“Well this has, without a doubt, been the friendliest debate I’ve ever experienced,” said moderator Avery Wilks just before closing arguments in the 2nd Congressional District debate Monday night. “We didn’t use a single rebuttal to address a personal insult, so I appreciate that from both candidates.”
Avery got that right. Of course, it was to be expected. Most of the country thinks of Joe Wilson as the “You lie!” guy, but that was very much out of character for him (at least, before he learned to pull in money from it). Sure, he’s a steady fountain of the kind of mindless partisanship that was already destroying our country before the unbelievable happened in 2016: “Republicans good; Democrats bad,” on and on.
Judd Larkins has none of those negative characteristics — neither the insults nor the partisanship. He’s a guy who wants to make a positive difference in the lives of the people of the 2nd District, and he doesn’t care about the party affiliation of the people he’d have to work with to get it done.
Which is why I have that sign for him in my yard, with all my neighbors’ Republican signs running down the opposite side of the street.
Of course, I missed a lot of the first half of the debate, but the parts I saw reflect Avery’s characterization. You can judge for yourself by watching it. Click on the picture at the top of the post, and it will take you to the video on YouTube.
Judd was polite and deferential — as he always is — and Joe was polite and mild-mannered, although at times a bit condescending to the young man so hopelessly running against him. As for his partisan stuff — there’s no visible malice in him when he says those things. He sees those as things people naturally say. Blaming Biden or Obama for all the world’s troubles is, to him, like saying “hello” to the people he meets. He lives in a community where it is expected, thanks to line-drawers in the Republican Legislature.
But those statements offer a stark contrast between the campaigns. We were cash-hungry in our campaign in 2018, what with me doing the work of five or six people (according to our campaign manager — I wouldn’t know what the norm is). But while I talked to the press and wrote the releases and the brochures and (during one awful, brief period) the fund-raising emails and about 90 percent of the social media (and would have written the speeches if James hadn’t preferred loose talking points, bless him), I was at least on hand to pump out a few tweets during debates.
Judd didn’t have anything like that. I watched for it during the debate. Joe Wilson, of course, did. And the nonsense was on full display:
“America has never been at greater risk for attack than after the disaster in Afghanistan and our border being wide open.” #TeamWilson #SCPol
— Joe Wilson for Congress (@TeamJoeWilson) October 24, 2022
I answered a couple of them. To that one, I said, “Which is exactly what he would have said had, God help us, Trump won, in which case the U.S. would have skedaddled out of Afghanistan much earlier, and much more recklessly…” I didn’t bother with the offensive nonsense about immigration. It would have required being as superficial as Joe’s campaign to stay within the 280 limit.
And I couldn’t hold back again when they put out this prize-winner: ““It’s shameless what the democrats have done with defunding the police. It’s putting the American people at risk”
My response: “What, precisely, have congressional Democrats done that could credibly be described as ‘defunding the police?’ And which Democrats in actual elected, national leadership positions would even WANT to? Nothing, and none. But does that matter to Joe? Of course not…”
I should have said, “does that matter to Joe’s campaign,” since he was personally busy on stage at the time, but I was irritated. Which is why social media are a poor way to engage in political argument.
Anyway, I’m not commenting much on this dispiriting election, but I’m writing again about this one foregone conclusion of a “contest” because you’re not reading about it elsewhere.
Avery, to his great credit, was there as moderator, but neither his newspaper (the Post & Courier) nor his former newspaper (The State) covered the event. Of course, I didn’t write about it until two days later, so maybe something is still coming. But it seems doubtful, since neither has taken an interest so far. Search for Judd’s name under Google’s “news” category, and you’ll see what I mean.
And I certainly understand. It was hard for an editor to devote resources to noncompetitive “contests” even back when “major metropolitan” newspapers were vital and fully staffed. Now, I’d be shocked to see it. (Yeah, there’s some coverage of the hopeless election for governor, but editors are much less likely to see that as optional.)
If you do that search, though you’ll see that again the Lexington County Chronicle stepped up and covered it, so good for them. I can’t say much for that ones-and-zeroes headline, but at least they made the effort.
I sent a couple of congratulatory messages after the debate. One was to Avery, about the good job he and the high school students did. (And let me also congratulate Lexington One for putting on the event, and providing the video.) The next day, I congratulated Judd as well. He said two things in response:
- Thanks! Some of the Dems wanted more blood, but I think we won over the folks we needed to. Just gotta get it in (front) of more folks.
- Lack of coverage last night really hurt. We executed our plan perfectly. Just gotta get more eyes to see it.
Of course, as I indicated above, I couldn’t agree more on the second thing. On the first, I hope he continues to ignore the people who want “more blood.” People like that, across the spectrum — the “fight fire with fire” people — are tearing our country apart. Stepping outside of his comfort zone to provide more gladiatorial spectacle won’t win the election for him. I want to see him get through this, and go on to the rest of his life — in or out of politics — knowing he did what he could the right way.