Joe Cunningham really doesn’t want me to vote for him — I need to write a separate, full post about this, but I wanted to mention his latest before it falls off my radar: Now, he wants judges in S.C. to be directly, popularly elected. You know, you can say all kinds of sharply critical things about our system of judicial selection, but I can’t imagine anything more likely to make it worse than this. It’s one of those few things about the way we run this state that makes me look at other states and be thankful that at least we don’t do that. “Popular” judges, being motivated to make only popular decisions. Wow.
Recruitment officer wounded in latest attack on a Russian draft office — This is awful on so many levels — that Putin is calling these people up for his indefensible war, that this officer who was just doing his unsavory job was shot, that the guy who shot him couldn’t think of any better way to express his outrage (so someone gets shot, and the shooter has ruined his own life), and that the shooter’s friend got drafted despite not being one of the experienced troops that Putin had said this draft was limited to. No winners here. But you know what’s worse? That same day in another part of Russia, a gunman shot up a school, killing 17 people, 11 of them children. Remember when the Russians just wanted to get their hands on American blue jeans? That was fine; blue jeans are great. Now they’re importing the very worst things our culture has to offer…
USC postpones football game because of hurricane — Excellent idea! I hope every other football team in the country gets inspired and does the same thing — whether they see a hurricane coming or not. I mean, you never know with these things — they’re even hitting Canada now! My recommendation is to postpone all football until, say, 2042. And keep watching that weather! If it still looks menacing, put them off a bit longer…
NASA smashes into an asteroid — I think this is awesome, and I look forward to finding out whether it worked — in terms of altering the rock’s course slightly. It’s good to see us doing cool things in space. Now, back to the moon!
Of course, it was a bad time for Britain, as you’ve probably read or heard a thousand times in recent days. But even before this sad occasion, there were pieces being written in reputable journals, such as this one in The Atlantic, foretelling woe for Albion. That was published in January, and it began:
The grim reality for Britain as it faces up to 2022 is that no other major power on Earth stands quite as close to its own dissolution…
So bad timing for Britain, and bad for me, too, as a blogger. My own 91-year-old mum was in the hospital having surgery — the placement of a pacemaker — that very day. She had just gotten out of the ER, and my brother and I had just seen her in post-op, when we got the news about the queen. (My mother is at home now and fine, thank God.)
Needless to say, I didn’t have time that day for blogging, or paying work, or much else. And things have been busy since.
But I had thoughts, and ripped them out over Twitter that day, when I had a sec, and thereafter. Which in a way was fine, because I really didn’t have any sort of coherent, strung-together essay popping up at that moment. Just a few quick thoughts. Here are some of them. I won’t embed the tweets, since y’all don’t seem to like that, but here are the thoughts:
Yes, I know we cast off the monarchy and all that, but I very much feel the loss. She has stood as a reassuring beacon of stability and dignity for my entire life. Now, the entire Western world is the lesse, as Donne would have said… (In response to early reporting from the NYT).
I really wish she could have lasted a couple more years, and not just because that would have meant topping the Sun King’s record. Things were already bad enough in Britain. The country didn’t need this sad loss as well… (Also while reading the NYT).
My headline is quite intentional. I say “we” and not “Britain,” because we’ve all lost someone of great importance to our world, someone who helped keep civilization anchored, someone who lived an unimpeachable life in view of the whole planet, and never did anything to embarrass or shame the human race, much less the British portion of it. (No matter how much I may like some of them, I have a hard time thinking of any American leader of whom I can say that.) She was a beacon of civilized restraint in a world increasingly condemning itself to drown in stupidity and snark. And she did it for 70 years! I really wish she could have beaten the Sun King’s record. And after that, I’d have cheered for her to beat Methuselah’s.
Y’all know, of course, that I’m an Anglophile. But I can still think of plenty of things to criticize the country for, from the dim times before Alfred the Great to the present time. But I don’t lay any of it at Elizabeth’s feet. At least, not this Elizabeth. And that is really, truly extraordinary. I doubt I’ll ever see anything like it again (and of course, I expect some of you will quickly share your Ten Worst Things About QEII lists. But those will say more about you than about her).
To sum it up, I will embed one of the tweets, so y’all can see the headline to which I was responding:
She’s so much taller than the Queen! Which seems disrespectful or something. If they’re going to pick a woman again to be PM, why can’t they find one Her Majesty’s size? (It just makes her look smaller than a tall man would.) They probably did, but she turned down the job. Pundits aren’t optimistic for this one’s chances, either. One column I saw out there this morning was headlined, “Liz Truss, an unpopular leader for a troubled Britain.” So hey, good luck, Liz! And mind how you go. If you want a touch-on-the-basics graphic about her, here’s one from the Beeb.
The headline of my post, “Maybe it would help to have a POINT to the story,” was in reaction to that headline. So much so that when I posted the link to my post to Twitter, I decided to do so in a retweet of the WashPost‘s tweet — so people could see what it was in reaction to.
Which really ticks me off. Sure, if the reader clicks on the link of the Post‘s original tweet, they get to see the original headline. But is that clear communication? It is not.
But that doesn’t bother me as much as this, which happens more often…
I’m reading one of my newspaper apps — the Post, the NYT, whatever. And I see a headline on the main, or “Top Stories,” page, and immediately think of a good response to that, and then call up the story — and it has an entirely different headline! Something boring, that doesn’t inspire a good tweet. And if you try to tweet it, that blah headline is the one that goes the Twitter.
Sometimes, I don’t notice this until I’ve read the stupid story, and clicked to tweet it, and am actually writing my reaction. At which point I see the problem, and ditch the whole enterprise.
I hate this. And it’s not in the interest of the original publisher of the content — since I’m trying to bring further attention to that content!
So please, don’t write multiple heds. Just come up with one good one, and stick with it.
The Singularity hasn’t arrived, but we’re all pretty obsessed with the Matrix, as it currently exists…
Editor’s note: I wrote this on Tuesday, but didn’t post it because I thought it wasn’t very good. But today — Friday — I decided not to waste that time I spent typing it. So here it is, with only slight editing. But I didn’t take the time to edit all the places where it said “today,” which at the time meant Tuesday.
I have to be careful here. After all, there are already those who see me as an old guy (the insolent puppies). I don’t want to give them any additional reason to see me as Uncle Ben in “Spider-Man,” looking in the physical, dead-tree newspaper for a job (which shows you how long ago 2002 was), and seeing a help-wanted ad for a computer analyst, moans, “My Lord, even the computers need analysts these days!”
All my adult life, I was always on the leading edge of technology — when newspapers went from typewriters to mainframe, and then from mainframe to PCs, I was one of the people who learned it first and taught the others. I paginated the editorial pages before the rest of the newspaper followed. When I got canned in 2009, I was the only person at the paper actively blogging and regularly interacting with readers online.
But lately I’ve been noticing something a bit unsettling. Gradually, the news I read is less about what people do, and more about what their technology does. I’m not saying the singularity is imminent — artificial intelligence is still too stupid — but we’re moving in that direction, in terms of what we pay attention to. Maybe it’s because we’ve spent too much time observing stupid people, and no longer notice the intellectual limitations in the tech.
Anyway, these were all in The Washington Post today:
You’re charging wrong: 5 ways to make gadget batteries last longer — Hey, I love my iPhone and my iPad, and am on decent terms with my PC. But I’ll respect them all more — especially the iPhone — when the batteries are better. Or at least, more reasonable. Here’s what reasonable would look like: When I take off my phone and am not using it — which means when I’m sleeping — it should be charging, and without damaging the battery. And please, don’t do this thing where you take all fricking night to charge. Ever since that started, I’ll wake up in the night and reach over to unplug it, because it’s been a couple of hours and should be charged — but it’s nowhere near done, because it’s aiming to finish around 5 a.m. I’ve tried turning off this “convenient” feature in the past, but failed. So it charges all night, but gradually. But what if I needed to grab it and go in the middle of the night?
How a photo of a woman yelling in a guy’s ear became a viral meme — That sounds stupid, doesn’t it? That’s because it is. Not as stupid, say, as ‘haul videos” were, but pretty dumb. Apparently, it’s news because as a meme, it is somehow evocative of other memes, and has meaning to someone who spends all his or her time thinking about memes instead of, say, great literature. It’s an actual international sensation, apparently.
Strangers rallied worldwide to help this Maryland mom find where she parked her car— In this case, the amazing part isn’t about the technology. The amazing thing is the way this lady managed to lose the car she had hurriedly parked on the way to take a child to the doctor. Which is reasonable to anyone who has had to spend a little time remembering exactly where in the lot, or the garage, the car was parked. That I get. What blows my mind is that she didn’t even know in which nearby parking garage she had parked it. Which means she arrived at the doctor so flustered that she didn’t know how she’d gotten there, even roughly. So after unsuccessfully searching, she posted something about it on social media, and went home, defeated. And people around the world jumped in to solve the mystery, and two days later, someone found it. Which is cool, and even nice. But how did this happen to begin with?
Down and out and extremely online? No problem: Just enter a new ‘era.’ — You’ll have to read a few grafs of the story even to understand what it’s about. But when you do, you may react as I did, wondering how anyone could become this lost in narcissism. (Which is really something, coming from a guy who blogs.) And then, you’ll wonder about something even more perplexing: Who would actually watch such a thing? Compared to this, haul videos actually made sense.
Former security chief claims Twitter buried ‘egregious deficiencies’ — I put this last, but this morning, this was actually the lede story on the app. So Elon Musk isn’t the only one complaining. But then, he’s looking for something in Twitter other than what I see, and enjoy. I use it all the time, and it works great. I post something, and it shows up, and people interact with it. Yeah, lying to regulators is a bad thing and all, but if you want to go after a social medium that really sucks, take on Facebook. Or Instagram. Or Snapchat. Twitter remains my fave.
This saturation in tech news today reminded me of another story about something I want to complain about, from last week:
How to send text messages from the comfort of your computer — The only reason I read this was because I use an iPhone for my phone, and a PC for my computer. Which means I’m up the creek, unlike people who use all Apple products — their texts are shared smoothly on all their platforms. So I started reading, thinking that maybe, just maybe, I won’t have to shell out a fortune to get a Mac when my Dell gives out. And I read on even though the subhed warned me what was coming: “The process ranges from ‘surprisingly simple’ to ‘ugh’ depending on your mix of devices.” Of course, they save the “iPhone + Windows” scenario for the end, at which point they say that it’s technically possible, but…
Casting a likeness in bronze and setting it on public property establishes a long-term relationship between a community and the person being honored. Some communities, spurred by an awakened consciousness of the messages Confederate statues send, have chosen to remove them. Others have added markers to provide a broader historical context than the monument alone provides.
But few are placing new statues to honor Confederates. Enter Florence County Council, which has decided by a 5-4 vote that 2022 was finally the time for Florence to do so. “This guy (William Wallace Harllee) formed the reason the town is here,” Council member and statue supporter Kent Caudle told The Post and Courier. “I don’t think that has anything to do with racism.”
Placing a statue because it acknowledges a historical person or event is not rationale enough. Those who argue that statues teach us history misunderstand their purpose. There is not enough bronze in the world to properly convey a complete picture of Florence’s 150 years of history. Learning that history requires reading, walking the streets, visiting the museum, and talking with those whose families have lived there for generations.
Statues accomplish a different objective. The best statues are about our values and our future. They capture someone whose life embodies important and timeless principles, ones that can continue to guide us. The worst statues point only backwards, evincing nostalgia for a romanticized version of the past.
Weighing a person’s life is an uncomfortable but critical part of the process. The key is to determine the person’s primary legacy. Lincoln had disabling bouts of depression and, although he always opposed slavery, whether he truly believed blacks were the equals of whites is a question historians still debate. But summing up Lincoln’s life, these are just footnotes. He was the Great Emancipator and Commander-in-Chief in the war that preserved the Union.
The County Council should apply a similar rubric to their decision to place a statue of Harllee at the Florence County Museum. Here is how I would encapsulate his life: He was a lawyer, businessman, military officer, and legislator from the Pee Dee who was lieutenant governor from 1860-1862, during the time South Carolina seceded from the Union. The fact that Florence is named after his daughter is a footnote in his story.
It seems strange that the County Council would want to honor this man, even stranger that it would override the museum board’s unanimous vote rejecting displaying the statue on museum property.
Perhaps if Gen. Harllee had a strong connection to Florence or had been an important part of the city’s development, it might make more sense. Gen. Harllee did found the Wilmington and Manchester Railroad in 1852, which was first railroad to locate a depot near what would become Florence. However, Harllee resigned from the company in 1855. Florence was not established until 1872, and Harllee did not live there until 1889. Florence Harllee’s obituary from 1925 states that the railroad construction superintendent, Colonel Fleming, gave the depot the name Florence during its construction circa 1853.
The lives of Gen. Harllee and Florence are well documented in the museum as well as online. The sculpture, in the vein of other Lost Cause memorials, attempts to rewrite and idealize the city’s history. Some cities are named after giants. Florence is named after the daughter of a secessionist who oversaw South Carolina’s decision to go to war for the right to continue to enslave. This is a history to be overcome, not to be celebrated.
I do not intend to besmirch the name of the daughter, Florence. She was a devout woman who was proud of her city. She lived more than three decades in Florence, and served the community as a teacher. At one point, Florence was her town’s librarian.
It’s doubtful that Florence would have enjoyed all the fuss we are currently making. According to an article in the Florence News Journal in 2015, she was “quiet and unassuming.” In 1923, when she was seventy-four, she was invited to an elaborate celebration marking the opening of a bridge spanning the Great Pee Dee River to connect Florence and Marion counties. Seats for her and several other family members were reserved, and she was to be publicly recognized. The article reports that Florence said “The very idea of being willing to make a spectacle of ourselves!” and wrote back to the planning committee to politely decline their invitation.
Harllee’s ancestors and other admirers had every right to commission this sculpture. But it is a private homage and up to them to find private property on which to display it (although I would urge them not to display it at all). No public funds should be spent on it nor should it be displayed on public property, because it doesn’t do what public sculpture must do: ignite a sense of shared purpose, reminding us of those in our past whose values can propel us into the future.
Paul DeMarco is a physician who resides in Marion, SC. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. A version of this article appeared in the Florence Morning News on 8/17/22.
Postscript: On 8/18, the members of the Florence County Council voted unanimously to reverse their decision after receiving a letter on 8/15 from the Harllee Memorial Statue Committee asking them to do so. The letter stated “It was never the intent of the Harllee Memorial Sculpture Committee to cause any division in this great and prosperous community where we live, work, play, learn and enjoy life.” The Florence branch of the NAACP deserves the credit for mobilizing the community. The council had already received the letter by the time my column was published, so it likely played no role in their decision. I’m just glad they came to their senses so quickly.
After my June column, “Losing well is critical to democracy,” in which I praised Tom Rice for his grace in defeat and compared his response to Donald Trump’s incessant lying about his loss, I received an email from someone whom I will call “Randy” who is a Trump supporter. Randy told me he grew up in Florence and now lived out west. He was back home visiting and saw the column. He is a volunteer poll worker and has witnessed “serious problems with conducting fair elections” although the only example he cited was an error that involved 40 votes in a local election.
Given that Steven Wukela won the Florence mayoral Democratic primary by a single vote in 2008, I agree with Randy that election integrity is paramount: votes must be properly counted and only eligible voters should vote.
I was curious about his poll-working experience and wanted to know more. Did he believe that the 2020 election had been stolen? How did he think it had occurred?
But the most interesting statement in his email was “Trump gets his power from loyal voters like me. He is nothing without the huge support he enjoys from voters. Whenever you insult him, you actually insult voters like me which cost Tom Rice his job from fellow Trumpers!”
I found this very helpful. For someone like me who knows and respects many people who voted for Trump but sees Trump himself as reckless and solipsistic, I wanted to engage with Randy and find out why he is such a devoted follower.
I was also encouraged that he ended his missive with this benediction: “I enjoyed reading your column but could not disagree with you more.”
Randy’s sentiment, that he could both enjoy my column but totally disagree was refreshing and is largely missing from current political discourse. My intuition is that there are many Americans like Randy, who can disagree enjoyably and leave an argument respecting their opponent.
I quickly composed an answer. The first draft was civil but contained the accusation that due to his fealty to Trump “he had a ‘chip-on-the- shoulder’ attitude” and that he was “primed to be insulted.”
When I reread it, I realized that I was making the error that so many of us make – I assumed I understood his motives, that I could read his mind. It’s always better to allow people to tell you why they feel the way they feel. Of course, they may or may not reveal their true motivations, but it is worth hearing them out.
So I edited my draft. Here is what I sent:
“Randy, I really appreciate your responding to my column. Thank you for your service as a poll worker and the insights in your email. I would be happy to entertain evidence that there was significant fraud in 2020. I agree that elections are not perfect. But the fact that 40 voters voted twice in (your home state) is a far cry from what would be needed to overturn a presidential election… After almost two years and 60 court cases in which no evidence of fraud was found, I think your position that significant fraud existed is weak. Your position is also opposed by attorney general Bill Barr, countless election officials including the Republican Secretary of State who certified the result in Georgia, Brad Raffensperger (who recently beat the Trump-backed candidate in his primary reelection campaign), and the U.S. Congress. Again, I would be open to hearing the evidence and being swayed by it.
I’m interested in your statement ‘Whenever you insult him, you actually insult voters like me.’ I’m not out to insult Trump and certainly not people like you who support him. I’m stating what I believe to be a fact, that he knows he lost the election and is purposely pushing a lie about fraud because it is effective with many of his supporters. He has a unique and strong bond with you and many others. I would benefit from your telling me more about why he means so much to you.
I truly value your willingness to engage with me civilly. If you would, please write back. Thanks and best wishes, Paul”
I sent that over a week ago and as of this writing have not received a response. But for me the possibility that he might respond is energizing. So much of what I read and listen to makes me grit my teeth in despair. I sit between the two warring sides as they lob innuendo- and contempt-laden grenades at one another. It’s depressing and deeply boring. There are many of us in this no-man’s land. If what was said on Twitter was what most of us truly felt about our political opponents, fistfights should be breaking out daily in every grocery store in the country.
Truth is, only a small fraction of us participate in our media dialogues and fewer still enjoy it. Most of us would rather have honest discussions that include various points of view. I hope Randy writes back, or if not that someone else who disagrees with me will.
This column appeared in the Florence Morning News on 7/20/22. Still no response from Randy, but I plan on sending him the blog post. Maybe we can engage him that way.
I’ve been writing monthly columns for not quite a year now. After they are published I email them out to a small group of friends under the heading “Civil Discourse.” Here’s my first chance to practice what I preach with a prominent Republican.
Before we get to what is contained in McKissick’s response, let’s discuss what’s not there: no insinuation that I’m evil, crazy, deluded, or that I hate America and want to destroy it. He provides reasonable arguments why his position is better than mine. The tone is a little snarky here and there, but in my book, McKissick gets an “A” for the form of his rebuttal.
Now to the substance, which I wholeheartedly dispute. The core of his argument is “Why should a lifelong and current Democrat have the opportunity to meddle in another party’s candidate selection process and encourage others to do so as well? In short, he shouldn’t.”
First of all, I would never describe myself as a “lifelong Democrat.” I have always been suspicious of political parties (as were some of the Founding Fathers) and more today than ever. Since I doubt parties will disappear, my solution is to encourage more of them. Third parties have had a rough go in American politics, but I am following Andrew Yang’s latest attempt, the Freedom Party, with some interest.
Second, he assumes that party affiliation is like binary computer coding, 0 = Republican, 1 = Democrat. In his view, voters are either with you or against you and should be completely impervious to the ideas of the other party. While that may work in the virtual world, in the real world, few people agree completely with either party’s platform. Most of us have some beliefs that align with each party and vote based on which of those beliefs are most important to us at the time of the election. A gun owner who believes assault weapons should be banned might support Biden; a pro-choice voter who wants stricter border controls might support Trump.
McKissick assumes that because I generally vote for Democrats I must wish his party ill. He is mistaken. I want both parties to be strong. I reject the extremism of both sides, as do most of my fellow countrymen and women. That McKissick can’t fathom the idea that I might want what’s best for his party is revealing.
It is, of course, true that some voters play politics as a team sport. These voters choose a candidate simply because of the “R” or “D” behind the name. But there are many independent-minded voters who reject that way of thinking.
My goal is to highlight to my Republican friends that Trump is dangerous and anti-democratic. His advocacy of overturning an election involving 155 million votes by subterfuge and violence is the closest America has ever come to authoritarian rule. Trump is exactly the kind of demagogue of whom our Founding Fathers were afraid. In George Washington’s Farewell Address, he warned against the rise of “cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men” who “subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards” democracy itself.
Another disturbing part of McKissick’s argument is that he is so willing to reject my participation in the primary. What makes someone a Republican? Fealty to Trump? Devotion to the platform? How does he know that any of the voters on June 14th meet his litmus test? Republicans have struggled for decades to expand the tent. They have no luxury to pick and choose.
His desire to have a closed primary has some historical precedent. Up until 1948, the Democratic party, then the party of white conservatives, had an all-white primary. After the US Supreme Court struck down segregated primaries in 1944, the South Carolina Legislature revolted. Rather than accept the ruling, it abolished all state statutes related to the party in an effort to claim it was a “private club,” a gambit that was also rejected by the courts. McKissick seems interested in a return to those days when only certain people were allowed to vote in a primary.
McKissick is paid to be a partisan. Therefore, he advocates for party over country. I don’t get a paycheck from either political party. My highest obligation as a citizen is to vote, one I never shirk. This election I am heeding Washington’s admonition, also from his Farewell Address, that political parties “gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.”
Tom Rice understands history and the threat Trump and his ilk pose. He recognizes that sometimes parties can be antithetical to democracy and was not afraid to vote for his country over his party. We must keep men and women like him in Congress.
McKissick is a savvy professional political operative. But he lets his guard down in his concluding remark “So, to our liberal friends we say, “Keep out.”
Telling people they are forbidden to do something they have every right to do only increases the chance they will do it. So thank you, Mr. McKissick. Your southern inhospitality may be the thing that gets Tom Rice elected.
Her Majesty’s a pretty nice girl— Unfortunately, I think she got a bit knackered with all the celebrating today, and I’m glad she’s going to take a break tomorrow. After all, she’s 96. And while I thought “Charles III” was an interesting “what-if” drama, I’m in no hurry to get to the real thing. I don’t think many of us are…
Are the Movies Liberal? — An interesting, although not awesome, piece by a critic at the NYT. The subhed is, “Everyone knows Hollywood is progressive. But look at the films it churns out. They tell another story.” Well, yeah. Because as the piece says, movies are for everybody, and so they generally offer something for everybody, in order to keep the bucks rolling in. The piece makes some interesting points — and some that are off-kilter — but it’s an interesting read, even though it falls short of having all the answers.
Top Democrats challenging McMaster say Republicans setting the wrong course for SC — Well, yeah, but what are you gonna do about it? I means in terms of actually getting elected so you can do anything about it? I have to say I’m not terribly impressed, and probably won’t sacrifice my chance to have an actual say in who represents me in June by asking for a Democratic ballot. I did so in 2018 because James offered me somebody I could actually feel positive about voting for — and of course I went on to do far more than just vote. I don’t see anyone offering me that this year.
Russia Now Controls a Fifth of Ukraine — That’s depressing, even though 100 days ago, we would have expected it to be all of Ukraine by now. I just hope the country can continue to hang on, and that we continue to do what we should to help.
Tom Rice and I have different political philosophies. On many controversial issues, we disagree. Yet, I have never felt more strongly about voting for a candidate than I do about voting for him.
This election cycle, rather than focusing on individual races, my goal is to do my part to repair American democracy. After being rammed broadside by Donald Trump and his acolytes, our ship of state is listing. What can I, as a single voter, do to repair the breach?
My answer is to elect Tom Rice. In South Carolina, voters can participate in whichever primary election they choose. I generally, although not always, vote in the Democratic primary since the traditional goals of the party, such as expanding access to health care and education, protecting the planet, and supporting the advancement of previously marginalized people, align with my values as a citizen and a Christian.
This election, there is no greater good than to stymie Trump-endorsed candidates. This is not because they have the same policy positions as Trump. The conservative agenda that Trump advocated during his presidency must be part of the American debate. Many of Trump’s policies, such as lower taxes, less regulation, gun rights, restricting abortion and immigration, and renegotiating trade deals, can be robustly defended. But Donald Trump the man is a threat to our country. He came within a whisker of upending our nearly 250-year-old tradition of orderly transfers of power. If Mike Pence had capitulated to his demands and failed to certify the electoral votes on January 6th, we would have faced a constitutional crisis unlike any this country has seen.
Rice’s strongest opponent, Russell Fry, a state legislator from Horry County, is a Trump lackey. He dutifully recites the lie that Trump won the 2020 election and if a similar circumstance were to arise in 2024, he would undoubtedly choose to overturn a fair election in order to seat his party’s candidate.
While many politicians on both sides lack spine, the invertebrate nature of Republican officeholders and candidates since Trump was elected has been noteworthy. Even more extraordinary, rather than being celebrated for upholding the Constitution, Rice and others who voted to impeach Donald Trump are being drummed out of the party.
I have been politically active for more than 40 years. Until recently, I had confidence that the vast majority of our elected leaders, regardless of party, had an unwavering commitment to democracy. It was a given that the will of the people would be respected, that presidential candidates who had lost even the closest of elections, as Al Gore did in 2000, would, once their legal challenges had concluded, encourage their countrymen and women to put aside their divisions and come together behind the victor. After the Supreme Court had rendered its decision in Bush v. Gore, Gore said “partisan rancor must now be put aside…for the sake of our unity as a people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession.”
That centuries-old understanding of presidential decorum changed with Trump. After his legal challenges had been exhausted, Trump encouraged his supporters to rally on January 6th, hoping the crowd would do for him what the courts would not. He waited in silence for three hours as a mob attempted violently to overturn the election. When he finally sent out a video asking them to disperse, he said, “We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election, and everyone knows it… We love you. You’re very special.” Trump’s behavior that day was mendacious, despicable, and impeachable. Tom Rice recognized that.
If you are a Democrat, you may worry about not participating in your usual primary. However, this June 14, the pickings are slim on the Democratic side. No Democrat opted to challenge Rice. In the statewide races on the ballot that day, Democrats fielded candidates for only three of six positions: governor, state superintendent of education, and U.S. Senate. Odds are that none of the Democratic primary victors will win in November. Please check your local city and county races (you may have to call your voter registration office about these). Fortunately for me, there are no local Democrats that I support up for re-election. But even if there were, there is nothing more important to me than voting for Rice. Almost certainly Rice will make a runoff, most likely against Fry. Having voted in the Republican primary, I will be eligible to vote in the runoff. Remember, if you vote in the Democratic primary, you cannot vote in a Republican runoff.
It’s easy to take votes that are both popular and good for the country. But the true measure of officeholders is what they do when forced to choose between the two. Rice, Pence and a few of their Republican colleagues showed courage in the aftermath of the January 6 attack, for which we should all be grateful. Republicans, Democrats, and independents, I urge you to re-elect Tom Rice.
A version of this column appeared in the Florence Morning News on 5/25/22. I have no affiliation with the Rice campaign and had no communication with it before the column was published.
Some things that aren’t actually in the news right now, or at least not on the front page, although some are admittedly related:
‘Ted Lasso’ and ‘Fleabag’ and all the shows that are too awesome to watch (so I won’t) — Since this was in America, the Jesuit magazine, I thought maybe it would have a moral. Like, I don’t know, why I should watch these shows, or why I shouldn’t watch these shows. But it didn’t. It was just kind of a fun read about an aspect of what it’s like living in the Golden Age of Television. And I identified with part of it, which was the idea that this Jesuit brother can’t let himself watch these shows because they’re too good. He ends up caring about the characters to the point he can’t stand to watch bad things happen to them. I can identify with that.
Charles Whitman had a tumor; is that what did it? — The Buffalo shooting, of course, was about racism, which made sense in that context. The Texas school shooting didn’t appear to be about racism, so it became about how pathetic America can’t bring itself to deal with the 400 million guns out there. Also painfully true. But I saw the Texas guy also shot his grandmother, which made me think of Charles Whitman, who killed his wife and mother before he climbed that tower in 1966. And I thought I remembered the autopsy showed he had a brain tumor. And yes, Wikipedia mentioned that, but also said no one knows whether that made him do what he did. But what if it did, and we knew it? What if that was the explanation for all these mass shootings? Because, you know, racism exists, and too many guns exist, but somehow most of us don’t want to go out and kill a bunch of people. If we found out they did it because of tumors, we could just screen everybody for the tumors, and maybe cure them. Wouldn’t that be great?
When Preachers Are Predators — OK, this one is sort of about something in the news, even more so than the one before, but it’s not from the news pages; it’s opinion. Anyway, I’m just passing it on because Frank Bruni was onto something right here: “Men of God behave in ungodly ways. That’s not because they’re uniquely or especially evil. It’s because they’re men. Religious institutions countenance — and cover up — sin and even crime. That doesn’t mean they have any monopoly on hypocrisy. It means they’re institutions.” Yep. It’s not that there’s something inherently horrible about being Baptist, as opposed to being something else.
Don’t know much about history — Yeah, I majored in history — my second major, anyway. And I still enjoy reading about it. But the main thing it keeps teaching me is that I don’t know squat about history. Even the bits I’ve studied to death — say, the Second World War, which ended only eight years before I was born — constantly shock me with the things I don’t know about them, things I should have known. And then if I move away from those bits, I swim in an ocean of things I didn’t know. Recently, I started watching a documentary series on Prime about The First World War. I’m on the fourth episode, and I just had no idea. None at all. For instance, about the extent to which it really was a world war, and not just a bunch of white guys in trenches in France. (I’d seen “The African Queen,” but that was about it.) For instance, you know about the Siege of Tsingtao — you know, where the Japanese went up against the Germans, and beat them? In China? Huge deal. I had never heard of it. I don’t think I’d even heard of Tsingtao (where about 10 million people live), but you know how they’re always changing the names of Chinese places. Anyway… is history like that for you?
Did you know they wouldn’t let Nicholas Kristof run for governor? — Another thing I didn’t know, and should have. I saw a piece by him today and the explanatory blurb said, “Mr. Kristof is a former Times Opinion columnist. He was a candidate for the Democratic nomination for governor of Oregon this year.” And I thought, “was?” Turns out they disqualified him because of something about residency. Too bad. He’d have been a good governor, I think. Just as he was a very, very good columnist. So it was good to see a piece by him in the NYT.
Plants grow in lunar soil brought to Earth by Apollo astronauts — OK, this was, like, 12 days ago, and at the time tweeted it out with the message, “How I use my various newspaper apps: I plow doggedly through the tangled forest of shrieking madness and malevolent stupidity, and occasionally I find something interesting — such as this item….” But I include it here, because it sort of fits the theme of this post… It also could have been headlined, “World’s Smallest Farm…”
I’ll stop now. I just thought I should post something, and these are things I’d been thinking about…
Charles Whitman on his front porch, sometime before he climbed the tower.
Nato needed now more than ever – Biden — This is from the BBC. Unlike U.S. media, they pay attention to stuff like this. Which is helpful. Anyway, Joe said of Finland and Sweden, “They meet every Nato requirement and then some.”
SC COVID-19 cases spike for 7th week straight — Just thought I’d mention that, since folks don’t seem to be paying that much attention to it. Everywhere I turn, people keep getting it — in my family, among people I contact for work, and so forth. And yet you don’t hear that much about it, and you go places and hardly anyone is wearing masks. Which is weird.
Columbia Starbucks workers on strike, days after first SC store unionizes —
Boy, they didn’t wait around long, did they? This was at the Millwood store. I’ve never been there; have you? Nevertheless, I’m sure they have good coffee. Now if we can just get the one on Gervais Street back. That was my fave. I’m digressing again, aren’t I? Maybe I should drink some more coffee.
‘Pharma Bro’ Martin Shkreli has been released from prison — Talk about some bad news, huh? Worse, he wasn’t put away because of the really bad thing he did. This was sort of an Al Capone case. They got him on securities fraud, rather than for raising the price of a life-saving drug from $13.50 a pill to $750. And is our world any better now? No. The pill is still over $700. Oh, but he’s learned his lesson, right? He posted on FB, “Getting out of real prison is easier than getting out of Twitter prison.”
Pic the Bro posted on Facebook to mark getting out of prison. You can tell he’s reformed, right?
In September 2009, I attended a town hall meeting in the gymnasium of Francis Marion University featuring Lindsey Graham. It was about six weeks after the confirmation of Justice Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. Graham was the only Republican senator on the Judiciary Committee to vote for her and one of nine Republicans to vote in favor in the full Senate. When he took questions from the audience, an older man sitting behind me in the bleachers stood and grimly asked, “Why did you vote for that judge,” and here he paused to derisively enunciate each syllable, “SOH-TOH-MAAY-ORR”
Rather than try to placate his disappointed supporter, Graham forcefully rebutted him. “Elections have consequences,” he shot back. “If you don’t want liberal judges on the court, then elect a Republican president. I don’t agree with Justice Sotomayor’s judicial philosophy, but my job as a senator is to determine whether she is qualified. She is qualified, so I voted for her.”
Of the many conversations I have heard and participated in with my elected representatives, this exchange stands out as one of the best. Graham had a chance to dodge or pander; instead he was truthful and forthright.
Back then Graham was keeping company with another maverick senator, John McCain, and although they are both more conservative than I, I admired their respect for their office and their roles as guardians of our democracy.
I was also heartened by Graham’s eviscerations of Donald Trump during his short-lived presidential campaign in 2015. Back when he was speaking his mind he said things like, “You know how you make America great again? Tell Donald Trump to go to hell,” and “He’s a race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot.” He also tweeted “I also cannot in good conscience support Donald Trump because I do not believe he is a reliable Republican conservative nor has he displayed the judgment and temperament to serve as Commander in Chief.” That statement strikes me as remarkable for two reasons. First, for its eerie prescience in light of the January 6th attack. Second, for Graham’s complete abandonment of his own good advice: after Trump’s election, he became one of the president’s closest allies.
Many commentators have rightly criticized Graham for his lack of integrity. But, if you agree with the premise that we get the leaders we deserve, then Graham is not the only one at fault. Elections, as Graham once frequently reminded us, do have consequences. We could have elected Graham as president. A Graham-Clinton match-up in 2016 would have been an interesting and difficult choice for me. But our enthusiasms and our votes buoyed other candidates in the 2016 Republican primary. Graham never polled above 1% and dropped out in December 2015. I saw most of the remaining front-runners as they came through Florence in early 2016 including Kasich, Carson, Rubio, Cruz and Trump. Trump’s crowd almost filled Florence Center, holding as many supporters as all his rivals combined and more.
Graham got the message: he could no longer speak his mind about Trump and remain a senator. The Republican Party had moved far enough from him, especially from his conciliatory and bipartisan approach on immigration, that he risked a successful challenge by a conservative Trump supporter in the 2020 primary if he didn’t move with the party.
If you are a Democrat, you should take this as a lesson. In 2016, Democrats flirted with an extremely progressive candidate in Bernie Sanders, a man who described himself as a democratic socialist. The farther to the edge your standard bearers are, the harder it is for idiosyncratic politicians like Graham to remain true to themselves.
Do we want our parties to be cults of personality in which the thing that trumps (ironic that that’s the right word here) all is one’s allegiance to the party leader? How have we come to the place that acquiescing to Trump’s lie that he won the 2020 election is the current Republican litmus test?
The wholesale transformation of the Republican party is summed up in Graham’s suppression of his better instincts by voting against the nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson. It’s worth noting that just last year, Graham voted to confirm Jackson as a judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Washington, D.C. Circuit. That was an under-the-radar vote that he knew few of his base would notice. But with the voters watching, he renounced the principle that had guided him for more than two decades and voted against her.
If you are a Republican, understand how I offer this assessment. My hope is for both parties to be strong. My desire is that Republicans will right the ship and recognize their mistake in supporting a president who is actively threatening the fabric of our democracy (which, I fear, is more delicate than I learned in school).
Our country is more secure and more likely to thrive when the two parties allow representatives to vote their consciences. Demanding ideological purity creates parties for which compromise is impossible and intransigence is perversely celebrated. Since absolute victory is rare in policy debates, stymieing the opposition has become the accepted substitute for legislating. Democrats are not immune. Both parties have succumbed to such a rigid dichotomy on the issue of abortion that pro-life Democrats and pro-choice Republicans, once fairly common in Congress, are virtually extinct.
We cannot be party robots. Our future lies with men and women like Liz Cheney and Mitt Romney who put country over party. The Graham of old demonstrated similar laudable conviction. His recent choice to elevate his party over country has indelibly stained his legacy.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Something about this made me think of this old clip, from May 15, 2007. It’s John McCain at an event in the Vista, calling Lindsey “that little jerk,” which was the way he frequently referred to friends and allies. But it’s the question that made me think of it: Where, indeed, is that little jerk? What happened to him?
I wrote in a previous column about my disappointment over the decline of my denomination, the United Methodists. We are not alone. Our shrinking membership is paralleled by the majority of other church groups in America.
Longtime church members tend to blame external forces – the banning of prayer in schools, ever-loosening morality, competition from sports and other entertainment, and the evaporation of Sunday as the Sabbath day.
But I lay the burden squarely at our own feet. It’s not Jesus’ fault; his life and teachings remain perfectly relevant. We Christians, like the original disciples, have failed to understand who He was.
Teenagers, which is the group one must convince for a church to survive, have an intense need to belong. The church seems like a natural fit for them. It offers a family of usually well-meaning people who hold up a suffering servant as their Lord. “Come to Me,” He says, “all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” This is a compelling invitation to teens, whose lives are often a tumultuous search for identity.
But we have bollixed up our evangelism so badly as to obscure the profound love that Christ offers. Ask young people what they think of Christians and many will tell you we are hypocritical and judgmental, especially towards LGBTQ people. Unfortunately, their criticisms are too often accurate.
The “love the sinner, hate the sin” approach has failed miserably. Too many of us cannot hide our palpable distaste for people that Jesus asked us to love the most – the different, the despised, the immigrant, the homeless.
Those of us who wish the church to endure have essentially two options. The first is to keep doing what we are doing, claiming that we have been right all along and that any deviation from traditional Scriptural views (from a Bible that endorses polygamy, the death penalty for adultery and homosexuality, second-class status for women, and implies that the earth is roughly 6,000 years old) is the work of a permissive, Satan-infused culture. Good luck attracting young people to that view of the world.
The second is exemplified by Salkehatchie Summer Service. “Salk” as it is known to participants, was started in 1978 by John Culp, a United Methodist minister. Rev. Culp was led to gather adults and teenagers to renovate substandard homes in Hampton County as a way for participants to live out their faith. It has grown from that single camp to more than forty camps in every region of South Carolina.
Salk allows young women and men 14 or older to test-drive their faith in a potent and beautiful way. The rhythm of the week is both invigorating and exhausting. We awaken in darkness, pray, eat, work, eat, work, eat, worship and fellowship, sleep, and awaken to do it again.
Young people of every generation, but this one more than ever, are not content to accept and obey. They are adept at seeking information and opinion through the web and social media. They have many skeptical questions about traditional beliefs and scriptural inerrancy.
The focus of Salk is not words on the page but people in their homes. Poverty does not need to be believed in. It can be observed and wrestled with. Most Salk campers have never been confronted by the kind of poverty they experience at Salk. They are invited into homes with buckets arrayed to catch rain through leaky roofs, rotten floors, gaping windows, and unsafe porches. Conversations about poverty that they have heard from us adults are often superficial and tend to the extremes of “lazy and shiftless” or “industrious but oppressed.“
At Salk, campers often spend hours with the homeowners, sometimes working side by side. This can result in a reversal of the description of a “poor person” to a “person who is poor.” Campers can no longer talk about poverty without acknowledging its humanity.
Differences are accepted at Salk in a way they might not be back at the teen’s high school. Gay and transgender youth participate in Salk and are embraced-literally. It’s impossible to make it through the week without being hugged dozens if not hundreds of times. Every year, I look forward to my first embrace from a towering young adult who renews our friendship by bear-hugging me and lifting me off the floor.
That said, Salk has a diversity problem. Its leaders and campers are primarily white. The lack of diversity is a symptom of the churchwide racial divide. My challenge to Salk would be to make real John Culp’s founding vision in which teams of black and white Christians working together were to be the rule, not the exception.
If young people are going to choose faith, to respond to that desire for meaning that Methodists believe has been planted in all our hearts, the places they will gather to worship and serve will likely look like Salk. The new church will be a community that reflects the fullness of God’s creation, seeks out those who have been made to feel unworthy, and makes the building of God’s kingdom on this Earth its core mission.
Paul DeMarco is a physician who resides in Marion, S.C. He is a layperson who has been participating in Salk since 2008. His comments are his own and do not reflect an official position of the United Methodist Church or Salkehatchie Summer Service. Reach him at email@example.com For more information about Salk, go to https://www.umcsc.org/salkehatchie/.
AdSense doesn’t allow me to click on the ads it posts on my blog, but this one made me so curious I had to resort to a workaround: I right-clicked, copied the link to the site, and called it up on a different browser.
It was disappointing. The chainsaw being advertised isn’t really that small. Dang. Although it looks like it could be useful for certain tasks, and the tiny one doesn’t seem too handy. Just cool. Or hilarious. Or something. In any case, it made me look.
In any case, gimme more of these kinds of ads, Google. I like them better than, say, the one I’ve been seeing all week tying critical race theory to Marxism. It was getting kind of tedious…
Signs of Progress in Russia-Ukraine Talks — Which sounds good, although this portion of the subhed doesn’t sound great: “Ukraine Offers Potential Concessions.” The terms should be “Russia pulls out, and leaves Ukraine alone forever.” Doing that without any “concessions” out of Kyiv should weaken Putin to the point of ending his regime, which would leave the world better off. But of course Zelenskyy has to deal with reality, not perfection. I do like the part about Moscow saying it will lessen pressure on the Ukrainian capital. Translated from the Russian, that seems to say, “We now know we can’t take Kyiv”…
Our cameras turn to the world of sports… This happened days ago, but this is my first post since then. I’ll just say what I said after the disappointment of watching St. Peter’s lose: “At this moment, I very much look forward to watching Duke take the Tarheels apart…” Meanwhile, the Lady Gamecocks continue toward their inevitable victory.
Here I am doing an Open Thread twice in one week. It’s almost like I’m getting serious about this blogging thing again. Well, that remains to be seen, but I hope you enjoy it…
Joe goes to Europe — Here’s hoping the sane countries of the world continue to show a united front against Putin, and that it has a salutary effect. As long as they’re meeting, maybe they can suggest to Germany another place where it could go to buy its gas.
The Zelenskyy-Churchill comparison — Several times over the last few days, I’ve heard or seen discussions of the Ukrainian leader, and Churchill comes up. Which I enjoy. My fave was something I heard on NPR with a British participant who said “extraordinary” a lot — like every sentence or two — and I love the way that sounds in RP. But why always Churchill? Just because we know he was a European leader who was in a tight spot against an authoritarian invader, and it had a happy ending? I guess it’s better if we see him as Winston than as Paul Reynaud. Oh, you never heard of Reynaud? Well, that’s my point… Or maybe it’s because Churchill also addressed Congress. I dunno…
I’m finding myself sorta, kinda cheering for Nancy Mace this time — Which is not what I or anyone else would expect. I mean, I always got along with Nancy personally, but that was years before she first ran for public office. Anyway, there are two reasons for this sorta, kinda position: 1. Her opponent is Katie Arrington. 2. Donald Trump seems to be really, really for Katie Arrington. Of course, this “sorta kinda” thing only goes so deep. I sort of cringed when NBC called Nancy “one of South Carolina’s rising stars.” I mean, I remember when national media called Nikki Haley that — actually, they still do. And I remember when they thought Mark Sanford was serious presidential fodder….
How about that huge trans-gender athlete thing in the State House? — My main reaction is that I look around at South Carolina, and I try to figure out why either side gets so passionate about something that so rarely crops up. Meanwhile, we’ve got people talking about taking funding away from the people who are supposed to be keeping our roads drivable, so they can pander by saying they lowered taxes. I wonder whether some of those who want to abandon a core responsibility of government are also pushing hard on the high-school sports thing?
Anybody gonna go see James Taylor? — I did, when he was here three years ago. Great show. I saw him decades ago in Memphis as well — one of my kids still has the T shirt, I think — but this was even better. So I recommend it…
James Taylor at the Colonial Center in 2019. It was great. I was far away, but they had those big screens…
At the moment, apparently, there’s nothing to watch…
Have I even done one of these this year? Well, I’m doing one now:
Ukraine Refuses to Surrender Mariupol; Thousands Trapped — Or, I could have brought up one of many other angles. I don’t know what to say beyond the fact that I want it to end as soon as possible — with Russia as the clear loser. I fear that second condition would take awhile, though. But Putin must fail.
Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Confirmation Hearings Begin — As y’all know, confirmation hearings are not one of my fave things. But a lot of folks out there take interest in them — may even be watching them. Thoughts? (That is to say, original, non-talking-points thoughts?) Have at it.
Thoughts on NCAA tournament basketball? — If so, y’all bring them up. I tried bringing up the topic earlier, but y’all weren’t interested. For my part, here’s the thing that makes me the happiest to have been wrong on my bracket: St. Peter’s. Here’s the thing that makes me saddest to have been right: Memphis losing to Gonzaga.
And the Lady Gamecocks won again — If you’ll recall, this is the full text of my NCAA women’s “bracket:” “But if you want to know who’s going to win, it will be the Lady Gamecocks. Duh…” So, you know, no surprises yet.
Thoughts about Frank Martin, or his replacement? — Yes, a record third basketball headline in a row. You’ll note that the link is to a story about Murray State’s Matt McMahon. So, what’s the thinking: That after this weekend, maybe they can get him cheaper?
Film recommendation — “De Gaulle.”— A new feature, if y’all are interested. I’m thinking about highlighting films I’ve found that maybe no one else has mentioned to you. Anyway, one thing I like about Amazon Prime is that it surprises me sometimes with something I’d never heard of. This weekend it was “De Gaulle.” Not only was it engaging to watch, but I learned a lot. Stuff I should have known, but didn’t, about such a key figure in such recent history. It’s in French, but if you’re a subtitles guy like me (I always have them turned on), that shouldn’t matter.