By Paul V. DeMarco
I appreciate Drew McKissick, the Chair of the South Carolina Republican Party, responding to my Florence Morning News column of May 25th “Democrats, Let’s Elect Tom Rice” with one in the June 3rd edition entitled “Democrats, stay out of GOP primary.”
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.
Paul DeMarco is a physician who resides in Marion, SC. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.