Category Archives: South Carolina

DeMarco: Democrats and Independents: The Time to Stop Trump is Feb. 24

The Op-Ed Page

Photo by Gage Skidmore, via Wikipedia

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

Rarely does a state have an opportunity to make history the way we do on Feb. 24 in the Republican presidential primary election.

South Carolina may be Nikki Haley’s last chance to derail Donald Trump’s path to the nomination. It will be hard for Haley to justify remaining in the race until Super Tuesday without a strong showing here.

I won’t rehearse all the reasons Trump is bad for America, just two quick points. First, Republicans could get all they say they want – conservative policies, family values, and respect for the Constitution – from Mike Pence and several other prominent Republicans. Yet they are drawn to Trump’s scorched-earth approach, despite the Sisyphean rock of baggage he bears.

Second, Trump has proven he is dangerously unpredictable. Almost no one on Jan. 5, 2021 would have predicted what happened the next day: a sitting president encouraged his VP to overturn the will of the people, exhorted the gathered crowd to march on the Capitol, and then watched passively for three hours as they ransacked it. When he finally sent out a Twitter video asking the crowd to disperse, his message to the rioters included “We love you; you’re very special.”

S.C. Democrats and Independents propelled Biden to the nomination in 2020. Our task in 2024 will be less comfortable and potentially riskier. Like me, you may prefer Biden over Haley and have deep policy disagreements with her. But this election is less about the candidates than about America herself. Both Biden and Haley will try to leave America better than they found her. Trump has no such desire.

If you are like many in this state and nation, you have had Trump’s number since he first announced for president in 2015. You recognized what a small, soulless human being he was. You understood his drive to be revered and his dearth of compassion and loyalty. Over the past eight years, you have endured his fountain of lies, from the claim that Obama was not a citizen to his claim that he won in 2020. You’ve asked yourself again and again, is this is the best the Republicans can do?

This is your moment. The turnout in South Carolina’s Democratic primary on Feb. 3 was predictably low, since Biden had only token opposition. Only about 131,000 voters participated (about 4 percent of the state’s more than 3 million registered voters). In 2020, when the outcome was not a foregone conclusion, about 540,000 voters participated in the Democratic primary. That means more than 400,000 voters who turned out in 2020 stayed home this year.

So if you’re a Democrat or Independent who voted in 2020 but didn’t vote on Feb. 3, you can make history. If we leave the election to usual Republican primary voters, the latest polls predict Trump will win by 65 percent to 35 percent. If there is healthy turnout, say 700,000 votes, then the final tally will be roughly Trump 455,000, Haley 245,000, a difference of 210,000 votes.

The 400,000 of you who voted in the 2020 Democratic primary but not in the 2024 primary can swing this election. In addition, there are hundreds of thousands of others who didn’t vote in the 2020 primaries who could vote this time around. Everyone, yes everyone, except the 131,000 who voted on Feb. 3, is eligible to vote in the Republican primary (South Carolina has an open primary system, so you can vote in one primary or the other, but not both).

There are two ways to use this power. One is cynically, by trying to elect the weakest opponent for the other side so your candidate can beat them in the general. The better way is to help elect the strongest candidate for the other side, so that America will have the best choice possible. If Haley wins and then goes on to beat Biden in the general, I will disagree with some of her policies, but the country will be in sane, stable hands.

Imagine you have an infant child or grandchildren. How will you explain your vote for Trump to them in 15 years, when they are old enough to understand politics? I suspect many South Carolinians regret their vote for Strom Thurmond as candidate for the Dixiecrat Party in 1948 (more than 70% of SC voters chose him) or for George Wallace in 1968 (over 30% of SC voters). How an evangelical Christian will explain his or her vote for Trump in 15 years to intense questioning from a skeptical teenager, I have no idea (although I would pay to watch it).

I am hoping South Carolina plays the role Iowa did in January 2008 in its first-in-the-nation Democratic presidential caucus. In a state with challenging demographics, Barack Obama won and was propelled to a general election victory over John McCain. Whether or not you agree with Obama on policy, his respect for the office was clear. He adhered to essential presidential norms and left the fundamentals of American democracy as strong as he found them. Needless to say, if someone with McCain’s integrity was the Republican front-runner in 2024, this column would never have been written.

On Feb. 24, we can make a statement similar to the one our countrymen and -women in Iowa made 16 years ago. We can signal the beginning of the end of Donald Trump’s political career by voting for Nikki Haley.

A version of this column appeared in the Feb. 14 edition of the Post and Courier-Pee Dee.

South Carolina is everywhere!

No, it’s not perfect. But let’s see you do better, driving over asphalt with rubber tires.

At least, it’s cropping up everywhere you look in national media right now. For fairly obvious reasons.

That will end soon enough. But I will continue to see it everywhere I look. I always have.

Do you? I’m curious whether this is a South Carolina native thing, or just a South Carolina resident thing. Or (and this seems less likely), do folks from other parts see the same shape?

This tendency is embedded pretty deep in me. My first memories of doing this are from my birthplace, Bennettsville. Behind my grandparents’ home, at the foot of the back steps, were some white flagstones. They gave an impression of being marble because of the color, but had a sort of hexagonal design. Not that they were shaped like hexagons like so many such stones you see. I mean there were these black lines etched across the surface in a honeycomb pattern, with each hexagon a little more than a square inch in size.

The overall shape of each stone was random, like the pieces of some larger slab that someone had broken up with a sledgehammer.

But one of them looked exactly like South Carolina. As a child, there was nothing random about that to me — of course it was shaped like that, I thought. I spent most of my school years elsewhere — in Virginia, New Jersey, Louisiana, Florida, Hawaii and South America. But that house was the one place I always returned to. It was home, or the closest thing I had to a home growing up. And the fact that one of the features of this house was this stone that was “randomly” shaped like South Carolina seemed to be something of cosmic significance.

I’d show you a picture of it, if I could go there and take one. But you can’t see it now. Decades ago, my uncle — who has lived in that house his entire life (he’s the opposite of me in that respect) — built a deck at the back door. I can’t remember whether the stone is just hidden away, or gone. Anyway, it’s no longer in evidence.

But still, since that one perception early in life, I’ve seen the shape everywhere else. In a stone, or a pancake that was carelessly (or extremely carefully) poured into the pan, or a torn piece of a roofing shingle. I’m not just talking about triangles. I’m talking about triangles that manage to imitate the less regular border with North Carolina. Triangles that look intentional.

And it always seems significant to me, in a fundamental, subrational way. Like someone has put it there as a message or something.

I don’t always take pictures when I see one. But the other day on one of my walks around the neighborhood, I saw the road cracks you see above. I don’t know why I’d never noticed the pattern before. Maybe the cracks were new. Anyway, this time, I shot a picture.

Do you see thing like that, too?

Christie pretty much nailed it on Nikki’s gaffe

Last week while I was at the beach, I got a call from an old friend who is among the few who are still employed at one of South Carolina’s metropolitan newspapers. He was working on a piece about Nikki Haley’s Civil War gaffe, and had a technical question about how she and the Legislature brought down the Army of Northern Virginia flag in 2015.

He should have called someone with a way better memory for specifics regarding legislative procedure. I was unable to help. But we discussed the matter for a few minutes, and I intended at the time to write about Nikki’s self-inflicted problem, but I didn’t get to it until now.

There had so many things to say, that I had trouble finding the time. Just briefly:

  • First, it’s not a huge deal unless you’re among the many Americans who are not South Carolinians. Around here, we’re used to seeing Republicans dodge that simple question, “What was the cause of the United States Civil War?” Even my hero John McCain, having been burned by telling the truth initially regarding the flag, started reading something akin to what Nikki said in response to questions. But at least he had the character to be ashamed of himself. He made a big show of unfolding the paper and reading it each time he was asked, so everyone would know he had been bludgeoned into it by his advisers. Nikki had a lighter approach, in keeping with her superpower of making positive impressions (which usually involves not offending any potential GOP voter). But she ran into a buzz saw because the press was present. And millions of unprepared nonSouth Carolinians were shocked, shocked to hear someone who won’t even condemn Donald Trump answer in such a weaselly manner.
  • You want to be shocked? Go back and watch her meek answers to the questions of actual, real-life neoConfederates. Here’s the video. As I’ve said before, at least she has the character to look like she’s responding under duress. But she still goes along with the program.
  • It’s ironic — not that she doesn’t deserve it — that unlike most South Carolinians who identify themselves as white on their driver licenses, this is one Republican who has NO ancestors who owned slaves, or fought for the Confederacy, or any of that stuff. She just sounds like a Lost Cause defender because she’s so used to telling these South Carolina Republicans what they want to hear — or at least, not telling them things they don’t want to hear. She’s used to politely brushing such questions aside and moving on to something she’d much rather talk about. If you can call it up, you might enjoy reading Alexandra Petri’s column mocking her on that point.
  • At least Nikki managed to demonstrate in one respect that in this benighted MAGA age, at least she retains some values of the Reagan era, or at least one: Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican. Not that that’s necessarily a good thing, either. She blamed the asker of the fateful question thusly: “It was definitely a Democrat plant.” Well, I suppose it could have been. Certainly it was posed by someone who did not wish her well. When you’re running for the nomination of the White Man’s Party, and in the age of the MAGA White Man, there’s no way you answer that question — whatever you say — that doesn’t get you into trouble with somebody. Either you — the one who stuck her neck out to finally get that flag down — get yourself in hot water with those Trump voters you’re trying to lure away with the simple answer, “Slavery. Duh.” Or you draw the “shocked, shocked” opprobrium of the rest of the country, by doing a little dance around it. But here’s the thing, Nikki — lots of people would want to back you into a corner with such a question, and a lot of them are Republicans. But of course, you don’t blame them, do you? You want every one of them, including the creeps, to love you.

I could have taken any of those courses (and those aren’t all the potential courses), and rattled on all day along any of them. But I was at the beach, so I didn’t.

But a couple of days ago, I resolved to take the subject up anyway. That’s when I ran across this tweet:

Nice one there, Chris. You nailed it. “She did it because she’s unwilling to offend anyone by telling the truth.”

And, as he continued, that demonstrates her lack of fitness for the office she seeks.

No doubt about it. Looks like Chris is running hard to regain the dubious distinction of being my Least Awful Republican Candidate. Nikki had stolen it from him, and he’s anxious to grab it back.

In keeping with his goal of regaining my “favor,” such as it is, his campaign started sending me press releases yesterday, and one of them told me he’s continuing the charge against the South Carolina darling. The release begins, “Chris Christie calls Haley’s commitment to pardon Trump part of a pattern where she tries to be everything to everyone.”

This remark goes even more deeply to the truth of why Nikki is not fit for the highest office in the world.

As I said, the no-mention-of-slavery thing was no big deal, if you know what to expect from Republican candidates who came up in South Carolina.

But this was a deal-killer.

“I would pardon Trump if he is found guilty,” Nikki said last Thursday.

You know, I could have forgiven her if she had said, very carefully, that she might consider pardoning him — say, with regard to a poorly-handled conviction on one of the weaker of the many charge he faces. After all, I’ve never been mad at Gerald Ford for pardoning Nixon (not that it’s fair to compare Dick to Trump; by comparison, Nixon was a paragon).

But she didn’t hedge or qualify, from what I’ve read. She didn’t say she’d do it, under certain conditions. She just said she’d do it. And anyone who has that little respect for the Rule of Law has no business holding the lowest office in the land, much less the highest.

So thanks for reminding us of that one, Chris…

Good for the South Carolina DOT!

Yeah, it’s kind of backlit, but I decided last night to stop waiting for perfect conditions to take the picture…

I am running behind on this. I should have shouted out the good news when I first saw this two or three weeks back — but I wanted a picture, and it was always raining or too dark or there was somebody behind me so I couldn’t just stop the car on the road (which lacks good places to pull over.)

Finally, I got a decent picture yesterday, and I want to praise the DOT for fixing the problem.

As for the problem, I told you about it back in March. It was a sign placed along the road where part of the massive project to fix Malfunction Junction has begun. (And before Bud jumps in to say that’s not the name of the project, here’s the name: Carolina Crossroads Project.)

The sign said… well, look back at the picture. It was along the access road on the east side of I-26, right across from the Lexington Medical Center campus.

And here was my concern, aside from being an obsessive word guy. As glad as I am that DOT decided not to destroy my neighborhood to build this thing, we will still be inconvenienced by the project for years, and we’re all aware that it costs an astronomical amount of money. So my point was, it kind of undermines our confidence in the project when day after day, we see a big dayglo-orange sign with huge black letters that tell us, over and over, that the road-construction experts managing this thing don’t know how to spell “CONSTRUCTION.”

Not a good look, you see. And it was a fairly easy thing to fix, within the context of such a huge project — DOT’s biggest ever, I believe.

And now, finally, they’ve fixed it. And I appreciate it. I don’t know who “they” are in this case (Bud, did you give them a heads-up?), but I wouldn’t flatter myself by assuming I had anything to do with it. Surely, plenty of other people saw this and said something. In any case, the folks in charge did the right thing.

No, it’s not a huge thing. But it got a little bigger, for me, every day that they didn’t fix it. So now that they have, I feel better about the whole thing, for now…

Graham, Scott, also vote in favor of default

After I posted last night about the debt limit deal, the Senate did as I had hoped and passed it. So that’s done.

No thanks to Lindsey Graham or Tim Scott, who were among the 36 — all but five of them Republican — who voted instead for the United States to default on its debt, plunging the U.S. and world economies into turmoil.

Graham, for his part, offered an excuse that gave us a glimpse of his old self, the senator we knew before he lost his mind in 2016 — he said it was about national security. But that doesn’t wash. I’ve seen nothing on his vote since it happened, but hours before, he made a speech:

Graham made an impassioned speech Thursday on the Senate floor, saying small increases in fiscal year defense spending are not part of a “threat-based budget” but one that lacks safety and security for Americans. He later said that a supplemental defense budget for Ukraine and other spending must be agreed upon swiftly by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to make up for the House GOP’s below-inflation 3 percent military increase….

And as it happened, Schumer and Mitch McConnell joined together to offer as much assurance as anyone could reasonably expect under such rushed conditions, with default looming on Monday:

None of the amendments were adopted. But in an effort to alleviate concerns from defense hawks that the debt ceiling bill would restrict Pentagon spending too much, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) issued a joint statement saying the “debt ceiling deal does nothing to limit the Senate’s ability to appropriate emergency supplemental funds to ensure our military capabilities are sufficient to deter China, Russia, and our other adversaries.”…

As for Tim Scott — I’ve found nothing about why he voted the way he did. Maybe I’ve looked in the wrong places, but I found nothing on his website, on social media or in any news reports. Which reminds us of why it’s weird that he’s running for president. He’s not a guy who tends to be out front on anything, making his views known in developing situations. He’s not making an effort to tell us, and if he said something on the floor of the Senate, no one covered it.

He’s just this nice guy who’s happy to be a U.S. senator — his bio line on Twitter says “Just a South Carolinian living his mama’s American Dream” — and who doesn’t get swept up in what’s actually happening. Look at that Twitter feed, by the way. There’s nothing there — at least, anywhere near the top — posted in real time in response to anything that was happening, or anything he was doing. It’s just a bunch of prewritten campaign stuff, going on about how awful Joe Biden is.

You know, the Joe Biden who threw his all into working with McCarthy to keep the nation from defaulting for the first time in history.

And then, Graham and Scott basically said Nah, let’s go ahead and crash into the mountain

This does not inspire confidence, people!

As y’all may have noticed that I haven’t had any bad words to say lately about SC DOT’s ginormous, biggest-ever, construction project, which they call — hang on, I’ve got to go look that up, because nobody but DOT calls it that — the Carolina Crossroads Project.

It’s what everyone else calls “the project to fix Malfunction Junction.”

To resume, I haven’t had anything bad to say about it, even as it’s finally gotten visibly under way, because they decided back in 2017 not to run it through my house. I thought that was nice of them. But mainly, I’ve lost interest, so that’s why I seem to have held back.

But I’ve got to show you the sign that I pass pretty much every day on my way to visit my mother.

This does not inspire confidence.

And if you don’t see what’s wrong, look again. It’s been there, spelled like that, for at least a month or two. Does DOT have hundreds of other signs like that, or is this one unique? I hope it’s unique, although I’m not sure how that would happen, unless they make them by hand in a shack back behind DOT HQ.

And maybe it doesn’t bother normal people. Normal people’s brains probably automatically fix the spelling as they read it, and they don’t notice, and they go on with their lives. But it certainly bothers those of us who have been editors for so many decades…

See? It’s still like that.

 

I’d forgotten Adolf Hitler was ‘woke’

McMaster et al applauding the Scout deal. Photo from Henry’s Twitter feed.

If I ever knew it, that is. Guess I need to go back and read my history some more, after reading this this morning:

Gov. Henry McMaster on Monday defended South Carolina’s $1.3 billion incentive deal with Volkswagen subsidiary Scout Motors after a group of conservative lawmakers this month criticized the company as “woke.”

Woke? Scout Motors? The subsidiary of the Volkswagen Group? Here’s how that company got started:

Volkswagen (meaning ‘People’s car’ in German) was founded in Berlin as the Gesellschaft zur Vorbereitung des Deutschen Volkswagens mbH (‘Limited Liability Company for the preparation of the German People’s Car’, abbreviated to Gezuvor) by the National Socialist Deutsche Arbeitsfront (German Labour Front) and incorporated on 28 May 1937.[14][15][16] The purpose of the company was to manufacture the Volkswagen car, originally referred to as the Porsche Type 60, then the Volkswagen Type 1, and commonly called the Volkswagen Beetle.[17] This vehicle was designed by Ferdinand Porsche‘s consulting firm, and the company was backed by the support of Adolf Hitler.[18]

Whatever der Führer‘s role (and see the photo below), if you say a company got started in Berlin in 1937, the last word I think of is “woke.” Although there was, to be sure, an element of populism in the production of an affordable “People’s Car.” But as we all know, populism is a persistent feature of both the left and the right.

Folks, I can think of reasons to oppose this Scout deal, if you press me. But I can also think of a number of reasons to support it, and I suppose those win out.

But this “woke” business?

You learn something new every day. Or at least  I do…

1938: Hitler lays the foundation stone of the first Volkswagen plant…

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 HJudElectionLaws@schouse.gov. 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 virtualtestimony@schouse.gov and specify the date that you wish to testify.

In addition, written testimony can be submitted to redistricting@schouse.gov.

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.