Category Archives: UnParty

New party ready for State House debut

Jim Rex and Oscar Lovelace

Jim Rex and Oscar Lovelace

Remember that new political party that Jim Rex and Oscar Lovelace have been planning to launch? Well, it’s having its State House debut tomorrow:

American Party Supporters!

Finally, we are ready for our press conference on Friday January 31st at 11:00 A.M. at the State House.

Please disregard an old message that was sent by mistake that may confuse you as to the time.

The press conference is at 11:00 A.M. tomorrow on the 1st floor lobby of the State House.

If you are able to come, try to be there at least 20 minutes before to get through security.

If you are on Gervais looking at the State House, the entrance is on the far left.  There are metered parking spots around the State House on Sumter Street.  There is also a parking garage on Assembly.

We look forward to seeing you if possible.  Your support has meant so much to the success of the new American Party.

Jim and Oscar

I’ll try to drop by if I can get away at that time. But even if I can’t maybe you can…

This is not, mind you, to be confused with the UnParty. This new party has taken the name of George Wallace’s old party (although there the resemblance ends), and has tenets that, by existing, violate the very first fundamental, inviolable tenet of the UnParty — which is “unwavering opposition to fundamental, nonnegotiable tenets.”

The passing of Ariel Sharon, who inspired the UnParty

Well, he sorta, kinda inspired it.

It was his decision, in 2005, to leave the Likud behind and form another, more centrist party that started my mind on the way toward dreaming up the UnParty, as I disclosed in the original column announcing the formation of the UnParty.

So one day, when the UnParty dominates American politics, and the planets are aligned, and the lion lies down with the lamb, our party’s flame-keepers will honor the warrior known alternately as “the Bulldozer” and “the Lion of God” for his unintentional role in our formation.

For now, President Obama has offered his condolences to the Sharon family and Israel for “the loss of a leader who dedicated his life to the state of Israel and reaffirmed “our unshakable commitment to Israel’s security and our appreciation for the enduring friendship between our two countries and our two peoples.”

Lindsey Graham said, “With the passing of Ariel Sharon, America has lost one of her best friends and the Israeli people have lost one of their greatest champions.  He was a fierce fighter for the State of Israel who boldly embraced peace.  His life’s work has made him an Israeli icon.  May he rest in peace.”

Meanwhile, Palestinians celebrated. Which isn’t cool, but you know how things are over there.



Clowney charged with going 110 mph. In an unrelated development, Bauer considers running again

First, we hear that Andre Bauer is thinking again about running for governor, this time as a third-party candidate (this is not what the UnParty had in mind!).

Now, we see USC’s football star is making like the (except that, unlike Mr. Bauer, he was charged):

South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney was cited by the South Carolina Highway Patrol for speeding Saturday for driving 40 miles per hour over the posted speed limit,according to WIS-TV.

Clowney, according to the report, was going 110 miles per hour in a Chrysler 300 when he was pulled over on Interstate 77 Saturday night around 7:30 p.m. The highway’s listed speed limit is 70 miles per hour.

Officials say he was immediately ticketed and that no other citations were issued in the incident….

Nor, apparently, was he arrested at the scene.


When all politics was indeed personal

Tammany Hall, decorated for a national convention in 1868.

Tammany Hall, decorated for a national convention in 1868.

In my last post, I lauded the simple humanity of Sen. John Courson reaching out, in an entirely personal way, to his Democratic friends as well as his Republican friends, and I associated it with the very UnParty (or maybe AllParty) makeup of his district.

I love this anecdote about a similar human touch in a hyperpartisan back in the days of Tammany Hall. It’s from a reminiscence by Elliot Rosenberg about his Uncle Lewis. The piece is headlined “When All Politics Was Personal,” and here’s my favorite part:

For much of that era, spanning Presidents Wilson through Eisenhower and Mayors John F. Hylan through Robert F. Wagner Jr. , Uncle Louis earned the title Banner Captain of the Democratic Party’s Banner District. That meant the party’s old Fourth Assembly District clubhouse swept more votes into the Democratic column than any other, and Uncle Louis wielded the best broom of all, 99% of votes cast, give or take a percentage point.

“The Republican captain in my precinct was a good friend. So I’d tell a few of my people to slip him their votes,” Uncle Louis said. “After all, the fellow was a family man. His wife and kids had to eat, too.”…

What this guy did — make sure everyone pulled the Democratic lever, regardless of the candidate — is anathema to me. And with those kinds of margins, it cost him nothing to throw his GOP friend a bone. And in saying he could do that, he was boasting of his own power. But still — in these days when Democratic operatives may have no Republican friends, and vice versa, it’s sort of hard to imagine the gesture.

“His wife and kids had to eat, too.” I love that.

Courson reaching out to his Democratic (and GOP) friends, before it’s too late

I happened to be driving through Shandon just after 8 this morning, and there was John Courson, walking his dog on Wheat St.

I rolled down my window and stopped in the middle of the street to chat. No one was coming.

He said something about the shock of having lost four friends this past week, three of them younger than he is. I assume three of them were Lee Bandy, Steve Morrison and Ike McLeese. I didn’t ask him who the fourth was (I sort of hated to say, “Who was the fourth?,” because that would seem to diminish that person’s death by the fact that I had to ask), but my first guess would be Will McCain.

Will McCain

Will McCain

McCain, who had been then-Gov. David Beasley’s chief of staff, died before any of the other three, and it was a real shock to me. I didn’t think I was at the age at which I would start to peruse obits daily to see if my friends are there, but seeing Will McCain’s picture there as I was flipping by the page — looking just as he did during the Beasley years — made me think, “Maybe I am at that age.” Because he was born the same year I was.

We weren’t really friends; I don’t remember when I had seen him last. In my mind, he actually still looked that way — which added to the shock of seeing him on the obit page.

Maybe the senator had someone else in mind. (And Kathryn and Phillip give good reason below to think so.) In any case, my purpose in writing is to relate something else he said.

Sen. Courson said those deaths reminded him that he should get together with his friends and enjoy their company before they suddenly leave this vale. So he said he’s arranged a lunch with “some of my Democratic friends,” because his baseball buddy Ike was a Democrat. And then, he’s going to have lunch with some of his Republican friends.

Because that’s the way John Courson is. Cynics will say that’s the way he has to be, being a Republican (one of the most ardent admirers of both Ronald Reagan and Strom Thurmond I know) who lives in a largely Democratic district. Just as they might say Nikki Setzler, a Democrat in a largely Republican district, has friends and deals fairly with people on both sides of the aisle because he has to.

Maybe so. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Maybe swing districts, which aren’t too strongly either way, attract people who already are the kinds of people who reach across the aisle and try to represent all their constituents, not just the ones of their party. Or maybe it takes people who are just as partisan as most lawmakers and makes them into statesmen who rise, out of political necessity, above narrow considerations.

Either way, we need more districts like that. We have far too few of them, because lawmakers make it their business to make as many districts as possible either super-Democratic or super-Republican. And it’s tearing our country apart.

Small example of how the parties distort our politics

There’s nothing particularly remarkable about this come-on I received from the DCCC:

838,936 of you signed our petition standing with President Obama to end Boehner’s shutdown. That’s great!

BUT — Brad…your name is missing.

Stand with us against the Republican government shutdown, and call out Ted Cruz and John Boehner for their radical obstructionism.

Click here to automatically add your name >>


DCCC Rapid Response

But I thought I’d use it to illustrate how routinely, casually and systematically the major parties distort reality in their bids to keep the money flowing in.

“Boehner’s shutdown”? No, it’s the House radicals’ shutdown. Boehner is pretty much helpless in all this.

“call out Ted Cruz and John Boehner for their radical obstructionism?” Seriously? You expect me to see Cruz, who is actually, majorly culpable in all this, with that poor Tea Party piñata Boehner?

Yes, they do expect that. Because in their worldview, all Democrats are equally good, and all Republicans are equally bad, and equally to blame for all the world’s evils. And the Republicans’ worldview is this one’s mirror-image.

It is staggering to me that even one person would be sucker enough to buy into this claptrap. And yet, they claim, 838,936 people have done so. (By the way, my name is going to continue to be “missing.” But you knew that, right? I hope so…)

There is no way we are going to be able to engage real-world challenges effectively in this country as long as political discourse, and the perception of reality itself, are warped by these parties.

Vote UnParty.

More to the point, Yours Truly would be disenfranchised

My attention was just now drawn to this website devoted to saving the SC GOP presidential preference primary:

Are you a South Carolina Republican? If so, there’s an effort underway to take away your right to vote.

A small group of fringe activists, backed by special interest groups, are working to end our Republican primaries and replace them with nominations by convention. Thousands of us would be disenfranchised, allowing a select few power brokers to pick our Republican candidates.

We cannot let this happen. The only way to stop them is for you to take part in the South Carolina Republican Party re-organization process.

We are counting on YOU to help us Save Our Primary. There are only four simple steps:

  1. SIGN THE PLEDGE to show your support for our South Carolina Republican Primaries.
  2. WATCH THE VIDEO to see how the Republican Party Reorganization process works [view video].
  3. KNOW THE INFO that will allow you to take part in the process, including the dates and locations for your Precinct Meeting and County Convention.
  4. SPREAD THE WORD by sharing this page with other Republican voters in South Carolina.

Get started below…

Maybe the folks behind this site are worried about Republicans being disenfranchised, but that’s not the real problem. The real problem is that those of us who would rather watch Reality TV, or suffer some other terrible torture, than be identified with either party, would be disenfranchised.

Republicans would at least be free to seek slots as delegates to the convention. The rest of us wouldn’t have that option. And we would lose our chance to have a say in a decision that is our one chance to affect the outcome of presidential elections, since it is always a foregone conclusion which candidate will get out state’s electoral voted in the general.

All of that said, I’m only going to start worrying about this when I hear more from the supposed perpetrators of this outrage. I really have no idea of the extent to which this is an actual threat.

The new party’s principles and platform


Lovelace addresses the meeting.

First, some news I found particularly welcome: The name that Jim Rex and Oscar Lovelace have proposed for their new political party, which had its initial public meeting today in the Tapps building downtown, is negotiable, or as one of them said, a “first draft.”

Good, thing, too. Not only does “Free Citizens Party” sound like it could have been one of the contenders for the Tea Party’s name, it doesn’t represent at all what they’re trying to accomplish. But they rejected a far more descriptive name — Common Ground — because they couldn’t get ownership of it. Ditto with another name they liked (and for the best of reasons, because it expressed what we all have in common, rather than what divides us), “American Party.” What they didn’t mention was that that would have been a bad idea because of the unfortunate association with George Wallace.

But more than that, the name puts them on the wrong side — from their own perspective — of the constant strain between rights and responsibilities. As I’ve written so many times in the past, one of the things contributing to the destructive polarization of our politics is that we couch far too many issues in terms of “rights,” which, being absolutes, are non-negotiable. Take the right to life vs. the right to autonomy/privacy. The right to health care vs. the right to be left alone. What we need more than anything is to stop demanding more and more personal rights — stop acting like a bunch of two-year-olds crying gimme-gimme — and think a bit more of our responsibilities as citizens.

And indeed, Rex and Lovelace spoke repeatedly of the lack of responsibility in our politics. First, there is the abdication of responsibility of disengaged citizens who are turned off by politics and leave our public life in the hands of the squabbling ideologues (which this new party is intended to address by providing a new challenge to involvement for the disaffected). Then, there is the lack of responsibility of the parties, which concern themselves only with winning, and stick by the very worst of their members. Then, there is the lack of responsibility to the people on the part of elected representatives, who grow complacent in their “safe” seats (at least, that’s how Rex and Lovelace see it).

At one point, Rex even invoked one of my alternative names for the UnParty — the Grownup Party. And that leads directly to the problem with naming the kind of party we really need in this state and country (which, I believe, is what Rex and Lovelace are trying to create) — if you call it the “Responsibility Party,” or the “Grownup Party,” it’s not exactly going to set a focus group on fire. Too much like “Eat Your Vegetables.” And yet that is exactly what we need — an “Eat Your Vegetables” party.

As for the “Citizens” part: Again, this is not about “I’m a citizen and therefore I’m entitled,” the way I hear the word used by some nativists. In fact, in explaining the name, the two principals invoked “the Greatest Generation” — people who paid a price for our freedom, who fully embraced the responsibility inherent in citizenship.

Anyway, just to get the ball rolling, Lovelace and Rex are calling this the Free Citizens Party, and they’ve put some ideas into writing, which invites us all to shoot at them. So, with a minimum of commentary, I’ll pass on what they’ve sent up the flagpole.

First, there are their four party principles:

  1. Legislate and govern from the middle.
  2. Increase economic competitiveness.
  3. Term limits — public vs. self-service (their words, of course, not mine at all, as I see this as their most problematic proposal)
  4. Increase responsibility/accountability. (There’s that word.)

Then, they presented their Eight Platform Priorities:

  1. Decrease national debt through balanced approach.
  2. Strong, choice-driven public school system/early education. (Public school choice, you’ll recall, was a priority of Rex’s as superintendent.)
  3. Efficient, effective healthcare. (To bring in Dr. Lovelace’s particular area of concern.)
  4. Reform campaign funding/transparency.
  5. Ethics reform legislation — state and federal.
  6. Support 2nd Amendment w/ reasonable regulations. (Rex stressed that, being a hunter, he has “a lot of guns.”)
  7. Simplify tax code — promote work, saving, investment.
  8. Comprehensive immigration policy reform. (They brought up an argument for strong borders that I don’t recall hearing advanced before — their concern for public health, wanting to prevent the spread of pandemics.)

After presenting all that, the two masters of ceremony entertained questions and comments from the audience for quite some time.

About that audience — I’m thinking fewer than 100, but not a bad turnout for something that had so little publicity. It was mostly middle-aged (in other words, Grownups), although there were a few who didn’t fit into that category. Based on the questions and comments, a serious, thoughtful bunch who are frustrated with the status quo. (And guess who came up and introduced himself afterwards? Our own “tired old man!”)

Lovelace pointed out that no one should be discouraged about the turnout. He said this group was bigger than any county GOP gathering he ever spoke to during his run for governor in 2006. And Rex chimed in that he had the same experience as a Democrat. Their point being that if the existing parties are so formidable, their county gatherings should be bigger than this fledgling meeting.

Before I close this report, a word about their embrace of term limits, which I believe is based in a misdiagnosis of what is wrong. Rex at one point spoke of how offensive the term “safe district” is, and he’s right. But he misses what is most offensive about it. The main problem is not that a district is safe for the incumbent (although the courts allowing incumbent protection as a basis for reapportionment is a problem). The problem is that it is drawn to be safe for a party. And the more extreme the two parties get in their polarizing ideologies, the worse the representation will be from that district.


Rex walks through the eight platform priorities.

Rex speaks of the complacency of incumbents in “safe” districts. I don’t see them as complacent at all. I see them running like scared rabbits, constantly building their “war” chests to protect themselves, and against what? Not a challenger from the opposite party, or from some moderate independent. They’re protecting themselves against a challenge from someone in their own party who is more extreme than they are. They do two things to protect themselves from this — they raise money, and they become more extreme themselves, in their words and in their actions.

And how do they raise money? They do it by constant appeals to their own partisans, making wild charges against the opposition, stirring fear and loathing in their bases. And that is the problem — that the current system rewards polarization and gridlock for their own sakes. They are good for the business of politics. And johnny-come-latelies are just as guilty of taking advantage of this dynamic as are incumbents. That is the cycle that must be broken by a party that appeals to reason, to moderation, to the interests that we all have in common rather than what divides us.

If incumbents are replaced, who replaces them? Not some Mr. Smith goes to Washington, but a partisan who convinces the primary voters that he’s more extreme than the incumbent. Think what happened to Bob Inglis. Or any of those incumbents either taken out by, or seriously threatened by (which in turn affects their behavior and makes them more extreme), Tea Partiers in recent years.

Anyway, enough about that. For now. These guys are trying to do a good thing, and they have enough of an uphill climb without me carping about the details. They’re shooting for the 10,000 signatures to get their party on the ballot by the 2014 election — really 12,000, given that many signatures get successfully challenged.

And they know that’s not easy. Dr. Lovelace ended the meeting with a quotation from Machiavelli:

It must be considered that there is nothing more difficult to carry out nor more doubtful of success nor more dangerous to handle than to initiate a new order of things; for the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new…

Obviously, they have not hired a political consultant, or they wouldn’t go around quoting Machiavelli. But the point is dead-on. I know, from the unsolicited feedback I’ve gotten over the years from all sorts of thoughtful, rational people across this state — like the strangers who come up and tell me how much they agree with what I write — but they’re seldom the ones who stand up to be counted. It’s defenders of the status quo, and at least as bad, the advocates of terrible ideas for change, who have all the passion. The people who simply want rational, responsible government don’t storm barricades, or make demands. They make for lukewarm advocates.

As it happened “tired old man” had brought with him a printout of a Yeats poem that I think makes the point better than Machiavelli did (not least because it doesn’t have Machiavelli’s name attached). I quoted it not long ago here on the blog. The relevant passage:

… Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

That’s my experience. What we need is for the best to embrace conviction, and advocate for rational government with passionate intensity. Good for Rex and Lovelace for trying to get that going.


A portion of the modest crowd that attended.

New political party has its first meeting today in Columbia

Can’t believe I forgot to post this earlier; I had meant to give everyone advanced notice.

Oh well.

About a year ago, I was at an event at the convention center — a luncheon or banquet; I forget the occasion — and Oscar Lovelace, leaving early, paused by my table to tell me that he and Jim Rex were planning to start a new political party, and he would have more to tell me later.

Oscar Lovelace is the country doctor who ran a quixotic campaign against Mark Sanford for the Republican nomination for governor in 2006. Jim Rex is the former university administrator who served as our state superintendent of education, and ran for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2010.

Both are reasonable, moderate men. I can easily see either of them reaching the conclusion that I reached so many years ago, that our two-party system ill serves our state and nation.

Anyway, after that initial mention, I heard nothing more until this past week, when Dr. Lovelace sent out an email that the new party was forming, and that its first meeting would be today:

Dear TEDx Friends,

I hope everyone has recovered from an incredibly stimulating event.  Thanks to each of you I have marked at least one more experience off my bucket list!

If you found my remarks about health care in our state and nation concerning please consider joining me and former Superintendent of Education, Dr. Jim Rex in doing something about our problems – instead of just talking about them.

I first met Jim Rex when I was running against then Governor Sanford in the Republican primary and Dr. Rex was running for Superintendent of Education in 2006.  He won as a Democrat and currently is the only Democrat elected to state-wide office in the past decade. Dr. Rex later ran for governor in 2010 as a Democrat.

Since our experience as gubernatorial candidates, Jim and I, have become resolute in our conviction that the current two party system is broken beyond repair and owned by the corporate interests which fund and control them.  As a result we have a dysfunctional, polarized and paralyzed government.  We need systemic change to renew our democracy and our nation. Months ago we recruited about 12 others to assist us in starting a new political party.

The Free Citizens Party was named to honor the freedom we enjoy as Americans and for which many have sacrificed greatly.  We have the freedom to be apathetic but a higher call as citizens to make our government work for the betterment of society.  Our first organizational meeting is:

Sunday Feb 10, 2013
3pm to 5pm
Tapp Art’s Center
1644 Main St.
Columbia, SC

We are encouraging everyone who plans to attend to bring others who are similarly interested in this effort. One of our first tasks will be to gather 10,000 signatures on a petition to start the new party,  Of course we will need to raise money and develop the structure and function of the party.

Please share the appeal below with others you may know who are willing to work for a brighter future for our state and nation.

If you plan to attend or bring others let me know.  If we have the names of others who plan to come we can more easily prepare.  It would also be helpful to have the email, snail mail address and cell phone number of those who are interested or plan to attend in the event of any last minute details and for future correspondence. .

I hope to see you on Sunday afternoon, February 10 in Columbia,


Oscar F. Lovelace, Jr., MD
Lovelace Family Medicine, PA

Yeah, I know. I’m not crazy about the name they chose for the party. It sounds like a name the Tea Party might have toyed with before coming up with “Tea Party.” It suggests snake flags and the like.

Not that I have a better name in mind. I call the UnParty that in part because once you call something this, you’re saying it’s not that. You’re limiting it. Also, I wanted it not to be a party at all, but an anti-party.

But we’ll see how this one defines itself. I plan to go to the meeting. Perhaps I’ll see you there, despite the last-minute notice.

What SC needs is a good UnParty think tank

Speaking of “conservative, conservative, conservative,” repeated as a mind-numbing mantra…

This came in today:

Contact: Ellen Weaver –

Palmetto Policy Forum to serve a vital role in policy research, innovation and collaboration

Columbia, SC – Today, former U.S. Senator and Heritage Foundation President-elect Jim DeMint announced the launch of the Palmetto Policy Forum, an independent, South Carolina-based think tank.

DeMint, who is investing a portion of his remaining campaign funds to help establish the group, will also serve as its Founding Chairman.

Joining him on the Founding Board is a roster of prominent South Carolina leaders including C. Dan Adams, President and CEO of The Capital Corporation; J. Gresham Barrett, Stewardship Director of NewSpring Church; Michael R. Brenan, Group/State President of BB&T; Michael H. McBride, Chairman of the Board of Directors of HMR Veterans Services, Inc.; and Stu Rodman, Founder and Vice-Chairman of the Board.

The organization will be led by newly-appointed President & CEO, Ellen Weaver, a seasoned veteran of policy, communications and politics.  Weaver has worked with DeMint in both Washington, DC and South Carolina, most recently serving as his State Director.  She will assume full-time duties with Palmetto Policy Forum on March 4, to allow for the completion of an orderly transition between the former DeMint office and that of newly-appointed U.S. Senator Tim Scott.


Dr. Oran Smith, a trusted advocate for conservative policy during his many years of service in South Carolina, will join the staff as Senior Fellow, applying sharp analytical skills to legislative research and policy innovation.

Kate Middleton Maroney, who worked on Capitol Hill in the office of U.S. Representative Trent Franks, will join the staff as Executive Assistant and oversee management of new media outreach.

“While Washington is stuck in an endless cycle of debt, “cliffs” and crisis, a growing number of states are seizing the initiative to implement bold policy innovation that will expand opportunity and economic prosperity for all of their citizens. Conservative success at the state level will be the catalyst that saves our country,” said DeMint.

He continued, “I am pleased to have this opportunity to invest in Palmetto Policy Forum and the future success of the state I love.  I believe South Carolina can lead the nation with the most principled, powerful and effective conservative advocates in America. The Forum will play a key role in cultivating the bold and visionary ideas that we know form the ladder of opportunity for every American.  In my new role at The Heritage Foundation, I look forward to working with Palmetto Policy Forum and like-minded groups all around the country to lead an opportunity renaissance that speaks to the dreams and aspirations of every American.”

“South Carolina needs an organization that will develop a broad spectrum of well-researched policies, rooted in conservative principles and promoted in a positive, coalition-building way.  There is no reason why South Carolina cannot lead the nation in passing market-based policies that we know form the foundation of long-term economic and social success.  On behalf of the Board, we look forward to the work ahead,” said Founding Board Member, Mike Brenan.


Forum Senior Fellow, Dr. Oran Smith said, “An opportunity like Palmetto Policy comes along once in a lifetime. I am honored to add a portfolio at The Forum to my duties as President of Palmetto Family. Positive, conservative but winsome policy entrepreneurship is what South Carolina needs, and that is what Jim DeMint and The Forum represent.”


In closing, Forum President Ellen Weaver stated, “Our challenge – and opportunity – is to develop principle-based policies and to promote them in a way that connects back to the shared values of people all over South Carolina.  By promoting best-practice conservative ideas from around our state and nation, we can show the way forward to increased opportunity for all. It has been an honor to serve in the DeMint office for the past 12 years and I am humbled to have now been asked to oversee this exciting new venture.  I look forward to the chance to work with our board, staff and South Carolina leaders to launch positive policy solutions for the future of our state and those willing to follow South Carolina’s lead.”



Really? Somebody looked at South Carolina, with its SC Policy Council and its SC Club for Growth, and its Nikki Haley and its GOP controlled Legislature, its two Republican senators, and its congressional delegation with one token Democrat, its ranks purged of anyone not pleasing to the Tea Party, and decided that what this state really needed was another entity to advocate for the currently fashionable definition of “conservatism?”

I’ll tell you what SC needs — a forum for ideas that aren’t handcuffed to ideologies, a force that advocates for practical policies that help move this state forward to where we’re no longer last where we want to be first, and first where we want to be last. Which, by the way, is what multiple generations of leaders who conformed to their day’s definition of “conservatism” got us. In antebellum times, we had the most conservative form of government in the nation (powerful legislature, weak executive). Our “conservatism,” our passionate defense of the status quo, led us to secede from the union. After that ended in disaster, forces of reaction in our state managed to restore the same form of government that had served the slaveholders before 1860, although now it served no one in SC. Generation after generation since then has worn its avowed “conservatism” like a glorious crown. And now we are afflicted by a generation that thinks it invented conservatism, and that all that went before it was rabid socialism.

As one who wants the best for my native state, this is discouraging in the extreme.

I’ll be glad to help run such an UnParty think tank, if somebody will put up the money. Ah, there’s the rub! For in South Carolina, there are always millions to be found for bumper-sticker ideology, but not a thin dime for reason and pragmatism.

The Gang of Eight offers a solution on immigration

“As far back as I can remember,” said Henry Hill in the opening to “Goodfellas,”  “I always wanted to be a gangster.”

The same might be said of John McCain and our own Lindsey Graham. And I honor them for it.

The gangs they tend to join are all about uniting to get around the partisan dysfunction of Congress. This time, despite having been so badly burned by the issue six years ago, they are once again ganging up to try to pass a version of comprehensive immigration reform.

This time, there are some new gangsters, such as that kid out of Florida, Marco Rubio. And Chuck Schumer, Dick Durbin, Robert Menendez, Michael Bennet and Jeff Flake. The Washington Post is calling this “a bipartisan push that would have been unimaginable just months ago on one of the country’s most emotionally divisive issues.”

Here’s the memo they’ve put together. This is the introduction:

We recognize that our immigration system is broken. And while border security has improved significantly over the last two Administrations, we still don’t have a functioning immigration system.This has created a situation where up to 11 million undocumented immigrants are living in the shadows. Our legislation acknowledges these realities by finally committing the resources needed to secure the border, modernize and streamline our current legal immigration system, while creating a tough but fair legalization program for individuals who are currently here. We will ensure that this is a successful permanent reform to our immigration system that will not need to be revisited.

The document has a tendency to redundancy — “tough but fair” is mentioned three times on the first page (OK, technically, the third time it was “a tough, fair and practical roadmap”) — but readable. I just think it could have used a tough, but fair, editor.

Amid all sorts of stuff about tightening border security, giving our border patrol the latest technology and making sure people who are supposed to leave by a certain date actually do leave, there is the path to citizenship part:

While these security measures are being put into place, we will simultaneously require those who came or remained in the United States without our permission to register with the
government. This will include passing a background check and settling their debt to society
by paying a fine and back taxes, in order to earn probationary legal status, which will allow
them to live and work legally in the United States. Individuals with a serious criminal
background or others who pose a threat to our national security will be ineligible for legal
status and subject to deportation. Illegal immigrants who have committed serious crimes
face immediate deportation…

Once the enforcement measures have been completed, individuals with probationary legal
status will be required to go to the back of the line of prospective immigrants, pass an
additional background check, pay taxes, learn English and civics, demonstrate a history of
work in the United States, and current employment, among other requirements, in order to
earn the opportunity to apply for lawful permanent residency. Those individuals who
successfully complete these requirements can eventually earn a green card.

Individuals who are present without lawful status – not including people within the two
categories identified below – will only receive a green card after every individual who is
already waiting in line for a green card, at the time this legislation is enacted, has received
their green card. Our purpose is to ensure that no one who has violated America’s
immigration laws will receive preferential treatment as they relate to those individuals who
have complied with the law….

There’s a lot more. I invite y’all to go read it, and react.

The Obama-Christie mutual admiration society

The kind words flowed both ways today between the governor of New Jersey and the POTUS:

President Obama stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Chris Christie, the Republican governor of New Jersey, on Wednesday afternoon, providing reassurance after Hurricane Sandy — and a politically powerful picture of bipartisanship…

“He has worked incredibly closely with me since before the storm hit,” Mr. Christie said, with Mr. Obama standing just behind him. “It’s been a great working relationship.”…

Mr. Obama was equally effusive, saying that Mr. Christie, “throughout this process, has been responsive.”

“He’s been aggressive,” the president continued, “in making sure” that the state was prepared in advance of the storm.

“I think the people of New Jersey recognize that he’s put his heart and soul” into the recovery after the storm. “I just want to thank him for his extraordinary leadership and participation.”…

Only one thing marred the blossoming of this beautiful friendship: When they were flying together over Point Pleasant Beach, they saw someone had written “ROMNEY” in large letters in the sand…

Gov. Chris Christie’s effusive praise of Obama

Here’s something you don’t see every day:

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey took an unscheduled break from partisan attacks on the President Obama on Tuesday to praise him, repeatedly and effusively, for leading the federal government’s response to the storm.

“Wonderful,” “excellent” and “outstanding” were among the adjectives Mr. Christie chose, a change-up from his remarks last week that Mr. Obama was “blindly walking around the White House looking for a clue.”

Some of Mr. Christie’s Republican brethren have already begun grumbling about his gusher of praise at such a crucial time in the election.

But the governor seemed unconcerned. When Fox News asked him about the possibility that Mitt Romney might take a disaster tour of New Jersey, Mr. Christie replied:

I have no idea, nor am I the least bit concerned or interested. I have a job to do in New Jersey that is much bigger than presidential politics. If you think right now I give a damn about presidential politics, then you don’t know me.

A governor who cares more about serving his (or her) state more than national partisan politics? Imagine that. If you live in South Carolina, you might find that difficult, but try…

Yes, a conservative party would be good to have

Vice President Thomas R. Marshall famously said, “What this country needs is a really good five-cent cigar.” Which is debatable.

Less questionable is what Tom Friedman asserted in his latest column, in which he argued that what this country could really use is an actual conservative party. I agree. (In fact, it’s sort of what I’m getting at when I talk about my Grownup Party.)

Nowadays, what was once a home for conservatives has been almost completely commandeering by radicals, he says, and he’s right. Conservatives, true Tories, don’t despise and tear at the basic fabric of civil society. On the contrary, they defend and maintain institutions (of which government is but one). They don’t attend rallies waving snake flags. That’s what revolutionaries do, which is where these latter-day folks got their flag, and the name of their movement. That’s fine if you want to be a revolutionary; it takes all kinds to make up a world. Just don’t call yourself a conservative. And don’t label actual conservatives as “in-name-only.”

Friedman suggests that a real conservative presence in our politics could help us deal meaningfully with the four great issues of the day, which he deems to be “the nexus of debt, taxes and entitlements…[;] how to generate growth and upgrade the skills of every American in an age when the merger of globalization and the information technology revolution means every good job requires more education; how to meet our energy and climate challenges; and how to create an immigration policy that will treat those who are here illegally humanely, while opening America to the world’s most talented immigrants, whom we need to remain the world’s most innovative economy.

He notes that there are real conservatives out there, with useful ideas to contribute with regard to these issues. Such as our own Bob Inglis, so recently ridden out of his party on a rail:

Imagine if the G.O.P. position on energy and climate was set by Bob Inglis, a former South Carolina Republican congressman (who was defeated by the Tea Party in 2010). He now runs George Mason University’s Energy and Enterprise Initiative, which is based on the notion that climate change is real, and that the best way to deal with it and our broader energy challenge is with conservative “market-based solutions” that say to the fossil fuel and wind, solar and nuclear industries: “Be accountable for all of your costs,” including the carbon and pollution you put in the air, and then we’ll “let the markets work” and see who wins.

I told Bob last time I saw him that a new party, a way of running effectively for office outside of the present ideological madness, is exactly what this country needs, so that we can elect more people like him. He listened politely enough, but I fear he’s had his fill of electoral politics for awhile.

Anyway, Friedman definitely is onto something here.

Guess I’m not running this year, either

Several months ago, E.J. Dionne about gave me a heart attack by telling a Columbia crowd that I was going to be running for Congress this year. Basically, he was having a little fun with a casual remark I’d made to him earlier that day, about an idea I’d toyed with.

Guess he got that one wrong. In fact, it’s now too late for me to run for anything (were I so inclined) — with the election still about four months away.

Did you read this this morning?

Dozens of petition candidates statewide have less than a week to collect the signatures that they need to appear on the Nov. 6 ballot.

"You lie!" if you say I have opposition...

South Carolina usually has two or three petitions candidates a year for state House and Senate seats. The state Election Commission has heard from 30 would-be petition candidates this year — and that does not include a number of hopefuls for county seats.

Ballot drives mushroomed this summer after more than 250 candidates statewide were punted from the June primary ballot over a paperwork glitch.

“This is South Carolina politics at its finest,” Roxanne Wilson said with a hint of sarcasm to a pair of voters while collecting signatures Sunday for her twin sister at the Grecian Gardens restaurant in West Columbia.

Petition candidates have until noon next Monday to collect signatures from 5 percent of registered voters in the counties or districts they are running to represent. Thus some candidates have to attract more signatures from registered voters than others.

Election officials then have until Aug. 15 to settle on whether candidates relying on petitions have collected enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot, although officials in Lexington and Richland counties hope to do it sooner…

Never mind me and my political ambivalence, what about all those people out there who are really, truly serious about running? This is not fair.

People don’t have to take action to get on the primary ballots until about two months out. Then, if they win the primary, they have from June until November to get their general election campaign up to ramming speed.

But if a person is unsatisfied with the results of said June primaries, and believes the voters should be offered an alternative, he or she has less than three weeks (after the primary runoffs) to get those thousands of signatures together?

That’s not even to mention those 250 or so people who had every reason, at one time, to believe they had qualified for the primary ballot, and are not having to scramble.

Sounds like another grotesquely obvious case of incumbent and political party protection to me. How about you?

Inglis on why the tribe turned against him

Kathryn brings my attention to this interview piece with Bob Inglis on Salon.

Bob Inglis is a guy for whom I’ve always had a lot of respect — ever since he got elected to Congress in the early 90s as a fiscal (and cultural) conservative, and then voted against highway money for his own district. This was back when nobody did this. “Conservatives” like Strom Thurmond had always talked a good game, but brought home the bacon. Inglis was a trailblazer.

To listen to Bob Inglis talk is to respect him, just as he respects others — something that sets him apart.

Inglis has always been deeply conservative, and deeply committed to his principles. But the know-nothings of his party unceremoniously dumped him in the last election, basically — as near as I can tell — for not being as angry as they were.

Anyway, this is an interesting passage:

Inglis remembers campaigning door-to-door and encountering hostility for the first time.

“I’m wondering, ‘Why is this happening?’” he said. “And what I came around to is that what happens is the tribe selects you to go to Washington. You believe with the tribe, you agree with them, and you go to Washington as their representative.

“Then you get there and you mingle with these other tribes, and you come to understand their point of view – not agree with it, but understand it. So when that view is presented, you don’t have the same sort of shocked reaction that some of the tribe members at home have to hearing that view.”

He recalled getting to know John Lewis, the civil rights icon and Democratic congressman from Georgia.

“He is an incredible American,” Inglis said. “I just disagree with him on this budget thing. But back at the tribe, at the tribal meeting, it’s like, ‘He’s some kind of Communist, that John Lewis. He’s not an American.’ No! He’s an incredible American. He’s one of our heroes.

“But the tribe doesn’t see that. The tribe sees you as sort of getting too cozy with John. And then they start to doubt you, because of this betrayal response. We are hard-wired to respond very violently – as I understand it, the brain really responds to betrayal. It’s one of the strongest human emotions.”…

Inglis, a conservative Republican to his core, speaks here to a very UnParty sensibility. You have your principles and you stand up for them. But that doesn’t mean you delegitimize those with whom you disagree. If you do that, the deliberative process upon which our system of government is built collapses.

Bob understands that. Too few who still hold office do.

So long to Blue Dogs and GOP moderates

There’s a good piece over at by David Gergen and Michael Zuckerman detailing, and decrying, our continued slide into extreme-partisan gridlock.

Basically, it takes note of some the latest developments in this abhorrent trend:

One can see these trends in harsher relief amid campaigns for the Senate and House. Olympia Snowe, a moderate and much-beloved GOP senator from Maine facing her first primary challenge, is retiring because of a lack of bipartisanship and mechanisms to find “common ground.”

Sens. Richard Lugar and Orrin Hatch — both stalwarts of the GOP who have committed apostasy by trying to work across party lines — face primaries this season that imperil their survival: A poll Thursday morning found Lugar down 5 points to a tea party-backed challenger in Indiana, and Hatch failed to secure a 60% supermajority at his party’s convention in Utah, sending his race to a primary. Only two years ago in Utah, another stalwart Republican who had worked with Democrats, Bob Bennett, was deposed by an ideologically purer primary challenger.

In the House, meanwhile, the once-robust cadre of “Blue Dog Democrats” — moderate to conservative members of the liberal party — has been winnowed out, with two more members (Reps. Jason Altmire and Tim Holden of Pennsylvania) defeated in primaries this past Tuesday by opponents from their left flanks.

As of 2010, there were as many as 54 Blue Dogs, but the midterms knocked their caucus down to 26. With retirements and primaries, that number will probably be well below 20 by next January — an effect that further turns Democrats into the party of the left…

Are there any good guys left? Yes there, are, but they are few:

So it’s crucial to bolster the men and women of courage in politics: the ones who can act as ambassadors between these increasingly dug-in parties and who can kindle that small flame of trust that has almost gone out. Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) and Mark Warner (D-Virginia) and a handful of others, for example, have launched laudable work on this count in the Senate, pulling together small, quiet dinners with legislators from both sides of the aisle who are strong in principles but equally strong in their commitment to moving the ball forward for the country…

I’ve always liked Lamar, ever since I covered him running for governor back in 1978.

A very UnParty press release from Rep. Taylor

Still catching up on releases sent to me via email, I ran across this rather remarkable one from Rep. Bill Taylor, a Republican from Aiken:

Unanimous Agreement !

Passage of a

Bi-Partisan State Budget

Dear Friends:

In Washington D.C. partisan bickering seems to rule. In South Carolina elected officials know how to work together for better and more efficient government. Democrat and Republican legislators joined


together in the House of Representatives to unanimously pass a state budget this week.

Be assured there were disagreements and much debate on how to wisely spend your tax money, but both sides came together to pass a balanced budget that falls well within the proposed cap on spending. It focuses on the core functions of government – education, infrastructure and law enforcement – all of which are vital to our state’s growing economy.

The spending plan also provides tax relief, pays off debt and replenishes the state’s ‘rainy day’ reserve accounts.

Headlines from the $6 billion General Fund appropriations:

  • $152 million in additional funds for K-12 used in the classroom and not for educational bureaucracy.
  • $180 million set aside to pay for SC’s share of the deepening of the Charleston Port, the major economic driver for SC.
  • $77 million in tax relief to employers of all sizes to assist them with some relief from the high unemployment insurance costs caused by the recession.
  • $549 million in tax relief; 88% of which is property tax relief that must be granted annually if the relief is to remain.
  • Nearly $400 million to the Constitutional and Statutory Reserves – those funds go into our savings account for the next economic downturn – “The Rainy Day Fund’.

While the General Fund budget grows by 4.56%, this plan calls for far less spending as compared to the beginning of the recession. The increase is aimed at patching the severe cuts that have occurred in recent years in law enforcement and education. It is a fiscally conservative spending plan designed to make SC more competitive.

The Governor’s Criticism: In Governor Haley’s fly-around-the-state tour this week she promoted her idea for a one-year only tax cut benefiting major corporations. The House budget plan cuts taxes for every single SC employer, hopefully, that will stimulate hiring.

The Governor also took aim on House Republican’s 7 point comprehensive tax reform plan introduced this week. She called it “disingenuous” even though she and her staff worked with our tax reform committee over the past eight months and the legislation included everything she asked for and much more. (Read the Aiken Standard’s story on this topic.)

What’s Next for the Budget? The proposed budget heads to the Senate. If past years are any indication, senators will bloat the budget with additional spending. Please let your senator know that’s not acceptable.

Wow. First we have all the Senate Democrats voting for John Courson. Now we have a Republican — a House Republican (the most partisan kind), no less — bragging to his constituents that the budget just passed was bipartisan. Instead of the usual business of giving all the credit to the GOP and mentioning Democrats only as obstacles, if at all.

Oh never fear — the zampolits are probably rushing to censure these folks for such UnParty sentiments, denouncing them as double-plus ungood. But for now, I’m enjoying this little Prague Spring.

Let’s all be Fascist Anarchists. Or whatever. Doesn’t really matter, as long as everybody’s in.

Ferris wouldn't care if we were fascist anarchists. It still wouldn't change the fact that he doesn't own a car.

Corey Hutchins sends out a link to his ‘splainer on Ken Ard. In a nod to the cultural references of us old people, the headline begins, “An Ard Rain’s Gonna Fall…

Corey and the Free Times are of course feeling validated by how this story came out. Or if they aren’t, they at least have reason to, as The New York Times notes:

A grand jury had been investigating Mr. Ard since July. He has already paid more than $72,000 in fines and other costs after an ethics commission found he improperly spent funds after winning election. His violation of campaign laws was first reported by The Free Times in Columbia.

But I had to take exception to a sidenote that Corey included in the email in which he shared the link. He wrote, “This story details the rise and fall of South Carolina’s first-term GOP lieutenant governor, Ken Ard, who resigned today amid a campaign finance scandal. It might serve as a caution for the idea of a one-party state…”

I responded:

Oh, I think a one-party state would be wonderful. Everyone just go ahead and say they’re Republicans, or Democrats, or Federalists, or Fascist Anarchists. It doesn’t matter what we call it (the names usually end up being meaningless as soon as parties grow large enough to win elections, anyway), as long as everybody’s in.

Then the voters will have to choose candidates based on their individual characters and qualifications, rather than according to which letter they have after their names.

One-party means NO party. Because you have to have two for the idiocy of partisanship.

Purple states smarter than reds and blues

At least, that’s the uncomfortable conclusion of blue-state writer who wanted to prove that such folk were smarter than red-staters:

To get to the bottom of things, I had my assistant Una dump McDaniel’s state IQ numbers into a spreadsheet, weight them by population, and then divide them into three groups: red for states consistently choosing Republicans in the last three presidential elections; blue for always voting Democratic; and purple for swing states.

Result: average IQ for red states vs. blue states was essentially the same (red 99, blue 99.5). Conclusions: Are liberals smarter than conservatives? Some social scientists sure think so. Are blue states smarter than red states? Sadly for us cyanophiles, no.

But here’s the most significant data point, I think: in the purple states — the ones that swung back and forth — the average IQ according to Una’s spreadsheet was 100.9, appreciably above that for either the blue states or red states. In other words — and this has the shock of truth — the people in the purple states weren’t rigidly liberal or conservative, but rather had enough on the ball to consider the choices before them and occasionally change their minds.

So, it comes down to what I’ve been telling y’all over and over: We swing voters are the people who actually think about our votes. It stands to reason that places where we predominate would be smarter.

I’ll bet his assistant, Una, is one of us. Bet she’s good-looking, too.

This inspires a possible tagline for the UnParty: “We’re way smarter than the rest of y’all.”

OK, so it could use some work. For instance, the word “y’all” might be over the heads of folks in blue states.

But it’s a start…