The number of South Carolinians voting straight-ticket is sickening

straight

Pursuant to a conversation some of us had earlier about the election results, our own Doug Ross took it upon himself to crunch some numbers. And what he came up with was appalling.

Here’s his spreadsheet. Read it and weep. I almost did.

As you know, I get thoroughly disgusted at the idea that anyone, anywhere in this nation, would cop out of his duty as a citizen to the extent of voting a straight party ticket. That an American citizen, much less a fellow South Carolinian, would completely forego the responsibility of carefully considering each candidate, and surrender his precious birthright to anything so low and destructive as a political party — letting the party choose and think for him, on the most important decisions he must make as a citizen — is utterly shocking to me.

I don’t think the straight-party option should exist on ballots. It should be constitutionally banned. Short of that, I think the device should be used as a test to see whether you’re ready for the responsibility of voting: Choose the straight-ticket option, and your entire ballot should automatically be thrown out. If you can’t be bothered to think about each candidate and each position, you don’t deserve the franchise.

Given my thoughts on the matter, you can imagine my horror at the numbers Doug put together (based, I think, on the election commission’s numbers — Doug can elaborate on that).

According to Doug’s spreadsheet, almost half — 49 percent — of all voters in South Carolina Tuesday chose the straight-ticket option. Half of our fellow citizens just… couldn’t be bothered… to carefully consider each decision with which they were entrusted. They just made one decision — to not make any decisions for themselves, leaving them all to a party.

Twenty-three percent of them chose straight Republican; 25 percent went straight Democratic.

The numbers choosing a straight-party vote were particularly horrible in poorer, more rural counties, where the preference was usually Democratic. In Lee County, 72 percent of ballots were straight-ticket. The percentages weren’t as bad in the suburbs, but the raw numbers almost were.

Why, oh why, do people even bother to register to vote, if this is all they’re going to do?

TOTALLY Open Thread for Thursday, November 6, 2014

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This is wide open, because I have ZERO time for blogging today.

OK, one suggestion: Does anyone think there is a Unified Field Theory explanation for election results Tuesday? I don’t; I never do. I believe voters have brains, and every box they checked on their ballots was for a separate set of reasons. That’s how the world actually works.

But that doesn’t stop the “It’s either one thing or the other” binary crowd from trying to offer simplistic explanations, especially when it’s to their advantage to do so. So we have the idiotic headline on an inside page of The State that says, “This election was all about Obama.” (It had a different headline online.)

That in the same edition that also reports, “Preliminary exit polls found that 33 percent of voters were registering displeasure with Obama.” Which means the rest of the voters had other things on their minds. And, just a wild thought here, even the 33 percent probably had some additional factors acting on them.

Karl Rove, of course, is going the simplistic route: “How big was Tuesday’s devastating repudiation of President Obama, his policies and his party?”

Anyway, what do you think?

Obama reaches out to Graham, wants to work together

Sen. Lindsey Graham speaks to reporters in his Columbia office.

Sen. Lindsey Graham speaks to reporters in his Columbia office.

Last night, President Barack Obama called Sen. Lindsey Graham. They spoke for about 20 minutes, which suggests that the president didn’t make very many such calls.

Graham told reporters in Columbia today that the president wanted to find a way to work with him and other Republicans so that the next two years aren’t just a continuation of gridlock of the last two.

Obama wasn’t looking for miracles. He wanted “a medium or small-sized deal” or two that could build confidence, persuade everyone that it’s possible for the two sides to work together for the good of the country and then who knows? Maybe a big deal would be possible.

“The President wanted to find ways to create momentum for problem-solving because he believed rightly that it would help the American people, restore their belief that the government is not hopelessly lost, and would increase our standing overseas,” said Graham. “And I think he’s right about that.”

What sorts of things might constitute such a modest deal? The first thing Graham mentioned was the fact that the highway trust fund is depleted — as on the state level, the gasoline tax no longer brings in enough to meet the nation’s infrastructure needs. He said he and Barbara Boxer are already working on a deal that would put a 10 percent tax on money earned by American corporations overseas, to replenish the fund.

He said he and the president also spoke about port modernization, the Keystone pipeline, tax reform — and immigration.

The senator suggested that Republicans would be wise to accept the president’s offer:

“President Obama’s biggest problem is that he campaigned as a centrist, but he’s governed from the left ditch,” Graham said. “Here’s gonna be our problem: If we take the car from the left ditch to the right ditch, we’re gonna be in trouble, too. People want the car in the middle of the road — they want it in the right-center lane of the road — and not in the right ditch.”

Could the two sides ever reach that big deal on the major challenges facing the country? Graham doesn’t know, but “Without the small and medium-sized compromise, there will never be a big deal.”

“So, Mr. President: Here I am. I’m ready to go to work…”

He said as soon as he got done with the presser, he was going to return a call to Harry Reid…

ONE bit of progress in SC: We’ll no longer elect adjutant general

OK, I’m shaking off the doldrums here…

Let’s talk about something good that happened in yesterday’s election: We changed our constitution so that South Carolina is no longer a banana republic wannabe. We will no longer politicize the state’s highest military post. We will no longer elect our adjutant general. Instead, the AG will be appointed by duly constituted civilian authority, according to specific requirements, according to actual qualifications.

No, it’s not as big a deal as if we stopped electing, say, the superintendent of education. But it’s something. Set it alongside the decision in the last election to stop separately electing the lieutenant governor, and the elimination of the constitutionally perverse Budget and Control Board, and we’re starting to get a state government that is organized at least for the 20th century, if not the 21st.

Of all the executive-branch posts that, against all reason, we have continued to elect separately from the governor (thereby fragmenting the already-weak executive), the adjutant general was the one that most obviously needed to change. We were the only state in the nation that chose its top-ranking officer in a popularity contest — a partisan popularity contest, which produced the obscene situation of having a serving officer declare a party affiliation.

But it also seemed like the office that was most resistant to reform. The incumbent AG was always opposed to it (politicians dance with the one that brung them, and we required our AGs to be politicians), and those serving under him tended to follow his example, and the public at large tended to give the Guard what it wanted.

But things changed in South Carolina, and that is something to celebrate. Leadership in both parties embraced change, and most importantly, the incumbent AG did, too. And the rest of us followed suit.

And so we took a step forward in South Carolina yesterday. And that’s something to celebrate.

The results are in: More of the same

Two weeks ago, I wrote of being dispirited by the prospects of the upcoming election. I was sufficiently down that Bryan Caskey did a Ferris Bueller to my Cameron Frye and took me skeet-shooting, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

But now, the election results are in, and they did not disappoint. They contain nothing likely to instill enthusiasm.

The bottom line is, things will stay the same in South Carolina — and in the nation, too. Anyone who thinks it matters which party controls the Congress is seriously deluded. It’s the same bunch of people, playing the same game (the “Which Party is Up Today?” game) the same way. I see that Harry Reid is out of power, and I go, “Yay!” and I see Mitch McConnell rise to power and I go, “Oh, dang.”

The way I feel (and yes, I’m talking about feelings rather than thoughts, which shows I’m just not myself today), overall, about this election is captured well in this datum, which The Washington Post describes as “The single most depressing number in the national exit poll“:

One of the fundamental truisms of American life is this: Your kids will have a better life — more opportunities, more creature comforts, more whatever — than you did/do.  Except that people don’t believe that any more, according to preliminary exit polls.

Almost half of all Americans — 48 percent — said they expected life for “future generations” to be “worse than life today,” while 22 percent said it would be better. Another 27 percent said life would be about the same. Do the math and you see that more than twice as many people are pessimistic about the future that they will leave their kids as those who are optimistic.  (Not surprisingly, among the 48 percent who believe future generations will be worse off, two thirds of them voted for Republicans in today’s election.)

Those are stunning — and depressing — numbers. And they are far from the only evidence that the American Dream is, if not dead, certainly dying in the eyes of many Americans….

How do you like them apples? Well, I don’t either, but there it is. And I think it reflects the national mood, as expressed in this election. Americans are fed up with politics, and have lost faith in its transformative power. They’re unhappy about the way things are going, but they don’t see a way to make them go better. So they express their dissatisfaction in the standard way — they punish the president’s party in the “midterm” election. They don’t have high hopes for change or anything, but they’ve expressed their pique.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. Good things happened. I’m happy that Lindsey Graham won. I’m glad to have him as my senator, and I get tired of everybody ragging on him. I’m not disappointed, exactly, that Vincent Sheheen lost because I expected him to. We’d be a lot better off if he’d won, and I probably wouldn’t be such a Toby Zeigler today, but that was never in the cards.

And good for Alan Wilson and Beth Bernstein and a number of others. I’m glad the Lexington 2 bond referendum passed.

But unless you are one of the winning candidates, or related to one of the winning candidates, I doubt that you are elated by the mushy gray events of yesterday.

Yeah, I think it’s nice that a black man was elected to the U.S. Senate, and a black Republican at that — anything that bumps us out of the usual ruts of partisan voting patterns is good. But I’d feel better if I thought he had inspired people somehow with ideas for how to better our nation. I can’t really put my finger on anything that I know he wants to do in office. We just, as a state, found him unobjectionable. He had the office, and we saw no reason to remove him from it. Tim Scott’s election is something that will look more exciting in the footnotes of history than it actually was.

OK, one other good thing happened that represents progress for South Carolina. I’ll write about it in a separate post. Don’t get your hopes up. It’s not exciting…

Curtis Loftis helped me decide to vote ‘yes’ on sales tax

As I told y’all, I was really agonizing over the Lexington County sales tax referendum. I knew the county needed some infrastructure funds, but we’ve really put a lot of stress on the sales tax in this state, and the proposal lacked the thing that made me get behind the Richland County penny — the support for the bus system.

But SC Treasurer Curtis Loftis helped me make up my mind, with this release last Friday:

Hi,

Many local governments and special interest groups across our state have decided that now is the time to raise your taxes. I understand their arguments because I also want better roads, education, drainage, and infrastructure.  However, as your State Treasurer, I have seen how all levels of government “manage and protect” your money, and the current standards are simply unacceptable.

I probably don’t live in your county, so I must respect your right to tax yourselves. However, we must have fundamental change in how our government operates. Implementing true fiscal responsibility and accountability are the first steps government can take to earn our trust.

Since the government and special interests want our money now, the time we should bargain for a “better deal” is now. Let’s say NO to new taxes and YES to meaningful transparency and accountability. Let’s say NO to back room deals with special interest and YES to high-ranking government officials being held responsible for protecting our money and delivering a quality product.

I’m going to vote NO on new taxes at the polls on Tuesday, and I encourage you to do the same.  Let’s give the government and special interests a rain check for a vote on new money until the proper measures are in place to protect our money and deliver what is promised by special interests.

Be well,

Curtis Loftis
Treasurer, State of South Carolina

The next morning, I read in the paper that Loftis was specifically opposing the Lexington sales tax proposal.

Really? Here you are, the top fiscal officer (or one of them) of our state, and you’re going out of your way to say something about a local tax proposal, and that’s it? Instead of an analysis of the pros and cons, you essentially say, “I’m against tax increases, so I’m against this one.” That, and “government is a bad thing, and when it raises taxes, it’s just for special interests, and never for the public’s benefit.” The kind of vague universal condemnation of Man and all his works that a malcontent with no political power (or, who thinks he has no political power) might sit at a bar and mutter to the bartender after a couple too many.

Yeah, thanks for helping me work through this one, guy!

Of course, I was helped even more by Warren Bolton’s thoughtful column Sunday, in which he set out the one argument that settled it for me:

WHILE LEXINGTON County’s proposed Penny for Pavement tax plan has its shortcomings, there’s a grim reality that voters need to understand as they consider whether to approve the measure aimed at addressing chronic congestion, traffic problems and road safety.

No other help is on the way…

Basically, there’s no Plan B. Local governments have few options when it comes to paying for roadwork that the state can’t seem to get its act together on. This was the plan. If important projects were to be funded, this was the option.

So I voted for it.

It took me 17 minutes to vote. A normal person would have taken 10, tops

The Quail Hollow precinct, at 8:21 a.m.

The Quail Hollow precinct, at 8:21 a.m.

Well, so much for the long lines that had been anticipated at Lexington County polling places, partly because of the plethora of referenda on the ballot.

From the time I got out of my car until the time I got back into it, 17 minutes passed. I figure at least seven of those were due to:

  1. My obsessive carefulness about voting. I’ve always been this way, since my first time voting in 1972 (I stood in the booth agonizing over the fact that I saw Nixon as an abuser of power, and McGovern as an incompetent, and trying to decide which was least bad). Once, in the days of actual booths with curtains, a poll worker asked, “Are you all right in there, sir?” When we used punch cards, I would put the card in and take it out a couple of times to make sure it was aligning properly, then take the completed ballot out, make sure the numbers next to all the holes corresponded to the numbers of the candidates I had meant to vote for, then run my hand up and down the back of the card a couple of times to make sure there were no bits of cardboard stuck there (this was before I knew they were called “chads”), and hold it up to the light to make sure all the punches were clean and complete. To this day, I find it absolutely inconceivable that anyone in Florida could have inadvertently voted for the wrong person in 2000. I always made sure. (And I preferred the cards to electronic machines because there was a physical thing proving how I’d voted.)
  2. The fact that the machine offered me two chances to go back and check — when it offered a summary of how I’d voted, and when it asked me to make sure that the races I’d left blank were intentionally left that way. I went back and reviewed everything both times, and then once more before hitting “confirm.” I take my vote very seriously.
  3. I took pictures of the how-I-voted summary pages, so I could remember how I voted, and not only for blogging purposes.
  4. When I initially got back to my car, I realized I hadn’t gotten an “I Voted” sticker, so I went back for one.

Then, of course, there was the small matter of making 27 separate voting decisions. Sure, I’d already made up my mind on most, but I took a little “are you sure?” couple of seconds on most of them.

Some stats and trivia:

  • I voted for three Democrats, seven Republicans, and one member of the new “American Party.”
  • I voted a straight State newspaper ticket, where applicable (they endorsed in some S.C. House races other than mine, and did not endorse in any of the Lexington County referenda).
  • I voted “yes” on four of the five referendum questions, and “no” on the other.
  • I left seven places blank, including, of course, the execrable, contemptible straight-party option, which should not be allowed under the law. Most of these involved unopposed people, but some involved competition between candidates with whom I was unfamiliar. And my standard rule, which I only occasionally break (see next bullet), is not to vote when I’m unsure of the candidates.
  • I voted for myself as a write-in for Congress. I had to choose three candidates for Lexington Two school board. I was not familiar with any of them. I wrote in my wife and my Dad (my Dad actually ran for the board once, many years ago), and the guy who had shaken my hand outside the polling place. That was my one whimsical, irresponsible, uninformed, against-my-own-rules vote. He had an honest face.

Overall, it went smoothly. There were three people in line to sign in ahead of me when I walked up, and one of those was gone before I could get out my phone and shoot the picture above. I had been handed several sheets of paper with explanations of the referenda, supposedly so I could study them in line, but I had no time in line even to glance at them.

The picture ID thing afforded me no trouble, beyond the hassle of digging it out of my wallet.

So how’d it go for you?

I had to go back for it, but I got my sticker.

I had to go back for it, but I got my sticker.

John Oliver discovers the big ‘secret’ that legislatures exist

Another thing I talked about on the radio last night was my increasing peevishness that we call these “mid-term elections,” which underlines our unhealthy national obsession with national politics over local, and presidential politics über alles.

And this morning, I was treated to another bit of evidence of the problem:

“Look, state legislatures are hilarious. There’s only one problem,” the HBO host began. “Increasingly, they’re the places where most legislation is actually taking place.”

While the U.S. Congress has only passed 185 laws this session, the satirist pointed out that state houses have passed over 24,000 bills.

Oliver then launched into an extended lecture on the influence of the local lawmakers on issues from abortion rights to environmental policy to gun control.

One additional player is the notorious “conservative bill mill,” the American Legislative Exchange Council….

Notice anything odd about that piece? Yeah, it’s the implied presumption that government should not be going on on the state level, that there’s something sneaky and nefarious about that.

I’ll set aside the considerations of ALEC for another time. My point here is to say that yes, we do have local and state governments, and guess what? We’re supposed to.

But Mr. Oliver is right about one thing. Too often, “Americans aren’t watching.” That’s because we allow our views of politics to be formed by Mr. Oliver, and Jon Stewart, and CNN and MSNBC and the rest, and all they tell us about is national politics. Obsessively and excessively.

This has been a problem my whole life. I can still remember when I came out of college believing that national politics was what was important, and the rest was a distraction. It took me awhile — and some time covering state and local governments — to be disabused of that simplistic notion.

Unfortunately, I worry that too many still see the national as all that matters. And they’re wrong.

Oh, and it’s not state governments’ fault that you’re not watching. That’s your fault.

 

SCOTUS has a chance to undo madness of drawing districts according to race

In my last post, I discussed how hopelessly uncompetitive elections for the U.S. House are.

That’s because of the way legislators have drawn the districts, to make each one “safe” for one party or the other. In the South, and especially in South Carolina, that has involved Republican majorities drawing a few super-safe districts for black Democrats, while making the districts around them even safer for white Republicans — and ensuring GOP majorities in statehouses.

Thus far, the courts have allowed this sort of thing. Next week, the U.S. Supreme Court has a chance to change that:

… But the Supreme Court has decided to step into this one and will hear arguments in the matter next week. The justices are being asked to find that, as has happened many times in Alabama’s history, race played an improper role in how the state was reapportioned.

But the essence of the allegation is not that Republicans made it too hard for African American candidates to be elected. It’s that they made it too easy.

The challengers said the mapmakers packed African American voters into districts where they already enjoyed a majority, diluting their power elsewhere and easing the way for white Republicans to win everything else.

A three-judge panel that examined the 2012 redistricting process ruled 2 to 1 that the plan enacted by Alabama was constitutional and said the legislature’s intentions were not improper.

The challengers — black elected officials and the Alabama Democratic Conference — alleged that the plans “were the product of a grand Republican strategy to make the Democratic Party the ‘black party’ and the Republican Party the ‘white party,’ ” wrote Judge William H. Pryor Jr. of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. “The record does not support that theory.”,,,

The good judge must not be looking at the record closely enough.

Here’s hoping the Supremes see the situation more clearly. If so, the nation could take a step back toward having actual choices in the fall. And a step away from the madness of election legislators and members of Congress who see themselves as elected entirely by people of one race or the other. Which has never been a healthy thing for our republic.

Just how uncompetitive the U.S. House elections are

house map

Click on the map above to go to a page where you can interact with it, and explore just how few House districts across the nation are competitive. It’s accompanied by various other charts that show graphically just how stacked the deck is across the country.

The dark red and dark blue districts are settled, foregone conclusions, thanks to the awful miracle of modern redistricting algorithms, which enable Legislatures to draw districts so that they are guaranteed to go for one party or the other — so that the only real contests are in primaries, which have the effect of pulling both parties farther and farther from the political center. The only thing most members of Congress fear is primary opponents who are more extreme than they are.

Of course, we know that there is no chance for the minority party in any of South Carolina’s seven congressional districts. That’s because ever since the redrawing that occurred after the 1990 census, the 6th District has been drawn as a super-extreme “majority-minority” district. I remember Jim Clyburn saying, way back in the 90s, that he didn’t really need his district to be gerrymandered to the extent that it was in order to win. Well, since then, if anything, our GOP Legislature has been even more generous with the state’s one Democratic congressman.

Why? because every black voter they can shove into Clyburn’s district makes the other six districts that much safer for Republicans.

This is, after all, how they came to power in the Legislature to start with. Black Democrats were unsatisfied with the number of majority-minority districts Speaker Bob Sheheen and the other white Democrats were willing to draw after the 1990 census. So they joined forces with the Republicans to pass a plan that created more of them — and consequently made the surrounding districts whiter, and more Republican.

And abracadabra — we had a Republican House, and Sheheen wasn’t speaker anymore. And a few years later, the Senate followed suit. And the Black Caucus got a few more members, but they were now all in the minority party, which meant the caucus had traded away much of its ability to get anything done once elected.

But I digress….

The larger issue nationally is that voters no longer have a viable choice in general elections for Congress. Which is a terrible thing to have happened to our representative democracy.

Any of y’all vote early? Why? And how did it go?

OnPoint

A couple of things we talked about last night on Cynthia Hardy’s radio show (there I am with host, crew and fellow guests above) stuck with me.

One was all the talk about voter turnout. I joined in with the others in urging people to get out and vote — I even threw in the cliche about “If you don’t vote, don’t come crying to me about what happens after” — but I also shared my personal doubt about get-out-the-vote efforts. Basically, if you have to be reminded, cajoled, begged and prodded, I’m not at all sure I want you voting. I’d rather have elections decided by people who care enough that they would never consider not voting.

Then, I was struck by all the talk about early voting. Not “early voting” technically, but “absentee” voting — which is engaged in more and more by people who won’t actually be absent. My fellow guest Jim Felder kept urging folks to get out and vote today rather than wait until Tuesday, in case the weather is bad on actual Election Day. Various anecdotes about busloads of folks voting early were shared.

So I thought I’d ask: Did you vote early? If so, why? And how did it go? And anything else you’d like to share.

I know that Doug, at least, voted on Friday, because he texted me about it, saying it was very busy at the Parklane location. Perhaps he’d like to share some more about that.

Anyone else?

THE most cringe-inducing political ad of the 2014 election

Doug Ross brought this to my attention in a previous thread, and he was castigated for seeming to criticize these ladies for their appearance.

Which I don’t think he meant to do.

In any case, what’s wrong with this painful ad has nothing to do with anyone’s relative attractiveness.

This is, without a doubt, the most cringe-inducing ad I’ve seen this election year. Terrible idea, very badly executed. Or maybe it just seems like a bad idea because it’s done so badly…

No… No… It was a bad idea, compounded by the poor acting skills of the principals. Or maybe they’re wonderful thespians, but were so put off by the material that they just weren’t at the top of their game. Dying is easy; comedy is hard. And dark, twisted comedy is the hardest, apparently.

Next time, if there is a next time, just have Jenny endorse her. Leave out the way-too-creepy joke…

FYI, Legislative Black Caucus DID have a white member

black-caucus

Members of the Legislative Black Caucus, circa 2009.

On a previous thread, we got into the whole why-can’t-there-be-whites-only-organizations-when-there-are-blacks-only-organizations thing (get enough white guys together, and this will eventually come up — you know how those people are), with the Legislative Black Caucus being mentioned, as per usual.

Which reminds me…

Last time we had such a discussion, I got an enlightening DM from Bakari Sellers. Our conversation follows:

Harvin

Huh. “She paid her dues and asked.” Doesn’t sound like a terribly high bar.

By the way, here’s evidence, if you need it.

Cathy Harvin, for those who don’t recall, was elected to the SC House in 2005 in a special election to replace her late husband, Alex. She served for five years until her own death, at the age of 56, from breast cancer.

To my knowledge, the caucus does not currently have any white members.

Oh, no, Sethory! The Devil’s Dandruff is a-comin’ back!

I keep seeing alarmist reports such as this:

Which seem a bit off, since my weather apps don’t show our temps going below 34 over the next few nights.

But should the Southland actually be plagued with the white stuff this weekend, might we also be treated to another disaster report from Buford Calloway on SNL?

How much weight should we give to bad jobs news in SC?

tumblr_inline_ne0b8ni5Iw1r3abgt

The state Democratic Party has been sending out a steady stream of bad SC jobs news as a way of undercutting Nikki Haley’s big strength — the narrative that, whatever else you think of her, she’s done a good job of recruiting jobs for the state.

I’ve been inclined to ignore these, because, let’s face it — companies are always going as well as coming, or shrinking as well as growing, and you can’t disprove a trend with anecdotal evidence.

Also, you have to wonder how seriously the party takes these bad-news announcements, since on the “Haley’s Smoke and Mirrors” website, they accompany each one with a cutesy GIF, like the one above. As a guy who’s spent a good bit of time unemployed after being laid off, I find myself wondering what’s so funny about these situations. Even if the overall trend in SC is good, each of these items is very bad news for some individual South Carolinians.

But in the last few days, the sheer volume of these news items has worn away my doubts to the point that I’m wondering whether this is an unusually bad streak of developments.

I don’t know. But you can peruse them at the website. And here are the headlines of the last 11 such releases I’ve received, over just the second half of this month:

  1. PTR Announces Layoffs One Week After Haley Visit
  2. SC’s economy slows, jobless rate jumps
  3. S.C. foreclosure filings above national average despite 11% decrease
  4. Jobless rate now highest in state
  5. S.C.jobless rate up to 6.6 percent in September
  6. Bi-Lo to cut jobs at former Mauldin headquarters
  7. Heinz to close Florence facility employing 200 workers
  8. Truth Check: Is SC’s economy ‘one of fastest growing on East Coast’?
  9. 200 to lose jobs as Orangeburg plant closes
  10. Major Upstate employer announces relocation to NC
  11. GE Prepares Global Layoffs, Some Greenville Jobs Affected

OK, one of those is out of place — Jobless rate now highest in state — since some part of the state will always be the highest in the state, regardless of how good things are. But the other 10 provide a fairly steady drumbeat of actual bad news.

Now, here’s a HUGE grain of salt: These were not real-time announcements. They were from over a much-longer period of time than the dates of the releases would indicate. Some weren’t even from this year. So consider that.

By the way, did you make the connection on that first one? That’s the gun manufacturer that caused our governor’s eyes to light up so…

Nikki gun

Properly understood, these are not ‘midterm elections’

Yes, I know, that’s what all the cognoscenti call them, but it sets my teeth on edge when they do.

As I said last night on Twitter,

This is not mid-term for anyone, with the possible exception of Tim Scott, who’s running for the rest of Jim DeMint’s term. Other than such special exceptions as that, this is a regular, end-of-term election for representatives, senators, council members, school board hopefuls, everybody who’s running.

But we call them “midterm” because it’s the middle of the term of the president of the United States — someone who’s not on the ballot. So, the modifier we now use for this kind of election only makes sense within the context of an office that is in no way involved with the election.

Do you see how something is just… off… about this?

Because somehow, somewhere along the way — perhaps because we are influenced by inside-the-Beltway media who nationalize everything — we’ve come to believe that the presidential election in each year divisible by the number 4 is the only election that counts, and that everything else is a sideshow.

Never mind that the actions of council and school board members and state legislators are likely to have a more direct and immediate effect on our lives; Americans have come to regard such elections as distractions from the Main Event. Which is why so few people bother to show up to vote in this elections, and those who do tend to do so because they’re mad at the president, not because they care about who holds the office. Which is why the president’s party generally loses ground in Congress in these elections, and why politicians get away with the madness of talking about the president on the stump, rather than about issues relevant to the offices for which they are running.

This kind of dumbing-down to be all about One Thing is enormously harmful to our republic, and certainly to the quality of officeholders we get.

This morning, I saw this Tweet:

Which made me think, how on Earth could USAToday tell me anything I need to know about next Tuesday’s elections much less everything?

The kinds of things a conscientious voter needs to know about these elections are such acutely local things as:

  • Where is my polling place?
  • Who is going to be on the ballot? (Because not everyone you’re reading and hearing about will be, based on what precinct you live in.)
  • Who are all these people running for school board in my district? (Something that even local media fall down on telling us, in most districts.)
  • Where do legislative and council candidates stand on issues important to me? (Of course, with the way the Legislature apportions districts, the legislative seats are mostly foregone conclusions, but some few of you will still have a choice to make.)
  • What are the records of incumbents, and what are the qualifications of challengers, in these local contests?
  • What’s the weather going to be like?

There is no way that McPaper, the nation’s one completely generic and placeless newspaper, is going to help you with those things.

So… what is at the other end of that link on the Tweet? Why, an interactive graphic that’s all about… the likely partisan makeup of the Congress. Because that’s the only prism through which national media are able to speak coherently about these elections. Totals of Democrats, totals of Republicans.

Which has nothing to do with the way we, as voters, interact with the process. We get to vote on one member of Congress, and two Senators. That’s it. And the House districts are drawn so there is zero suspense over which party’s going to win them (in South Carolina, at least, and in most other places). To the extent that we get a choice, it’s mostly in the primaries.

In other words, the only way national media speak of these elections is in terms of something — the partisan control of Congress — that I, as a thinking voter who despises the parties, don’t give a rat’s posterior about.

Oh, and why is the partisan makeup of the Congress supposed to matter? As often as not, it’s couched in terms of what kind of time the president is going to have over the next two years: Will he have a hard time getting things done, or an even harder time? Or will it be impossible?

Because, you know, all elections are about only One Thing.

Except that they aren’t.

Dems seem desperate, clutching at Graham’s out-of-bounds joke about himself, the GOP and other white men

I initially learned of the incident from the Brad Hutto campaign, which has skewed my reaction:

Hutto Blasts Graham for ‘white male only’ Comments

“When behind the closed doors of a private club, Lindsey Graham let his true colors show”

Orangeburg, SC – Democratic candidate for US Senate Brad Hutto spoke out this evening in response to news reports regarding Lindsey Graham’s leaked comments at an exclusive all-male private club. Graham told the group members he was helping them with their tax status and that “if I get to be president, white men in male-only clubs are going to do great in my presidency.”

http://www.cnn.com/2014/10/29/politics/lindsey-graham-private-club/index.html?hpt=po_c1

Hutto made the following statement:

“When behind the closed doors of a private club, Lindsey Graham let his true colors show. He is only interested in his own ambitions and the best interests of the wealthy donors he hopes will fund his possible presidential campaign.  Women, people of color, and middle class and working families have no part in Lindsey Graham’s plans.  But, we shouldn’t be surprised. Lindsey Graham voted against re-authorizing the Violence Against Women Act, against equal pay for women, against raising the minimum wage and against the level of support our veterans have earned and deserve. He’s consistently supported tax breaks for the most wealthy Americans and corporations while trying to privatize Social Security and Medicare. We already knew where Lindsey Graham stood. Now, he’s just confirmed it.”

###

And the thing that put me off right away was the dead earnestness of the reaction. I read that quote, “if I get to be president, white men in male-only clubs are going to do great in my presidency.” And without any explanation or context, I knew that it was a joke. Because, you know, I’m not dense. It reads like a joke, without knowing anything at all about who said it. Knowing that it’s Graham, it obviously couldn’t be anything else.

And of course, when you follow the link — or look at any of the coverage of the incident after Peter Hamby reported it — the fact that it’s a joke is reported at the top, and accepted without question. Everyone understands that this was the Hibernian Society, and the drill is that you stand up there and make fun of yourself.

And yet, there’s not one word in this release that acknowledges that. It’s treated as though Graham were making a straightforward, naked, campaign promise to this group he was speaking to. Which is absurd on its face, but the absurdity doesn’t seem to register on Hutto or his campaign. The release seems to expect the voters to believe that Graham was dead serious, as though he were Ben Tillman or something.

Now if Hutto had acknowledge the joke and said it was a bad joke, in terrible taste, it would be a different matter. The assertion might be debatable — a good argument might tip me either way on the point — but it would at least be respectable.

He could legitimately get on a pretty high horse about it. He could say that it says terrible things about Graham that he could even conceive of such a joke, and think it was funny. He could say it would be unseemly to joke like that with an all-white-male crowd even if he knew it would never leave the room — or especially if he knew it would never leave the room.

As a joke, it’s pretty edgy stuff. Like, almost “Family Guy” edgy (which is to say, “OhmyGod, why am I laughing at this?” edgy). A white Republican senator, speaking to an all-male, all-white group, says something that both mocks himself as a GOP politician (and mocks the idea of himself as a presidential candidate along the way) and digs at the audience itself. It was pretty nervy. It was the kind of thing I might say to such a group in spoofing a GOP politician, while being pretty nervous about whether they would laugh or not.

On the one hand, you can argue that it shows a pretty finely developed sense of both social conscience and irony to want to mock a crowd like that, and oneself, that way. Like, look at all us white guys schmoozing; aren’t we ridiculous?

But a very good case could be made that a politician who represents an entire state in the South should never, ever make such a joke — particularly if, you know, he belongs to the official party of the Southern white man. There’s really nothing funny about living in a state in which the racial division between the parties is so clearly understood by all, Tim Scott notwithstanding.

So make that case. But don’t give me this nonsense like you think he was being serious. Like you think it’s a statement of policy when a politician tells an all-male group, “I’m sorry the government’s so f—ed up.”

I mean, have a little respect for me. Give me a f—ing break, as a U.S. senator might say.

This may be the most intellectually insulting thing I’ve seen from the Democratic Party since all the “War on Women” nonsense. It’s an appeal that assumes appalling degrees of emotionalism and gullibility on the part of its audience.

After the Hutto release, the state party doubled-down on this meme that Graham was baring his soul:

BREAKING: Lindsey Graham makes offensive comments at male-only club. We’ve had enough of this. Add your name now to send a message: It’s time for South Carolina to move beyond this kind of behavior!

As if we couldn’t add more to the list of reasons why we need to get Lindsey Graham out of office, this happens:

While at an event at a males-only club in Charleston last month, Graham – who’s toying with the idea of a run for the presidency — charmed his friends with blatant bigotry: “white men who are in male-only clubs would do great in my presidency.”

A couple moments later, he insulted Baptists. “They’re the ones who drink and don’t admit it!”

These offensive comments are NOT okay – and absolutely unbecoming of a United States Senator.

Will you click here and send a message that it’s past time for South Carolina to move on from this kind of behavior?

Thanks,

Breaking News @ South Carolina Democratic Party

If you can take that seriously, by all means click on the links and give some money. Which is the point.

The fact is, if Hutto and his party just left this alone, the half-perceived news coverage would cause a lot of their constituents to leap to the very response that they wish to see them leap to: “Lindsey Graham said WHAT?” But to take them by the hand and misrepresent the situation so as to lead them there is something else altogether.

The difference here is that — appropriately or not (and personally, if I were his campaign manager, I’d probably be giving him hell right now for f—ing up) — Graham was kidding, but the Democrats are not. They really want people to believe that they’ve caught Graham being genuine. As though this were a “47 percent” moment. Which it plainly is not.

A couple of Ariail cartoons for you tree-huggers out there

Ariail CVSC

Ann Timberlake of Conservation Voters of South Carolina used the above Robert Ariail cartoon, from back in July, to illustrate this release today:

Folks,

This morning’s article in The State on the Pinewood landfill and the risk of hazardous waste leaking into Lake Marion reminds us all of the importance of strong leadership to protect our drinking water and our natural areas. We are troubled by the conflicting reports about DHEC and oversight at the landfill.  Governor Haley’s silence is notable.

A green governor would stand up to out-of-state polluters, and guard against the waste that would poison our lakes.

I urge you to keep that in mind as you head to the polls next Tuesday.

I’m glad to see Ms. Timberlake is a fan. But aren’t we all?

She could also have included this other one, from this week…

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