Jaime Harrison and Matt Moore are my heroes

Matt, me and Jaime, on the day the legislation was signed to get the Confederate flag off the State House grounds.

Matt, me and Jaime, on the day the legislation was signed to get the Confederate flag off the State House grounds.

You might say “heroes” is a tad strong, but I wanted to draw you in and get you to read this, and both of these young men really do deserve a rather hearty pat on the back.

This is especially remarkable since y’all know how much I despise both parties, and Matt and Jaime are, respectively, the chairmen of the Republican and Democratic parties in South Carolina.

But they are remarkably free of many of the most objectionable characteristics associated with being party chairmen in the 21st century.

To begin with, rather than being enemies who reflexively spit on the ground whenever each other’s names are mentioned, they are buds. CNN noted this in a piece back in February — the month of the presidential primaries here — headlined, “Odd Couple: How a Republican and a Democrat became friends in South Carolina.

The AP’s Meg Kinnard followed up this month with a piece headlined “South Carolina party chairs beat vitriol with friendship.”

And you’ll recall when I celebrated their unanimity on the day the legislation to bring down the Confederate flag was signed. See the above photo.

But there are additional reasons to applaud these guys.

Back to how much I despise parties… I’m not going to go into all the reasons I do, but let’s look at two biggies — two things that have done more to make the parties into destructive forces in our republic than any other. Particularly the first one:

  1. Party-protecting reapportionment. This is the biggie. If we fixed this, we would repair most of the damage the parties have done to our country. As things stand, almost every congressional or legislative district in the country is drawn — by lawmakers of whichever party controls the body — to make it completely safe for candidates of one party or the other. This makes the November elections a joke, and puts the real contest in each district in the primary of the controlling party. That means the only competition an incumbent has to worry about is a primary challenge from someone who is more extreme, more ideologically pure, in terms of that party’s ideology. That means both parties get pulled to their respective extremes, and the space in the middle — where members of each party can talk to members of the other, the place where solutions are found and commonsense legislation enacted — becomes depopulated. And our government flies apart, and ceases to function. Nobody can even speak the same language, much less find commonalities to build on.
  2. Straight-ticket voting. I hate this for what it encourages voters to do, and even more for what it encourages them not to do. It enables them to avoid thinking. Voters who choose this option don’t have to think about any of the candidates on the ballot. They don’t have to be informed; they don’t have to discern; they don’t have to make comparisons. Which means they don’t have to pay attention before Election Day, or on Election Day. They just choose a party, and go home. This makes an utter travesty of the voters’ role in our representative democracy. And most shockingly, half of the voters in South Carolina choose this option.

Knowing how much I despise those things, imagine how pleased I was to find Jaime and Matt speaking out against both of them.

Particularly the way reapportionment is done.

From a recent story by The State’s Jamie Self:

One way to make S.C. races more competitive, Moore and Harrison say, is to end lawmakers’ control over the process of drawing district lines.

The GOP and Democratic party leaders suggest a nonpartisan or bipartisan panel draw district lines, instead of lawmakers.

Massey, R-Edgefield, said convincing lawmakers to cede their influence over the redistricting process – and their political futures – would be a heavy lift. Even he would be “reluctant to give up that authority to an outside group.”

But Massey said he would support ending straight-party voting.

“I don’t think it’s too much to ask people to take 30 seconds to push all the buttons,” he said. But, he added, there will be “partisans on both sides that are going to go ballistic over that if you try to change it.”

Yes, they would. As they would totally freak out over reapportionment reform. There is probably nothing that incumbents will fight harder to hang onto than their enormously destructive power to draw district lines so as to choose their voters, rather than letting the voters choose their representatives.

But that makes me appreciate all the more Matt’s and Jaime’s willingness to take a stand on this.

Jamie’s story also delved into the evil of straight-party voting. The story wasn’t as clear in terms of communicating what the party chairs think of that, so I contacted them both yesterday to find out.

I reached Mr. Harrison via email, asking whether he was willing to take a stand against straight-ticket voting. He responded, “Personally yes… It isn’t the stance of the party, because the issue hasn’t come up for a party position.  Nonetheless, I personally believe that is one of the many reforms we need.”

Amen. Later in the day I reached Matt Moore by phone and posed the same question. I didn’t ask for an official party position, but just asked whether he, Matt Moore, would take a stand.

And he did. There’s no proposal currently before lawmakers, but “in theory, I am for doing away with it.” He sees a need for “more informed voters,” and doing away with the straight-ticket copout would certainly be a way to demand more more knowledge, more attention, from voters.

We also chatted a bit about reapportionment, and it was along the lines of what he said about it in Jamie’s story:

Moore said he is glad his party controls the state Legislature, but the way district lines are drawn is taking its toll on the GOP nationally.

“It’s led to Republicans being in control of Congress, but being unsuccessful in presidential elections,” Moore said, adding the GOP’s difficulty in appealing to minority and younger voters stems from its candidates not having to campaign for their votes at home.

More competitive districts “would force candidates to go out and talk to people who don’t look like them.”…

And wouldn’t that be something wonderful? Lawmakers paying attention to everyone in their communities, rather than the narrow constituencies they’ve carved out for themselves through reapportionment.

I firmly believe it would cure a great deal of what ails our politics today.

And while it’s not a concrete step, I think it’s a great first step to have the chairs of both parties willing to talk about the need for change, rather than defending the intolerable status quo.

35 thoughts on “Jaime Harrison and Matt Moore are my heroes

  1. Mark Stewart

    It almost makes up for the incessant stream of sucky partisans screeds each delivers each and every day.

    But seriously, that’s two awesome stands for positions which are both civic minded and party-centric in that they deliver better voters and better candidates. If only we could get the current office holders on board… only way to do that is to make these reforms effective in two or three election cycles down the road; if we can get that.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Exactly! Rank partisanship! The Post is affirming everything I’m saying!

      The very first reason that Hillary isn’t leading by 50 points is all those straight-ticket Republicans out there who won’t even CONSIDER voting for a Democrat.

      What they’re saying completely supports what I’m saying.

      And two of the best ways of breaking up this horrible dynamic are reforming reapportionment and banning straight-ticket voting, which most states have already done…

      1. Claus

        Don’t just blame Republicans, you could have as easily wrote, “The very first reason that Trump isn’t leading by 50 points is all those straight-ticket Democrats out there who won’t even CONSIDER voting for a Republican.”

        But I understand, it’s always the Republicans who are at fault.

        1. Mark Stewart

          It just depends on what state one lives in; in SC it is the Republicans who currently are to blame for the gerrymandering.

          You were once a Democrat, right? Before the great migration began…

          1. clark surratt

            Mr. Stewart, Gerrymandering began in S.C. long before the Republicans took control. Through court decisions and political pressure, legislative districts were created to improve election of blacks to the Legislature. Once that ball started rolling, it continued. Republicans benefited down the road when enough “safe” black districts were created to make many more that were predominately white.

            1. Mark Stewart

              Quite a distortion of the historical record.

              Also, it amuses how you respond to comments directed to you with an alternate nom de plume. Without fail.

              1. clark surratt

                I guess I’m confused. I never had a comment before directed to me. Could you explain more fully what you mean by your comment.?

              2. Brad Warthen Post author

                I didn’t understand that, either, Mark.

                I know Clark. We used to work together. He’s a very knowledgeable, thoughtful guy. I’m not aware of him having posted as anyone else.

                Or was that directed at Claus?

            2. Mark Stewart

              What I meant is that gerrymandering was alive and kicking long before the mid 1960s. The courts may have encouraged it as a way to get some black legislators in office, but the scourge of gerrymandering has been with us far longer.

              This is a wonky cool link to the changing US Congressional district lines from 1789-2012.

      2. Bill

        [Exasperated sigh] Nope. Straight-ticket voting is the result of increased partisanship and a decline in what was already a marginal number of swing voters (going back decades). A straight-ticket option is not increasing partisanship. It’s mainly the parties that are responsible for that — with the GOP more to blame than the Democrats. (Yes, that’s true — just check out It’s Even Worse Than It Looks, by Mann and Ornstein; Why the Right Went Wrong, by E.J. Dionne; and To Make Men Free — A History of the Republican Party, by Heather Richardson.)

      1. Claus

        That’s the way she talks, she can’t talk without sounding like she’s lecturing about how she’s right and everyone else is wrong.

      2. Bryan Caskey

        By the way, if Hillary loses, the Downfall videos are going to be epic. Just objectively, it has to be maddening to Democrats that their “best candidate” is barely scraping ahead of the Republicans’ “worst candidate”, especially after all the talk of the demographics of the USA were going to enshrine a perpetual Democratic POTUS map.

        Again, I’m not in favor of either Trump or Hillary. I’m just looking at this as an outsider who isn’t represented by either candidate.

        1. Douglas Ross

          Same boat here, Bryan. I’m not voting for either candidate so I can just be amused by the process. The #nevertrump people actually believed they could stop him. The Hillary supporters live inside an echo chamber and spend 90% of their time talking about Trump. They have fed into Trump’s ego all along when the better strategy would have been to ignore him completely. It should have been about what was Hillary going to do instead of “look at THAT guy!”. Huge tactical error on their part. But then when you have a candidate who is as weak as Hillary, what else can you do? If she falters at all on Monday, she is toast.

          1. Claus

            Did you hear Hillary tell a group recently along the campaign trail that she prefers to talk to smaller groups. I guess that’s one way to twist the fact that supporters show up by the dozens and Trump supporters show up by the thousands when they come to their city.

        2. Brad Warthen Post author

          Who calls Hillary the Democrats’ “best candidate?”

          I honestly don’t have a good feel for who else out there the Democrats might have who is overshadowed by her.

          Remember, we didn’t have a free-for-all on that side the way we did in the GOP. Why? Because everyone who might have been a viable Democrat understood that this was Hillary’s turn and did not run. The only person who really, seriously tried was an old crank from so far out in left field that he just didn’t GET that this was Hillary’s and he should get out of the way.

          I’m fairly well impressed with Tim Kaine. And I knew nothing about him before. I wonder how many other people there might be out there who’d be solid candidates but have been overshadowed by Hillary, Obama, Biden and the left-wing darling, rookie Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

          It would be interesting to find out. But that wasn’t going to happen this year…

        3. Brad Warthen Post author


          Frequently, the “best” people in a party don’t run for the highest office.

          For instance, you know who I think may be the best potential presidential candidate the Republicans have? Lamar Alexander. He would be awesome. Talk about resume — was a great governor before he was a great senator, and in between was a university president and secretary of education.

          He took a couple of shots at the presidency, but didn’t catch on. Of course, that was before he entered the Senate, and he seriously lacked name recognition nationally.

          Time may have passed Lamar by, since he’s 76. But I wonder how many people there are like him who are a bit younger but have resumes almost as awesome… but they don’t step forward…

  2. Harry Harris

    I’d rather get rid of voting for offices that are administrative rather than policy-setting. Why vote for law enforcement, court clerking, secretaries of state, agriculture, etc. A simpler ballot, not encumbered by 1700’s politics would be a step forward, and might make the end of straight ticketing more feasible. I don’t vote straight ticket, but I have more time and opportunity to learn about the candidates than many others. I still abstain on the races I don’t think should be on the ballot unless there’s some relevant issue. Straight ticketing gives some voters an easier path to voting their leanings without much complication.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Harry, ABSOLUTELY we should stop electing such functionaries. I’ve long advocated that; it’s ridiculous. But that’s a separate issue from this.

      But I must take issue with this: “Straight ticketing gives some voters an easier path to voting their leanings without much complication.”

      First, they should not HAVE an easier path. You say you “have more time and opportunity to learn about the candidates than many others.” You know what that says to me? It says you should be voting, and they should not.

      Second, I’ll confess that I have trouble with the “voting their leanings” thing because I personally don’t see either party coming anywhere close to matching MY “leanings,” and that makes it even harder to imagine that would be true for ANYBODY who actual studies issues and candidates and THINKS about them. I just truly don’t see how that could be the case. I don’t see how any thinking voter should prefer every member of one party every single time if the voter DID study and think. There’s just no way.

      Parties — especially the Democratic Party — for generations relied on low-information voters seeing them as supporting their “leanings,” and therefore pulling that lever without thinking.

      I really, truly don’t believe our republic can afford to be steered by that kind of thoughtlessness any more…

      1. Harry Harris

        The kind of thoughtlessness that bothers me is the current atmosphere, going back to about the Harry Dent era of bogus campaigning, straw man appeals, fact-free claims even in debates. Include a press intimidated by conservative voices, overwhelmed by right-wing money, and unwilling and unable to stick out their necks to promote valid fact-checking. Visual media promote mud-slinging and sensationalized issues for ratings. Afraid of being attacked for being the “liberal press,” they play false equivalency games and end-up never elevating the awareness level of more than a few.
        If folks with money couldn’t buy the airwaves and weren’t allowed (because of a diligent press and media) to disinform effectively, your anti-straight-ticket wishes might make better sense to me. As things stand, I would just challenge you to work 50-60 hours a week for 23k, try to manage the daily tragedies that brings about, and spend your spare time discerning among candidates rather than voting for the party that seems most likely to advance your interests. Or I could suppose that those folks just shouldn’t vote.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Two quick points:

          — I cannot imagine a scenario in which I would see either of these parties as “advancing my interests.”

          — If I did, I would not vote for members of that party unless I also coincidentally saw them as best for the country, or state or city or whatever level we’re talking about. I would recoil in horror from the idea of voting to advance MY personal interests.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Watch. One of my friends is going to talk about checking my privilege, because that was such a white guy answer.

            But it wasn’t. It was an idea-guy answer. Some people are people people. Some people are things people. Some are ideas people. I’m more in that third category. I tend to take a 30,000-foot view and look at the best ideas for the society overall, because I think that’s the only morally defensible way of being a voter…

            I’ve told this anecdote before, but I’ll tell it again.

            I was working at The Jackson (TN) Sun in 1976, my first job after college. I was having a conversation about the election with a woman I worked with. I was a big Jimmy Carter fan. This woman said she and her husband were voting for Ford. I thought fine; I had no objections to Ford; he was a fine fellow — I just preferred Jimmy.

            Just keeping up my end of the conversation, I asked why. I was expecting something like “We think Ford’s a decent, honest guy who’s doing a pretty good job and we see no reason to change.”

            She said she and her husband had sat down and run some numbers, and they had determined that if Carter were elected, their annual taxes would be $1,000 higher.

            Set aside for a moment how ridiculous it was to arrive at such a firm figure, considering how many variables exist between campaign positions and congressional action. I was shocked, horrified — I would have been less appalled if she’d said she and her husband made pornographic movies in their spare time.

            I couldn’t believe a fellow JOURNALIST would think that way. If she loved money that much, why didn’t she go into banking or something.

            After all these years, I can’t remember whether my jaw literally dropped or not…

  3. Bill

    ” I have trouble with the “voting their leanings” thing because I personally don’t see either party coming anywhere close to matching MY “leanings,” and that makes it even harder to imagine that would be true for ANYBODY who actual studies issues and candidates and THINKS about them.”

    Then you are obviously a person of very little imagination.

    1. Bill

      More than that, I find a load of self-absorbed egotism in what you wrote above — the suggestion being that anybody who doesn’t think and vote the way you do is wrong or downright dangerous.

  4. Burl Burlingame

    I’ll repeat my one bright idea — turn over the mapping of federal election districts to the Census Bureau.

Comments are closed.