What’s Henry McMaster afraid of? Mark Sanford?

McMaster for governor

Several weeks back, I was on an elevator with a Republican attorney who asked me what I though about how Henry McMaster was doing as governor.

As I was mentally crafting a reply — something like I have hopes, and I see the gasoline tax issue as one that will help determine whether the hopes are justified — he followed up his own question with speculation about Mark Sanford running against Henry in 2018, and wondering whether any other Republicans will run as well.

I don’t know what I said to that. After Donald Trump handed Henry the job he’d wanted so long, I had sort of stopped pondering 2018, thinking Well, that’s that. I certainly hadn’t given any thought to Mark Sanford having ambitions of running again for the office for which he is so spectacularly unsuited, as he spent eight years demonstrating. I probably just made some noises like homina-homina, as though the speech center of my brain had been struck by lightning.

I had not spent time worrying about that the same way I don’t wake up in the morning worrying about an invasion of Nazi zombies. (Of course, when the Nazi zombies do take over, you realize that you should have worried.)

Anyway, once the brain started running again, I started thinking: Is this why Henry’s running from the chance to lead on the gas tax? Is it all about fearing a challenge from Mr. Club for Growth? (And yeah, Sanford had been on a number of people’s 2018 speculation lists — I just hadn’t been paying attention to that stuff.)

Let’s set aside the absurdity of Sanford leaving his comfort zone to once again occupy the governor’s chair. Being a member of the “no” caucus in Congress suits Sanford’s style perfectly. His political M.O. is: Toss out proposals and watch them get shot down, and then moan about it. That seems to be what he runs to do. That makes him perfectly suited to be a member of the Freedom Caucus. Nobody expect them to accomplish anything. Do that as governor, and you just make the legislative leadership of your own party want to throttle you. They count the days until you’re gone, hoping you’ll be replaced by someone who wants to govern.

Which is what, after 14 years of Sanford and Nikki Haley, lawmakers had every reason to expect. And they did. They were even described as “giddy” about the prospect:

“He’s pragmatic,” said state Rep. Greg Delleney, R-Chester. “He gets people together to reach compromises. He doesn’t dig into one position, and you’re either with him or you’re not.”

Publicly, S.C. lawmakers offer mostly guarded assessments of Haley and their optimism about McMaster, who will ascend to the governor’s office once Haley is confirmed as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in a few weeks.

Privately, however, some are giddy to trade in Haley – a 44-year-old Republican who bashed lawmakers in the GOP-controlled Legislature on Facebook and in their hometowns, offered failing “grades” to those who disagreed with her and told a real estate group to “take a good shower” after visiting the State House – for McMaster, a GOP governor they think will work with them….

Meanwhile, we saw the GOP leadership in the House stepping out and leading on fixing our roads — unabashedly raising the gas tax, and reforming governance of the agency.

And then, rather than joining them in the vanguard, Henry started muttering about what a bad idea raising the tax was (as though there were some rational alternative way of paying for roads, which there isn’t), making ominous “last resort” noises. As though we hadn’t gotten to the “last resort” stage some time ago.

No, he hasn’t promised to veto such an increase — which would have been his predecessor’s opening move — but he just won’t stop sending out bad vibes about it. (“Always with the negative waves, Moriarty!”)

It’s bad enough that the proposal has to run the Senate gauntlet, with Tom Davis shooting at it from one side and the “tax increase yes; reform no” crowd on the other. When a thing needs doing, the Senate is at its best dysfunctional. It would have been really, really nice to have the governor standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Speaker Lucas in trying to solve this problem, instead of standing by and watching it get kicked farther down the pothole-pocked road.

Taxes are a killer?” Really? No, governor — unsafe roads are a killer, if anything is on this front.

Of course, if one is inclined to pessimism, one might think the window for leadership has closed or soon will, now that a dark cloud has parked itself over anyone and everyone associated with Richard Quinn. I certainly hope that’s not the case, because we have issues in South Carolina that need to be addressed.

I also hope the governor won’t hold back out of fear of 2018, because at some point, you really need to stop running for office and govern

11 thoughts on “What’s Henry McMaster afraid of? Mark Sanford?

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    Huh. I hadn’t looked at this since yesterday, and no comments!

    I thought y’all would take interest in this, for several reasons, not least of which being the “Kelly’s Heroes” reference…

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Seriously, would you prefer that I go back to fulminating about Trump? I could, you know. It would be quite easy. He’s always there, and he never stops being outrageous…

  2. Karen Pearson

    I’ve never been a great fan of Gov. McMaster’s, but I am extremely disappointed in his response to repairing our roads. This is one of the several things we desperately need to do, such as updating our sewer system and improving our schools, yet he refuses to fund it. We have already taken too much away from other programs that can ill afford it, and are busy building new stuff before we repair the old. We need to fund it, and we need oversight to carry out the repairs appropriately. Republicans are supposed to be pro-business, but I see them discouraging businesses from locating in SC because of poor roads, poor schools, and poorly trained residents.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Republicans used to be pro-business. Now they’re about catering to extreme ideologues, because those are the people who threaten them in their primaries. (Note the story I linked to above, in which business leaders are BEGGING Henry to get behind the roads bill, and he’s brushing them off.)

      True, when you’re running for governor you’re not dealing with gerrymandered districts, which is what makes the phenomenon so horrible in the House, but South Carolina is so Republican now that it amounts to much the same thing. If you’re Henry, you’re worried a your primary, not a Democrat (although the burgeoning scandal around the Quinns could create an opportunity for someone like James Smith).

      I know it would disappoint Bud and others if I didn’t throw in some of what they are pleased to call “false equivalence,” but Democrats have the same problem of having blown off much of their traditional base in order to cater to coastal ideologues.

      It’s just not really a factor in South Carolina — or nationally, either, because since about 1990 the Republicans have been MUCH more skillful in the reapportionment game, meaning that appealing to the extremes in their base is more of a factor for them, or so it seems…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        And a lot of Democrats (the Bernie types, not the Hillary types) hate it when I say this, but I’d LIKE to see a business-friendly governor or party or State House for a change, the way we used to have.

        Because then we’d have a government that took proper care of our infrastructure, from our roads to our schools (where we develop human infrastructure). Business wants the pieces and parts of a thriving economy, which includes having a population with skills and jobs and the income to purchase goods. Even if they’re trying to attract industry with our relatively low wages, they want a nice community for their executives to live in, not slums.

        And I don’t hear much about cheap unskilled labor from industries these days. I hear them complain about needing more properly educated, skilled people to employ.

        Bernie’s fulminating about billionayuhs aside, we’d all benefit from a more business-friendly state government.

        Even when billionayuhs ARE a problem, in terms of spending money to push government to extreme places, the problem isn’t that they’re business types; the problem is that they are ideologues first, and billionayuhs second…

      2. bud

        Aren’t we all ideologues in our own way? Some (misguided) people consider me an ideologue when it comes to income distribution. Most people would regard Doug’s obsession with Ayn Rand philosophy ideological. Bryan is a bit over the top regarding guns. Brad is an extreme ideologue when it comes to issues of the military. It just depends on the color glasses you wear.

          1. bud

            I reserve “extremist” on military matters to those that support military intervention in Iraq even if it had been known there were no WMD. Brad occupies rarified air in that regard.

  3. bud

    Brad sort of reminds me of Charlie Brown trying to kick the football. Lucy always pulls it away yet CB persists. Likewise Brad expects a pragmatic outcome from some Republican but whoops the metaphorical football is snatched away yet again.

  4. Karen Pearson

    And let’s not forget that many of those idi–er–public servants still worship at the Church of Norquist where they have taken perpetual vows to refuse to raise taxes. People who long for “the good old days” of the 50’s seem to forget how high the taxes were then–the taxes that paid for interstates and bridges and such.

  5. Mark Stewart

    It was a pretty sad and flaccid display.

    Populism always runs aground, eventually. Guess we will just have to wait a spell…

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