Here are some basic, immutable truths about SC politics. Now, someone please, please go prove me wrong…

I was inspired by this piece by Chris Cillizza of The Fix, who was in turn inspired by this John Harris piece in Politico., headlined “The Dark Art of Political B.S.”

For much of my career writing political opinion, I have been told by various people that I shouldn’t keep banging my head against walls and expecting the impossible, because things are just a certain way, and they’ll always be a certain way.

Except that things do change. They do. As Cillizza writes:

“Current trends never continue indefinitely,” Harris write. “Politics especially is an infinitely fluid process, refreshed continually by new issues, new circumstances and, above all, new voters with different generational perspectives. Politicians are intelligent people, whose ambitions naturally orient them to accommodate change and find a way to prosper in it.

The central contention of Harris’ piece is that modern politics — cable TV, Twitter, You Tube and all the rest — moves at a pace that makes predicting anything beyond the next few days virtually impossible. And that fact makes the entire political media industry — which prides itself on seeing around corners — on shaky ground even when at its best. “A lot of what political journalists write as we try to divine larger meaning from election results involves a whiff of bovine byproducts,” writes Harris.

He’s right.  And I’ve become more and more convinced of that fact the longer I have been writing about politics….

Presidents always lose seats in their second midterm election. Until Bill Clinton in 1998. Senators don’t get elected president. See Obama, Barack. The South will always be solidly Democratic. There will be no white Democrats in the Deep South in the 114th Congress….

Things that were never going to happen, happen. The Berlin Wall is an absolute barrier, until one day it just comes down. The IRA and the Brits will never reach a peace accord, until they do. Nixon is the most implacable anti-Communist, until détente and ping-pong diplomacy. Hitler and Stalin have a non-aggression pact, until they don’t. John Kerry voted for it before he voted against it. Barack Obama holds the firm belief that “that marriage is the union between a man and a woman,” until he doesn’t. Mark Sanford is a dedicated family man, until, you know.

Black people have to be drawn into majority-minority districts for black candidates to have a chance, because they can’t get elected at-large. Until Tameika Devine, Steve Benjamin, Tim Scott and Barack Obama.

To cite one very recent change close to home: Even though it was the one constitutional office that it made the least sense to elect, adjutant general was the one elective office that wasn’t ever going to switch to appointive. That’s because adjutants general continued to dance with the one that brung them, and their subordinates always followed their lead, and the Legislature and the rest of the electorate went with what the Guard wanted. And then, we get an adjutant general who favors reform, and bang! Things change.

Oh, and Bobby Harrell will never be made accountable for his mishandling of campaign funds, because he’s the speaker.

Never say never. Because things change.

With that in mind, I’d like to make a few absolutist statements about South Carolina, in the hope that I will in short order be utterly humiliated for having been so wrong. Here goes:

  • The Republican majority in the Legislature will never take down the Confederate flag from the State House grounds.
  • Nikki Haley and her allies will never see how absurdly irrational and harmful it is to South Carolina to refuse Medicaid expansion.
  • We’ll never see the ridiculously large numbers of school districts in South Carolina reduced, because it’s always in the interests of lawmakers to protect the status quo in their home communities.
  • The promise implied in the recent Supreme Court decision in favor of poor school districts will never be realized, because powerful suburban white Republicans will never devote the kinds of resources that are needed to poor, rural districts.
  • South Carolina taxpayers will continue to support the more than 500 unnecessary, duplicative little governments called “special purpose districts,” because most people don’t know they exist, and the districts themselves are too good at political self-preservation.

Maybe you have some eternal verities of your own you would like to toss onto the trash heap of history as well. Be my guest…

24 thoughts on “Here are some basic, immutable truths about SC politics. Now, someone please, please go prove me wrong…

  1. Kathryn Fenner

    There will never be same-sex marriage in South Carolina. Oh, yeah….You want ones that haven’t happened.

    The ridiculous number of sales tax exemptions will never be reduced because too many large donors benefit from them.

  2. Doug Ross

    Only the first one has any chance of being wrong. This will happen as old white guys die off in enough numbers.

    Haley won’t do Medicare in her next term. Won’t happen. It would mean taking the hit for 10% of the cost soon (and more later, I bet).

    School districts won’t be combined because no politician has the guts to take it on. Just look at the wimpy answers you got from that forum the other night when you asked about it. I’d be more willing to bet that we’ll see additional districts created (Richland 3) to counteract the demographic changes.

    There will always be poor communities with lousy schools. It’s not a function of spending too little (we already spend 50% more on some poor districts). You can’t fix people who don’t want to be fixed.

  3. Doug Ross

    We will never see an ethics bill that will require all elected officials to release their state income tax forms each year.

    We will never see legalized pot in South Carolina.

    We will never see casinos in Myrtle Beach and betting on horse races in Camden and Aiken.

    We will never see South Carolina’s football team beat Clemson six times in a row under Steve Spurrier.

  4. Brad Warthen Post author

    To follow up on a discussion from a previous post:

    We’ll never have real reform of the state DOT, so that lawmakers and the public have the confidence that we can raise the gas tax, and it will be well spent.

    1. Juan Caruso

      Message to SC D.O.T. , State Assembly, State Senate, Governor Haley:

      S.C. has the 4th highest miles of state roads to maintain out of the 50 in the U.S.

      All states have histories of kickbacks from large $$$ contractors to state officials / politicians instrumental in awarding contracts.

      How do recent paving and repair costs in the state with the 4th highest miles of state roads to maintain with related costs in the other 50?

      Why shouldn’t southern states with the higher maintenance requirements benefit from volume discounts for lower costs / mile?

      Answer: They certainly shoul, but governments are run by political patronage instead of vetted business leaders.

  5. Juan Caruso

    If Progressives succeed in transforming the U.S. from centuries of improving standards for its citizens to the declining fortunes of national socialism, all of your political bullets will be realized to disembowel state, and to a large extent, county and local governments. Such “progress” in denying liberty is the least that will be done to eliminate every relic of the U.S. Constitution, and home-rule distinct from a central authority.

    Not only will shameful leaders of many U.N member states be relieved by no longer having to be compared to world-class U.S. statistics for hundred of millions of freedom loving individuals, but they will seek to obtain some of the wealth the U.N. will redistribute from the confiscated fruits of honest labor by a simpatico, constitutionally unrestrained U.S. (choose one: leader, dictator, tyrant).

    So, which will happen first, Brad, the triumph of socialism and disintegration of constitutional states rights, or relatively little things like your 5 petty bullets?

    1. Mark Stewart

      What? No mention of lawyers causing all this decay?

      PS – I’m pretty sure Republican Teddy Roosevelt was the early leader of the American progressives. I’m not positive, but it appears that you are mixing the metaphors of Progressivism and Socialism. I’m also not sure how progressives oppose the concept of “home rule”. Finally, I really don’t know how Progressivism and the UN are related. That’s a head-scratcher for sure.

      1. Juan Caruso

        “I really don’t know how Progressivism and the UN are related.” – Mark S.

        Example gratia: BOTH the U.N. and Progressive adherents continue to promote the
        flawed notion of anthropological climate change. Cast as a “settled science” and a grave threat, largely of U.S. in origin, that is too serious to neglect, the remedies sought tripled utility costs in early adopter and early abandoner Germany. Besides going to elite investors (e.g. Al Gore, Solyndra frauds and dozens like them) to whom would a large portion of higher utility rates and carbon taxes actually go? To poor nations that have allegedly been harmed, although their respective standards of living for longevity (health), personal income, and connectivity, for example, have NEVER been greater!

        What, you never knew?

        1. Kathryn Fenner

          Well, I guess 99.9999999% of scientists are progressives, because they believe in anthropological climate change.
          Early adopter Germany still has significantly more alternative energy, and reports just this summer said they have realized vastly quicker returns on investment than forecast.

          1. Juan Caruso

            Sorry but as Mark S. should tell you, KF, returns on investment (ROIs) (especially unspecified ROI rates compared only to an unspecified forecast say little about actual customer rates.

            Germany Could Face Electricity Customer Revolt

            “Der Spiegel, Germany’s leading weekly news magazine, reports this week that Germany’s aggressive renewables program “has come with a hefty price tag for consumers,” especially the poor. Though no immediate action is expected before national elections in two weeks, there may be new initiatives soon after, as “government advisors are calling for a completely new start.”

            1. M. Prince

              Since I’ve spent a considerable amount of time in Germany, I feel compelled to respond to your comments.

              First of all, it’s true that power rates have gone up – but they certainly have not tripled, as you incorrectly claim.

              Secondly, the transition in Germany away from coal and nuclear and toward renewables has been underway for a long time, and was accelerated only fairly recently. The transition itself is not in question and there is no groundswell of sentiment seeking to reverse it. Practically everybody considers it a good thing and nobody I know wants to abandon it. So you are simply incorrect to refer to Germany as an “early abandoner” of renewable energy.

              The problems are associated not so much with the transition itself but rather with some of the ways in which the transition has been and is being implemented. For one, there was the rather hasty withdrawal from nuclear in the wake of Fukushima. That’s not to say that nuclear power had a future, however. It didn’t. There was no chance of new nuclear power plants being built in Germany, so the sector eventually would have died out as the existing plants were gradually taken out of service. The decision to withdraw from nuclear only sped up that process.

              Another issue has been the problem with the power grid, which is not currently sufficient to transport the large amounts of wind power generated in the sparsely populated north to the areas further south where it is needed. A certain NIMBY reaction has exacerbated the problem and turned this into a difficult political issue, given that few people want to see new transmission lines strung up near their homes. And since Germany is a rather densely populated country, there’s not a lot of wiggle room.

              A related NIMBY problem cropped up in Bavaria, where the state legislature recently passed a law saying that wind turbines could not be placed at a distance from any residence that was less than ten times the height of the turbine (unless the local community were to decide otherwise). Again, because of population density, this limits the places where new turbines can be built. (Critics don’t like the whooshing sounds they make, the shadows they cast and bird lovers don’t like it that they whack our fine feathered friends to bits.)

              Another factor making rising prices an issue is the fact that wages in Germany have been stagnant for so long, so the power bill takes a relatively larger bite out of the average worker’s income.

              None of this, I should point out, has anything to do with the inherent value and overall cost-effectiveness of renewables – a fact widely recognized in Germany. The problems that have arisen are the result of planning and execution problems as well as misdirected incentives, not the technologies themselves. And, as I say, there has not been a falling off in the willingness to pursue these technologies.

              If you were to read the entire Spiegel article rather than articles that recycle cherry-picked alarmist-sounding bits and pieces from it, you would see that the Swedes and Norwegians are applying renewables to considerably better and less costly effect.

            2. Juan Caruso

              Prince, your rebuttal discounts (cherry picking?) higher rate increases paid by German industry. Very well, lets consider only the average German family:

              The average German family of three pays over 90 euros per month for electricity, the equivalent of US $135—about TWICE AS MUCH as the average German family’s 2000 average.

              Skip forward a bit from your Der Spiegel article (2013) to November 2014:

              “…Germany is discovering – two massive technical problems. One is that it becomes incredibly difficult to maintain a consistent supply of power to the grid, when that wildly fluctuating renewable output has to be balanced by input from conventional power stations. The other is that, to keep that back-up constantly available can require fossil-fuel power plants to run much of the time very inefficiently and expensively (incidentally chucking out so much more “carbon” than normal that it negates any supposed CO2 savings from the wind). ”

              Non-renewable backup is required to avoid rationing electricity in Germany. But, standby availability makes traditional electricity generation LESS EFFICIENT.. So much so now, that it “NEGATES ANY SUPPOSED CO2 SAVINGS FROM THE WIND).”

              U.S. rate payers, especially we in S.C., are not ready for exorbitant, incremental rate increases. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the 10 states in which wind power accounts for the highest percentage of the state’s electricity generation are:

              Iowa – 27%; South Dakota – 26%; Kansas – 19%; Idaho – 16%; Minnesota – 16%; North Dakota – 16%; Oklahoma – 15%; Colorado – 14%; Oregon – 12% and; Wyoming – 8%.

  6. M. Prince

    More tendentious cherry-picking, Mr. Caruso. I note that your quote this time appears to originate with Christopher Booker, a well-known climate-change denier who is not above cherry-picking and otherwise manipulating facts to fit his views.

    Moreover, it’s not at all apparent what your hodgepodge of factoids are meant to prove – other than what has already been established: that German electric bills have gone up (to an average, as of May 2014, of 85 euros, not 95 per month, according to German statistical sources). Though I would hasten to point out that roughly 50 percent of those costs are taxes (up from 38% in 2000), not base costs. I should also point out that according to U.S Energy Information Administration statistics, the average monthly electric bill in SC (in 2012) was $123,72.

    In any event, my purpose in responding to your previous post was simply to point out that Germany has no intention of backing out of its commitment to renewables. And that Germany’s problems with transition are not insurmountable – as the Spiegel article you originally cited went on to discuss.

    1. Kathryn Fenner

      Nice use of a comma instead of a decimal. Sie haben in der Tat in Deutschland verbrachte viel Zeit!

    2. Juan Caruso

      “Germany’s problems with transition are not insurmountable…” – M. Prince

      Neither was design of atomic weapons insurmountable, it did entail, however, tremendous outlays of taxpayer dollars because the result absolutely had to be available quickly to win a war waged by a proven aggressor.

      The so called war against global warming –> climate change –> climate justice is a presumptive war to control a naturally occurring chemical compound spewed by fires and volcanos and absorbed by plant life for photsynthesis. The public has been given the bum’s rush by the IPCC and lawyers in our own government. Deadlines proclaimed for urgent CO2 control have all passed — not only with scant consequence, but with gathering evidence of the current halocene’s end and the naturally recurring aftermath —another ICE AGE.

      Wind, solar, alternative fuels, ocean tides, and nuclear research was progressing well before the first drumbeat of CO2 alarm was ever sounded. Significant progress was made in each alternative since the 1950s. The only real urgency is not what the government has been saying, it is what the government wants to take from the masses —more $$$ under the pretense of an atomi- bomb equivalent dire urgency.

      Certainly NOT the urgency of atomic weapons design; rather, it is an alternative involving research that was already ongoing and needs not be rushed further. What is truly urgent is the need for government integrity.

  7. Dave Crockett

    Nice to see that while Mr. Prince and Mr. Caruso have strongly divergent opinions and conclusions, both have maintained a high level of decorum in their discussion. Kudos to both.

  8. Dave

    For immutable facts, how about Lindsey Graham will forever live in a fact-free world when it comes to the issue of Benghazi. To the point of rejecting the results of a Republican-led House investigation, by a Republican-led committee that did a document dump on the Friday before Thanksgiving that exonerated the administration. And that Senator Graham will instead forever insist that the results of said Republican investigation are a piece of crap. And that Graham will continue to make a fool of himself on this issue on national TV for the rest of his political career.

    1. Dave Crockett

      Please note that ‘Dave’ is not me. While I don’t disagree with the thrust of his comments, I would not put them forth in the way he chose to do.

  9. Mark Stewart

    Graham seemed almost unhinged in that interview.

    My first thought was what is wrong with him; my second was what is he on? This is not the freshman Senator Graham, something is awry with him – and not just over his Benghazi delusion syndrome.

    1. M. Prince

      The senior senator from Seneca can get somewhat snippy from time to time. This is not my observation alone. I’ve heard from friends elsewhere who, seeing him having a bit of a hissy fit on TV, have asked me, “What’s up with that guy?” I suppose the life of a senator can be hard on a person — especially if you’ve got Gloria Borger coming at ya.

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