Category Archives: South Carolina

Did anyone pay attention to the State of the State?

Henry 2021

I sort of forgot about it, what with a POTUS getting impeached for the second time and all. And other stuff.

Normally, I’d want to watch and see what sort of excuses Henry is offering for his stewardship of our state, but I was busy and to the extent that I was aware of news, other things were shouting louder.

Once, those were Big Wednesdays for me. They took up a lot of my day and night. My colleagues and I would go to lunch at the governor’s house to be briefed on the speech and receive our copies, and then we’d go back to the office and read the copies and argue over it, then one of us would write the editorial, and the writer and I would stay at work through the speech that night to see if we needed to amend the edit before letting the page go. Which we sometimes did.

All this effort was fitting, since the overwhelming majority of what we wrote was about South Carolina and the issues before it.

But now… I’ve done what I could to help South Carolina get committed, rational leadership that actually cares about said issues — all those years on the editorial board, and those few months in 2018 more directly — and just kept running into the same brick walls. It’s hard even to get people to pay the slightest attention. And now I don’t have the soapbox I once did, so… I don’t follow every word said in SC politics the way I used to.

Especially not yesterday.

What about you? Tell me you hung on every word, and offer some cogent thoughts about what was said, and make me feel guilty for having missed it. Beyond that, I’m just curious: Was anyone paying attention?

Remember their names. Remember what they did.

washpost homepage

I just wanted to share with you this “how they voted” from The Washington Post. This list neatly divides Congress between those who may arguably deserve to be there (to widely varying degrees) and those who unquestionably do not.

The ones from South Carolina who unquestionably do not include:

  1. Jeff Duncan
  2. Ralph Norman
  3. Tom Rice
  4. William Timmons
  5. My own congressman, for far too long, Joe Wilson

Lindsey Graham didn’t vote with them, but he tried to have it both ways, saying “I prayed Joe Biden would lose.” How dare he so blaspheme against God, and his country? Yeah, I get it. You’re saying that “even a guy like me” accepts the election result — at long last, after trying to involve yourself in Trump’s efforts to overthrow that result. But this was a day for showing profound remorse for all you’ve done the past four years.

Nancy Mace surprised us a bit — pleasantly, considering that she ran as a Trump ally (to the extent that I paid attention to that district). Tim Scott less so, because I think at heart he’s a pretty decent, although deluded, guy. (I think his speech was the high point of the Republican National Convention. Of course, that’s like being at the top of a molehill at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, but I’m speaking relatively. As in, you know, he wasn’t Kimberly Guilfoyle.)

But the main thing is that you remember the five. And all those from other states who put themselves on the list.

I’ll close with a thought from my Republican state representative:

Here’s hoping the NEXT state flag is better

5fdd1877300d6.image

Did you see the “official” South Carolina state flag that a “high-powered team of historians,” in the words of Avery Wilks at the Post and Courier, had put together for lawmakers to consider?

As Avery reported Dec. 27:

South Carolina historians settle on a new state flag design

COLUMBIA — A high-powered team of historians has done the research and determined what South Carolina’s state flag should look like once and for all.

Rest assured, not much is changing.

The flag will still feature a white Palmetto tree and crescent against an indigo blue backdrop, a combination of historically significant elements that makes South Carolina’s flag one of the most iconic banners in the country — and, arguably, one of the only good ones.

But next year, lawmakers will have a chance to nail down details of the design that have been in flux since the last official flag specifications were repealed in 1940.

The height and shape of the tree in the flag’s center. The shade of indigo that colors the background. The thickness and angle of the crescent in the upper left hand corner — note: the crescent is not a moon, historians say. …

Anyway, it turns out they may have thought they had “settled” on it, but once people reacted to the unveiled proposal on social media, the team has gone back to the drawing board. They had done an about-face three days later, when another story from Avery started this way:

South Carolina’s new flag design seemed like a fine idea — right up until everyone actually saw it.

As it turns out, people hate it. They really, really hate it…

I was one of those who had reacted. I won’t say I hated it exactly. I was more like, “Say what…?”

My attention was drawn to it on the 28th by Mandy Powers Norrell, who reacted to Avery’s story with this brief review: “Those fronds tho.

Yeah, I thought. Is this just after a hurricane? And doesn’t the trunk look — indistinct? Low-res? Stepping back a bit, I added, “I’m sure it’s fine. If you ask me to LOOK at something, I’m going to see flaws…”

I kept trying to be positive, adding “I mean, it’s PROBABLY fine. I just looked at it again. It’s… blurry. Maybe it’s a bad jpg file or something…”

I thought what Mandy said next was pretty smart: “I agree. I could get used to it. I could also get used to the idea that we don’t have an official design and that it’s conceptual. I think there’s merit in that too. It feels more accessible.”

Yes! That’s the way to go. A concept rather than a template. Something that means what it means to each of us. Organic…

In other words, we don’t need anybody to tell us exactly where to put our palmetto tree. Or to tell us how close to the corner the crescent moon has to be. Or to tell us the blue has to be Pantone 282 C.

Do we?

(I’m seeing this as an opportunity to agree with some of my libertarian friends out there. For once…)

pantone

Straight-party voting did a nasty job on South Carolina

Mandy on the bus in 2018.

Mandy on the bus in 2018.

Why did I agonize the way I did over the fact that all four people I’d be voting for this year were in the same party? Because I know what a destructive thing the practice of straight-party voting can be.

Yes, I examined each choice I was making with the usual care, and was satisfied that in each case, I was making the right choice:

  1. Donald Trump is the worst president in our history, a thoroughly disgusting person, and Joe Biden is his opposite — so no question there.
  2. Lindsey Graham has thrown away everything that once made him worth voting for, while Jaime Harrison offered the promise of a fresh, unsullied start.
  3. Adair Boroughs was untested, but her opponent Joe Wilson has been tested over and over, and found wanting.
  4. I am thoroughly satisfied with my state senator, Nikki Setzler, and his opponent (whose name slips my mind) offered no persuasive reasons to replace him.

The fact that all four were Democrats was in part incidental, and in part the result of the utter degradation of the Republican Party in the age of Trump. I am pleased with the choices I made, and sorry that only half of them won.

But too many people don’t go through all that. They just vote for one party or the other, rather than for candidates. In South Carolina, we even offer people the opportunity to do it by pressing a single button, which is appalling. Anyone who takes advantage of that “convenience” is completely throwing away his or her responsibility to careful consider how to vote. Do that, and you’ve let the parties think for you.

Yeah, I know: Some of my regular readers do it, and feel no shame for it. If I recall correctly, the ones I’ve heard from tend to go for the Democratic option. I invite them to consider what a gross practice this is by contemplating the harm Republicans did this year when they did the exact same thing.

There is no way, no way at all that such people as Vincent Sheheen and Mandy Powers Norrell were turned out of office as a result of voters actually comparing them to their opponents and finding the incumbents wanting. That’s impossible. I’ll use Mandy as an example of what I’m talking about.

She is a Democrat who has been repeatedly returned to office by her Republican neighbors. She is one of them, born and raised in the district. Her family worked at the textile mill, and she worked her way through to become the first in her family to graduate from both college and law school. As a municipal attorney, she was thoroughly immersed in practical, nonideological local issues for years before going to serve in the General Assembly. Her commitment to Lancaster was deep and profound. I used to worry about her in 2018 because at the end of unbelievably exhausting days campaigning across the state, after she had pulled back into Columbia with the rest of us late at night, she would drive home to Lancaster. And then she’d drive back to start again before the sun had fully risen again. Day after day.

As for her opponent…. well, her qualification was that she was a Republican. She moved to the community from South Florida in 2006. But she’s a Republican, you see. Let me show you something else. Watch the video clip attached to this tweet:

And here’s another one:

Yeah, Mandy herself chose those clips, and did so because they showed her at an advantage. But here’s the thing: I know her, and I know how smart and dedicated she is. That’s the way she normally answers questions. Maybe her opponent sometimes sounds smarter and better informed than she did in those clips. But I’ve looked over her website and her Facebook page and I don’t see much sign of it. I just see lip service given to national GOP talking points, and no indications of an understanding of the issues facing South Carolina, much less Lancaster.

In other words, I see things aimed at the buttons of a straight-ticket Republican voter, period. And a particularly ignorant one at that — the type who thinks “defunding police” is a burning issue in the State House.

Can you imagine the votes for Mandy’s opponent were based on her being better suited, personally, to the job? Maybe you can. I cannot.

Let’s talk about Vincent Sheheen, one of the smartest and most earnest members of the Senate. Actually, I’ll let my friend Cindi Scoppe talk about him. I urge you to read her column about Vincent’s defeat, headlined, “This was South Carolina’s worst surprise on Tuesday. Nothing else came close.”

Some excerpts, among description of Vincent’s accomplishments over the years:

Come January, Mr. Sheheen will no longer be there to serve as a bridge between the races and the parties and the House and Senate. He will no longer be in a position to work through the big problems that most legislators don’t have the capacity or temperament or relationships to work through. Because a red wave swept over Kershaw, Chesterfield and Lancaster counties on Tuesday, as the nation’s most expensive ever U.S. Senate contest drowned the electorate in a $230 million hyper-nationalized stew of partisanship that purged voters’ appetite for local issues or the merits of individual candidates….

One news story described Mr. Sheheen’s defeat as “arguably one of the most stunning legislative upsets for Democrats for this cycle.” It’s not. It’s clearly the most stunning upset for any S.C. politician this cycle, probably this century. And the most devastating for our state.

It’s an obvious loss for Democrats. But it’s also a loss for Republicans, and all of us, because Mr. Sheheen was among a small handful of legislators who went to Columbia not to be somebody important but to do something important. And at that, he was remarkably successful.

No, I don’t know how many of the people who did this damage to South Carolina by voting Vincent out were voting straight-ticket. But the numbers suggest that few could have been doing anything else. And I haven’t seen where anyone has offered any other plausible explanation…

An even older file photo, from 2010...

An even older file photo, from 2010…

Election Day: 2020

Voting in Line

 

Well, it’s Election Day. There have been millions of votes cast early, millions will vote today, and we will likely be counting mailed in votes for days to come as they arrive. Brad is out today due to a death in the family. I asked if he wanted me to put up a post for him on election day, and he indicated he did.

Here’s your chance to make predictions for what happens or generally comment on the election. Today, we are one people, one country. America is a special place. If you go to a polling place, you are likely to see a candidate for office in the parking lot outside asking for your vote. That’s a good thing. It’s still good to see candidates asking for our votes.

No matter what happens, I am hopeful for America.

We could have had a lieutenant governor to remember

From today's email...

From today’s email…

The headline on this email is a relief to me, because it shows I’m far from alone.

Of course, they sort of knew her name, because they spelled it correctly (I think) on the flier. But what I saw first, what jumped out at me and stuck, was the “Lt. Gov. Evettee” in the headline of the email.

Ms. Evettee is not alone here. I started using the term Gov Lite a long time ago, because the office — and therefore the people holding it — were forgettable. Even though all the ones before this one hypothetically had actual job duties — presiding over the Senate and (after senators took pity on Andre Bauer and gave him the additional duty) the Office on Aging.

After I came home to S.C. in 1987 as governmental affairs editor, I found I had little trouble remembering Nick Theodore’s name — not because his duties compelled my awareness, but because he was running so hard for governor from the time I arrived until 1994. He managed to build up his name recognition enough to, just barely, edge out the vastly, infinitely better qualified Joe Riley in a squeaker primary runoff. Joe had been too busy being the best mayor in the country. (That was the most heartbreaking election result in all my years in South Carolina. Joe lost by less than one vote per precinct. Our history would have been quite different — as in, much better — if he had turned out one more person at each polling place. He would have run right over recent party-switcher David Beasley in the general.)

But Nick’s successors were easier to ignore, when they weren’t crashing planes or something.

The current one, the first one to take office after running as the governor’s electoral mate, is remarkably invisible even for a Gov Lite. That was predestined to happen, given that Henry picked someone who made us all say “Who?” and the office being stripped of duties. So it was that when I saw her (at least, I think it was her behind that mask) in this picture from Henry’s inexcusable announcement about giving millions to private schools, I for a moment thought, “Oh, look, there’s…” and couldn’t come up with the name.

“Predestined,” that is, as long as she and Henry won. Had James and Mandy won, you’d have seen something startlingly different.

James had a compelling vision for the role his lieutenant governor would play, and Mandy endorsed it wholeheartedly. She would have been every bit a full partner in governing. She would have been a dynamo, having dramatic impact on events left, right and up the middle.

That moment — with the changes to the office, especially the fact that everything the job had previously entailed was being stripped away, and the fact that the person would be elected in unison with the governor — was a huge opportunity for anyone who truly wanted to make a difference for South Carolina, and James and Mandy were energized by it.

I wrote a press release outlining their vision for the role that Mandy would have played. It was, in fact, one of the more substantial releases I wrote during the campaign — actually setting out a vision that would redefine one of the more visible electoral positions in our state. It transformed the job from meaninglessness to something that made a difference. And it explained clearly why James had chosen Mandy — she was perfect for the vision — and why they were running as they did, as partners, as a team.

And… it got no traction. Initially, it had gotten mixed up in an attempt to help out a reporter. The reporter had the idea of doing something on how the campaigns envisioned the new position, and she had reached out to us about it. So instead of putting out the release generally, we decided to share it first with her. But then she was unable to get to the story for several days, and out of nowhere another reporter asked us how we envisioned the lieutenant governor position, so we (with apologies to the first reporter) gave him the release, and… it all kind of fell apart. There was that one story, and that was it.

I was disappointed enough that I tried putting out the release to everybody some weeks later. Because I wanted to see it get exposure. I wanted voters to have the chance to think about, OK, if I vote for this ticket, here’s what I’ll actually get… I wanted them to see why Mandy was perfect for the job.

But it never became the shiny toy of the day for our state’s ravaged, depleted political press corps.

So I’ll share it with you. I think I’ve done this before, but I couldn’t find it just now, so I’ll share it again. Repeatedly putting out this release has gotten to be a habit for me.

Anyway, this is what you could have had in a lieutenant governor:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Oct. 16, 2018
Press Contact: Brad Warthen
brad@jamessmith.com

Why Mandy Powers Norrell will be
SC’s best lieutenant governor yet

COLUMBIA, S.C. – People keep asking James Smith about his vision for Mandy Powers Norrell’s role as South Carolina’s next lieutenant governor.

He has really a really good answer to that. And when people hear it, they realize why Mandy is perfect for the job.

This is the first election in which the governor and lieutenant governor are running together as a ticket. And the lieutenant governor will no longer have the old duties associated with the job – such as presiding over the Senate and running the Office on Aging. So the new governor will have a unique opportunity to reshape the office.

Smith envisions a lieutenant governor more influential, and far more relevant, than before. He sees Lt. Gov. Norrell doing the following:

• Advancing his legislative agenda. With all the partnerships she has formed on both sides of the aisle during her experience in the House, she will greatly extend the influence of the governor’s office in shaping laws and setting policies. As the second most prominent statewide officeholder, her influence in the General Assembly would be considerably greater than that of past legislative liaison staffers.
• Conducting oversight of state agencies. She will engage with the agencies as no one has before, finding ways to make them more efficient, promoting such approaches as zero-based budgeting.
• Playing a key role in the appointment process. “There is tremendous untapped talent in South Carolina, and we don’t take full advantage of that fact,” said Smith. “She will help find and recruit a diverse pool of appointees from across our state, and help me get them in place right away.” He noted that having represented rural South Carolina, she brings a perspective and connections too often left out when appointments are made in Columbia.
• Being closely involved in setting policies and legislative goals. She will not only push the governor’s agenda, but be a full partner in shaping it. And she will seek broad input in that process. For instance, Smith noted, he and Norrell already plan to sit down with mayors from across the state to talk about how the governor and lieutenant governor can help them with their priorities. “We support the agendas of the governments closest to the people, which for too long have been ignored and disrespected on the state level,” he said. As a 20-year municipal attorney, Norrell fully understands the challenges faced by local governments.

Those criteria explain why James chose Mandy. With that job description in mind, he was looking for three traits in a running mate. He wanted someone who:

• Is qualified to be governor. “Mandy would be a formidable candidate for governor on her own,” said Smith.
• Would be ready on Day One. He needed someone who thoroughly understood state government and could immediately jump in and start doing the job he envisions, with no learning curve. Also, someone who knows how to work with this Legislature as it is. “We need to work as well with this Republican General Assembly as Carroll Campbell did with a Democratic one,” said Smith. “Mandy has a great track record of working constructively across the aisle. She respects her Republican colleagues, and they respect her.”
• Meshes well with him and his vision. “Mandy and I already speak with the same voice as we share our positive vision for South Carolina,” Smith said. “I needed someone full of enthusiasm for the future of our state, and no one fits that description better than Mandy Powers Norrell.”

Exactly.

###

This was from the eve of Election Day. That's Scott Harriford -- who played a key role this year in Joe Biden's SC primary victory -- in the background...

This was from the eve of Election Day. That’s Scott Harriford — who played a key role this year in Joe Biden’s SC primary victory — in the background…

 

 

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.