No way should any of these four Republican candidates become governor of our state

On Sunday, my former newspaper endorsed Henry McMaster in the GOP primary for governor. The piece was well argued, and contained points that I had forgotten regarding his record. The piece was based upon his record, of course, because nothing in his campaign would cause a reasonable person to want to support him. It wasn’t as persuasive as the endorsement the previous week for Vincent Sheheen, but it made the most of a sad situation. Nikki Haley wants to give us four more years of Mark Sanford (and she would, too — believe it). Gresham Barrett is an ill-defined candidate who seems to be the sum of partisan cliches. Andre Bauer is Andre Bauer.

If I had still been at the paper (where I always argued that we had to choose somebody), or had a gun to my head forcing me to choose one of the Republicans, I’d probably go with Henry, too. And I would base it on the hope that he would be a better governor — just as he has been a pretty decent attorney general — than he is a candidate.

But I’m not at the paper any more, and therefore don’t have that institutional obligation to express a preference regarding every electoral choice. And nobody has a gun to my head.

So I am free to say that the performance of all of the GOP candidates in this primary convinces me that it is critically important that none of them become governor. Perhaps the best way to put it succinctly is the way an outsider, Gail Collins of the NYT, put it yesterday:

The issues in the primary have basically been which Republican dislikes government most. During the Tuesday debate, Bauer claimed that illegal immigration was caused by lavish government welfare payments, which caused poor people to refuse to do manual labor. Haley bragged that she had opposed the federal stimulus program. The attorney general, Henry McMaster, who is currently suing to try to stop the federal government from bringing health care reform to South Carolina, attributed the failures of the state’s public schools to teachers’ being so busy “filling out federal forms that they can’t teach.”

Ms. Collins was being facetious (as usual), but there’s nothing in what she writes that is inaccurate. Basically, this has been a contest between four people who each want to seem the most ticked off at the very notion of government. And I’ve heard enough of it. This constant drip of negativity is depressing and counterproductive. It counsels hopelessness to people who don’t have much hope to start with as they contemplate what we’ve seen in the governor’s office in recent years.

We’ve had eight years of a governor who doesn’t believe in governing. It is an outrage, and an insult to the people of South Carolina, that candidates would seriously try to position themselves that same way. They should all be running against that bankrupt legacy, not competing to see who will inherit it.

I decided recently that I would not do endorsements on this blog, so the fact that I can’t bring myself to back any of these Republicans doesn’t mean much. But I’ve spent 20 years writing on the theme of the importance of gubernatorial leadership. As weak as the office is, it’s still the one position with a pulpit bully enough to make a difference, to try to break our state out of the ennui born of believing we’ll always be last where we want to be first, and first where we want to be last. For that reason, I think it’s critically important to speak out now, and often, on the subject of just how unsuited these candidates are to lead South Carolina out of its current political malaise.

It’s important because, party politics being what they are in this state, the Republican nominee starts out with an advantage, no matter how poor a candidate he or she may be. Unfortunately, too few white voters in South Carolina will even consider pulling the lever for a Democrat. But I want to urge those people to start considering broadening their horizons. I’m not asking them to become Democrats. God forbid; I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, any more than I would want to see anyone become a Republican. My disdain for both parties remains undiminished. But within each party, there are good candidates and bad ones.

And in this election, unless all probability is turned on its head and the super-flaky Robert Ford gets the Democratic nod, there is little question — from a disinterested, nonpartisan perspective of a knowledgeable person who cares about the future of this state — that the Democratic nominee will be someone FAR more likely to have a positive vision of the kind of leadership that a governor can provide in difficult times. And only someone with that sort of attitude can have a chance of doing any good.

There are no two ways about it. South Carolina needs and deserves better than what any of the Republican candidates are offering this year. The very last thing we need is more of the same.

21 thoughts on “No way should any of these four Republican candidates become governor of our state

  1. Brad

    Have y’all SEEN that ridiculous new ad from Haley? No, it’s not as bad as Henry’s “Vultures” ad. It’s calmer and more upbeat than that. But I just can’t stop thinking about her closing words:

    “Together, we can (or does she say, “could”?) take back our government.”

    OK, set aside that that is one of the most overworked cliches in politics (as tattered and worn and unoriginal and wrongheaded as her favorite, “run government like a business”). I’ll go ahead and ask: What the hell does it mean?

    Take government back from whom? From Mark Sanford? Doesn’t seem likely, since her whole thing is being a Sanford clone, which should scare everyone enough. (I could see one of the Democrats saying this, but NOT a sincere imitator of our current governor.) From the GOP-run Legislature? There’s no doubt she’s run against that at every opportunity, but let me make two observations: First, the legislature will still be what it is no matter who the governor is. And running the way she has, she is the LEAST likely of all the candidates to be able to get the legislature to do anything she wants to accomplish. It would indeed be Sanford redux.

    And take it back WHY? What do you want with it? You make it clear that you have contempt for government.

    Bottom line, another meaningless cliche. To the extent that uttering the words has a purpose, it’s to appeal to alienation — to a sense of disconnection from, and lack of accountability for, our current situation. And of course, that’s what the candidate of the TEA Party would be about.

    Just the last thing we need…

  2. Brad

    And that’s one of the dangers in speaking out, isn’t it? That people will accuse you of being something that you’re not? But it’s an occupational hazard, dealing with people like you (and “people like you” includes the Democrats who say the exact opposite about me based on other endorsements, particularly the presidential ones). You can’t see the world any other way. To you, if someone isn’t this, he’s that.

    But as a person who is TRULY antipartisan, I have a particular obligation to speak out at this moment. Never mind what the Democrats and Republicans are saying. Unless one of them endorses someone of the opposite party, what they say doesn’t matter.

    But it IS meaningful for me to reach this conclusion. And I want all people like me — sensible folk fed up with parties — to hear me on this. Because this is an important thing for SC voters to understand.

  3. Kathryn Fenner

    Michael P.–Trust me; I am a Democrat through and through, and Brad Warthen is no Democrat….

    Where life experience has touched him, such as health care or education, he likes us better, but on most “social issues,” he’s a Republican….

  4. Kathryn Fenner

    and Gail Collins is sometimes facetious and sometimes very appropriately witty, and sometimes just square on the truth. Here are the closing lines of the piece:

    ““Here we are in this very poor state that needs help very much,” said Mark Tompkins, a professor of political science at the University of South Carolina. “We’re sixth in the nation in unemployment, and we’re fighting about whether the federal government can help us with health care.”

    Government may not be the problem, but the people doing the governing could definitely use some work. “

  5. Phillip

    Well put, Brad. Michael P: you must have a short memory (’08 Presidential election?). And though I know Brad doesn’t want to be tarred with the partisan brush of either stripe, I might take issue with Kathryn just a bit…to call Brad a Scoop Jackson Democrat would not be too far off the mark.

  6. Michael P.

    Kathryn – that’s what I keep hearing, but I believe more of what I see than what I hear.

  7. Brad

    Good point, Phillip. Kathryn is neglecting national security issues. In other words, she’s forgetting why we endorsed W. in 04 in spite of the fact that we disliked almost everything about him except his resolve not to abandon Iraq — a resolve we didn’t see in Kerry. (We would never have held out long enough for the Petraeus turnaround — after the debacle that Rumsfeld had given us — had Kerry become president, and conditions today in Iraq would be much worse.)

    And you make a good point about Scoop Jackson. Were all Democrats like him, and Sam Nunn, and Joe Lieberman (when he was a Democrat), I’d probably be a Democrat. If this were the 50s or 60s (before 68), I might be a Democrat — before Vietnam (and Roe v. Wade) made the party go crazy.

    Similarly, were all Republicans like Lindsey Graham and John McCain and Richard Lugar and Bob Dole, I could perhaps identify with the GOP. But they’re not. And if the Republican Party were what it was in the American South before Strom Thurmond’s switch — the party of Lincoln, the party of people turned off by corruption in the Democratic Party, the only party that might give black folks a fair shake — then I could be a Republican. As things stand, no. Not since it became the White Man’s Party.

    Don’t get me started on how intellectually and ethically bankrupt both organizations are. Their only saving grace is the individual candidates who rise above their parties’ worst impulses.

  8. Michael P.

    So it’s a race thing… I see. Brad I thought you were above playing the race card. I thought wrong.

  9. Kathryn Fenner

    Well, heck, if this were the 50s or the 60s, I might be a Republican–at least the 1860s—if we’re playing time machine. Actually Richard Nixon championed the Clean Air Act–I could vote for someone who did that, before Watergate, of course…

    “Scoop Jackson Democrat”? Wow. That’s kind of arcane…

    and Michael P.– you are familiar with the “Southern Strategy”?

  10. Michael P.

    Phillip – Would this be the same The State editorial board that endorsed Jakie “raghead” Knotts over Katrina Shealy?

  11. Michael P.

    Kathryn – Would “Southern Strategy” be what’s coming out of the Bauer campaign the last two days? His buddies have all but confirmed that he’ll come in dead last and any more money spent between now and Tuesday will be money thrown down the toilet.

  12. Nick Nielsen

    I’ll be partaking of the Republican primary on Tuesday, mostly because I have choices for state rep. I’ll ask again, can I write in “None of the above” as the Republican candidate for governor?

  13. Phillip

    Kathryn, that’s not so arcane…Scoop was the front-runner in the early going for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 1976 before a certain Southern peanut farmer pulled off some primary upsets.

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