ICYMI: The Thomas Ravenel announcement

FILE PHOTO: Ravenel during 2006 interview.

FILE PHOTO: Ravenel during 2006 interview.

Still catching up on stuff I saw over the long weekend, and was too lazy to comment on then.

Did you take note of Thomas Ravenel’s formal announcement of his independent candidacy for U.S. Senate? Here it is:


“Southern Charm” Star To Challenge Two-Party Status Quo in South Carolina

Businessman, reality television star and former South Carolina State Treasurer Thomas Ravenel will run as an independent for the United States Senate seat currently held by liberal “Republican” Lindsey Graham.  Ravenel made his Senate candidacy official prior to attending a Fourth of July rally in Greenville, S.C.

“It’s time for voters across our state and this country to declare their independence from a failed two-party system – one that no longer represents their interests or the interests of Americans to come,” the star of Bravo’s ‘Southern Charm’ said.  “Election after election of choosing the lesser of two evils has our economy and our freedoms on a downward slide – but there’s still time to change the road we’re on.  To do that, though, we need a real debate and a real choice – candidates who are offering real ideas to turn things around.”

Ravenel, 51, said his campaign would offer specific policies aimed at redefining the relationship between citizens and their government – something neither major party is willing or able to do.

“Government doesn’t belong in your boardroom, your bedroom or your email inbox,” he said.  “But its presence in every aspect of our lives continues to grow.  Democrats keep dictating choices in our marketplaces and Republicans keep telling us who we can and cannot love.  And both parties want to keep spending like there’s notomorrow while they spy on us to make sure we don’t step out of line.  All of this leads to less prosperity and liberty – and more dependency and fear.”

In declaring his candidacy, Ravenel spoke frankly about his past – including the ten months he spent in a federal prison following a 2007 drug arrest.  He said he expected to be attacked over the issue – and was ready to defend himself.

“I’m an imperfect messenger, I know that – but somebody’s got to stand up for the message,” Ravenel said.   “Also, the last time I checked there are plenty of ‘perfect’ messengers out there who are bankrupting our Treasury, destroying our economy, and sending our sons and daughters off to die and be disfigured in places we have no business fighting.”

Ravenel said crafting a new foreign policy would be a centerpiece of his campaign.

“Ill-conceived interventions and this constant flip-flopping of allegiances between terrorist organizations does not make us safer – it only makes another attack on our homeland more likely,” Ravenel said.  “We absolutely must have the world’s strongest military to protect our borders and secure our national interests – but our national defense is weakened by politically motivated pork projects, failed attempts at nation-building and picking up the tab for wealthy countries that won’t defend themselves.”

Ravenel will submit his signatures to appear on the November 2014 ballot to the S.C. Election Commission (SCEC) next week.


Several observations…

  • He certainly isn’t shying away from his negatives. In fact, in at least one instance he’s embracing them. Note that the release identifies him as a “reality television star,” both in the subhed and in the lede, before mentioning that he was state treasurer — and then reiterates it in the next graf. In fact, it emphasizes this to such an extent that I wondered whether the TV production company is somehow involved in this campaign, perhaps even helping with drafting releases. Bravo is certainly promoting the idea of his candidacy.
  • This probably won’t mean much to anyone who doesn’t write for a living, but the release is slightly unusual in that it is written as a mock news story, even making observations about the manner of his announcement, as though it were written by a neutral third party: “In declaring his candidacy, Ravenel spoke frankly about his past…” That’s a slightly odd voice. It’s not unique; I’ve seen the device used before. But it struck me.
  • If one were inclined to take this candidacy seriously, that would be undermined by this, in the first graf: “liberal ‘Republican’ Lindsey Graham.” One thing Lindsey Graham most certainly is not is a liberal. And it takes the kind of gall that few besides Thomas Ravenel can muster to refer to the actual nominee of the Republican Party — a distinction that Ravenel did not seek — as a “Republican,” in quotes.
  • He calls himself “an imperfect messenger,” but he may be the perfect messenger for the message he bears. He may be the most Randian figure in South Carolina. He is self-admiring (watch this video to get a sense of the Ravenel ego, or this one), self-centered, self-indulgent, and presents it all boldly as a philosophy instead of as evidence of a flawed character. Mark Sanford has always been about Mark Sanford, but even he would not dare to flaunt his egomania the way Thomas Ravenel does.
  • Speaking as the founder of the UnParty, why is it that any time someone does run as an independent in South Carolina, it’s someone who’s too extreme, too ideological, for the UnParty? OK, so maybe Tom Ervin is a bit of a centrist (too soon to tell). But the rest of the time, independents seem to be people who are, to use one of my favorite early-19th-century expressions, not quite the thing.
  • Finally, whom is Ravenel helping, and whom is he hurting by running? I was chatting with a former Graham staffer recently who thought Ravenel would take votes from Brad Hutto, who can ill afford to lose them. I’ve assumed the opposite from the first rumors of this ego trip. Ravenel is likely to appeal to the less discriminating Paulistas, and other elements from the libertarian segments of the Republican coalition, ranging from the elitist Club for Growth/Wall Street Journal crowd to the far more populist Tea Party (although more from the former than from the latter). He doesn’t fit perfectly with any of those groups, but he overlaps enough with them to pull some of the folks who voted for Graham’s opponents in the primary.

Anyway, those were my first thoughts. What were yours?

15 thoughts on “ICYMI: The Thomas Ravenel announcement

  1. Juan Caruso

    “Finally, who is Ravenel helping, and who is he hurting by running? – Brad W.

    I have askied myself that very question since Ravenel first threatened to enter the US Senate race.
    The best answer is that he will hurt no candidate in the next election, nor will he ever help any candidate during the rest of his life.

    My guess is that “R’ is so far down the ballott that even Armstrong through Sommers have the independent candidate advantage. The most Ravenel could perhaps hurt another candidate may be by endorsing same.

    1. Bryan Caskey

      I kind of agree. I… think that Ravenel will make a lot of noise but not generate much in the way of people actually voting for him. My prediction is that he gets less than 4% of the vote, with Graham getting over 60%.

      1. Silence

        I’d agree that Sen. Graham will get about 60%. No self respecting Republican would vote for T-Rav, and no thinking libertarian or independent would either. He may get a few votes from idiots just based on name recognition.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          I dunno. There’s a certain kind of radical libertarian that would see Ravenel as a sort of swashbuckling hero of personal freedom — a guy who went out and made a bunch of money, who flouted our oppressive drug laws and showed his contempt for our society’s repressive sexual mores by knocking up a girl far less than half his age, and showing it all off to the world on TV.

          Call it the Larry Flynt-style libertarian. You know, the “Hustler” pornographer who endorsed Mark Sanford in his bid to return to Congress, for having exposed the “sexual hypocrisy of traditional values in America today.”

  2. Doug Ross

    A “Randian politician” is an oxymoron.

    Please name the politicians you admire who DON’T have large egos. John McCain and Lindsey Graham love the spotlight because they think they are smarter than everyone else.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Actually, Doug, that’s exactly what I’m doing — comparing Thomas to all the other pols I’ve interviewed. He stands out.

      I think the guy who comes in second for his supercilious manner would be John Kerry. He comes across as a guy who just doing you a huge favor by allowing you to ask him questions…

      Here’s another video of Ravenel, this time airing his business acumen… Of course, in this case he’s right to affect a superior attitude — on a subject like that, he would have been better informed than us not-business journalists…

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      By the way, in case you wonder why we endorsed Ravenel, here is a clip of his opponent, incumbent Grady Patterson, struggling his way through an interview. Poor Grady was a good man and dedicated public servant, who just tried to stay in office long past his ability to keep up.

      Here’s another similar clip of Grady.

      It was a sad situation. In terms of character, we greatly preferred Grady. But in terms of our impression of his ability to do the job, we felt we had to go with Thomas.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        One of the folks in the Patterson campaign bitterly, bitterly criticized me for running those clips on my blog. He thought it insensitive, disrespectful and cruel.

        I felt a little insensitive, disrespectful and cruel posting it. But I felt an obligation to readers…

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          It was, at the time, an unprecedented situation for this print journalist. It was 2006, the first election after I started blogging the year before. I had started shooting video in interviews, and was just beginning to experiment with using the three-minute clips (which was as much as that little Canon could shoot at a time) on my blog.

          Never had I had the opportunity to just SHOW readers how a candidate came across in an interview, without having to say a word about it myself.

          The clips were, if anything, much more candid and informal than what you would see on TV. The candidates would come in for a PRINT interview, which tend to be more frank, less postured, and far more wide-ranging than television interviews. I would warn them that I was shooting video (and if I didn’t, that spoilsport Cindi Scoppe would tell them), but the setting still promoted the kind of frank exchange that tended to characterize the editorial board room.

          So I think that had a little to do with the campaign guy’s ire. They’d come in for a print interview, and then here was his guy, unfiltered, on video…

  3. Kathy

    I would prefer Grady Patterson as a zombie for treasurer over an arrogant jerk like Thomas Ravenel. Some politicians have such an extremely condescending manner that even on their television commercials, they come across as arrogant jerks. Ravenel is one of them.


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