Category Archives: Parties

Want to see something really disturbing?

Yikes.

See the item on the far left of the image above.

I saw this teaser for a story on my Washington Post app this morning. I certainly didn’t click on it. There will be hundreds of such stories in the coming months, and I will have an overabundance of opportunities to torture myself reading complete nonsense.

Perhaps, at some point, there will be such a story that will have a positive answer to my perpetual question: “Can you give me a list of potential candidates who are both sane, and somewhere remotely close to being qualified?” I won’t be holding my breath. It’s been quite a few years since I’ve seen such a list. And of course in this case, the guy in the back fails the first test, and the South Carolinians in front of him fail the second.

And yes, I realize the people who write such stories only apply one test: Who might have some chance of securing the support of Republican primary voters? As I mentioned, I apply other standards.

Why do national media persist in taking South Carolinians seriously when anyone familiar with them wouldn’t spend a second entertaining such delusions?

Remember when they actually wrote about Mark Sanford as presidential timber? Every time they did, my head practically exploded. Then finally, after he disappeared for several days and then popped up to deliver his Argentina presser, it dawned on them that maybe, just maybe, they needed to take him off their list.

I certainly hope neither Nikki Haley nor Tim Scott have to endure anything that traumatic to correct this misperception. I don’t want that for them, or for the rest of us. But I would love it if people assigned to the absurd task of telling us what will happen in the future would stop and ask themselves whether there is anything in either person’s background that indicates readiness to become POTUS.

The inevitable conclusion would be no, there is not…

Just FYI, SC’s Ralph Norman is one of the main clowns in the speaker-election circus

I don’t have a lot of time for commenting on it, but I wanted to make sure you knew this — because until today, I did not.

That’s because my main source of South Carolina news, and SC angles on national news, is The State. And while you can go thestate.com looking for the information and find it, I still look at the paper through the lens of the print edition. No, I don’t read the dead-tree version literally — I dropped that years ago. I read all the newspapers to which I subscribe on my iPad. But some apps are better organized than others, and while I find the NYT‘s very helpful, I’m not pleased with the way The State‘s is organized. So I look at the e-edition each morning, before moving on to NYT and The Washington Post and the Boston Globe for national and international news and commentary.

And as near as I can tell, the fact that Ralph Norman is one of the 20 or so GOP crazies repeatedly sabotaging Kevin McCarthy’s bid for U.S. House speaker has not appeared in those reproductions of the print edition. (Maybe it’s been in those “Extra” pages that the app provides, but I don’t read those pages, because I read other papers for more timely news on those topics.)

I learned that this morning from The New York Times. You might always want to peruse this item, which breaks down every vote in the nine ballots.

By the way, in case you wondered, he’s the ONLY member of the SC delegation doing this. The other Republicans are dutifully lining up behind the guy who they think will win. Which doesn’t make them profiles in courage or anything, but it does make Norman alone.

Now, let’s get something straight: I’m no fan of Kevin McCarthy. I not only don’t want him to be speaker, I am embarrassed that such a person is in position to be seriously considered.

He is unsuitable for the position, to say the least.

But these Republicans who keep voting against him are doing so because they don’t think he’s unsuitable enough. So I wanted to make sure you knew Ralph Norman was one of them.

I suppose I should enjoy the situation. As David Frum wrote in The Atlantic (in a piece headlined “No Tears for Kevin McCarthy“):

Because the people attempting to inflict that defeat upon McCarthy include some of the most nihilistic and destructive characters in U.S. politics, McCarthy is collecting misplaced sympathy from people who want a more responsible Congress. But the House will function better under another speaker than it would under McCarthy—even if that other speaker is much more of an ideological extremist than McCarthy himself.

The defeat of Kevin McCarthy in his bid for the speakership of the House would be good for Congress. The defeat of Kevin McCarthy would be good for the United States. It might even be good for his own Republican Party.

McCarthy is not in political trouble for the reasons he deserves to be in political trouble. Justice is seldom served so exactly. But he does deserve to be in trouble, so justice must be satisfied with the trouble that he’s in….

We could talk about this back and forth all day, but I just wanted to make sure that as we watch this, my fellow South Carolinians know that Ralph Norman is one of those “most nihilistic and destructive characters in U.S. politics”…

 

 

 

Hey, 2nd District — give Judd Larkins a listen

Someone knocked urgently on the door that leads in from the garage while I was having a late lunch yesterday. It was my friend and neighbor John Culp, and he had brought me a Judd Larkins yard sign.

Well, it’s about time. I got James Smith and Jaime Harrison signs for him back in 2018, and he’s been owing me.

It also reminded me. A few months back, I had breakfast with John and Clark Surratt one morning at Compton’s, and John had brought along Judd Larkins and Marcurius Byrd for us to meet. Judd is running for office, and Marcurius is his campaign manager. Later, I got him together with James Smith over coffee, and they got along well.

Oh, you haven’t heard of Judd? Well, he’s the Democratic nominee for the 2nd Congressional District. But since everyone knows that district is drawn to provide Joe Wilson with a sinecure for life, that he inherited it from Floyd Spence, and that no one else will sit in that seat so long as Joe lives, folks don’t pay much attention to who runs against him. No matter what Joe does. Or, since this is Joe we’re talking about, no matter what he doesn’t do.

So Judd doesn’t get a lot of attention. But he should, because he is the kind of person who should get elected to public office, and Joe Wilson, by comparison, is not.

At the very least, watch the one and only debate in this “race.” It’s coming up Monday night, Oct. 24, and will be webcast from River Bluff High School at 7 p.m. If you’d like to attend in person, I’m pretty sure you can still get a ticket. If you want to see it on TV, I’m told you’re out of luck.

But if you miss that, don’t worry — you can go out and read some of the extensive news coverage of this election to decide who will go to Congress and run this country, such as… wait… how about… OK, I’m not finding any. No, wait, Marcurius has posted a story on Facebook from The Lexington Chronicle, and I’m sure y’all all subscribe to that, right? In case you don’t, here’s a link.

At some other point, I’ll put up a separate post asking why we even bother to pretend to have elections for Congress, since no one knows anything about these “races.”

But now, a few words about Judd, since you probably won’t see much anywhere else. First, I urge you to go check out his website. On the “About” page, you’ll learn such things as:

Judd was born and raised in a small town in Greenwood County called Ninety Six. Judd’s father is a high-school dropout turned success businessman while Judd’s mother was a schoolteacher before tragically passing away from breast cancer when Judd was just 14 years old. Judd attended Ninety Six High School where he was a two-sport star and Track and Field State Champion.

After Graduating High School, Judd attended Clemson University where he graduated Su(m)ma Cum Laude with a degree in Language (Chinese) and International Trade. While attending Clemson, Judd spent two summers in China becoming fluent in Mandarin Judd also holds a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) from the Judge Business School at the University of Cambridge (UK). While attending Cambridge, Judd worked on crafting a business plan for new, innovative transplant technology and also conducted market research for a finance firm located in Dublin, Ireland. After Completing his MBA, Judd was based in Luxembourg while working for an Asian Financial Company…

Yeah, that needed some editing. And yeah, he holds a master’s degree from Cambridge. Personally, I went to Oxford — my wife and I spent six days there in 2011 and had a lovely time — but I guess a master’s from Cambridge is OK, if that’s all you’ve got.

In other words, he’s a smart kid. That he’s a kid is undeniable. If you meet him, you might think that self-proclaimed champion of the kindergarten set, Joe Cunningham, looks a bit like Methuselah by comparison. But again, Judd’s a smart kid.

More than that, he’s an idealistic, thoughtful, considerate, unblemished sort of young man who would do a lot to improve our ideology-poisoned Congress — if he could get elected.

Based on what I’ve seen, Judd’s campaign has little or no money. I don’t think he’ll do as well as Adair Ford Boroughs (who at least got to be U.S. attorney), because he’s simply a lot less visible.

Basically, his campaign seems to consist mainly of going door-to-door and introducing himself to people. Nothing wrong with canvassing, of course, but it’s kind of hard to do enough of it when the odds are stacked against you to this extent. In a congressional district, there are just too many doors you’ll never have time to knock on.

“There’s just so much ground to cover,” Judd told me when I checked in with him Wednesday. “We’re probably gonna run out of time.”

But Judd tries anyway. And generally, he’s pleased with the reception he gets. He hasn’t had anybody cuss him out, in spite of his being a Democrat and all. He doesn’t seem to do as well getting time with big shots in business and politics, but “Regular folks are generally nice.”

“Folks are like, oh, I saw you last week. Thanks for being here,” he said. “We need somebody new, somebody younger.”

I would add that they need somebody who’s all about telling you what he would do if he got the chance to serve (here’s his platform), and not about how bad that other guy is. Some of the folks out there tell him that, and Judd listens. “They all seem to be tired of the fighting. Just do something,” they tell him.

Of course, if he wanted to go negative, Joe gives him plenty to work with. Adair did a good job of pointing that out — the fact that the main thing about Joe is, he does nothing. (And don’t think it’s because he’s lazy. It’s a deliberate approach, which he inherited from his predecessor Floyd Spence, who I think got it from Strom Thurmond — do nothing as a legislator, and take care of constituent service. If you do anything, it might tick people off.)

But Judd’s not interested in that. Nor does he care to go on about what’s wrong with the Republican Party, or any of that stuff so many want to yammer about.

He wants to make life better for young and old, with a particular emphasis on the small towns all over his district, such as the one he grew up in — Ninety Six. (And by the way, when he speaks, you can tell he’s from someplace like that, Cambridge or no.) Again, here’s his platform. He can also speak intelligently about international affairs, but that’s not what he talks about.

Anyway, those are the kinds of things Judd wants to do. Y’all know I’m not big on platforms and promises. But I am a big fan of Judd’s approach. He wants to identify “universal issues” that people care about regardless of politics, and then “try to find allies on the issues,” and “find a solution.”

You know all those people on both ends of the spectrum who are all about putting a proposal out there that they know the competing party will oppose, and then running against the opponents on the basis of their opposition? It’s Plan A for so many in politics. And nothing ever gets done.

Well, Judd Larkins is sort of the opposite of that. Check him out.

Oh, and yeah, I put up that sign John gave me…

 

Stop dropping hammers before someone gets hurt!

I’m still debating with myself about unsubscribing from all these fund-raising emails I’ve been getting from Democrats ever since I was in James’ campaign. That would cut my email burden about in half. But then, I wouldn’t get the chance to make fun of them.

Two things continue to strike me about them:

  1. They’re so stupid. Or rather, they assume the recipient is so stupid.
  2. They are amazingly lacking in originality. You get the same painfully hackneyed clichés over and over, sometimes multiple times in the same day.

Oh, and before you Democrats get all huffy, I’m sure the Republican fund-raisers are at least as as dumb and repetitive — probably far more so in these days of enslavement to Trumpism — but I have no way of knowing, because they don’t send me any. Which shows they have at least a smidgeon of smarts.

So I mock the ones I have.

There are several basic formulas for these things, and two types seem contradictory. There’s the poor-pitiful-us-please-send-us-money ones, which start with such headlines as “This is not the message I had hoped to send today.” Then there’s the ones that brag about how Democrats are mercilessly beating up on the opposition.

The idea with all of them is to stir emotions — any emotions, apparently — because they’ve learned that makes people give money. Or at least, the consultants say they’ve learned that. Personally, I wonder. Wouldn’t it be cool if occasionally an idea crept into these appeals? Even I might give if I got one like that.

Anyway, in recent days I saved a few of the “look how we’re beating up on them” variety, mainly because of the astounding literary monotony of them. All of these pictured in this post came in in a nine-day period — and I probably failed to save some of them.

You’ve seen the one above. Here are a couple more:

Now at this point, you might be saying, “Well, women — even that Republican one we like — just can’t handle tools, the poor things!” But hush your mouth, you sexist pig — male Democrats are apparently just as clumsy:

I’ve been known to repeat myself — everyone needs an editor, and I don’t have one here on the blog — but even if I were in a coma, I don’t think I would do something like this. I mean, think about it — that same headline is going out over and over to the same people! Does anyone actually truly think that’s a good idea?…

Yep, I’m supporting Micah Caskey

Here’s the sign Micah put in my yard, and I’m fine with it. But I wish he’d picked a spot where my lawn looked better.

Ken misunderstood something earlier. He said the presence of the Micah Caskey ad you see at right was “apparently an endorsement.” No, no, no. That’s just an ad.

An endorsement would be, well… something like that sign I have for him in my yard, shown above. I didn’t put it there. But I did ask Micah recently when he was going to have signs available, and then one day earlier this week, this one appeared. And I’m fine with it. In putting it up, he was just doing what I would have done myself.

Not the same as the endorsements I used to do in the paper, but close enough, given my present circumstances. In the old days, I wouldn’t have endorsed him without talking to his opponent — or at least trying to (some people — like Hillary Clinton in 2008 — decline to come in).

This time — well, I’ve yet to see a lot from Micah’s opponent one way or the other. I had looked at her Facebook page, and as I was writing this, I finally looked again and saw a link to her campaign Facebook page, which led me to her actual campaign site. I don’t know why my usual approach — Googling “Melanie Shull for House” — didn’t work. Maybe she hasn’t had a lot of traffic. Anyway, I don’t know the lady; I haven’t met her. I just haven’t seen any reasons to support her over Micah. And I have seen some reasons not to. But I’m still looking, and listening.

My support for Micah goes back a ways. I’m not talking about the fact that Micah’s grandfather and great-grandfather were good friends with my mother and her family in Bennettsville long before I was born. Although that’s true enough.

I just mean — well, the stuff I’ve told y’all in the past. If you’ll recall, I briefly considered running for this seat myself when Kenny Bingham left it. But in doing my due diligence first, I met Micah, and decided not only that I really liked him and agreed with him on a bunch of things (in fact, on most things we talked about), but that he was a way stronger candidate than I would have been. I also liked his strongest primary opponent Tem Miles, although I preferred Micah.

Since then, I’ve had a lot of interactions with Micah, and have been pleased — mostly by the intelligent, straightforward way he approaches whatever subject we talk about, and his evident desire to serve all the people of South Carolina, not just this or that ideological clique. Do I agree with him on everything? Nope. And as the Republican Party has gotten crazier, and he has tried to keep his seat in spite of it, there have been more things I disagree with him on — such as the guns legislation last year. I went into that with him, and with y’all, in some detail at the time.

Ken mentioned some other things today. As did Doug. Well, I might disagree with Micah on some, but not all, of those things, too…

Interestingly, when I was at this point in writing this post last night, I got a phone call from a number that called itself CASKEY4STATEHOU. It was a sort of cross between a poll and an appeal for support. I think. The connection was very poor — which might be the fault of my hearing aids, or something — and I asked the guy to hang up and call back. But I didn’t hear from him again.

One of the few clear parts of the conversation was when he asked me whether I’d consider putting a sign for Micah in my yard, and I said, to put it the way John Cleese would, We’ve already got one.”

Anyway, after that call, I called Micah and we talked a bit. We spoke a little about the medical cannabis thing. I heard nothing one way or the other on that to make up my mind.

We talked more about this contested primary race he’s in. He didn’t have a lot of info about his opponent to share, although he did send me a video that he said was of her speaking at a “Moms for Liberty” event. In the video, she alludes to her reasoning for running. She doesn’t really have anything bad to say about Micah, beyond an assertion that he is not sufficiently “for the people.” Which I take to mean he fails to be ideologically pure, although it’s not entirely clear.

She is clearer about her strong opposition to Satan and his doings in the world. I’m with her on opposing that guy, but I fail to see what that has to do with this election. I think you have to be fully on board with her views of the world, and her own definition of what it means to be “Christian,” to get it. I believe she’s very sincere about her beliefs, but they are not the same as my own, so there’s a gap there.

To give you a sampling of her views, the latest post on her campaign Facebook page declares:

I will fight to halt the creeping and insidious integration of Critical Race Theory into SC’s education system. No child should be taught that they are defined by their skin color or ethnicity.

I completely agree with the second sentence of that. I could probably write a book on the first sentence. I haven’t really gotten into it here on the blog because I would pretty much have to write a book to explain what I think, as opposed to the ones-and-zeroes debate over CRT that is consuming so much oxygen these days. It’s gotten to be about enough fun to talk about as abortion.

On her campaign website, she says:

Melanie will be a voice for the silent majority suffering at the hands of cancel culture, government overreach, and progressive policies which threaten our freedom, our values, and our families.

That’s from her “issues” page. Anyway, I’m planning with an undivided mind to leave Micah’s sign up, and I plan to vote for him in June. And no, I don’t plan to give him his money back for the ad, either….

Of Micah, I say what I have for the several years since I met him. He’s a smart guy, and a fine American. He’s a good representative, one of the best. Some of y’all don’t like some of the stands he’s taken, but I actually admire him for some others. Here’s one where I was particularly proud to have him as my rep. And, of course, I’ve always appreciated his having served his country in combat as a Marine officer. To me, he’s very much a representative “for the people” — for all of us.

And now, you’re seeing him face something that the few reasonable Republicans left in our country are wise to fear — someone running to the right of them in a primary. (Cue another discussion of how gerrymandering is ruining our republic.) Here’s hoping he gets re-elected anyway. Because he’s a good guy, and a good rep.

Here, by the way, is Micah’s website. The ad also links to it.

Here’s that video he sent me of his opponent, in which I think (the audio is poor) she says she is at Maurice’s BBQ joint speaking to Moms for Liberty. By the way, if you saw this post last night and didn’t see it later, that’s because I realized just before going to bed that the video, which I mentioned above, hadn’t posted. So I switched it back to draft mode, then this morning added the video, and did some editing of the sort of free-association prose that was here originally…

Joel Lourie on losing Bob Dole

I just thought I’d share this with y’all. I found it on LinkedIn, and asked Joel, and he said he didn’t mind.

It’s what Joel Lourie, former Democratic state senator, had to say upon the death of Bob Dole the other day. I share it because it reminds us the way one human being is supposed to speak of another, regardless of such insignificant things as party affiliation:

Bob Dole was a good man, and yes, definitely a hero, and he deserves all the kind words that come his way.

You’ll see Joel’s post got more than 140 likes. Quite a few were from other friends of mine, including James Smith…

How about if we pay attention to reality instead?

Oh, look -- Henry's "urging" vaccines! But read the actual story. The news is that he's NOT mandating masks, and he's only URGING vaccines....

Oh, look — Henry’s “urging” vaccines! But read the actual story. The news is that he’s NOT mandating masks, and he’s only URGING vaccines….

For a couple of months, I’ve had in mind a certain blog post, but haven’t written it because of the time it would take — time I don’t have. The basic idea was this: As you know, I’m sick and tired of the usual stupid news stories with ideologues yelling about whether people should, for instance, wear masks in public.

My idea was to contrast that with the real world. When I go out in public — to the grocery, to Lowe’s, to Walmart, and especially to medical facilities (which I visit a lot, usually to take my parents to appointments), people, generally speaking, wear masks. Everyone does at the medical facilities, because otherwise they don’t get in. Elsewhere, sure, fewer people were wearing them, but it was never perfect. Even at the worst moments of 2020, there were always some twits who didn’t wear them — in places where folks in charge lacked the nerve to enforce the rules. This summer, the numbers of maskless were greater — even serious people were starting to think they didn’t have to — but it wasn’t some ideological war. Reality was complicated, and most people were trying to be sensible.

But I missed my time for writing that. In recent days, things have changed. For instance, on a personal level, last night my wife told her high school classmates she would not be attending the 50th reunion in Memphis. Everyone else in the class was sending in similar messages. She attending a Catholic girls’ school that had only 37 seniors graduating in 1971. Of those, 22 had planned to attend. Now none are going, so once again the event is postponed.

This morning, she followed that up with a note of regret that she would not be attending a wedding she had planned to go to while in Memphis.

As she did these things, I nodded, because it seemed consistent with what I’ve seen around us in recent days — hospital beds filling back up, people re-evaluating gatherings and resuming precautions when they go out, all because of such factors as the Delta variant and the insanely large number of people who have refused to get vaccinated. Here and there, you even see a report of someone who had refused but has wised up.

Normal, rational human behavior — people adjusting to shifting circumstances. All that is in the real world in which we live.

But then I look at the world being described most prominently in media we consume — from mainstream to social. And I see the idiotic ideological arguments, the same taking of absurd positions that would be laughable if they weren’t so harmful to public health.

You know what I’m talking about. Locally, our alleged “governor” continuing to refuse to take any responsibility for public health. (At least he’s consistent, right? This is what the majority out there voted for, to its great shame, in 2018.) Our attorney general reaching out to try to prevent other elected officials from taking any such responsibility as well. Other such behavior across the country, from local to federal levels.

Occasionally, I comment, usually on social media, when things get really far from reality:

But mostly, I just look around and wish I could see more reporting on what’s really going on, and less about what stupid things “leaders” who refuse to lead are prattling about.

Sometimes I do see it. For instance, there was this, put out by The State in the past 24 hours:

Lexington Medical Center is experiencing a critical shortage of intensive care unit beds as it approaches a record-high number of COVID-19 patients, hospital officials said.

More than 90% of the West Columbia hospital’s 557 beds were occupied Tuesday morning, including 146, or about 26%, of which were filled with coronavirus patients, Lexington Medical Center spokeswoman Jennifer Wilson said.

“We are approaching our highest number of COVID patients hospitalized at one time ever,” said Wilson, who added that the situation at Lexington Medical Center was “very serious” and encouraged South Carolinians to get vaccinated.

The vast majority of the hospital’s COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated, she said.

Only 16% of coronavirus inpatients at Lexington Medical are vaccinated, and just three of the 43 COVID-19 patients in the hospital’s ICU are fully dosed….

That’s about the hospital that you can see from the street I live on, if you walk down that street a bit to get a better angle on it. What’s going on there, and in the hospitals across South Carolina — and the nation, and the world — is infinitely more important to me than the pronouncements of people who have made it startlingly clear, over and over, that they will in no way do or say anything that reflects what’s happening in the world.

Oh, and by the way, Jennifer Wilson — quoted in that news item I cited above — is married to that same attorney general mentioned above. The difference between them is that she lives and works in the real world, while her husband lives in one in which continued employment depends on showing people you are devoted to Trumpism.

Yes, reporters should continue to cover what the governor and AG say and do. Who knows, they might even run across a “man bites dog” story like this one from Arkansas: Arkansas’ governor says it ‘was an error’ to ban mask mandates. You know, a point at which reality and Republican political speech actually coincide.

Maybe someday our governor will stop trying to outstupid Texas, and instead endeavor to outsmart Arkansas.

But while you wait for that actual astounding news to develop, cover the reality more, please…

What? You mean that guy’s still governor of New York?

cuomo

About a week ago, I ran across the name of Andrew Cuomo in The New York Times, and saw that they still referred to him as “governor.” (Or maybe just “Gov.” before his name. I can’t find the piece right now.)

I hadn’t seen the name in awhile, and my first reaction was, Really? That guy is still governor of the state of New York?

And when I got this notification on my phone this morning, I had the same thought again: “New York Gov. Cuomo Sexually Harassed Multiple Women, Investigation Finds.

Well, actually, I had two thoughts. The first one was to the statement in the headline itself: Yeah, we all knew that.

The second thought was Really? You mean that guy is still governor up there?

Perhaps you will have other thoughts. Personally, I dismissed this sleazeball quite a while back. I see that I last made a reference to him here, in an open thread on March 10:

What about that Cuomo guy? — I’ve never paid much attention to this guy, which was probably wise on my part. I’m not hearing anything good about him. And I don’t just mean the nursing-home deaths. I mean, who hires a 25-year-old “health adviser?” This guy does, if he likes her looks. Wow. Have you seen the picture included with this story about the gov making his unwelcome moves on a tiny, vulnerable, appalled young woman? He looks like Dracula with his latest victim. What a jerk. By the way, I have a problem with the hed to that Gail Collins column I linked to above: “Sex and the Single Governor.” He married Kerry Kennedy in 1990 and they have three kids. Yeah, they divorced in 2005. But he’s Catholic; she’s Catholic. He’s not “single.”

Yo, New York: Deal with your problem. We have enough headaches dealing with the various absurdities cranked out on a regular basis by our own governor. I don’t have time to waste worrying about yours

Lynn Teague: And so it begins… redistricting South Carolina

The Op-Ed Page

newest 7.20.21

EDITOR’S NOTE: As I’ve said so many times, there is no one more important thing we could do to reform and reinvigorate our democracy than to end the scourge of partisan gerrymandering. And it’s hard to imagine any task more difficult. So, when I got an email from our friend Lynn Teague telling me the Senate was about to start work on reapportionment, I was assured to know she would be riding herd on the process, and asked her to write us a situationer. I’m deeply grateful that she agreed to do so…

By Lynn Teague
Guest Columnist

The Senate Redistricting Subcommittee will hold its first meeting to begin the process of redrawing South Carolina’s legislative district boundaries on July 20, and the House is planning its first meeting on August 3. The redistricting process, held every ten years to adjust legislative districts to changes in population, is required by the U. S. Constitution. It is among the most important political processes in our system of government, but one that the public often ignores. The impact isn’t immediately obvious without a closeup look, and a closeup look can easily leave citizens confused by technical details and jargon. The nonpartisan League of Women Voters wants to see that change. We intend to do all that we can to demystify and inform the public and encourage participation.

Lynn Teague

Lynn Teague

Why should you care? Gerrymandering is designing district boundaries so that the outcome in the November general election is a foregone conclusion. At present South Carolina is not heavily gerrymandered by party (although there are surely those who would like to change that in the upcoming process). It is, however, very noncompetitive. The map of Senate districts shows how many voters had no real choice at the polls in November 2020. Why is this? Sometimes it is because the population in an area is very homogenous and any reasonable district that is drawn will lean predictably toward one party or the other. However, too often the problem is incumbent protection. This is a game that both parties can and do play, carefully designing districts to make them easy to win the next time around. Because of this obvious temptation, the United States is the only nation that allows those with an obvious vested interest in the outcome to draw district boundaries.

The other major impact of designing very homogenous districts is that it feeds polarization. Representatives are able to remain in office by responding only to the most extreme elements of their own parties, those who participate enthusiastically in primary elections, and ignore the broader electorate. When you call or write your senator or representative and get no meaningful response, this is often the reason. He or she doesn’t have to care what you think. When you wonder why our legislators take positions that are more extreme than those of the South Carolina electorate as a whole, this is why. They are looking out for themselves in the primary election. They don’t need to be concerned about your vote in November.

What can you do? The League of Women Voters hopes that citizens across the state will participate in public hearings, write to their own representatives and senators, and urge representatives not to distort districts to protect incumbents or parties. Both Senate and House will hold public meetings across South Carolina to solicit comment on how redistricting should be done. The dates for these meetings have not been announced.

The League of Women Voters of South Carolina will be hearing from our own group of independent experts in our League advisory group, will present our own maps, will testify in public hearings, and will encourage members of the public to participate. Everyone can follow along as we present information that is needed to understand and participate on our website at www.lwvsc.org. Click on “Redistricting: People Powered Fair Maps for South Carolina.” There you can also subscribe to our blog, VotersRule2020. Follow @lwvsc on Twitter and “League of Women Voters of South Carolina” on Facebook. Our theme is #WeAreWatching. Everyone should watch along with us, and let their legislators know that they shouldn’t make the decision about who wins in November.

Lynn Teague is a retired archaeologist who works hard every day in public service. She is the legislative lobbyist for the South Carolina League of Women Voters.

DeMarco: Bishops move to sever the tie that binds

The Op-Ed Page

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By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

You would think that American Christians, including the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, would be rejoicing that there was a faithful occupant of the White House.

Although white evangelicals overwhelmingly supported Biden’s predecessor and cheered many of his policies, Trump rarely attended church and seemed unfamiliar with the Bible (once referring, during a campaign speech at Liberty University, to the book Second Corinthians as “Two Corinthians” a mistake that any child with a year of Sunday school would avoid).

Most Christians believe that corporate worship is essential to a complete and thriving relationship with their Creator. Biden’s desire to join weekly with other Catholics and remember who they are and to whom they owe their most important allegiance should be reassuring to those of every faith and no faith. However, some of the bishops are disquieted by the highly publicized gap between Biden’s abortion stance and Catholic teaching (he personally opposes abortion but supports abortion rights policy). At an assembly of the bishops last week, there was enough concern that three-quarters of them approved drafting a document examining the “meaning of the Eucharist in the life of the church.” Some of the bishops clearly have Biden in mind with their vote, including Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver, who has said unequivocally that Biden “should not receive Holy Communion” for his abortion stance.

Catholics are obligated to attend Mass weekly and expected to take Communion. Although I married into the Methodist church, I was raised as a Catholic and understand the centrality of Communion to Catholics, who believe that the elements actually become the body and blood of Christ in the sacrament.

Refusing Communion to any Christian who comes to a house of worship is an affront. The bishops’ desire to deny Biden the Eucharist put me in mind of an experience I had over two decades ago while I was visiting with a Catholic family member. During the visit, our families went to Mass together. Although I am no longer Catholic and technically should not partake, I always accept Communion when it is offered. Methodists have an open table. The invitation is to “all who love him, who earnestly repent of their sin, and seek to live in peace with one another.” So, no matter who is offering Communion, I feel invited.

When I rose from the pew, my children, who were still in elementary school, naturally followed. I knew this might be a problem since this was a large church in which one stood before the Eucharistic minister, received the wafer in cupped hands, and the took a sip of wine from a common chalice. In our home church, we kneel at the altar rail and take juice in tiny individual cups. I didn’t have time to give them any instructions except, “Watch me.” I chose one of the side aisles thinking that a modestly dressed nun might be less imposing to them than a tall, portly priest arrayed king-like in his vestments. They were both nervous and the nun deduced by their hesitation that they had not received the strict instruction Catholic children get when they prepare for their first Communion. Thankfully, she did not withhold the elements from them, but she gave me a look of displeasure I will never forget.

I understand the bind that faith leaders are in. If there is no dogma, then they worry “What do we stand for?” and “How do we distinguish ourselves from the secular world?” And I also understand the moral urgency that the bishops feel toward abortion. Lives hang in the balance. I think their denunciation of abortion is defensible, as is Biden’s position.

Unfortunately, and Brad can disagree with me here, the Catholic Church is expert at inducing guilt. The majority of bishops feel so strongly about Biden’s positions on abortion and same-sex marriage that they feel a public shaming is in order. I saw both the positives and the negatives of the church’s robust adherence to dogma in my parents, whose educations through high school were entirely in Catholic schools. They both are highly motivated, disciplined, honest and smart. The nuns who taught them expected, even demanded, that they excel. But there was a downside. Eventually the weight of those rigid expectations and a perceived dearth of compassion drove them, as adults, to the Episcopal church (the Catholic teachings barring women from the priesthood or from using birth control also played a major role).

I can see nothing to be gained by the bishops denying Biden Communion. It will satisfy no one but a group of authoritarian Catholics. Biden is the kind of faithful man that any church should want. There are very few Catholics (or adherents of any faith, for that matter) who accept every one of their church’s precepts. For example, more than half of Catholics surveyed by the Pew Research Center in 2019 agree with Joe and support abortion in all or most cases.

And what disastrous evangelism. At a time when U.S. Catholic affiliation is dropping (along with most other denominations) the bishops’ desire to rebuke Biden will only serve to repel potential converts and may push some teetering Catholics out of the flock.

The Catholic faith needs some good news. It will take decades for the reverberations of the sex abuse scandal to dampen. Still, as Brad reminds us, Catholicism is the oldest and largest (by far) of the Christian denominations. It offers its followers a connection through time and space that is rivalled only by Islam. Even though I’m no longer Catholic, I experienced that connection one morning in February 2020 in Africa. I travelled there for a two-week mission in a hospital in Mbeya, Tanzania, with the USC School of Medicine. The leader of the trip was a Catholic physician who took me to an early morning Mass at Saint Anthony of Padua Cathedral. It was one of the most moving worship services I have ever experienced. A group of nuns chanted and sang accompanied by shakers and drums giving the service a unique energy and rhythm. Even though I understood almost nothing except “Yesu Kristo” and “Mungu” (“Jesus Christ” and “God” in Swahili) I felt the connection that Brad has described.

The bishops would do better focusing on our commonalties as human beings and what binds us rather than trying to humiliate the President.

Dr. DeMarco is a physician who lives in Marion, and a long-time reader of this blog.

The churc h in Mbeya, Tanzania, where Paul attended Mass in 2020.

The churc h in Mbeya, Tanzania, where Paul attended Mass in 2020.

I see the GOP just did an amazingly shameful thing. Again.

cheney

This is a screenshot from video of Rep. Cheney speaking after the vote, which you can watch by clicking on the image.

That’s essentially what I said on Twitter this morning about the Liz Cheney thing, and started to move on to other topics.

But perhaps we should pause on that one for a moment, seeing how I may have been a trite too dismissive of the significance of this moment in American political history.

Perhaps we should contemplate what Tom Friedman had to say in his piece, “The Trump G.O.P.’s Plot Against Liz Cheney — and Our Democracy.” He wrote it before what happened this morning, but with full knowledge of what would happen. And as ominous as it sounds, he may have been on the money:

One of America’s two major parties is about to make embracing a huge lie about the integrity of our elections — the core engine of our democracy — a litmus test for leadership in that party, if not future candidacy at the local, state and national levels.

In effect, the Trump G.O.P. has declared that winning the next elections for the House, Senate and presidency is so crucial — and Trump’s ability to energize its base so irreplaceable — that it justifies both accepting his Big Lie about the 2020 election and leveraging that lie to impose new voter-suppression laws and changes in the rules of who can certify elections in order to lock in minority rule for Republicans if need be.

It is hard to accept that this is happening in today’s America, but it is.

If House Republicans follow through on their plan to replace Cheney, it will not constitute the end of American democracy as we’ve known it, but there is a real possibility we’ll look back on May 12, 2021, as the beginning of the end — unless enough principled Republicans can be persuaded to engineer an immediate, radical course correction in their party….

Indeed. Let’s focus on that bit about these twits saying that this action against the one prominent person among them willing to speak the obvious truth is crucial to “winning the next elections for the House, Senate and presidency.”

Not for long, though. I only have this to say about it: If that’s what they believe and assert — which they have done in the last few days, in a Orwellian effort to “justify” what they’re doing to Rep. Cheney — well then none of them should ever be elected to anything, ever again. As you know, I’m willing up to a point to accept certain behaviors by elected officials that are meant purely to get them elected or re-elected, if they are worthy people otherwise. Because if you don’t get elected, you can’t do any good for anyone.

But sometimes, the thing you’re willing to do proves that you are not a worthy candidate. For instance, Lindsey Graham struggled for years to keep the yahoos from tossing him out so that he could stay in office and push hard for sensible immigration policy, or for dialing back the partisan madness that was undermining our method of selecting federal judges. But when you just give up completely, and commit yourself with slavish devotion to the worst person ever to hold high office in the country, you completely abandon any argument that the nation is better off with you than without you. Obviously, you should no longer hold office.

And any Republicans who want Donald Trump to have anything to do with their party, and are willing to embrace his outrageously destructive Big Lie in order to achieve that, are people who should not only lose the next election, but the one after that, and every election to come.

Friedman’s column continues with the ways Republicans are, across the country, trying to undermine our electoral processes so that no one can ever trust them again. In our Identity Politics era, much of the attention has been on the GOP’s efforts to discourage voting by People of a Certain Color. As dastardly as that is, it’s hardly the whole story. Writes Friedman:

There are also the new laws to enable Republican legislatures to legally manipulate the administration and counting of the votes in their states….

We’re talking about new regulations like the Georgia law that removed the secretary of state from decision-making power on the State Election Board, clearly aimed to curb the powers of the current secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, after he rejected Trump’s request that he “find” 11,780 votes to undo Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia….

As Stanford University democracy expert Larry Diamond summed it all up to me, while we’re focusing on Liz Cheney and the 2020 elections, Trump’s minions at the state level “are focused on giving themselves the power to legally get away with in 2024 what the courts would not let them get away with in 2020.”…

I’m probably close to getting in trouble with the copyright attorneys at the NYT, but I assure you I’m not trying to steal anything; I’m trying to help Friedman spread the alarm. I strongly urge you to go read the whole thing (and everything else you can find from honest, knowledgeable sources), and if they want you to pay for it, by all means pay. As I do.

It’s important because Friedman predicts that once Republicans complete the task of rigging the electoral system in their lying, malodorous favor, “both Democrats and principled Republicans will take to the streets, and you can call it whatever you like, but it is going to feel like a new civil war.”

Because what else is there to do, when our civilization is no longer held together by the rule of law, reference for the truth and profound respect for, and confidence in, fair elections?

Friedman, who covered the collapse in Lebanon, doesn’t use the term “civil war” either “lightly or accidentally.” He saw a civilized country fall apart, which is “what happens when democratically elected politicians think that they can endlessly abuse their institutions, cross redlines, weaken their judiciary and buy reporters and television stations — so that there is no truth, only versions, of every story.”

Dismiss it as alarmism if you like. Bask in the warmth of having an honest, decent, qualified president who is doing his best to serve to the betterment of his country, and enjoys high approval ratings as a result.

But keep in mind that the people who ousted Liz Cheney today have something very different in mind. They are eager to pull us all into the darkness…

More people will be openly carrying guns in SC. Does that make you happy?

Great_train_robbery_still

You may have seen this news a couple of days ago:

COLUMBIA — Trained South Carolina gun owners will likely soon be able to carry pistols openly in public after the state Senate fast-tracked, prioritized and ultimately approved a bill to expand the rights of concealed weapons permit-holders.

After multiple days of debate, the Senate voted 28-16 late in the evening May 6 in favor of the bill. They rejected attempts by some conservative Republicans to transform it into a more expansive bill, known by supporters as “constitutional carry,” to let all legal gun owners carry openly without a permit….

This was something of a surprise to Micah Caskey, who had co-sponsored the bill and played a significant role in herding it through the House. He had predicted that it wouldn’t make it through the Senate this year. But it did.

He also had predicted that the separate bill that would have simply granted everyone who isn’t specifically barred by law from having a gun to carry without a CWP or anything would not pass, either. He was right about that, but just barely. The Senate nearly passed that measure, called “constitutional carry” — a very puzzling piece of legislation that I’ll come back to later, if I remember.

Remind me if I don’t. I’ve been writing this in chunks today because I’ve had to run a bunch of errands today, and tomorrow is Mother’s Day and promises to be busy, and I’m determined to get it written this weekend. Finally.

I’ve got kind of a complex about this post because I called and talked to Micah about all of this three weeks ago. It was on the Friday, April 16. I couldn’t get it written that day, but I was sure I’d write it over the weekend. Then on Saturday, I tore my hand up, and couldn’t type for more than a week. And then when I could type, I was catching up on stuff I had to get done, and not too worried about getting this done, since I didn’t expect the Senate to act on it this year. But as I mentioned, they did.

I had called Micah because I wanted to ask him a question, which went kind of like this: “I could use some help understanding what it is that persuaded you that people didn’t have sufficient right to carry guns about, and that that needed addressing…”

As y’all know, I’m about out of Republicans I can vote for. I’ve mentioned previously that Micah — my state rep — is about the only one left that I might have the opportunity to vote for in the foreseeable future. He didn’t have opposition in 2020, so I didn’t vote for him. But if someone opposes him in ’22, I probably will.

In spite of this. I definitely oppose what he and his caucus are doing here, but hey, there’s not anyone on the planet I agree with about everything. Not Joe Biden. Not James Smith. Not even Joe Riley, although in his long career he came closer than anybody. I’m not even sure I’d have agreed with Abraham Lincoln about everything, especially back in his Whig days.

He’s wrong on this gun thing, but I wanted to hear what he had to say about it. If he’d given me any of that “God-given rights” garbage like that Shane Martin guy that Jamie Lovegrove quoted, I’d be down to ZERO Republicans I can vote for. (If God really saw it as essential that I go about armed, why wasn’t I born with a Smith & Wesson in my hand? That could have saved a lot of money. Guns are pricey these days.)

But Micah didn’t, and I didn’t expect him to. He was reasonable as always. Just wrong — about this.

Here’s the way he laid it out to me…

As mentioned before, there are two House bills: 3094 and 3096. The second one was the crazy one — my word, of course, not Micah’s. The other one was the more moderate option — basically not changing much except that people who now have Concealed Weapon Permits would no longer have to, you know, conceal them. The reassuring thing for someone like me, Micah explained, is that 3094 was there to give more moderate Republicans an opportunity to demonstrate their great fealty to the “There aren’t enough guns out there!” crowd, without going whole-hog crazy (again, that’s me, not Micah).

About that “someone like me” phrase… It’s not that Micah is some gun nut and I’m someone who would sweep away the “God-given rights” that so concern Sen. Martin. No. In fact, I’ve never been much of a gun-control advocate. Not that I wouldn’t snap my fingers and have all the guns in private hands disappear. It’s just that I’m not likely to have that power at any point, and here in the real world, I don’t see how any control measure that would ever stand the slightest chance of passing would solve the real problem.

And what’s “the real problem?” It’s that so incredibly many guns exist and are out there in private hands. Those God-given rats (there he goes, sneaking in another “Gettysburg” reference) that certain people fuss over — you know, the “taking guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens while criminals have them” stuff — is an irrelevant point. It’s not about this or that person’s supposed moral superiority or greater entitlement. It’s that the virtue or lack thereof of the gun owner doesn’t mean a thing.

That’s because there are 390 million guns in private hands in this country, and only 328 million people live here. So pretty much everybody who really wants a gun has one, whether he is a hero or a villain. In fact, he most likely has several, because so many people don’t want guns and don’t have them. According to Gallup, only about 32 percent of Americans, no doubt out of a feeling of obligation to follow the will of the Almighty, actually arm themselves. That’s about 105 million people. That means they own an average of about 3.7 guns apiece.

That means if there is a criminal out there somewhere — you know, an undeserving sort, a bad guy, a thorough wrong ‘un — who for some reason does not yet have a gun, he can easily go out and obtain one. Or two, or three. Because, you know what criminals do — they steal stuff. And this is made easy for them because there are so damned many guns out there. (Go ahead and give me an extended sermon about how securely you store your guns. Well, plenty of people do not.)

One more point, and this one may distress the folks who are most concerned with the “rights” question: The world is not as neatly divided into “good guys” and “bad guys” as they would like. Occasionally, a good guy has a bad day. Or worse, his children find the handgun.

(A brief note of apology to Micah and other Marines out there — in these figures I’m citing, I’m afraid I am including rifles within the category of “guns.” I do know the difference — so I don’t need a drill sergeant to send me about the boot camp declaiming upon the subject with my pants undone. I am simply doing so for convenience, and getting away with it because I am not a boot. Fortunately, in a moment I’ll return to the subject of House bills 3094 and 3096, which I think only concern actual guns, since qualified South Carolinians already have the right to carry their rifles openly.)

So anyway, I’m not terribly optimistic about, say, stricter background checks solving the problem of, say, mass shootings in America. Oh, it might keep this or that gun out of the hands of the wrong person — or the “right” person on a bad day. And for that reason, were I to be a member of a legislative body and had the opportunity to vote for such a marginal measure, I would. I just wouldn’t have great hope of it solving the problem, which is the existence of too many guns in the private sector.

What I most assuredly would not do would be to vote for a completely unnecessary bill that addresses some vague problem that simply does not exist. It’s kind of like what we just saw in Florida. The state just ran as flawless an election as we’re ever likely to see in this sin-stained world, and Florida lawmakers still passed legislation to solve the nonexistent “problem.” This is the same deal, only with deadly weapons.

Which brings us back to 3094 and 3096. (See, I did get back to them.)

As you recall, I asked Micah, “What is it about the current situation in our state and country (on the day of the third mass shooting of the year in Indianapolis) that makes you or anyone else think: We don’t have enough people carrying around guns? Secondly, what makes you think current law doesn’t LET people carry guns around enough?”

To the latter, he responded, “There is an express prohibition on openly carrying a handgun now.” True enough. Why this is a problem remains unclear to me. And as I said, I’ll get back to the subject of 3096 — of “constitutional carry.”

As to why either bill is there and being voted upon, Micah mentioned that he is chairman of the general laws subcommittee of House Judiciary. He suggested, or at least implied, that this imposes certain obligations upon him.

He noted that in the 2020 elections, Republicans were “given even larger majorities.” He added that among Republicans, “Some say we haven’t been given sufficient exercise of our 2nd Amendment rights.” Those people say, “We want to be able to do this.” Which places a certain obligation upon him as a Republican subcommittee chairman, that being what so many constituents want.

OK, another digression: As I’ve said many times, I like having Micah as my representative. (You may recall that I actually briefly considered running for the position myself, on the UnParty ticket, but when I met Micah and spoke with him at length I decided I’d just as soon vote for him. And the only way he’s going to get to represent the district in which I live, and continue to do so, is if he runs as a Republican. And that means certain things, including things I don’t like.

It’s the same with Democrats. Vote for them, and they’re likely to be pushing something else I don’t like — such as, say, hate crime laws. (No, they’re not quite the same thing, but I’m pretty strongly opposed to them, too.)

So Micah is doing the will of many, many constituents when he does this. Nor does he have to misrepresent himself to advocate for these measures. He can quite honestly say that the change of the “open carry” provision is fairly minor — people could already carry the weapons, just concealed.

As for “constitutional carry,” he is able to just as honestly say that “I do tend to take the view that the 2nd amendment doesn’t have a permit requirement in it.”

Here’s where I get back to 3096, and the fundamental logical problem with it, apart from whether we think it to be wise legislation. The South Carolina General Assembly does not have the power to declare, with legal effect, what the U.S. Constitution says and what it does not say. That is a power and obligation reserved to the federal courts. If you want a constitutional provision to be interpreted a certain way, you take the matter to court.

And as soon as I said that to Micah, which I did, I realized why some want to pass a bill such as 3096. Like so much that South Carolina Legislature does under Republican control, voting for this bill is not about having an effect on the real world. It’s about signaling to the Trumpian base that you are on their side. If a court does it, thereby having an effect on the real world, you don’t get any credit for it.

Once you know that, you understand what the Legislature is doing, on issue after issue.

The other day, I was exchanging email with a longtime friend who was thinking about not going to the State House next week because she has a super-busy week, but at the same time, “I hate to miss the last week of the regular session.”

This caused me to harrumph about how back in my day, the Legislature didn’t quit work this early. You know, people advocated for shortening the session for many years before they succeeded a few years back. And I always argued against it, because even when they stayed until June, the session was never long enough. They would always go home with so much important state business undone. You know, important stuff like what I used to write about all the time at the paper.

But then, because of these bills and so much else, I thought, if you’re not going to do anything useful to anyone, and just spend time doing things to pose and posture for your base, might as well go home early.

Anyway, in the future, I’d like to see my representative and those other people do something actually helpful and worthwhile, something South Carolina needs. Whether it’s improving public health or education or roads or doing the kind of wonkish stuff I like, it would be nice to see again. And I know Micah and some other folks have good ideas like that…

M&R Photography

Lots and lots and lots of guns. This was at the Houston Gun show at the George R. Brown Convention Center in 2007.

What Tim Scott said about race in America

Tim Scott

As I told you previously, such is my complacence with regard to the national government now, with Joe Biden as our president, that I forgot to watch his address to Congress last week.

Consequently, I certainly didn’t watch Tim Scott’s Republican “response.” You recall that I take a dim view of this “tradition” that we’ve had since 1966. It’s rather idiotic. First, it’s not a “response,” because it is written before the president’s address is delivered. It’s basically just a recitation of party talking points, with networks providing free air time. (And now, any national news outlet with a website providing live streaming.)

Here’s the thing: The Constitution requires the president to give Congress an update on the state of the union “from time to time.” He can do it with a scribbled note if he chooses to. But modern presidents have been happy to deliver it in person with much pomp. Fine. Let them do that, and I’m glad the networks are willing to broadcast it when they do. But if the other party wants such a platform as well, they should have to win the next presidential election. Democrats should have no expectation of free air time when the president is named Nixon, Ford, Reagan or Bush, and Republicans should have to sit it out when we have a chief executive named Carter, Clinton, Obama or Biden. Issue all the releases, tweets, etc., you want, and you will get some coverage. But expect no more.

Anyway, this wasn’t a State of the Union, technically.

But on to Tim Scott…

I’ve never had much occasion to say much about him. For one thing, I don’t know him — he rose to statewide prominence after I left the paper, and I’ve never met him, much less sat and talked extensively with him. Secondly, and more to the point, he hasn’t done much to attract attention, until quite recently. For years, I had trouble remembering his name, because it didn’t come up much. When people said “Senator Scott,” I tended initially to think they were speaking of John. Him I know.

It always seemed to me that Tim Scott was sort of maintaining as low a profile as possible — which of course set a stark contrast with our senior senator. South Carolina had elected him (after Nikki appointed him) when he hadn’t done much to attract attention, so he was sticking with the formula. All those white voters seemed pleased to have a black Republican senator, so they could tell everyone “See? We’re not racist!” And that was the sum of his effect on state politics. Why rock that boat by doing or saying anything that drew attention?

That has changed recently, starting with his appearance at the GOP convention last year. For me, it was almost an introduction to Tim Scott. Not only had I never met him, I’d never heard him speak for several minutes at a time.

I formed two impressions:

  1. He seemed like a good and decent man, quite sincere.
  2. He was undermining, even canceling out, all that decency by using it to support the reelection of the man who was by far, by light years, the worst person ever to hold the office.

Anyway, as I said, I missed his recent “response” speech (although I’m listening to it as I type this). But I saw some of the responses to it, which seemed to all center on this passage:

When America comes together, we’ve made tremendous progress. But powerful forces want to pull us apart. A hundred years ago, kids in classrooms were taught the color of their skin was their most important characteristic. And if they looked a certain way, they were inferior.

Today, kids again are being taught that the color of their skin defines them, and if they look a certain way, they’re an oppressor. From colleges to corporations to our culture, people are making money and gaining power by pretending we haven’t made any progress at all, by doubling down on the divisions we’ve worked so hard to heal.

You know this stuff is wrong. Hear me clearly: America is not a racist country. It’s backwards to fight discrimination with different types of discrimination. And it’s wrong to try to use our painful past to dishonestly shut down debates in the present….

I read, for instance, two views in The Washington Post.

The first was actually a step removed from Scott and what he had said. It was headlined, “Kamala Harris has to walk a tightrope on race. This time, she slipped.” This was in response to the vice president having agreed with Sen. Scott on the point that seemed to disturb “woke” Democrats the most. She said “No, I don’t think America is a racist country.” The writer of the column — one Karen Attiah, whom I had to look up because I wasn’t familiar with the name — tried to make excuses for the veep, but nevertheless she “slipped,” leading the writer to conclude:

And especially for women of color, it is exhausting to watch Harris have to walk on the all-too-familiar tightrope of race and gender. Perhaps, in time, Harris will get more space to shine as the administration progresses. Until then, we are all holding our breath.

Yeah, OK. The other piece was by South Carolina’s own Kathleen Parker, and it was headlined, “Liberals just cannot handle a Black conservative,” employing the Post‘s unfortunate recent style of capitalizing references to people’s race. OK… Such an assertion seems more like something that you’d hear on Fox than from such a normally sensible woman as Kathleen. But I suppose that is one way of putting it, since people were calling him “Uncle Tim” on social media. An excerpt:

This, my friends, is (also) what racism looks like in America today.

Let a Black man speak for the GOP; let him defend conservative values that were once considered mainstream; let him challenge the current orthodoxy of systemic racism that pegs Whites as oppressors — and he will feel the wrath of those for whom, as Scott said, belief in racism is essential to political power….

There’s that capitalizing-race thing again. I’ll post about that some other day. (“Capitalizing “Black” bugs me, and capitalizing “White” is just plain offensive. It’s like we’re back to separate restrooms, and they want to make sure the labels pop out so nobody goes into the wrong one.)

For the time being, I responded to the Attiah piece with this tweet:

If she hadn’t answered that way, I think we’d need to have a long conversation about it. But she did, as anyone a heartbeat away from the presidency should. And I see that Jim Clyburn also spoke in agreement with what Scott said.

So, nothing to see here, folks.

As for the Parker piece, I just tweeted it out.

What are your thoughts?

Live your life so Google doesn’t remember you this way

crazy

How did I get on this topic? The usual, roundabout way. I was skimming through Twitter this morning and ran across this:

… which got me thinking, what are they doing in California now? I had heard about the recall thing, but I paused to think, So what’s their beef with Newsom? I had no idea. I tried to remember whether I knew anything unsavory about him, and I thought of one thing: There was that bizarre woman with whom he was once connected, bizarre enough that it would certainly cause you to question his judgment.

But of course, I couldn’t remember her name. So I asked Google, using the only other thing I knew about her.

Into the search field, I typed: crazy woman who spoke at gop convention.

And I didn’t mean “crazy” in a pleasing, tuneful Patsy Cline sort of way. But Google understood me perfectly.

And you see what I got. Out of all the women it could have picked — such as, say, this one — Google knew exactly what I was looking for.

Having her name, I then looked her up on Wikipedia to confirm that she had been affiliated with Newsom, and found that they had actually been married. I had been thinking maybe they dated once or twice, but he married her?

Well, that would give any voter pause…

Anyway, there’s a life lesson here. Think about posterity. Try to live in a way that you are not remembered this way by Google — and therefore by the rest of the world. Just stop and think before you act. If invited to have a screaming fit during prime time at a national nominating convention of either major party, think very hard before you accept…

red

Joe Cunningham says he’ll run for governor. Huh…

As I said, I ran into him a couple of times. This was the last Saturday night of the 2018 election.

As I said, I ran into him a couple of times. This was the last Saturday night of the 2018 election.

… which is my way of saying I’m not sure what I think about it yet. Might have to ponder for awhile.

Of course, I’m very interested in having someone other than Henry McMaster be our governor. I spent more than four months of my life working very long, hard hours trying to bring that about not long ago, but as Mark Twain would say, we got left.

So there’s that.

There’s also the fact that I don’t have anything against Joe, which is something I can’t say about all that many people in politics. So that’s good. And it seems like Joe would have a better shot than most Democrats who might run. And it will have to be a Democrat — you can’t rely on Republicans to come up with anyone more desirable than Henry. They tried hard in 2018, and nearly did it. But I didn’t see anything good to say about the options offered then, and in the Year of our Lord 2021, I look around and think that if they ever managed to dump their incumbent, it would most likely be with someone Trumpier than he is.

I think Henry sees that, too, which is why he runs about saying such stupid things.

On the other hand, I don’t know of much to say for Joe, because he’s so new to public life. In fact, I just watched his announcement video, and when he started talking, I didn’t know it was him. I thought it might be one of those commercials that come up on YouTube before your video. Then I realized it was him, and right after that, I realized I was completely unfamiliar with his voice. I ran into him a couple of times in 2018 (see the pics above and below), but I don’t remember hearing him speak. And as y’all know, I don’t watch TV, and I don’t remember hearing him on NPR.

At my age, 2018 — when I first heard of Joe — feels like about five minutes ago, if that. And when I saw in the Post and Courier that he was planning to run, I got to thinking — what do I know about him before that? Well, not much. So I checked Wikipedia, which has a page about anyone who has served in Congress. Here’s what it said:

Cunningham was born in Caldwell County, Kentucky, and grew up in Kuttawa, Kentucky.[2] He graduated from Lyon County High School in 2000. Cunningham attended the College of Charleston for two years before transferring to Florida Atlantic University in 2002, where he obtained his Bachelor of Science in ocean engineering in 2005.[3][4][5]

Cunningham became an ocean engineer with a consulting company in Naples, Florida, and was laid off after about five years.[3] He spent some time learning Spanish in South America,[4] enrolled in law school at Northern Kentucky University‘s Salmon P. Chase College of Law in 2011, and graduated in 2014.[3][5] He then worked as a construction attorney for Charleston firm Lyle & Lyle and co-owned the Soul Yoga + Wellness yoga studio with his wife before campaigning for political office.[6]

And then, in 2017, he announced he was running for Congress.

So he graduated law school in 2014. And to think, I had thought James Smith was young. Cindi Scoppe wrote about this in 2018:

The three of us chatted about the race, and the family, and I wrote a few paragraphs about it for the next day’s paper. It was the only time I actually referred to Rep. Smith in print by the nickname his now-communications director Brad Warthen and I used privately throughout Brad’s time as The State’s editorial page editor: “young James.”…

After he was elected to the House in 1994, during my first year on the editorial board, I did call him that for quite a few years. Young James was such a kid in those early days — but we watched him grow as a lawmaker, and liked what we saw. (By the way, as James has many times reminded me, we did not endorse him in that first run. We liked him, but we went with his opponent, who was also his first cousin — Republican Robert Adams.)

And no, I didn’t call him that while I was his press guy. Maybe I should have. Maybe we would have won.

We certainly should have won. James had distinguished himself during his 24 years in the House, where he was the minority leader for awhile. Also, he was a war hero, with an amazing backstory. There’s no such thing as a perfect candidate, but he came awfully close. And among the many people who knew him, Republicans as well as Democrats and independents, he was far better respected than the do-nothing Trump lover, Henry McMaster.

But here’s the awful thing about politics: As widely known as you may be, and as deeply respected, that large number of people is a tiny, infinitesimal percentage of the number of people who vote — most of whom don’t know you or much else. They vote more and more by tribal loyalty, and Henry had the imprimatur of the dominant tribe. So that was that.

So would Joe fare better? I dunno. I’m looking for evidence of that, which will give me hope. Of course, conventional wisdom would hold that yes, because “He won on the same day that your James Smith lost.”

Yeah, but I’m not that impressed that he won the 1st District that day. We won in that district, too. So which was it? Did we help him, or did he — and the upswing across the country that day for moderate Democrats running for Congress — help us? I can see good arguments either way.

But I’m going to be looking for signs that Joe can win. Looking eagerly.

The Post and Courier reports that “he plans to fight for policies such as expanding Medicaid, raising the minimum wage and passing police reform.” OK, well, we ran on the first one. The other two have become popular since then — among Democrats. Who are, as you know, a minority in our state. Of course, I’m not crazy that he also promised to pursue term limits, and promises, as George Bush did in 1988 (before reversing himself in office) not to raise taxes.

But I can agree with him completely when he says:

“Gov. McMaster has spent the last year checking off his partisan wish list instead of tackling the real problems in our state. South Carolina desperately needed a strong leader over the last year, but all we had was a weak politician with messed-up priorities.”

We said things like that, too, of course. Anyway, I’ll be watching, listening and hoping I see and hear good things going forward…

Here was the other time I remember -- the day the OTHER Joe campaigned with us in Charleston, Oct. 13, 2018.

Here was the other time I remember — the day the OTHER Joe campaigned with us in Charleston, Oct. 13, 2018. By the way, there’s at least one other person in these pictures I’d RATHER see run. But you can’t always get what you want.

Fund-raisers are really… quite emotional… aren’t they?

At some point, I should probably unsubscribe from all these Democratic Party fund-raising emails that, since I was on James’ campaign, do more to clog up my Inbox than anything. But I continue to be mildly fascinated by the various strategies they employ to try to get me stirred up enough to open up my wallet.

They seldom try to do this with reason. Talking me into a rational decision to invest in their causes isn’t really part of the playbook. They’re more about stirring emotion — elation over good news, sorrow over bad news, outrage over anything done or said by their various stock villains (Mitch McConnell, that insane woman from Georgia, You Know Who)….

And sometimes, they weep. I’m referring to the headline on the email pictured below: “tears in our eyes.”

They’re sort of like what Reisman said about Col. Breed. They’re really — quite emotional, aren’t they?

Come on, people. Your cause is just — what the Republicans are trying to do, in the way of suppressing the vote, is a bad thing. But hold off on the waterworks, please. You don’t want me looking at you like this, do you?

tears

The role of Republicans is now filled by moderate Democrats

Sen. Joe Manchin, masked but certainly not muzzled these days.

Sen. Joe Manchin, masked but certainly not muzzled these days./from his Twitter feed.

By “role” I mean “constructive role” or “traditional role.” The proper role of a loyal opposition, one that’s dedicated to contributing a point of view on the way to actually getting things done.

Which of course stands in sharp contrast to the embarrassing behavior we’ve seen exhibited in recent years by the loud, ranting, mentally dysfunctional remnants of the Trump-worshiping former GOP.

I noticed this frequently during the debate over the latest COVID relief bill. While people who wear the label of “Republican” sat on the sidelines making a shameful exhibition of themselves, moderate Democrats have steadily reshaped the bill, often in ways that normal, sane Republicans would have done back in the day.

I’ve seen and read about this in several places in recent days, as moderate Democrats kept the $15 minimum wage out of the bill and insisted upon other changes along the way. But nowhere did I see it sketched out as clearly as in an editorial in The Wall Street Journal today:

Of the Democrats who voted “no,” some no doubt agree with Bernie on the substance and merely didn’t want to steamroll Senate precedent.

But you might be surprised. “I have backed a $15 minimum wage on the federal level for years,” said Delaware’s Tom Carper. “At a time when our economy is still slowly recovering, though, policymakers have a responsibility to be especially mindful of the fragile state of small businesses all across this country.” Wow, that almost sounds like what Mr. Sanders might call Republican talking points….

Yep. That’s what I’m on about.

Maybe we could take these people — Joe Manchin and the others — and persuade some of the few, pitifully few nominal Republicans who still on rare occasion act like normal, thinking human beings (Mitt Romney, etc.) to join them. Get enough of them (a tall order), and then everyone could ignore the Trumpists, and we’d be back to the two-party system we once were used to — consisting of serious people with different viewpoints, constructively dealing with each other to shape legislation.

But of course, we’re nowhere near having a critical mass of them. Anyway, I’d hate to strip the Democrats of moderation that way. Do that, and the AOCs might actually start wielding the kind of influence among Democrats that the Trumpists like to pretend they do.

So for now, I’m sort of resigned to letting the bipartisanship go on between different kinds of Democrats. It’s not perfect. It would be nice for the Republicans to snap out of it and fill the position again themselves. But that’s not going to happen for awhile. The Götterdämmerung of the GOP is evidently going to be long, drawn-out, messy and painfully embarrassing to watch…

Like Götterdämmerung, but without all the Wagner.

Like Götterdämmerung, but without all the Wagner.

A real DNC Membership Card? Thanks! But no thanks…

Y’all know I’m a fan of Jaime Harrison, but I’m going to have to turn down his latest offer, which came today via email.

The message was headlined, “Brad’s 2021 DNC Membership Card,” and sure enough, down in the body of the email, there it was:

unnamed

Note that even though it had to be a bogus, random bunch of characters, I smudged out the supposed “ID” number. I’ve never given a penny to the DNC, but I was worried they might actually have me on file (else why do I get these emails?) from having given to Jaime, or Joe Biden. Or maybe from that $5 I gave ex-astronaut Mike Kelly at the last minute last year. Or the very first contribution I made to anyone — that was Mandy Powers Norrell.

Because, you know, that’s something I started doing last year — giving (very small amounts) to candidates I like. And since I started doing it in 2020, the year that there wasn’t a single Republican I would vote for who had opposition, I only gave to Democrats.

But a membership card? Save that for the people who want one.

The email claims there have been 102,753 such people so far. Well, good for them. Obviously, you don’t need me…

Rep. Russell Ott, pro-life Democrat

Russell Ott statement

Russell Ott’s statement about his vote on S.1.

As we spoke on the phone today, I kept hearing bubbling, crackling sounds in the background, like something wildly boiling over. I asked Rep. Russell Ott what was going on.

Oh, he said, that was people applauding during the signing ceremony for S.1, the abortion bill that The State describes thusly:

S. 1 requires doctors to perform an ultrasound to detect a heartbeat before performing any abortion. If a heartbeat is detected, the doctor would be prohibited from performing an abortion unless the pregnancy threatens the woman’s life or could cause severe harm to her health, if the fetus has a detectable anomaly that is not compatible with life or in cases where the woman reports being the victim of rape or incest. If a woman reports to a doctor that she was the victim of rape or incest, the doctor would then be required to report the crime to the local sheriff with or without the woman’s consent.,,,

Apparently, Henry just couldn’t wait to sign that one.

As it happened, this was what I had called to talk to Russell about. He thought he had found a quiet place where we could speak. But for him, there is no quiet place on this issue.

Russell Ott

Russell Ott

Back in December when he was re-elected as assistant leader of the Democrats in the South Carolina House, he had looked forward to working on sentencing reform, hate crime legislation, rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine, and trying to get relief and support to small business owners.

“At the end of the day, that is what it means to be a Democrat,” he told the Times and Democrat. “To look out for the working families, to make sure they have everything they need, and our support as much as possible.”

Some days, it’s easier to be a Democrat than at other times.

It turns out that once the legislative session began, the party that actually runs the State House had another priority in mind, one that led Rep. Ott to put this on Twitter yesterday:

That led to a lot of warm responses from his fellow Democrats, such as “Disappointed is a gross understatement,” and “Yeah you should definitely be primaried. Shame on you.” Someone called him “American Taliban.” So far, there are 25 replies. Of course, that’s not so bad when you consider that at the same time, there are 131 “likes.”

 

So I reached out to him in a text, noting that the reasons he cites as to why he’s a Democrat are the reasons I support Dems such as James Smith and Joe Biden. But abortion is one of the main things that keeps me from being a Democrat myself, so I could sympathize. So I wanted to chat with him before putting his statement on the blog.

He called and we spoke. I noted that it seemed he was having a rough day. He said he’d “probably had some easier ones, but it’s OK.”

He’s not bothered too much by the Twitter stuff. “Twitter’s not even real, Brad. You know that.”

“Come into my district,” he said. “People are not upset.”

Not that he dismisses the concerns of those commenting on Twitter. He respects their views. He respects everyone’s views, as he indicated in his statement. Having gotten into the habit in recent days, he asked me what mine were. I told him that might take years to relate (as y’all know), but I got to talking a bit about some of my problems talking with people who agree with me on so many things, but not on this. And while I’m not a party member, I touched on the problems I’ve had as a Catholic, in light of the fact that about half of my coreligionists voted for Trump over this very issue — setting aside everything else it meant to be pro-life.

He’s a Methodist, but he seemed to understand. Similarly, he wishes some of his more critical fellow Democrats would look at the big picture of what it means, and has long meant, to be a Democrat.

“I put up the amendment that led to the flag coming down” at the critical moment of the House debate in 2015. He’s fought for public education. He’s pushed for expanding Medicaid. “And I certainly have been applauded for that.” But for the moment, at least on Twitter, “That was all gone.”

“But that’s OK,” he says. “There’s a lot of people out there that acknowledge like I do that this is not an easy issue.”

A lot of Democrats maintain their position is not only the right one, but not to be questioned. Ditto among the Republicans, as we know. “Let’s not ignore the hypocrisy on the other side,” he emphasized. As he said in his statement, he’s a Democrat because he cares about babies after they’re born, as well.

“I’m the representative of people who sent me here to … address each issue, as they come,” he said. “I know that the opinion that I hold is not unique. A lot of people that vote Democrat a majority of the time agree with this.”

But that’s because they’re not the professional Democrats, the ones on Twitter. While many of those are fine people, ones Russell gets along with most of the time, sometimes they can be kind of like the Republicans: “Both parties weaponize this issue, and I just reject that position… If that’s the way that person feels, then fine… But if you believe that’s a human being, it’s a baby…” You have to do what you think is right.

“We shouldn’t have a litmus test in this party.”

Russell isn’t alone, of course. I just reached out to him because of the statement he had posted. Democratic Rep. Lucas Atkinson voted with him. I should probably reach out to him, too. I don’t know him and he doesn’t know me, but I found out the other day that we’re related. He’s… hang on; let me go look at the tree… my 3rd cousin, once removed.

But they’re a small group.

There’s nothing new about pro-life Democrats in South Carolina, though. Remember Vincent Sheehen, Democratic nominee for governor in 2010 and 2014? Pro-life Catholic, and one of the smartest and best people in the Senate? Yeah, he got dumped by the voters for the sin of being a Democrat — fer bein’ one a them libruls, you know.

When I brought up Sheheen, Russell pointed out how close Vincent came to being governor in 2010. He said it seems like more Democrats in the state would look and notice how well a pro-life Democrat did. And also note the fact that Jaime Harrison ran as a conventional, pro-choice Democrat, and was easily defeated in spite of having raised more money than any Senate candidate in American history.

But never mind political calculation. Russell voted the way he thought was right. And he expects others to do the same, whether they agree with him or not…

Nice job there, Ah-nold

Just thought I’d share this video Arnold Schwarzenegger put out yesterday.

It’s gotten a lot of positive reactions. Conan O’Brien said, ““This is the most powerful and uniquely personal statement I’ve heard from ANYONE on where we are right now as a country.”

I thought it fitting to quote O’Brien, since in the video, Arnold wields his “Conan” sword…

Conan sword