was possible to sweep aside all the usual garbage that divides us and causes so many of us to become depressed at the mere mention of the word, “politics.”

Speaking of all that garbage — that’s what causes me to bring up the subject of that night eight years ago.

I hear that someone is about to use MY photograph of James with Rick Quinn — without my permission, of course — to attack, to smear, to malign James Smith, to damage his chances of becoming governor, or even of getting his party’s nomination in the June 12 primary.

The photo couldn’t possibly damage him among people who know him or his record or his character. No, this would be a smear based on exploiting and manipulating voter ignorance, an attempt to generate this sort of reaction: I don’t know that James Smith, but he sure seems to be buddy-buddy with that Rick Quinn, and while I don’t recall exactly what Quinn DID, I’ve heard he’s some kinda crook or something! I better find somebody else to vote for…

Or, the hoped-for reaction could be as simple and stupid as this: That Rick Quinn’s a Republican! That James Smith must be one, too…

If this attack emerges, and it’s anything like what I’m hearing (I hope the rumors are wrong) it will be an expression of the things that make our politics ugly, relying on such things as blind partisanship, mistaken impression, damning a person for incidental association rather than for anything he ever did….

Will Folks predicted something like this would happen several months ago, having gotten wind of a group that was prepared to spend a lot to try to take down James Smith’s candidacy, by trying to make him appear to be something he’s not. I don’t know if what I’m hearing about now is the same thing. We’ll have to see when it emerges.

The thing is, James Smith is that rare thing in politics — a guy who not only looks like a Boy Scout, but really is one. He’s always been a clean, honest, diligent public servant. To try to suggest he is something else would be disgusting. And it would be especially appalling if a photo of mine was misleadingly used to do that.

I just hope what I’ve been hearing is wrong…

Steve Benjamin on that heady night in 2010 when he was elected mayor.

Steve Benjamin on that heady night in 2010 when he was elected mayor.

Another message from ‘Conservative outsider and Republican gubernatorial candidate Cath…’ oh, never mind!

long name

Yeah, I know I’ve written about this before, more than once. But they keep doing it, so I’m going to keep pointing out how ridiculous it is.

The more I see her campaign refer to her, over and over and over again, without deviation, without letup, as “Conservative outsider and Republican gubernatorial candidate Catherine Templeton,” the more I marvel at their apparently limitless tolerance for tedium.

You’d think that at some point someone writing one of these releases would just get fed up with the monotony and say, “The hell with this! I’m not going to keep people in suspense! I’m just going to go ahead and tell the reader who I’m talking about!”

You have to wonder, is this mind-numbing tactic that her campaign just will… not… drop, even in the face of withering satire from the likes of my good buddy Robert Ariail, something that will work against their ability to build name recognition? Will voters who might have chosen her get frustrated and give up in the booth after perusing the ballot and being unable to find anywhere a name that begins “Conservative outsider and Republican gubernatorial candidate…?”

SCTempletonAriailW

‘… and we gon’ KEEP it dat way…’

Forgot to share this Henry McMaster ad a couple of weeks back. Remember when I said Henry’s accent needed to be preserved and placed in a museum?

Well, he outdid himself in that one.

I got to thinking about that ad because of his new one, in which he takes on a nastier edge and makes like Catherine Templeton voting for Vincent Sheheen for governor in 2010 was a bad thing. When in truth, it’s one of the few good things I’ve ever heard about her.

Meanwhile, he suggests that being “friends” with Donald Trump is a good thing. It’s just a topsy-turvy world that Henry inhabits.

But snark aside: That’s one very ugly ad. Listen to the irritating female voice that just drips with sarcasm when it says, “because Nikki’s Democratic opponent was her friend.” As though there could be nothing more contemptible on Earth than calling Vincent Sheheen your friend. Or any Democrat. As though they were some subhuman species.

That’s a truly disgusting video, governor, and you should be ashamed of it. Are you going to keep going down this trail?

Mandy Powers Norrell’s first speech as James Smith’s running mate

I mentioned earlier that I went to Lancaster yesterday for the announcement that Mandy Powers Norrell would be running for lieutenant governor alongside James Smith.

I think she made a good first impression as a candidate. But I’ll let y’all watch it and see what you think.

Discuss amongst yourselves until I come back. I spent today (Saturday) reinforcing part of my deck that was sort of threatening to fall through. I did a pretty good job, but now I’m wiped out…

A good time was had by all: Terry Alexander, Norrell, Smith and Jim Clyburn.

A good time was had by all: Terry Alexander, Smith, Norrell and Jim Clyburn.

To what depths of absurdity will this woman not stoop?

That’s about all I have to say about it, for now. Except to add this…

She bragged about that .38 her granddaddy gave her for months on end, making herself out to be some latter-day Annie Oakley. Or someth‌ing.

Then, she led a TV crew to a shooting range, pulled out the gun, and… couldn’t get it to fire.

So I guess you can say this is progress. Of a sort…

What do you want to bet whether she actually hit a rattler with that snub-nose? Or whether she was even within a mile of the varmint? These questions I’m asking don’t matter a bit, of course, except to the kind of voter she’s trying to reach.

Sorry, ma’am, but for sheer, mind-numbing idiocy, this still doesn’t touch Ted Cruz and “Machine-Gun Bacon“…

Anni

Sheheen takes step in right direction on higher ed

When I read this yesterday morning…

A South Carolina lawmaker has a plan to stop college tuition from going up — just don’t expect it to get passed this year.

State Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Kershaw, will file a bill to fix what he sees as the four biggest issues in higher education: tuition increasing at “an astronomical, unsustainable rate,” colleges recruiting out-of-state students to balance their budgets, fixing campus buildings that have fallen into disrepair and “streamlining a bureaucratic mess.”

Sheheen will unveil the proposal — and detail the plan’s specifics — Tuesday at an 11 a.m. news conference on the first floor of the State House….

… I resolved to drop by the State House to hear the proposal. I did so, however, knowing what I’ve known for years: If lawmakers want to stop the rise in tuition, the solution is obvious. You have to start funding higher education again.Sheheen mug

Back when I was in school and tuition was dirt-cheap, the state actually funded “state-funded” colleges and universities. Now, the state’s taxpayers are minor contributors, providing a percentage of operating costs that long ago dropped into single digits. University presidents spend the lion’s share of their time trying to scrape up funds from other sources — and yeah, tuition is one of those other sources.

So there’s always been a great deal of phoniness in many legislators’ hand-wringing over rising tuition — unless they’re willing to address the actual problem. It’s always been completely within the power of lawmakers — as a body — to do this.

But I expected that Vincent Sheheen knows this, probably better than I do, so I went over expecting to hear something real. And I did. Or rather, since I arrived just as the presser was breaking up, I read something real on this handout before briefly interviewing Vincent and others present, such as USC President Harris Pastides:

sheheen doc

It’s not much — it probably won’t even pull state funding back out of the single digits (a Senate Finance Committee staffer is running down the numbers on that for me, but I don’t have them yet).

But yeah, providing more funding from the state is the one thing that’s needed for keeping down tuition. So, while this will do little more than slow the rise, it’s something. And it’s honest.

And note that it even meets Doug’s test: If you want more money for something, findi it somewhere in the budget that exists, rather than raising taxes.

So, you know… something for everybody…

Weak parties, strong partisanship: a poisonous combination

1964_Democratic_National_Convention_2

Back when parties were parties…

Our own Karen Pearson said some very true things in this comment:

I’m all for keeping “parties ” out of it. We’re far too far along the way of voting for party instead of person. The candidates are forced to go farther and farther left or right in order to win a prime spot in their own party. This response encourages each party to go become even more “liberal” or “conservative.” Which means that in the next election the division becomes even greater, and ultimately excludes one side or the other from any possible voice in the ruling party. The ability of government to function disintegrates. Then we all stand around and decry our representatives because they can’t get anything done. This is madness.

She’s absolutely right, talking about the parties we have today. But her excellent points remind me of a phrase I’ve been hearing a good bit in recent years, most recently in a Dana Milbank column this morning in The Washington Post:

Political scientists have observed that American politics has deteriorated into an unstable combination of weak parties and strong partisanship — dry brush for the likes of Trump and Blankenship to ignite. The 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign-finance reform restricted party fundraising, and the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling in 2010 essentially destroyed parties by giving everybody else freedom to spend unlimited sums to buy politicians. The moderating influence of parties was replaced by the radicalizing influence of dark money.

Related to this, partisanship in Washington escalated, aggravated by partisan redistricting that puts almost all House members in safe seats where the only threat comes from primaries. Primary voters tend to favor extreme candidates — who, once in Congress, turn politics into warfare.

Democrats suffer from the weak party/strong partisanship phenomenon too, as seen in the Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) campaign’s squabbles with the Democratic National Committee and the recent efforts by some Sanders followers to taint any candidate supported by the party. But the problem is most severe among Republicans…

Oh, excuse me. I meant this phrase: “an unstable combination of weak parties and strong partisanship.” Milbank cites “political scientists,” plural, but the phrase seems to have started on its current rounds with Julia Azari, a political science blogger and prof at Marquette University. As she put it a few days before the 2016 election, “The defining characteristic of our moment is that parties are weak while partisanship is strong.” And as she said, that’s a bad combination.

Y’all know I don’t think much of parties. But that’s largely because of what they’ve become. If they were more like what David Broder used to reminisce about, reliable institutions for winnowing candidates and putting forth the strongest ones — institutions that answered the question, “Who sent you?” — I wouldn’t hold them in such contempt.

We’re not just talking about the most dramatic case — the GOP’s utter helplessness to keep Donald Trump from waltzing in and taking their presidential nomination. A weak GOP is what gave us the Tea Party — which toppled party stalwarts left and right. It’s what weakened John McCain’s hand and made him think he had to pick Sarah Palin as his running mate instead of Joe Lieberman. More recently, it’s given us Roy Moore, and now this Blankenship yahoo in West Virginia. Line up enough know-nothing extremists behind you, and the party is helpless.

And Democrats, don’t think you’re immune. Some of the same forces weakening the GOP have been at work on your party for a long time. The Bernie bros whine about how the party leadership tried to cheat their guy out of the nomination. What stuff. In a time of strong parties, Hillary Clinton wouldn’t have had to spend a moment’s thought on Bernie Sanders. She’d have been a shoo-in, and she wouldn’t have done any of that pandering to extremes, such as turning against TPP.

Look back at my post about James and Micah. If the Democrats had a strong party, I would just go ahead and vote for Micah in the Republican primary, knowing that James had the Democratic nomination for governor locked up — everybody who is anybody in the party is lined up solidly behind him. But as polls have shown, Phil Noble — and to a lesser extent Marguerite Willis — have a shot (a long shot, but a shot) at denying it to him. Or at least forcing him into a runoff — which given the weakness of their candidacies should be impossible.

You don’t believe those polls? Well, I’m not convinced by them, either. But folks, this is the South Carolina Democratic primary electorate, the crowd that gave you Alvin Greene. A lot of people gave then-chair Carol Fowler hell for not preventing Greene from sneaking in and taking the U.S. Senate nomination. But what could she have done?

And folks, Alvin Greene wasn’t entirely a fluke. Such absurd things happen when parties are this weak.

Milbank is wrong to blame the problem on money, by the way. Sure, that can exacerbate the problem, but the fact is that Broder and others were writing about this in 1991, long before the campaign-finance developments that Milbank bemoans.

A lot of trends have gone into destroying parties. The rise of radical individualism and decline of institutions in general have done a great deal to undermine parties’ ability to produce the best candidates — as has the growth of excessive faith in direct democracy (such as primaries usurping the decision-making prerogatives of conventions), which has been a long-term problem throughout our history.

Lately, the decline in traditional news media (this morning on the radio, I heard the number of professional journalists plying their trade in this country was now half what it was 15 years ago; I’m shocked the number isn’t far lower than that), combined with the rise of new media that make every Tom, Dick and Harry his own publisher, have accelerated the problem. Not caused it, but further pushed a wheelchair that was already going downhill pretty fast. The cost for extremist flakes to go it alone is now lower than ever.

Combine all that with partisan redistricting, which forces the people who get elected under party banners to become more and more extreme, and the result is that our electorate is filled with people who have little loyalty to and no deference toward parties as institutions, but who are filled with passionate, increasingly extreme partisan sentiment, defining themselves as the only good people, and those who vote for candidates of that other party as the enemy.

And it just keeps spinning further out of control….

I refuse to be an ‘idiot.’ I’m joining the ranks of the involved

signs

This is my front yard. As of Monday night, for the first time in my life, my yard features a campaign sign for a political candidate. In fact, it boasts two.

I’ve decided not to be an idiot any more — in the ancient Greek sense, which meant someone who was not involved in public life. As I noted the other day, Bobby Kennedy once summarized the ancient meaning as “One who is not involved in politics.”

Well, with these two signs, I’m stepping out of the ranks of idiots (which my career as a journalist forced me to be, at least in a sense), and joining the polites — the involved public citizens.

James Smith is the best candidate for governor by far, and Micah Caskey is easily the best candidate for his House seat, if not the best running for any House seat this year. They are the two people I most hope to see elected this year, for reasons I’ve gone into in the past and will elaborate upon again, I assure you.

By erecting these two signs, I also take a stab at resolving a dilemma.

A couple of weeks ago, Micah Caskey, standing on the State House steps, asked me to vote for him on June 12. Specifically, he nodded toward James Smith — whom he knows I like for governor — a few feet away and said he hoped I wouldn’t be voting in the Democratic primary, because he needs my vote in the Republican.

The fact that I have to choose, and can only vote for one of the two people I want most to elect on primary day, is a gross injustice. But it’s one I have to confront.

Normally, I take a Republican ballot. Not because I’m a Republican, any more than a Democrat, but simply because of where I live. If I don’t vote in the Republican primary, I get no say in who represents me in most offices. If I lived in Richland County, I’d probably vote mostly in Democratic primaries — especially this year, with that solicitor’s race. We have to choose carefully: Our primary vote is critical because far too often, it’s the only time we get a real choice.

That we have to choose one ballot and miss having a say in the other races that are contested in the primary (but not in the fall) is wrong, a denial of our rights as citizens. It thoroughly disenfranchises us. But those who make the rules refuse to see that.

At least this way, whichever primary I vote in, I’ll have done something for both of these fine candidates. I just wish I could vote for both of them…

Me, too, Mandy. We need more such pictures…

Mandy and Nathan

In the spirit of the UnParty

Mandy Powers Norrell, a Democrat I see as a positive force in the S.C. House, tweeted this a few minutes ago:

Yep, me, too, Mandy. We need more such pictures…

Yes, this COULD be the winning formula for Democrats

Can the New Deal Coalition rise again?

Can the New Deal Coalition rise again?

David Leonhardt had a good piece in the NYT last night. He promoted it this way:

There’s a roiling debate about whether Democrats should move to the political center to win back Trump voters or focus on energizing the party’s progressive base. On some issues — like abortion, guns and immigration — Democrats really do face this difficult choice. The policies that excite progressives alienate many of the white working-class voters who swung the 2016 election to Donald Trump, and vice versa.

But there is also one huge area where no such tradeoff exists: economic policy….

In the column itself, he asserted  that economic stagnation and inequality added up to “the defining problem of our age, the one that aggravates every other problem. It has made people anxious and angry. It has served as kindling for bigotry. It is undermining America’s vaunted optimism.”

And people across the political spectrum have lost patient with timid, incremental approaches to the problem. Which helps to explain both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.

Leonhardt writes:

Some observers remain confused about all of this. They imagine American politics as a simple two-dimensional spectrum on which Democrats must move to the center. But every issue isn’t the same. Yes, there are cultural issues, like abortion and guns, on which the country is classically divided. On these, moving to the center, or at least respectfully acknowledging our differences, can help Democrats. Representative Conor Lamb recently showed how to do it in Pennsylvania.

Economic policy is different. Most voters don’t share the centrist preferences of Washington’s comfortable pundit class. Most voters want to raise taxes on the rich and corporations. They favor generous Medicare and Social Security, expanded Medicaid, more financial aid for college, a higher minimum wage and a bigger government role in job creation. Remember, Trump won the Republican nomination as a populist. A clear majority of Americans wants the government to respond aggressively to our economic problems….

So, the smart thing would be to drop the topics that divide us — the culture war stuff, the Identity Politics, the “pussy hats” and such — and set out a vision for a rising tide for all.

But are national Democrats willing to do that? The occasional Conor Lamb aside, it remains to be seen.

In South Carolina, it’s not such a leap. SC Democrats — those who have actually served in office and understand political realities — have long understood that they have to reach across superficial barriers and appeal to as many voters as possible. You wonder why I like James Smith for governor? One reason is that he manifests that smart, inclusive approach. He’s identified with issues that could benefit all of us, such as trying to liberate renewable energy from artificial caps.

This is underlined when you look at his opposition: Phil Noble hits Smith for not being orthodox enough, for instance for being (allegedly) insufficiently hostile to gun-rights advocates. Noble is one of those Democrats who wants to divide the electorate into sheep and goats. Marguerite Willis seems to be pinning her hopes on getting women to vote for her simply because she’s a woman — despite Smith’s strong support within that largest of demographics.

So, the question is whether Democrats — on the state as well as the national level — are willing to take Leonhardt’s sensible advice, and identify themselves with issues that unite rather than divide. Mind you, he’s not talking about moving to a hypothetical center, but embracing issues with broad support among everyone but the most libertarian folks on the right.

I think they will in South Carolina, but polls tell us that’s far from certain. And nationally? I just don’t know…

Caskey strips out stupidest part of sanctuary cities bill

Micah Caskey selling his amendment in the House./@TigerMuniSC

Rep. Micah Caskey selling his amendment in the House./@TigerMuniSC

Yesterday afternoon I ran into my representative, Micah Caskey, on my afternoon walk, and asked what he’d been up to on such a fine Wednesday.

He was glad to tell me, as he’d had a good day doing worthwhile work for us all. He told me briefly about it, and followed up with more info today.

You know about Henry McMaster’s stupid Sanctuary Cities bill, the pointless solution to a non-existent problem. We have no Sanctuary Cities in South Carolina, a fact that no one disputes — but in order to pander to the Trump crowd, the governor would force South Carolina municipalities to file a bunch of red tape proving they’re not sanctuary cities, or lose state funding upon which they rely.

So Micah got the House to amend the bill to strip out the reporting requirements. You see, Sanctuary Cities are already against the law in South Carolina. Micah’s amendment would allow the state attorney general to take legal action against any municipalities suspected of the heinous crime of being nice to illegal aliens. (Currently, only a resident of the relevant municipality can can file a lawsuit to enjoin the city from adopting such policies.)

Micah did a nice job selling his amendment, bringing along this Powerpoint presentation to explain the actual facts of the situation, and what he proposed to do.

So basically, he managed to strip out the stupidest part of a stupid bill, minimizing the damage of what he termed the Incremental Growth of South Carolina Government Act.

Here’s how he summed up the change:

Original Bill

  • Paperwork shuffle (ICR)
  • Grows government
  • Adds to SLED workload
  • No due process
  • Violators lose LGF

Caskey Amendment

  • Empowers AG to enforce
  • Due process ensured
  • Protects rule of law
  • Violators lose LGF

“LGF” means “Local Government Fund.” “ICR” means “Immigration Compliance Report.”

Nice job, Micah. This is a good case of, as you put it in your presentation, “Common Sense Trumping Politics.”

Again, who in South Carolina backs Phil Noble?

noble-kennedy

It’s kinda fun that there’s an Obama-Biden sign in the background, since Biden has endorsed James Smith…

Phil Noble has pulled off another coup, by the standards of his campaign — touting the endorsement of yet another person who can’t vote in South Carolina:

One candidate to be South Carolina’s next governor is touting a 50-year-long Kennedy connection with his latest endorsement.

Charleston Democrat Phil Noble received the endorsement Monday of Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the former lieutenant governor of Maryland and daughter of the late U.S. Sen. Bobby Kennedy.

“For years, I’ve watched Phil fight tirelessly for the causes and concerns that have long inspired my family’s commitment to public service,” Townsend said….

 

First Doug Jones in Alabama, now a member of the extended Kennedy clan. And again, the support arises from old family connections, rather than anything Phil Noble has done.

But wait… there are those two guys in South Carolina who have endorsed him. Which means exactly half of the people endorsing him can actually vote in this state, unless I’ve miscounted.

There have to be other people, right? But I haven’t run across them. Of course, one might ask the same thing about Marguerite Willis, although we know who her chief backer is — Marguerite Willis. She’s has kicked in $460,000 of her own money.

This is one of the most eccentric campaigns for governor I think I’ve ever seen…

Deaths at Lee County prison shouldn’t be a surprise

lee correctional

Lee Correctional Institution, via Google Maps

You’ve probably seen this, which made national news:

At least seven inmates are dead and 17 people are injured after hours-long rioting at a maximum-security prison in South Carolina, according to the state’s corrections authorities.

Several fights broke out among inmates in three housing units at the Lee Correctional Institution about 7:15 p.m. Sunday, and it took authorities more than 7½ hours, until 2:55 a.m. Monday, to secure the prison, officials said.

No officers or staff members were harmed, the corrections department added….

We can at least be thankful for that last part. But the fact that an “hours-long” riot can occur at one of our prisons, with authorities unable to stop violence that killed seven, should tell us we were lucky on that score. Two officers were stabbed at this same institution in 2015.

What I said in response on Twitter is pretty much all I have to say before turning the topic over to y’all: