Category Archives: UnParty

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…

Energy Party position on Keystone pipeline

Meant to post about this yesterday, but there’s just so much going on…

You know the Democratic position on the Obama Administration’s rejection of a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline. And you know the Republican position.

But what, I’m sure you’re wondering, is the Energy Party position? It’s not all that complicated. You can break it down into three elements. The Energy Party:

  1. Wants this project to happen. Not for the jobs everybody is talking about, although the jobs are great. Encouraging the development of domestic, or at least friendly, sources of energy is key to the nation’s strategic security, and therefore of the highest priority to the Energy Party.
  2. Is deeply disappointed that the permit has been rejected at this time. Were this decision to stand, it would be bad for the nation. Fortunately, there appears to be time to reconsider, as there are other obstacles to the project that will take time to work out.
  3. Is much encouraged that the permit was not rejected on the merits. The fact that the president cited a technicality — Congress not giving enough time to properly consider the permit — is highly encouraging. Maybe he can turn this around and get it right.

See how matter-of-fact things can be when you’re not blinded by the ideology of either the left or the right, and you don’t care whether Democrats or Republicans have the upper hand?

Historic national milestone: Americans more disgusted with Congress than ever

This just in:

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that a record 84 percent of Americans disapprove of the job Congress is doing, with almost two-thirds saying they “disapprove strongly.” Just 13 percent of Americans approve of how things are going after the 112th Congress’s first year of action, solidifying an unprecedented level of public disgust that has both sides worried about their positions less than 10 months before voters decide their fates.

It has been nearly four years since even 30 percent expressed approval of Congress, according to the Post-ABC survey, and support hasn’t recovered from the historic low it reached last fall.

In the face of the public dismay, House Republicans and Senate Democrats are fashioning less far-reaching agendas for the year ahead, in part to avoid the bitter political showdowns of 2011 and also to best position themselves for the fall elections…

So basically they’ve decided, “The country is right where we want it. No need to do anything else. Let’s sit back and let the voters reward us by re-electing us.”

Some of y’all were urging me to run for office earlier today, although perhaps ironically. Is this the moment for the UnParty to make its move, at long last? That “unprecedented level of public disgust” sounds like a call to arms for somebody, anyway.

But what does “Patriocracy” mean, exactly?

Someone passed this invitation on to me. I think I’d like to attend, although I’m double-checking to see whether I’m welcome, since I wasn’t invited directly. I mean, I assume I’m included in “everyone,” but does a gentleman assume?

You Are Invited to Attend…

The South Carolina Premiere of the Documentary Film ‘Patriocracy‘, Followed by Panel Discussion

6 pm, Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce Auditorium, 930 Richland St., Columbia

Sponsored by the League of Women Voters       Co-Sponsored by the Greater Columbia Community Relations Council

The League of Women Voters invites everyone to a special free screening of ‘Patriocracy’. This new, award-winning documentary film drills down to the roots of political polarization in our nation and offers sound solutions to move beyond it. Brian Malone, the film’s producer and five-time Emmy Award winner, will introduce the film in person. The film features an A-list of national political and media personalities, including former MT Senator Alan Simpson, VA Senator Mark Warner, ND Senator Kent Conrad, former SC Congressman Bob Inglis, Bob Schieffer (CBS News), Eleanor Clift (Newsweek/McLaughlin Group), Ken Rudin (NPR),  and many more.

After the film there will be a panel discussion, moderated by Elisabeth MacNamara, national president of the League of Women Voters. The A-list of panelists includes former Rep. John M. Spratt, Jr.(D; SC 5th Congressional District); Charles Bierbauer (USC College of Journalism and Mass Communication Dean and former CNN senior White House Correspondent); Lee Catoe (Greater Columbia Community Relations Council Interim Dir., former SC Dept. of Alcohol and Other Abuse Services Dir., appointed by Gov. Mark Sanford, Exec. Assistant for Gov. Carroll Campbell); filmmaker Brian Malone; and others.

This event is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served. Please share with everyone you know.

Film information is available at

RSVP requested, but not required at 803-251-2726 or

Save Wednesday evening, January 18 at 6 p.m., and see the film ‘Patriocracy’ being shown at Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce Auditorium, 930 Richland St., in downtown Columbia.

One thing I’m frustrated about, though — I don’t understand where the title came from. Why “Patriocracy?” What do the filmmakers mean by that word? I hope the movie will tell me.

Why do people keep coining new words, instead of using the tried and true ones. Such as, you know, “UnParty.”

Ex-GOP candidate boasts of high ACLU rating. No, really.

Seeing as how I’m old enough to remember the epithet, “card-carrying member of the ACLU,” I was a bit taken aback by this release from erstwhile GOP presidential candidate wannabe Gary Johnson:

Liberty Watch Scorecard

January 3, 2012, Santa Fe, NM — Former New Mexico Governor and presidential candidate Gary Johnson ranks highest of all major presidential candidates in a “Liberty Watch” report card just released by the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU report ranked candidates according to their positions on issues of civil liberties and adherence to the Constitution.
Johnson ranked higher than both President Obama and Texas Congressman Ron Paul in the ACLU Liberty Watch ratings. The report card included candidates’ positions on issues ranging from immigration to gay rights to a woman’s right to choose.
On the ACLU Liberty Watch website, ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero said, “Republican-turned-Libertarian Gary Johnson scored even better than Paul, Huntsman and Obama, earning four and three torches on most major issues. They stand in stark contrast to the other major GOP candidates, three of whom — Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum — didn’t earn a single torch in any of the seven major categories.”
The full Liberty Watch Report Card can be viewed at

There’s an explanation. It seems that over the holidays when I wasn’t paying attention (OK, I admit I never was actually paying attention to Gov. Johnson, but last week I was like in negative Johnson-attention mode), the candidate gave up on running as a Republican, and is now seeking the Libertarian Party nod.

Which explains a lot.

Before, he was a Republican. Now, he’s more down on the two-party system than… well,  than an UnPartisan. Dig the fund-raising pitch on his site:

Everybody says they want a viable alternative to America’s two-party chokehold.
Everybody — Meet Gary Johnson.
The two-party is over.
See what I mean?

And now, a few words from the Grownup Party

The ATV discussion caused me to invoke the Grownup Party (which was my third effort to start my own party, after the UnParty and the Energy Party), which caused me to go back and reread the party’s founding document, and I think this passage is always good to keep in mind:

Which brings us to something else about Grownups — they understand that in America, the government is us, rather than being some menacing thing out there, and that we’re very fortunate to live in this country at this time rather than in Russia under the czars — or under Vladimir Putin, for that matter. And we’re especially fortunate not to live in a place where there is no government, such as Somalia under the warlords.
When the government does something we don’t like — which is pretty often, political immaturity being rampant — we don’t stamp our feet and talk about taking our ball (or  taxes, or whatever) and going home. Instead, we take responsibility for it, and try to bring it along. Yes, it’s a thankless task, like picking up after one’s children, or explaining to them why they can’t stay out late with their friends. But someone has to do it.
The task may seem hopeless as well — but only to the sort who gives up. Grownups know they don’t have that option, so they keep putting forth ideas that make sense, day after day, just like Daddy  going to work…

Amen to that. The Founder of the Grownup Party knows what he’s on about…

One man’s moderation is another man’s floor

Or something. I was trying to play on this saying. Not sure it worked.

Anyway, this being the official blog of the UnParty, I wanted to further explore a discussion of moderation that began with this comment by Bud:

Here are some other issues I regard as extreme:

Warrantless wire tapping
War on drugs, especially marijuana
Iraq war
Support for Green Diamond
Outlawing video poker
Blue Laws
Tax exemption for mortgage on second homes
Allowing the drilling for oil in deepwater (over 5000 ft)
Banning of abortion with exceptions for rape and incest
Expansion of nuclear power
Allowing prayer in public schools

Some folks would see some, or all, of these positions as moderate, mainstream issues. Some would find the opposite view (from mine) as the extremist position. So I’m not sure the label “extremist” is particularly meaningful.

I liked that challenge to further explore our respective concepts of moderation. I decided to set out my own thoughts, briefly, on those issues, as a political “moderate.” (Still not sure that’s the right word, but it’s the one we were using at the moment.) Here was my response, slightly edited for this separate post:

1. Warrantless wire tapping — You need to define your terms more clearly. “Wiretap” is a 20th century word that gets kind of mushy in a wireless world. I’m thinking you’re probably referring to the scanning of billions of communications in a process that is actually closer (as I understand it) to another old term (while not being at all the same thing): “traffic analysis.” Certain patterns are looked for, and if they emerge, zeroed in on. This is for me a huge gray area. If you’re referring to the kind of large-scale scanning of communications under the Patriot Act, I generally can live with it. If you’re talking about actually entering someone’s home, or even directly accessing someone’s personal computer remotely, I think the 4th Amendment kicks in and there should probably be a warrant. But at the same time, all sorts of private companies access your data remotely without a warrant, so these are things that require constant rethinking. Our political thinking hasn’t caught up with the technology.
2. War on drugs, especially marijuana — As we’ve discussed before, I disagree. All mind-altering drugs should be controlled, to some degree, including alcohol and nicotine. To the extent that we can keep out of wide circulation drugs that don’t have the same cultural foothold as alcohol, it’s a worthy goal.
3. Iraq war — I was for the invasion, like people across the political spectrum. Once committed, I couldn’t see even thinking about withdrawing until a reasonable level of stability was achieved. (If you break it, you’re responsible.) I was not in favor of the way Bush and Rumsfeld handled the situation after the actual toppling of the Ba’athist regime. I think we got back on the right course when Petraeus took over. I’m concerned and torn about the pending withdrawal.
3. Support for Green Diamond — I’m with you there, although not adamantly. It’s not something I would have done, but I was ambivalent as to whether those developers should have been allowed to try it. On the one had, it was their risk to take. On the other, there was the risk of flooding on the other side of the river and downstream — the latter outweighs the former, which is why I say I’m with you.
4. Outlawing video poker — By the end, it was such a corrupting influence on the State House that that was the only way. It had to go. I’ve explained in the past the trajectory of that issue, until it was plain to people on both sides of the political aisle that the video poker industry was incapable of being a good “citizen,” and banning it was the only solution. Everything else had been tried.
5. Blue Laws — I disagree completely. Ours was a more civilized culture when there was a day that things calmed down and commerce ceased. I realize many people across the spectrum disagree with me on this. I’ve never seen it as worth having a fight about either way, but if you ask me my preference, it’s opposed to rescinding such laws.
6. Tax exemption for mortgage on second homes — I’m with you. Frankly, I’m not entirely convinced we should have it on first homes. I wouldn’t campaign to get rid of it, though.
7. Allowing the drilling for oil in deepwater (over 5000 ft) — I don’t know how you pick that number. Seems arbitrary. Accidents can happen at 4,000 ft., too. The answer isn’t a number, it seems to me, but rather proper safeguards. Bottom line, I want drilling wherever it can be done safely (within a reasonable doubt), because our economy needs the oil until we develop alternative sources on a sufficient scale, and we desperately need to wean ourselves off unstable foreign sources.
8. Banning of abortion with exceptions for rape and incest — The only exemption for me would be the mother’s life. Only a life can balance out a life. And a life in which many other lives are already invested has precedence.
9. Expansion of nuclear power — Such expansion is essential. Our best option at this time to wean ourselves off fossil fuels (just to use transportation as an example) is to move to electric cars, and the cleanest, safest source for that electricity is nuclear. We are capable of building safe plants.
10. Allowing prayer in public schools — Ambivalent. I can’t see taking up the cudgels for either side in this debate. Just another one of those things culture warriors like to fight about, and I am neutral. Prayer in the schools is harmless, but at the same time I respect the goal of keeping public schools secular. Have prayer or don’t, society would be fine. Oh, and I assume we’re talking officially sanctioned prayer. Of course any individual or group of individuals is perfectly free to pray anywhere.

On that last one — if you look back at the rules that Dick Riley promulgated on this issue when he was Bill Clinton’s secretary of education, you’ll see a good, moderate response to the prayer issue. It was a response that wouldn’t be entirely satisfactory to either side in the culture war, but it was fine to a moderate.

By the way, I also thought “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was a great moderate response. That also, as you recall, was a Third Way course taken by Clinton. But of course, culture warriors on both sides wanted total victory.

And on abortion, I very much appreciate the initiative by members of Congress on both sides of the issue to work together to make abortion more rare. That’s something both sides say they want, and it’s far better to work on that than to keep shouting at each other. That actually has a point to it. E.J. Dionne mentioned that in his speech the other night, by the way…

Et tu, Coffee Party?

Following on my previous post, I’ve realized for some time that the Coffee Party wasn’t going be the kind of sensible Third Way alternative, a la the UnParty, that I’ve been looking for all these years.

I was momentarily beguiled by the word “coffee,” but I eventually woke up and smelled it.

Basically, for some time, it has seemed to be more of a leftie alternative to the Tea sorts.

And now, like Phil Noble’s SC New Democrats, the Coffee Party is totally in the bag for Occupy Wall Street. They seem starstruck or something, like this is what they’ve been waiting for all their lives. You can see this, over and over, in recent Tweets, such as this one:

Coffee Party

@coffeepartyusaCoffee Party

Iconic Photo of #OccupyDC — meet the photographer Craig Hudson #Oct29 #CoffeeParty

Talk about your fanboy sensibilities.

This prompted me to reply, I’m disappointed that the Coffee Party seems so entranced by Occupy Wall Street…

To which I received this answer:

Coffee Party

@coffeepartyusaCoffee Party

Hey @bradwarthen …we just encourage a #CitizensIntervention that allows dialogue between citizens and their leaders…coming #Oct29?

No, I’m not. I won’t be in town. But thanks. I mean, I believe y’all are sincere in your effort to include me.

If only y’all would snap out of it, and become a real alternative for those of us who are sick of people marching and countermarching in the streets, and hollering pointlessly at each other in the halls of Congress. Those of us longing for some common, grown-up sense.

My prescription: Listen to the song below. (The Coffee Party fooled me once. I won’t get fooled again.) And have yourself a nice cup of coffee while you listen. Preferably some of that wonderful, corporate Starbucks coffee. See how good it is…

And then vote UnParty.