Read all about it. Then go vote!
By BRAD WARTHEN
EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR
AT MONDAY morning’s editorial meeting, we wearily debated how we might have done a better job on these primary elections. Should we have interviewed candidates in fewer races, opening time and space for more detail on the top contests? Did we make the best endorsements we could have? Did we give readers all the information that they need?
The answer to that last question is, “Of course not.” Resources are limited, and at best, even when our board has been as thorough as it can be in making a recommendation, ours is but one voice in a much broader conversation. Careful voters should attend thoughtfully to all of it.
My purpose in writing today is to refer you to additional resources, so you have more information available to you on this day of decision than we can fit onto one page.
Start by going to my blog on the Web. The address is at the bottom of this column. If you don’t feel like typing all that in, just Google “Brad Warthen’s Blog.” Click on the first result.
Here’s what you’ll find:
- An electronic version of this column with one-click links to all the other information in this list.
- The full texts of all of our endorsements. We don’t expect you to be swayed by the brief capsules at left; we provide this recap on election days because readers have requested it. Please read the full editorials.
- Additional notes from most of the 51 candidate interviews that helped in our decisions. Please leave comments to let me know whether you find these notes helpful; it’s a new thing for me.
- The Web sites of major candidates. These sites vary greatly in the detail they offer on issues (and in their frankness), but some can be helpful.
- Addresses for state and local election commissions.
- More links to last-minute news reports. The State’s news division is entirely separate from the editorial department, but that doesn’t mean I can’t help you find the news — including the Voter’s Guide from Sunday’s paper.
- Recent columns, including an unpublished piece from teacher and former community columnist Sally Huguley, explaining why teachers should vote in the Republican primary.
- Various explanations I’ve given in the past for why we do endorsements, and what our track record has been with them.
- Much, much more — from the silly to the (I hope) profound.
Please check it out, and leave comments. I want to know what you think — so would others — about the election, about our endorsements, about the blog itself. There were 138 comments left there on one day last week. I’d like to see that record broken. Broaden the conversation beyond the usual suspects (no offense to my regulars; I just want more, and you know you do, too).
And then, go vote your conscience. Please. A number of observers have said voter interest is low this time around. It shouldn’t be. This election could help determine whether South Carolina does what it needs to do to improve public schools — and therefore improve the future for all of us — or gives up on the idea of universal education.
I’m not just talking about the governor or superintendent of education contests. As we’ve written in detail (which you can read again on the Web), there are well-funded groups from out of state trying to stack our Legislature so that it does what they want it to do from now on. Don’t stand back and watch that happen. Exercise your birthright. Vote.
Finally, after the votes are counted, be sure to tune in to ETV from 10 to 11 p.m. I’ll offer live commentary off and on (it won’t be just me for that whole hour, so you’re safe). You young people, ask your parents to let you stay up late. If you’re big enough to be reading the editorial page, you deserve it. You older folks, try to get a nap in the evening and rest up — after you’ve voted.
Here’s the address: http://blogs.thestate.com/bradwarthensblog/.
I thought coverage of the races and candidates in the news section was very valuable. I particulary like when reporters hold candiates responsible for their ads and tactics– the column on the Pink Pigs, or the “ad watch” articles on untruth’s in their campign commercials. The special section was also a good service.
I also think the many lnks and extra information on this blog is very helpful. I feel like an insider checking in on this site. And I have to say, I actually watched all the archived debates, which really helped me get to know some of the new candiates. The debates introduced me to Bell, Staton, Campbell, Lovelace, and swayed me to vote for them.
What I can’t understand is why The State would “endorse” an inclumbent governor who was such an unqualified failure. Why bother to endorse anyone if the choices are so bad?
Overall, I think The State did a pretty good job. I just wish more voters took the primary more seriously. I guess that’s a question The State should ask– how can it cover politics and primary races in such a way that will inspire more voters to go to the polls?
Thanks for your thoughts, Mark. And I take your question about the gubernatorial endorsement very much to heart.
The thing is, one of these people is going to be the GOP nominee — in other words, the likely governor. We just didn’t feel like we could take a raincheck on making a call ourselves, as unappealing as it was either way.
At one point in our discussion — we had just been talking about our decision not to endorse in Lexington County Council District 2 — we said that if this were Lexington council instead of governor, maybe we wouldn’t endorse.
No, one of my colleagues pointed out, "If this were Lexington County Council, we’d endorse Oscar Lovelace."
Indeed. If only the good doctor had been running for a lower office, we wouldn’t have been spooked by his complete lack of experience in public office. We would have endorsed him quite gladly for, say, a state House seat.
But for governor, it just seemed too much of a risk on an unknown quantity.
And with governor, we just didn’t see ourselves as having the option not to endorse.
I, too, thank you and The State staff for your comprehensive election coverage. However, I think you missed a chance to put your money where your mouth is when you failed to endorse Lovelace.
You bemoan the lack of good candidates and then when a “Mr. Smith” decides to take on City Hall (or the State House) you turn your back on him.
This is no sweat off my nose (I voted for Willis because I’m from the Pee Dee and he seems truly interested in SC’s rural areas) but I think you fumbled the ball. In 2002, Sanford was a three-term congressman with no significant legislative accomplishments and no executive experience. He did however, have some good ideas, but has demonstrated that he doesn’t have the political skills to get them passed.
Lovelace is smart, has good ideas, raised a respectable amount of money and can’t possibly be any less politically adept or inflexible than Sanford. Maybe he’s not carrying the banner of government restructuring as high as you want but I think he would get behind it once in office.
Yes, I know that governor is not usually someone’s first office, but even Sanford thought him qualified to lead the Medicaid Task force and he’s run a successful medical practice.
I thought the final straw for you would have been Sanford’s failure to debate. You missed an opportunity to strike a blow for the kind of a citizen/public servant that you previously have championed.
I accept service, Paul. I don’t feel right about it.
At the same time, I wouldn’t have felt right about endorsing Dr. Lovelace, either. It’s more than his being an unknown quantity.
The naivete was disturbing. The day that Dr. Lovelace came in for his interview, I had received a mailing from him that boasted of Republican leaders coming out for Lovelace. Great, except that front-and-center, filling the frame of the picture, was Jake Knotts.
I asked the doc about that, and he said two things that stuck with me: First, he said the reason Jake was supporting him was that he was mad at the governor over the law enforcement memorial, an issue that, if you’ve forgotten about it, I wouldn’t blame you. The second thing was that the doc said he’d have to go home and eat crow that night, because his wife had told him not to put that out.
Why did his wife know better, and he didn’t?
There were a number of things like that, things that you would hate to make much of individually, but that added up to an unease on our part.
So we went with “the devil we knew.” I still don’t know which was the right way to go. I do know I’ve gotten more and more upset in the last few days at the governor’s strategy of trying to stack the Legislature…
Thanks for your response. It sounds like in the end it was a “gut-feeling” call and I respect that. You analyze and list pros and cons but it doesn’t sway you, so in the end you just go with your gut. On this issue, my gut leads me in the opposite direction.
I really appreciate your willingness to discuss frankly the difficulty of choosing our public servants wisely. Despite what Lee and RTH seeem to believe, most decisions are not between easily identifiable good vs. clear-cut evil. Most decisions are close to the line and involve definite down sides either way.
When we delve into that gray zone and honestly debate issues, we participate in public discourse at its finest. Your posts on this blog are a benchmark for that kind of discourse.
BTW, how are you keeping track of all these threads…I’m feeling a bit lost when I come to the blog lately.
Well, I’m not keeping up all that well. It’s been a busy week, and this blog has been blessed with a record 700 comments in the past week. For perspective, I don’t think we’ve ever received more than about half that many letters to the editor in one week. It’s exciting, and humbling.
It means a lot that a thoughtful citizen such as yourself appreciates "willingness to discuss frankly the difficulty of choosing our public servants wisely." You get what this is all about.
It’s very important to me for people to engage politics deeply, meaningfully and constructively, so that we can build a better South Carolina. That’s why, when I became editorial page editor in 1997, I insisted that all editorial writers also do a weekly column. Editorials are impersonal (they have to be, in order to speak for an institution, which is a convention I still honor), but I thought if people could read the personal thoughts of the people who write them, the editorials might mean more, and might be understood on a deeper level.
It’s also why I started the blog. My columns in the paper often go behind the scenes on editorial decisions — particularly endorsements — but this gave me a chance to go deeper than that. Sure, I throw out a lot of silly stuff, but I don’t think it hurts to entertain — and what I find entertaining is probably revealing as well.
All of this is related to the very reason that we do endorsements to begin with. They are not a thumb-up, thumbs-down thing, however limited we may be for space in explaining our decisions. I want people to understand that, because I want to encourage everyone to make tougher decisions, and not retreat reflexively to the left-right battle lines that are destroying the shared political life of this country.
I really don’t understand why some newspapers don’t do endorsements. It seems that they and their readers are missing out on a lot. Some of the abstainers probably justify it in the name of avoiding "arrogance." But if you’re on this end of the process, you realize pretty quickly that it’s actually humbling. You agonize over a decision, you publish it for all to see — explaining as well as you can in a limited format — and then you have to stand behind it (if you can) in the face of sometimes withering, pointed response from ALL sides.
We (meaning the readers as well as those of us on the board) wouldn’t be having all these constructive (well, often constructive), multilateral conversations if we (the "arrogant" bunch on the board) didn’t go through the endorsement process to begin with. Whether we’re right or wrong on the editorial page (and we try VERY hard to be as right as possible), the idea is to enrich the conversation.
Thanks for getting that, Paul. And sorry about all the parentheticals in that last paragraph.