It’s a great day in South Carolina, and tomorrow will be even greater

I wasn't actually seeing this. My phone did, held high above my head.

I wasn’t actually seeing this. My phone, held high above my head, did.

It helps to make new friends at just the right moment.

As I arrived at the State House a few minutes before the appointed time for Gov. Nikki Haley to sign the bill removing the Confederate flag from the grounds, I realized I should have come a lot earlier. Anyone with a brain should have known this would not just attract media types and pols who want to get into the picture. I had to stand a couple of minutes in a queue of regular civilians before I could even get into the building. But it was a happy, friendly group to hang out with.

My friend Valerie Bauerlein had joined the queue just as I made it through the metal detector, and I waited for her. But then we had trouble — both stairways up to the lobby were blocked by uniformed guards. They said the lobby was at capacity and nobody else could come up. I told them Valerie was from The Wall Street Journal and had come a long way, but no dice. Same story at the elevator.

So I went over toward the corridor to the governor’s office, where a bunch of dignitaries — also behind guards. I saw my representative, Kenny Bingham, and tried calling on his cell. He must have had it turned off. Then I saw Nathan Ballentine. “Nathan!” I called, to no avail. Just then, Rob Godfrey, the governor’s press guy, came over to tell me how much he had liked my column yesterday, in which I said nice things about the governor. (He had earlier said obliging things on Twitter.)

I thanked him, told him of our predicament, so he went and found a senior security guy, and suddenly it was OK for two more people to ascend the stairs.

So you see, sometimes it pays to make nice to the governor. You know, when it’s warranted. (Kidding aside, I’m as proud as I can be of her these last couple of weeks, as I’ve mentioned previously.)

At this point, you’re wondering when I’m going to get to the part about the signing ceremony. Well… here’s the thing… Once Valerie and I got up there, we found we couldn’t get within five or six people of the rope line around the spot where the signing would take place. Not only were there more media than I’ve ever seen at once in the State House (more than the presser a couple of weeks ago, WAY more than Mark Sanford’s confession in 2009), but there was an equal number of dignitaries crowding the place, plus a mixed concentration of lobbyists, staff people and the aforementioned regular citizens.

We all would have been better off watching it on a video feed, in terms of seeing or hearing anything. There was no P.A. system, and about the only things I heard the governor say was something about the flag coming down — which drew a cheer — and then her patented line about it being a great day in South Carolina, followed by more cheering, because this time, everybody agreed with her. In fact, I may start saying it when I answer my own phone.

But as little as I saw or heard, I wouldn’t have missed being there. So thanks, Rob. I mean, nobody could hear George Washington’s inaugural address, because he mumbled. But wouldn’t you like to have been there?

Beyond that, well, I’ll share the bits and pieces of what I was able to witness below:

14 thoughts on “It’s a great day in South Carolina, and tomorrow will be even greater

  1. Rose

    I thought it was customary for the bill’s author to be up front for the signing, but Vincent was in the back and barely visible. I was glad to see the former governors there.

  2. Phillip

    It will be fascinating to see if legislators and the governor make any attempt, once this is all over, to pick up from where this moment of unity, even of euphoria, this sense of “all things are possible” will have left off. On what issue will this be attempted?

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Here’s what I think: Yes, there will be some good effects from this. The great majority of lawmakers voted for this, working with people they don’t usually work with, and have a really good feeling about it, with most of the world praising them and reinforcing that feeling.

      That doesn’t mean you’ll see big miracles. I doubt the GOP caucus will suddenly be for expanding Medicaid. But here and there, you’ll see two or three people work together on something, people who might have been wary of each other before, and some good will come of it.

      Not on things where there are wide ideological differences. But I think you’ll see a greater tendency to work together on solutions in the middle, things that there wasn’t enough trust before to get together on.

      That’s what I predict, anyway…

  3. Hal Stevenson

    hey brad:-)

    Great job this week!

    I think the will of the people will propel our leaders. I think also that there will be more community cooperation to do the things that government cannot do.

    1. Bill

      Without government,gay marriage would not be the law of the land.I know you and Brad are all for civil rights,except for gay people.

  4. Kathryn Fenner

    The Sanford press conference had a lot less advance notice, and no media trucks, if I recall. Certainly a lot less media presence in the time leading up to it—as it should be. That was a sideshow. This is the big tent!

  5. David Carlton

    Sorry to throw a fly in the ointment, but I thought I’d share something I received in response to something I wrote about the flag issue on another blog. This from a self-proclaimed liberal about Nikki Haley (There’s a lot more, but I’ll spare you):

    “PS – Just heard Haley’s signing speech – it was a disgusting exercise in self-congratulation and appalling cluelessness. Even more disgusted by her turning this into a political antic that totally exploits the deaths and shows not even the bare bones of reflection or apology for her own opportunism. She’s trying to cloak herself in the mantle of the victims and their families. Triumphalist bullshit when what was called for was some real remorse. Terrible person.”

    How would you respond to this? There’s a lot of this out there, and I find it beyond belief. I’ve written something, but my temper is hot, and I fear overstepping my bounds:

    “This is my last response to you. Something profound has happened–and all you can do is spew hatred and cast aspersions on the motives of people you don’t even know. I, too, have seen her signing speech, and your characterization of it is nothing short of vicious. She had hardly anything to say about herself, giving full honor to the dignity and hospitality of the Emanuel Nine and their families, to the black and white people of South Carolina who showed solidarity with them and to the legislators who went through an often wrenching deliberation. I know people in SC who’ve been working to get that flag down for years–and they greatly appreciate the help they’re getting from Haley and the Republicans. This ain’t easy; it involves nothing less than people coming to terms with their history, and facing down their fantasies about it. Americans have a notoriously difficult time doing that generally, and white South Carolinians are no different. But they’re doing that now.

    “Yes, probably Nikki Haley is picking up the political wind; people who don’t follow what’s going on in the state have no idea what a profound shift has been going on in the past several weeks. What seemed impossible a month ago is now an accomplished fact. There’s a video making the rounds showing the 2000 ceremony at which the flag was placed in its now-former location; a massive crowd, waving Confederate battle flags and screaming racial epithets. Compare it to the scene we’ve just witnessed; a crowd as large or larger, biracial and bipartisan, *celebrating* the removal. So, yes, it’s about far more than Nikki Haley. But she was a part of it–as was Jenny Horne and a majority of her fellow Republicans, as well as Black South Carolinians and white Democrats.

    “Were you a part of it? No–all you’ve contributed is pettiness and spite–along with a lot of self-righteous boasting. And for now I’ve decided that, for sanity’s sake if nothing else, I’m going to stop paying attention to you.”

    Should I post it?

    1. SBS

      Well why not? It’s a much better response than that tired, old ‘you’re just jealous.’ Don’t you get tired of that ‘you’re just jealous’ meme?

    2. Pat

      Yes, your response is intelligent and reasoned. That person deserves to hear the truth even though he/she probably receive it.


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