Category Archives: South Carolina

Leave the judges alone

I saw a disturbing headline in The State the other day: “SC Supreme Court makeup may face GOP scrutiny after abortion ban struck down.”

I didn’t have time to read it at that time, so I emailed the story to myself, intending to write about it when I had time. Of course first, I had to read it.

Fortunately, the story wasn’t as disturbing as the headline. Still, I’m afraid Shane Massey is right in this prediction:

State Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey, echoing his statement last week that the court’s “decision will almost certainly result in the politicization of South Carolina’s judges to yet unseen levels,” said Monday he “will be amazed” if there isn’t political pushback over the way the Legislature vets and elects judges to the state’s high court…

Yes, I’m afraid so. Some will see themselves just as justified in making abortion a litmus test for court fitness as U.S. Senators on both sides of the issue have done ever since Roe removed the issue from the place where it should be — the political branches.

Because of what’s happened since 1973, public confidence in the very existence of an independent judiciary has been badly damaged across the political spectrum. And when that confidence is completely gone, we might as well close up this shop called the United States of America. The experiment in a liberal, representative democracy has had an impressively long run, but it would be over at that point.

When candidates’ positions on the most controversial political issue in the land becomes a condition for serving on the bench, it is over. I’ve been pointing this out for years on the federal level. The last 50 years have been pretty ugly.

We don’t need to be engaging in the same madness on the state level. South Carolina has enough problems without that.

I can understand that, after all these years of waiting, and finally seeing SCOTUS give legislatures the power to make the laws again, some lawmakers will be frustrated that another court is overruling them.

But the proper response to that is to work to shape legislation that the court will not dismiss as violating the state constitution. And yes, in this case, the law involved is the state constitution, not the federal.

Interestingly, unlike the federal version, the state constitution actually mentions privacy — it uses the actual word. (We can argue back and forth at another time whether “privacy” means “you can have an abortion if you want one.” But for quite some time, courts have assumed it does. This one certainly has.) Of course, you can try to amend that if you’d like. I expect that would be tougher than passing acceptable statutes, but that’s another legitimate path.

Just don’t pick judges based on whether they agree with you. Agreeing with you is not their job.

Oh, and one more thing: Not only would that approach undermine the rule of law, but it might not even work for you in the short run. I urge you to check out Cindi Scoppe’s latest column, which grows out of the court’s abortion ruling: “How the SC Legislature’s ‘conservative justice’ killed its fetal heartbeat law.

Oh, and as long as I’m pointing to stuff in the P&C, they have a news story that does what I actually feared the story in The State would do: It quotes lawmakers saying the very things that I dreaded, and which made me cringe at that first headline. This one is headlined, “Abortion ruling brings new scrutiny on the 3 candidates.

The State‘s story predicted it. The P&C‘s story shows it starting to happen…

What do we value? And why?

Note the two headlines from The State‘s app yesterday.

Here’s the nut graf of the one that says “It’s official: Massive raise makes Shane Beamer highest-paid coach in USC history:”

The South Carolina board of trustees approved a new deal for the Gamecocks’ head football coach on Friday that will pay him $6.125 million in 2023 with escalators of $250,000 each year through the 2027 season — making him the highest-paid coach in school history. That’s up from his previous salary of $2.75 million annually….

And here’s the essence of the one that says “McMaster calls for $2,500 pay raise for SC teachers, plus a bonus:”

Gov. Henry McMaster wants to increase starting pay for South Carolina teachers by $2,500 to bring the base salary to $42,500….

This past year, the minimum teacher salary was set at $40,000….

Yes, I know there are ways to dismiss such comparison as silly. For instance, you can point out that the teacher pay raise will cost the state $254 million. On account of, you know, there being a bunch more teachers than head football coaches at USC. (Note that I limited that by saying “head” football coach. There are a lot of coaches. I tried to Google it and count them just now, but I got tired.)

I dismiss that by asking why you would value one football coach more than any one of those teachers. Of course, if you’re one of those public-school haters, you’ll single out the weakest teacher in the state and say, “I value him more than this teacher.” So let’s derail that argument by saying, why would you value the football coach over the single best teacher in the state (use your own standards, if you’d like)? For that matter, why would you value him as much as the very best 1,350 teachers in the state — since that’s how many times $2,500 goes into the raise Beamer received?

Of course, you could also say that you can’t compare the two, since one is purely state money, and the other is largely money voluntarily paid by people who are nuts about football. My response is that you’re missing the point. The point isn’t about public expenditures. The point is about what we humans in South Carolina value most — whether we pay for it through taxes or football tickets, or those premium parking spots around the stadium, or however we shell it out.

Of course, the “What do we value?” question is rhetorical. It’s obvious what we value.

Which takes me to my second question: Why?

Why didn’t you come see US this time, Joe?

I had to say this on Twitter this morning:

I mean, you came here in August, as per usual. You had a good time, didn’t you, as always? So why didn’t you…

Oh. That was August. This is December.

OK, we’ll let it go this time, but we hope to see you again soon. I don’t want to engage in coercion or anything, but remember who put you into the White House

President Joe, having an awesome time at Kiawah in August.

That’s nice for y’all, but it’s not like that here in SC

The good news about the general rout of certifiable Trumpistas has floated in steadily from across the country. Shortly after the good news came in Saturday night that Republicans had definitely not captured the U.S. Senate, no matter what happens next in Georgia, I read a piece in The New York Times headlined “Voters Reject Election Deniers Running to Take Over Elections.

The national repudiation of this coalition reached its apex on Saturday, when Cisco Aguilar, the Democratic candidate for secretary of state in Nevada, defeated Jim Marchant, according to The Associated Press. Mr. Marchant, the Republican nominee, had helped organize a national right-wing slate of candidates under the name “America First.”

With Mr. Marchant’s loss to Mr. Aguilar, all but one of those “America First” candidates were defeated. Only Diego Morales, a Republican in deep-red Indiana, was successful, while candidates in Michigan, Arizona and New Mexico were defeated.

Their losses halted a plan by some allies of former President Donald J. Trump and other influential donors to take over the election apparatus in critical states before the 2024 presidential election.

Which was truly good news, because that had been a serious danger. You here a lot about GOP efforts to limit voter access, but the greater threat was their effort to take over the election apparatus so that it really didn’t matter who voted, or how.

And while Republicans are still likely to take the U.S. House — barely — which would follow the usual trend the country has long seen in midterms, the fact that Democrats had more than held onto the Senate was very encouraging. And in places such as the state where Fetterman thumped Oz, the crushing of Trumpist hopes went deeper, the more you looked:

Of all the places where Mr. Trump proved toxic, Pennsylvania may be where he did the most impressive damage — a state that will be key to any winning Republican presidential contender in 2024. The Trumpian fiasco there shows what happens when candidates make the race all about themselves, embracing MAGA and being out of step with the electorate.

In the high-stakes fight for control of the Senate, Pennsylvania was a hot spot, widely considered the Democrats’ best opportunity to flip a Republican-held seat and, by extension, a must-hold for the G.O.P. Dr. Oz’s high-profile flop was a particularly painful one for Mr. Trump’s party. But there’s more: The Democrats scored a huge win in the governor’s race as well, where Josh Shapiro had the good fortune of running against Doug Mastriano, a Trump-endorsed MAGA extremist so unsettling you have to wonder if he is secretly related to Marjorie Taylor Greene. The Democrats also triumphed in House races, holding onto vulnerable seats, including the hotly contested 8th and 17th Districts. And while a couple of tight races have yet to be called, party leaders are thrilled about already netting 11 seats and being this close to possibly flipping the state House, putting Democrats in control of the chamber for the first time in more than a decade. All of this was a step up for them from 2020, when voters went for Joe Biden over Donald Trump but picked Republicans in some other statewide races.

So that’s good to hear. And the news from such places is indeed encouraging. We may not be anywhere near the Republican Party returning to actual sanity — it has a long way to go before again becoming the party of Ike, Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush, Howard Baker, Richard Lugar and John McCain — in the meantime we can be soothed knowing that things are in the hands of Democrats. I’m not a Democrat, of course, but you take what you can get when the house is on fire — but while some of them a sometimes a bit loony, none of them are Trumpistas.

That is, it’s soothing to look at certain other places. Not South Carolina.

We just elected a completely unqualified woman to run our public schools. She’s there because she won the Republican primary — that’s all it takes in S.C. — and she won the primary by convincing everyone that she was the scarier, far more extreme choice.

Henry McMaster — the man who has built the latter part of his career on having been the first statewide elected official in the country to endorse Donald J. — romped to victory on his way to setting the state record for longevity in the governor’s office. Mind you, this happened because he had an utterly unappealing Democratic opponent. But that’s because no serious Democrats ran. They didn’t run because this is South Carolina, and they assumed McMaster would win again. Which is pretty sad.

No other statewide officeholder — all Republicans of course — had serious opposition. At least, not according to the ballot I faced.

Of course, if you’re talking simple partisan politics, this had been the pattern before Trump. I mean, we knew young Judd Larkins didn’t have a chance against Joe Wilson, but that district has been drawn to reliably elect Republicans since well before the GOP became the state’s majority party. In my first election as governmental affairs editor at The State, Jim Leventis was winning in every county in the 2nd District but one on election night, but then Lexington County’s votes were fully counted, and Floyd Spence held on.

So yeah, it’s an old pattern. But now, Republicans in this state, starting with Henry, have tied Donald Trump, and therefore all the crazy that he represents, to their necks. And in other parts of the country, that’s a bad sign for people seeking office.

But not here.

The Night that Nothing Interesting Happened

‘Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?’

‘To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.’

‘The dog did nothing in the night-time.’

‘That was the curious incident,’ remarked Sherlock Holmes.

I capitalized the words in my headline because it seemed like “The Night that Nothing Interesting Happened” could be the title of a Conan Doyle story.

But no one would have read it.

The large headlines this morning in South Carolina newspapers — and on their browser sites — were a bit weird. Because the “big news” they trumpeted wasn’t news to anyone — was it? McMaster wins? Ellen Weaver wins? Did some reader somewhere expect something else?

When I looked for election news this morning, I was trying to find out, for instance, whether the local-option sales tax thing here in Lexington County had passed. I didn’t think it would, and it didn’t, but I wanted to see for sure. (As I mentioned before, I had voted for it, but I didn’t think a majority would).

But as I said yesterday of this election, nothing interesting was happening. In fact, if I look back all the way to when I first voted in 1972, this may have been the least interesting general Election Day I’ve seen.

Oh, something interesting — horrifying, really — is happening to our republic on the grand scale. As one example, when our representative democracy was healthy (which it was for most of my life), we would never have been sitting around wondering whether such a phenomenal, spectacular idiot like Herschel Walker was about to become a U.S. senator. He’s probably not, by the way, although he’s in a runoff. Yet close to half of the voters in Georgia chose him, and all over the country, similar (but not as spectacular) idiots won. You know, election deniers and such. But since 2016, we’ve grown used to that, haven’t we?

Anyway, suspense was entirely missing, here in South Carolina. But here are a few things worth mentioning briefly, here and elsewhere:

Governor — What we knew would happen, happened. Henry will be governor for four more years, which I’m sure makes him happy. He had always wanted to be governor, and now (I think; I haven’t looked it up), he will be governor for longer than anyone in state history. Of course, I voted a write-in. I never wrote the post about the many reasons I wouldn’t vote for his opponent, although I may do so later, just as an illustration of how the Democrats (and the Republicans, although I’m definitely not holding my breath there) need to do better next time.

Superintendent of Education — Another thing we knew would happen in our degraded democracy. A completely unqualified woman who is hostile to public schools and other things that make sense will now be in charge of public schools in our state. So hang on.

Congress — Well, we still don’t know what happened here, do we? Maybe something “interesting,” to put it politely, will happen here, but it hasn’t happened yet. So we’ll see.

Spanberger — I was very pleased to see Abigail Spanberger, the moderate Democrat in Virginia’s 7th U.S. House district, win. I had been concerned for her, but she made it. I’ve never met her, but as I’ve said before, America needs a lot more like her…

Fetterman — It was good to see him win, although in a healthy country, there’d have been little suspense.

SC House District — I was sorry to see Heather Bauer beat Kirkman Finlay, but not because I have any personal animus toward Ms. Bauer — I’ve never met her — or am carrying any brief at all for Kirkman. I’m sorry because of the lesson far too many Democrats will take away from it, which will be bad for them and bad for the country, which is already divided enough. The thing is, Ms. Bauer ran on nothing — nothing — but abortion. Went on and on about it, as one voter in the district (who usually votes Democratic) was complaining to me the other day. Yay, abortion, all day and night. Many Dems will seize upon this as extremely significant, as their path back to dominance. They will ignore that this is a Democratic-leaning swing district in Shandon, of all places, and that it’s a bit remarkable that Kirkman had held onto it this long.

US 2nd Congressional District — As the gerrymanderers predetermined long ago, and have reaffirmed many times since, Joe Wilson easily beat young Judd Larkins. Which we all knew would happen. I need to give him a call and see how he’s doing and thank him for running anyway. Maybe he’ll run for something else. Something other than Congress, preferably.

Signs — That reminds me, I guess I need to take down my Judd Larkins sign. Which in turn reminds me of the signs I saw over in my mother’s neighborhood this morning (see below). I guess they were really disappointed this morning — or maybe not. Of course, Clyburn won, as he was destined to do. The weird thing is, this was in Wilson’s district, so they could have had a Larkins sign up, and didn’t — which is a shame. Anyway, the thing that struck me about these signs when I first saw them, before the vote, was that it was the first Cunningham sign I had seen in anybody’s yard around here. Of course, I haven’t been out walking much lately, and that’s when I usually notice signs…

That’s about all I can think of to mention. I may add some other things later, but right now I need to run to a doctor appointment. See you later….

Experience the stories of South Carolinians who fought in Vietnam

Occasionally, I have given y’all a heads-up about programs happening at the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum — an ADCO client.

Well, the museum has something very special coming up on Friday, Veterans Day. It’s been in the works for years, enduring many setbacks, from COVID to the flooding of the space where it is located.

My own father, like many South Carolina veterans, played a small role, being interviewed for hours back in 2017 by Fritz Hamer, then the curator of history at the museum. We lent a few of his artifacts and souvenirs from those days.

Fritz Hamer interviewing my Dad in 2017 about his Vietnam experiences.

It’s called “A War With No Front Lines: South Carolina and the Vietnam War, 1965-1973.” The exhibit fills the 2,500-square-foot brick-lined, vaulted part of the museum that was once the water cistern for the Columbia Mills building when it opened in 1894 as the world’s first electric textile mill.

You can read more about it here, on the special website for this exhibit. Also, here’s a press release I wrote about the opening. On the “news” page of the site, you can read previous releases about recent events that have been building up to this opening, such as lectures by Vietnam veterans, and the huge, impressive diorama of Firebase Ripcord that’s stationed at the museum’s entrance. A lecture will be featured at noon Friday comparing the experiences of Vietnam veterans to those of servicemen who fought in previous wars.

And it’s all free on Friday and Saturday this week. It’s a good opportunity to check out the whole Relic Room, if you never have, but especially this new exhibit.

My father is gone now, but so many of these veterans are still with us, and it’s long past time for their service and sacrifices to be honored, and their stories told. I’m very glad the museum is doing this. It’s still coming together as I write this, but what I’ve seen looks good. I hope you check it out…

A tribute wall to South Carolinians killed in action.

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…

 

Have you voted? I hope it went well (for all of us)…

That is, I hope you have if you had an important runoff where you live, in the primary in which you voted two weeks ago.

My wife and I went, and there was NO ONE else there but the poll workers.

I was just there to vote for Kathy Maness for Superintendent for Education. Not only because she’s the best qualified, but as a vote against the disgusting stuff I’ve gotten attacking her.

I hope she wins, even though the odds seem against it. If the people who voted for the other candidates — the ones who were eliminated two weeks ago — turn out today, it seems to me they’re more likely Weaver voters, which could enable her to overcome the front-runner.

On the other hand, folks who are disengaged to the point they can’t see Kathy Maness is the better candidate (and the only legally qualified one) tend not to show up for runoffs.

We’ll see.

I’ve got to run, but I urge you to read the last-minute editorial in The Post & Courier supporting Ms. Maness, which begins:

We don’t usually like to talk about campaigns in the immediate runup to the election. But the emails, postcards and TV ads that Ellen Weaver and her supporters distributed last week after her second-place finish in the Republican primary for S.C. education superintendent are the sort we’re used to seeing from duplicitously named out-of-state special interests — not what S.C. candidates are usually willing to put their own names on, especially not in primaries. And they demand a closer look….

Anyway, if you voted, let us know how it went…

Anyone else ever have nightmares about the old Cooper River Bridge?

I did, when I was a toddler. Or at least, when I was a pre-schooler.

Now when I say “nightmare,” I don’t mean the kind that makes you wake up screaming in a sweat. When I was a kid, that kind of dream was usually about a witch inspired by the one in “The Wizard of Oz” — only scarier. I’ll tell you about one of those another time.

But the bridge dreams were creepy, and unsettling, and undermined my basic confidence, as a child, in living in a world governed by sensible laws such as gravity.

And I had a bit of a flashback when I saw this Tweet today, from a photog at the Post & Courier:

Notice how narrow it was? Notice how it kept rising in a way that could be really disturbing to a little kid riding in a car driven by an otherwise trustworthy adult?

It kept rising, and rising, leaving the Earth far behind, abandoned…

Anyway, I would have these dreams in which I’d be riding in a car climbing up like that, rising and rising and rising, and then… it wasn’t a bridge anymore. No girders, no solid pavement. It had become a ribbon, no more than an inch wide, and so thin and flexible that it waved about in the thin air as it rose higher and higher…

And that was it. The dream would then fade away (possibly due to imagined oxygen deprivation). Or maybe I would wake up — I don’t remember now. Just not the same way as with the witch dreams. In any case, whether I was awake or asleep at the end, the dream had transported my mind to a very weird place.

I last lived in Charleston when I was about 2. I think these dreams were a couple of years later, and I wasn’t sure where they came from. But I connected them in my mind with “that bridge” my mother would occasionally mention, talking about the great lengths she would go to to avoid having to cross it when we lived down there. And I would think, “that’s the bridge in the dream…

I wasn’t sure, though. Not until sometime after we moved back to South Carolina in 1987, and one day I had to drive down to Charleston, and for whatever reason had to cross the Cooper, and… it sort of blew my mind. Suddenly, in the strength of my 30s, I was back in that childhood dream, only it was real life. And it felt sort of like the bridge was going to dematerialize under me — because that’s what that bridge did.

I only crossed it a couple of times after that, until the Arthur Ravenel went into operation in 2005.

That one’s nothing. It’s so wide, you don’t even realize you’re up in the air. Acrophobia or no, I can drive back and forth on that one as much as you like.

And I’m glad the old one’s gone…

Teague: No-Excuse Early Voting – with Trip Wires

The Op-Ed Page

By Lynn Teague
Guest Columnist

An early voting bill, H.4919, will be heard in the House Election Laws Subcommittee on Wednesday, Feb. 9, after adjournment of the House. The bill’s two-week early in-person voting period for all qualified electors is very welcome, but it also includes some very problematic provisions.

The greatest issue is that the General Assembly is once more trying to micro-manage local government by dictating the locations of early polling places. Their formula establishing the overall number of polling places in a county based on both population and geography is fine. However, they didn’t stop there. The bill requires that early polling places include the county election office, and that no early polling location be within 10 miles of another.

This 10-mile limit would lead to very disproportionate numbers of voters attempting to use single polling places in urban centers. Richland County, for example, would be forced to accommodate up to several hundred thousand voters in Columbia’s one location – the Harden Street election office, where space, parking, and access are problematic. Other polling places would be as far away as Hopkins. The numbers of voting-age persons within the 10-mile radius around the election offices in Richland, Charleston and Greenville counties is more than 200,000 each. While some city voters might migrate out to Hopkins or Hollywood or Fountain Inn to vote, the central urban polling places would be badly stressed. Further, the state’s largest minority communities would be within the areas most affected by overcrowding and its attendant impediments to voting.

The bill further requires that applications for absentee ballots include voter identification numbers that can be taken from a range of government issued photo identifications, from passports to military identifications. However, election offices have no access to the databases of most of these numbers, so they cannot be verified. This provision would simply lead to ballots being discarded if the number is absent. On the other hand, Texas has attempted a badly designed system of verifying ID numbers on absentee ballot applications that has led to discarding high percentages of applications (20-50%). It is important that South Carolina not follow in that state’s footsteps. In the absence of any evidence that there is a real problem to be solved, this provision should be deleted, because it would harm qualified electors without providing any added election security.

Finally, South Carolina should have “notice and cure” for absentee ballots, so that voters are notified if their absentee application or absentee ballots are found defective. Voters should be aware of and able to correct deficiencies so that their votes are counted. After all, this would simply allow the greatest number of qualified electors to fulfill their civic responsibility in the way dictated by the General Assembly.

There are many other provisions of interest, which can be explored at https://www.scstatehouse.gov/billsearch.php?billnumbers=4919. Anyone who would like to let the House Election Laws Subcommittee know their thoughts on this bill should email them as soon as possible at [email protected]. We need accessible and secure elections that are fair to all.

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.

Time runs short to testify on redistricting!

The Op-Ed Page

By Lynn Teague
Guest Columnist

Time is running short to make your thoughts known on South Carolina’s redistricting, the process of adjusting our legislative districts to 2020 census data. The resulting maps will be in place for the next decade. Many citizens of South Carolina feel that they are not represented in the General Assembly or in Congress. Redistricting is a significant contributor to that. If a district has been distorted to make it “safe” for the incumbent, help make it better by identifying what you think should be considered in drawing districts.

Lynn Teague

Help ensure that legislators know about the important communities of which you are a member when they draw legislative districts. Do you want an S.C. House district that doesn’t break up your county or city? Do you want a House district that leaves your neighborhood or an area with a shared economic foundation intact? Do you want a Congressional district that meets Voting Rights Act requirements, but isn’t stretched out across most of the state to pack in every possible minority voter? You need to tell legislators about it now.

S.C. Senate hearings around the state have been completed, but the last few S.C. House hearings remain and are taking testimony relevant to Congressional and S.C. House maps. The House hearing schedule is posted at https://redistricting.schouse.gov/docs/Public%20Hearing%20Schedule.pdf. The last in-person-only opportunity for oral testimony was last night, Sept. 22, in Orangeburg.

There are now two meetings at which virtual oral testimony will be accepted. The first virtual opportunity is now scheduled for Tuesday, September 28, at 4:30-8:30 PM in the Blatt Building, 1105 Pendleton St., Room 110. The second is scheduled for Monday, October 4, at the same time and place. To sign up for virtual testimony on either date, email [email protected] and specify the date that you wish to testify.

In addition, written testimony can be submitted to [email protected].

Speak up, in whatever way you choose to do it! Redistricting may determine whether you have a meaningful vote when you go into a voting booth in November, and whether you have legislators who consider your interests and respond to your concerns.

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.

‘This Murdaugh case is like something out of ‘The Bay'”

I had not really been following the Murdaugh case, although practically everyone who still works at The State seemed to be doing so, in their professional capacities, over the last few months. I skimmed the headlines, and there were a lot of those, so I sort of knew the gist of what had been happening before it got even crazier this past week or so.

How crazy? Well, I missed a call last night at 11:37 p.m., then listened to the voicemail this morning. It was from a night editor at The New York Post. They wanted to see if I’d cover a hearing for them today in the Murdaugh case. I’m still on their stringer list, going back to that time when I “covered” Mark Sanford’s return from Argentina back in 2009, right after I left the paper. I put “covered” in quotes because all I did was take notes at the notorious marathon presser at the State House, while someone in New York wrote the story from watching it on TV. I was just an excuse for them to put a Columbia dateline on the story. But they generously gave me a byline, under the modest, understated headline, “LUST E-MAILS OF BUENOS AIRHEAD.” As Dave Barry would say, I am not making this up. Anyway, friends of mine in New York saw it, and brought it to my attention. Time has passed, but I’m not sure I’ve lived it down yet. Sigh…

Anyway, I said I was busy — which I was (a second Post editor called me this morning as I was taking my Dad for a medical appointment) — and wished them luck in finding someone.

But I wasn’t writing about that; this is about the Murdaugh case.

Wait, another digression… Any of you ever watch the Britbox streaming service? It’s pretty good. My wife and I have been enjoying it for about a year now. Anyway, the last couple of weeks we were watching both seasons of “The Bay.” It’s a Brit cop show built around a woman who is a family liaison officer with the police department in Morecambe, Lancashire.

Each full season — or as the Brits would say, “series” — tells the highly involved story of a single case. The second “series” is about a lawyer who is shot and killed at his own home in front of his young son. Then, as the protagonist Lisa Armstrong works with the victim’s family during the investigation, things get really complicated. Documents are found that indicate problems at the family law firm. Relationships among members of the family turn out to be unbelievably tangled, suggesting a number of reasons why the attorney was murdered. Someone else — actually, a main character on the show — is killed along the way. It takes every episode just to lay it all out.

So when my wife said the other day, “This Murdaugh case is like something out of ‘The Bay’,” I nodded. Because it is. Except, more people die in this real-life story.

And here’s what’s interesting about that — to me, if not to you. Often, when we’re watching another one of these tangled mystery stories — not just “The Bay,” but all of them, with bodies falling left and right and everything so mixed up you have no idea whodunit — I observe with a knowing tone that murder in real life isn’t like this.

Murder in real life is more like… Well, I remember one from many years ago in Tennessee. One drunk shot another drunk during an argument over what to watch on TV. I remember that one not because it was so remarkable, but because it epitomized the kinds of homicides you usually see — just a straightforward, disgusting mess. No mastermind carrying out a meticulous plot. Just someone who was so obvious a kindergartener could solve the case. Except you don’t even need the kindergartener, because the killer so often confesses. Even when it’s in the first degree.

Anyway, that’s the kind of killing I generally covered during my brief time as a reporter, more than 40 years ago back in Tennessee.

But the Murdaugh case isn’t like that. It’s more like the ones on TV. And we’re all still waiting for the answers to the biggest questions, as if we were on the next-to-last episode of a season of “The Bay,” or “Unforgotten.”

And that’s why the whole country is riveted. By the way, if you’ve been ignoring it much as I had been until now, it’s kind of handy to read the accounts today in national newspapers, because they have to touch on all the main episodes in the story. Here’s the one in The New York Times, and here’s the one today in The Washington Post

Just like a TV mystery. Except, of course, that it involves real people, our neighbors. I don’t know the Murdaughs, but I know people who know them. I know one of Alex Murdaugh’s lawyers, for instance, as do many of you.

And for months, I refused to be entertained by the horror visited upon this family and the people around them. I refused to be a riveted consumer of a latter-day penny dreadful. A made-up story on TV is one thing. This is entirely different.

But it’s become rather difficult to ignore, hasn’t it?

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.

Let’s try not to use up all the water, OK?

I can do without another Dust Bowl.

I can do without another Dust Bowl.

Look, I know the few folks who still work at The State — or perhaps I should say work for The State, since it’s no longer so much a place to be at — don’t spend a bunch of time thinking about the print version.

I don’t even subscribe to it myself, preferring my iPad. But I do interact through the e-edition, which as you may know presents the content through electronic versions of the actual pages of the print version. I do this because I’m an old front-page editor going back more than 40 years, so whether a story is played on the front, and how it’s played on the front, still means something to me. Even when it doesn’t mean much to the editors putting it there. (Yes, I know that’s illogical, but there it is.)

Anyway, this morning, it really struck me that in that print edition, this story by my old friend Sammy Fretwell — headlined “Water-gulping farms face tighter controls as groundwater levels drop in central SC” — was badly underplayed. An excerpt:

South Carolina’s environmental protection board voted Thursday to place controls on huge farms and industries east of Columbia that withdraw large amounts of groundwater, a measure taken in response to dwindling water levels in parts of the state.

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control board’s unanimous vote will require major groundwater users in six counties, including Richland and Sumter, to tell the public about their plans to siphon water and to get permits from the agency before making withdrawals. The rules apply to anyone withdrawing 3 million gallons or more per month….

“Dwindling water levels in parts of the state” sort of grabbed me. So did “3 million gallons or more per month.” Later, Sammy uses the word “billions” in describing the overall problem. As a guy who hesitates to turn on sprinklers in the yard (I mean, won’t that make the grass grow even more?), that’s an impressive number.

But I guess, on an emotional level, what grabbed me most was this:

At least nine organizations and local governments recently urged DHEC to impose the rules to protect groundwater needed by smaller farms, industries and public water systems in the six-county area, in addition to large farms…

Hang on. I mean, this or that farmer saying to another, “I need the water more than you do” is one thing, and a thing regarding which different sides might be taken. But public water systems? As in, someone goes to turn on the tap in kitchen and nothing comes out? Whoa…

You know, if that’s what it means. I guess I should ask Sammy.

Here’s the thing: As a guy who is far, far less concerned (if at all) about our planet’s growing population than our friend Bud, I rely — as do we all — on a certain amount of large-scale modern farming.

But maybe we should, as a society, go about growing that food — and fiber, and whatever — somewhat more intelligently.

Anyway, I thought it deserved to be brought to people’s attention a bit more prominently. It’s something we should talk about. I don’t want to live in a Dust Bowl…

I don't think packing up the truck and moving West will work if the East runs out of water.

I don’t think packing up the truck and moving West will work if the East runs out of water.

No hate-crimes law? That’s actually a good thing…

The state Chamber of Commerce and other backers of hate-crimes legislation at a recent presser.

The state Chamber of Commerce and other backers of hate-crimes legislation at a recent presser.

I just saw this story in the Post and Courier about the legislative session ending without a South Carolina hate-crimes law being passed.

Well, that’s a good thing — although I’m sure my relief will be short-lived. It’s only a matter of time before pressure from peers and well-intended others — we’re one of only two states without such a law — will have the effect I oppose.

Yes, I know that the motives of those who want such a law are generally kindly, and the motives of many (if not most) people opposing it are abhorrent.

Nevertheless, I’ve opposed the idea as far back as I can recall — here’s a post on the subject from 2007 — and I believe my reasoning is as sound as ever.

This is America, a country where we don’t criminalize thought. We punish actions, not attitudes. There’s a very important reason why all those seemingly different concepts — freedoms of religion, speech, press and assembly — are squeezed together into the very First Amendment to our Constitution. They all assert one thing: They say the government can’t interfere with our freedom of conscience. We get to believe what we want and say what we want and write what we want and hang out with whom we want. And we have a legitimate gripe against the government if it sticks its nose in.

I know that many people feel strongly that such a law is needed. But their arguments don’t add up to anything that outweighs the values expressed in the First Amendment.

I’ve written about this a number of times in the past. I summed up my position fairly succinctly in this comment back in 2009 (which I later elevated to a separate post):

Such things should not exist in America. That’s one of the few points on which I agree with libertarians. Punish the act, not the thought or attitude behind it.

Oh, and I assure you that when I agree with libertarians on anything, I strongly doubt my conclusion, and go back and reexamine it very carefully. But this position has stood up to such scrutiny.

Perhaps you can offer something that will shake my certainty, although at this late date it seems doubtful. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard all the arguments, and while I’ve often admired the sentiment involved, I end up shaking my head at the logic.

But have at it…

The departure of Caslen, the return of Pastides

Image from USC's "MEET OUR PRESIDENT: BOB CASLEN" page.

Image from USC’s “MEET OUR PRESIDENT: BOB CASLEN” page.

Well, I was planning to post something about General Caslen and his troubles, but now he’s gone.

So I thought, before I sit down to dinner, I’d post something to give y’all a chance to comment.

No great hurry since this isn’t a news blog. It’s an opinion blog. Trouble is, unlike most of South Carolina, I’ve never had very strong opinions about the guy — from the time of the brouhaha over his hiring until now, I was just watching and trying to make up my mind. Then these three things happened:

  • In a graduation speech, he called USC “the University of California.”
  • Also in a graduation speech (I’m not sure which one of the many he delivers), he plagiarized something Adm. William McRaven had said. After this, it was reported that he had offered his resignation to the trustee board chair, but that it was declined.
  • Then, we learned that the interchange between him and the board chair had occurred without the other members of the board knowing about it. And from what I read about that over the last day or so, some were kind of ticked about it.

I wouldn’t have fired him — or demanded his resignation, or whatever — over his confusing us with Berkeley. People make mistakes. It was a pretty weird mistake, but not a firing offense. But it was not a good thing. And as I collected information toward forming my impression of Caslen, that definitely went into the “bad stuff” pile.

And this was not a guy who could afford to have a lot of stuff in that pile, given the squirrelly way he was hired, and the fact that in the last two weird years, I hadn’t tossed anything, that I can recall, into the “good stuff” pile. So, not a good omen.

Nor would I completely abandon him over the plagiarism thing. I mean, you know, I love Joe Biden, so I’m sort of obliged to be open-minded about that. Still, it was something for the “bad stuff” pile.

At this point, I’m really wondering when he’s going to give me some stuff for the other pile.

The worst thing, for me, was the business about the board not being consulted before the chairman went through the whole “I surrender my sword/No, sir, I do not accept it!” routine. Of course, that’s not really on Caslen, is it?

That takes us back to the days when his hiring was being protested. Many of the most passionate people were calling for changing the governance structure.

Well, we just got a huge reason to seriously consider that. Because this board appears to be a mess.

My position on that is unchanged since about 1991 — back then, I advocated doing away with these medieval fiefdoms governed by their own, separate courts. I think we should do away with the USC trustees, the Clemson trustees, all those separate little kingdoms, and have one board governing higher education in the state. Make it a real state system, rather than competing private businesses. (Oh, and also restore state funding so they really ARE state institutions.)

That’s never come remotely close to happening, apparently too big a pill for too many, but we need to do something other than having all these little fiefdoms and princelings.

I’d be interested to see a real discussion about that, or about something other than what we have.

Meanwhile, I welcome back Harris Pastides, for however long the interregnum lasts. He’s a good guy…

 

 

 

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.

SC has enough problems without these folks joining us

Henry vax

I don’t watch TV news, but my wife does. And yesterday, finding this a bit hard to believe, she called me into the room to witness it.

Basically, it says anti-vaxxers are moving to South Carolina because they see Henry McMaster as their kind of guy.

Once, governors — Henry included — labored mightily to be perceived as people who attracted jobs to the state. Now look where we are.

This new South Carolinian WIS interviewed thinks Henry is the bee’s knees (there’s something about Henry that invites to use of archaic slang) because, in reference to people who objected to their children being required to wear masks, he said, “Those parents are exactly right…”

“I think that was a big thumbs up for him,” says a friend of Rebekah Schneider on video.

Ms. Schneider lived in Connecticut for 38 years before moving here to be more accepted for her views. Apparently, based on several things she says, she has a “religious” objection to vaccines. As is the case with so much of the careless reporting we see these days (and not just on TV, but in the skeletonized newspapers), this is not explained. Is she a Christian Scientist? I don’t know.

But I’m looking at the math here. With only 32 percent of South Carolinians being fully vaccinated at this point, far short of what is needed for herd immunity, and too few showing interest in getting vaccinated, we are unlikely ever to become safe from COVID. And that’s without following idiotic policies that make anti-vaxxers want to move here.

Ms. Schneider moved here because her former governor pursues policies to protect public health. WIS says, “According to the Associated Press, he also told reporters he did a lot of his own research before signing the bill into law.”

Henry does “research,” too. He thinks, “How will the Trump loonies feel about this?”

He may have missed the mark this time. As much as Trumpistas are associated with “What, me worry?” approaches to COVID in general, the ones who oppose vaccines are not alone in this.

Have you ever heard of Robert F. Kennedy Jr.?

Must give Henry pause…

 

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.

Turning the clock back to 1691…

William III, by grace of God king of South Carolina?

William III, by grace of God king of South Carolina?

Hey, y’all, I’m super-busy today, but just to give you something to chew on, Jeffrey Collins over at the AP posted this yesterday, sort of riffing on the new census figures:

That started a little bit of conversation on Twitter (our own Lynn Teague joined in). For my part, I responded, “What on Earth would be the motivation for combining two such strikingly unlike states?”

Coming back at me, Jeffrey quickly explained, “Just an observation — certainly not an endorsement. I will say the separation 300+ years ago probably accelerated the differences between the Carolinas.”

Quite likely, I agreed. And of course, I understood it was merely an observation, which others took up and enjoyed discussing. But I couldn’t resist adding: “A technical point: If we went to the status quo ante of 1691, would Elizabeth II be our sovereign? Or would we say it was William III?”

Anyway, I saw Bud mentioned something about the new census figures on a previous post, and I thought y’all might enjoy kicking this around.

So, should SC and NC merge and become one? Talk amongst yourselves…

linda richman