Carol Fowler and the Dark Side

Note: this item has been edited since it was first posted.

So you’re thinking things are pretty messed up with the primary date scramble? However bad you may think it is, Gail Collins of the NYT sees it as even worse, at least on the Democratic side:

    All the major Democratic candidates for president have signed a
pledge promising they will only go to Florida or Michigan when they
want to raise money.

    Among the really bad ideas in the history of the Democratic Party,
this ranks somewhere between butterfly ballots and William Jennings

And that is a pretty horrible idea — Ms. Collins specifically uses the example of John Edwards slapping backs with fat cats in Miami, but having to run the other way if other voters approach him in that state (which sounds weirdly familiar). But I don’t have to go back to WJB, or even to Palm Beach madness.

To find an electoral idea that bad — actually, even worse — in the annals of the Democratic Party, I only have to go back to the putrid Loyalty Oath that S.C. Democrats almost, but not quite, required before allowing folks to vote in their primary in 2004.

And here’s where these moments of shame come together — with the name "Fowler." As I recall it was Don Fowler, Carol’s husband, who thought the Great Loyalty Oath Crusade was a keen idea four years ago. He thought it wise to disenfranchise me and any other South Carolinians who would not swear to already being a Democrat. (So much for "growing the party," huh?)

Guess who is in league with what Ms. Collins calls The Dark Side this time?

    Ray Buckley, the chairman of New Hampshire’s Democratic Party, urged
that all questions be directed to Carol Fowler, the chairwoman in South
Carolina. “It was her idea,” he said.
    Fowler did not respond to a request for comment.

To paraphrase a question Ms. Collins poses, in italics:

What are these people thinking?

If you can call it that.

8 thoughts on “Carol Fowler and the Dark Side

  1. Bob Coble

    What are these people (Carol Fowler) thinking?
    They are thinking that unless there is some enforceable way for each Party to establish a Primary schedule, then States will leapfrog over each other to be first, resulting in chaos.

  2. Palmetto Democrat

    The calendar developed by the DNC helps ensure that candidates who don’t have the deep pockets of Clinton or Obama are afforded the opportunity to gain momentum in states where retail politics is actually possible — not so easy in Florida or Michigan. While allowing fundraising in those states admittedly does seem a bit nonsensical as you and Collins have presented it, the scheme is a good thing for South Carolina because the money raised in those states (and elsewhere) is being spent in part right here in our state.
    The DNC’s calendar is pointless if there isn’t some mechanism for enforcement. When the contest becomes a free-for-all, as Mayor Bob suggests, only the candidates with loads of cash can afford to compete.
    Furthermore, Brad, I’m scratching my head at the one-sided gratuitous attack on Carol Fowler (who, I might note, was not a Fowler in 2004…she and Don got married in the last year or so). You assert that she and Don were the ones “behind the great loyalty oath crusade four years ago,” but nowhere in your post (or the 2004 column to which you linked) do you explain how the Fowlers were entirely responsible for the oath-almost-debacle. If that was the case, it would be helpful for you to offer corroboration as to how and why Carol and Don strongarmed the rest of the DNC into requiring a formality that was widely regarded as a bogus idea and a barrier to participation in Democratic politics here.
    Finally, while I generally enjoy your column and your perspective on matters, I think it was unreasonable for you to devote so many column inches/pixels to yacking about an inchoate mistake — the pledge that didn’t actually happen. Bogus idea to have such a pledge? Absolutely. However, the right decision was made by the SCDP (albeit not in time to avoid a minor PR disaster). Since they did ultimately arrive at the right conclusion, is it really in the best taste for you to be blathering about something that didn’t happen two years after it didn’t happen? I don’t think so.

  3. Nu Wexler

    Actually, Carol Khare worked with the DNC to obtain a waiver allowing SCDP to drop the so-called “loyalty oath” in February 2004. Carol’s DNC influence and hard work got us the waiver on very short notice, and turnout for that election (293K voters) broke records for a Democratic presidential primary in SC.

  4. Brad Warthen

    Tell you what, Nu — I’m going to change the way I worded that.
    If you look at it now, I think it reflects the best information I had, and removes the possibility of misunderstanding my point.

  5. Laurin Manning

    There is an equal protection right to vote in a presidential primary, but the Supreme Court has also held that political parties also have a first amendment right to association. Thus, your unwillingness to sign a loyalty pledge would not have amounted to disenfranchisement. (Check out California Democratic Party v. Jones.)

  6. Brad Warthen

    You send the girl to law school, and suddenly you get technicalities.

    Actually, I’m proud, as always, of Laurin’s erudition. But, primitive that I am, I wasn’t talking legalities. (I seldom do — I’m usually talking about what I see as right and wrong, not what is legal or illegal. Laws can be changed; and as often as not in my game, the subject at hand is just HOW they should be changed.) I was talking about a measure that would have prevented me from voting — stood between me and my franchise — because I won’t bring myself to sign a lie.

    If you click on the link above, you’ll find that my column from 2004 on the subject explained my point:

        Just as well. It was hard to come up with words – ones you could use in a family newspaper – that fully expressed my fury at learning that I would not be allowed to vote today.
        That is, I would not have been allowed to vote without signing my name to a lie, which amounts to the same thing for anyone with a shred of integrity.

    Like I say, always follow the links. I can’t explain everything about everything within the text of a post. And if y’all expect me to, that’s too bad, I’d sooner do a McAlister.

    Now, to do what I said I wouldn’t do, and elaborate:

    I refuse to accept a status quo in which the parties — acting as private entities — get to decide my two lousy choices in November, with no input from me and others who think as I do (that is to say, independently).

    Fortunately, parties are political creatures, so they can’t just thumb their noses at the electorate in the course of exercising their precious prerogatives. When this newspaper learned about the Loyalty Oath at the last minute, and started raising questions, the state party ditched it within the news cycle. That meant I had to ditch, unpublished, an angry column in which I had really told what I thought of that travesty (too bad I wasn’t blogging back then), but it also meant that the people of South Carolina got to vote without barriers, so it was a good thing.

    Not that I’m satisfied. I won’t be satisfied until an individual can vote in any and all primaries in the same election. Now, you have to choose one or the other. This makes sense if you accept the partisans’ position that a primary is a cosa nostra, and nobody else’s business. But the primaries take a broad field of candidates, many of whom would actually be acceptable, even attractive, to us independents, and slash it down to two candidates — usually, two who represent the extremes of each party, thereby guaranteeing four years of pointless polarization.

    The two that they leave us are, often as not, no choice at all. Every voter should have a say at any point in the process that determines the two choices in the end. That might be a bad thing for parties, but it would be a good thing for the country.

    What I just said is shocking, sheer madness to the partisans. And that helps explain why it makes sense to me. It’s an independent thing; you wouldn’t understand the sense of injustice that I feel when I see parties deciding which limited choices I will be allowed.

    It would be one thing if parties in this country functioned like those in parliamentary systems, and actually represented aggregations of people with coherent ideologies. But these don’t — the insane clumps of incompatible ideas that a partisan has to swallow to be a Democrat or a Republican would choke a horse. Since the processes have become so essential to the process — since only the nominees of these two entities have ANY chance of winning — it’s unconscionable to exclude me and my brethren from the process.

    And if what I say is incompatible with the technicalities as they exist, it’s time to change them.

  7. Nu Wexler

    Thanks, Brad. Here’s another point I meant to make in the earlier comment:
    SC Republicans are charging presidential candidates a whopping $25,000 to appear on the SC ballot next year. So SCGOP stands to pocket $200-250,000 in political contributions on an election the state elections commission is administering and SC taxpayers are funding. I’m not sure what SCDP is charging candidates this year, but it was only $2,500 in 2004 (to help offset our own costs), and candidates could waive the fee by presenting 3,000 petitions of registered voters (that’s how Carol Moseley-Braun qualified). In this particular instance, SCDP is much more open and accessible than SCGOP.

  8. Brad Warthen

    I love this. After I called this post to the attention of the prominent Democrat who brought the Gail Collins piece to MY attention and started this whole thing, this was the response:
    “I am glad you did it and left me out of it.”


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