Politics in democracies is a competitive endeavor at its core. When one faction seems to gain ground, an opposing faction finds a way to counter that gain. That is not a bad thing. The competitive nature normally keeps fringe groups in check and preserves the concepts of liberty and freedom.
I am a proud Republican. I believe in limited government. I believe in gun rights. I am against abortion on demand. I am against gay marriage. I am for a cut in capital gains taxes. I am for reforming the curriculum and management of our public schools. I am for some restructuring of state government. I think George W. Bush did more good than harm.
All that said, because I don't support the entire restructuring package of Mark Sanford or his private school tuition tax credit scheme, I am not a Republican to those around him who seem to dominate the party today. Never mind I was putting up signs for the Bush Quayle ticket back in 1988, or worked as College Republican Chairman, or for several campaigns from 1990 to 2006. No, to the Sanford crowd, I am a RINO. They make it clear that they do not want a small business owner who has been a party activist most of adult life part of "their" party.
A friend of mine recently suggested that perhaps it was time I turned Democrat. I can never do that. I guess I am too nostalgic. I remember the common sense conservatism espoused by Goldwater, Reagan, Thurmond and Campbell, that I cut my political teeth upon. Besides, I took too many hours of economic courses to ever truly believe that a nation or state can tax its way to prosperity.
All of that said, I am among the few. Most people, especially public school employees that share so many other Republican ideals, will not stick around to be constantly beat up by the Sanford leadership. Instead, it seems they are joining the counter balance in the organizing of public education by the Democrats. While there are some legitimate points to be made about the use of public school resources for politics, it must be noted that it is the Sanford crowd that creating the opportunity for the Democrats to turn the schools political.
Six years of demonizing public school teachers and administrators has alienated one of the largest employers in the state that has a reach in each and every community of the state. It created an atmosphere that elected Jim Rex Superintendent of Education in 2006. That same atmosphere might result in Republican loses in the General Assembly this year. The Democrats are only doing what is expected of them: seize the opening to balance.
It is one of the lessons we Republicans need to learn after this election is over. We have to quite demonizing people who do not support us on one issue if they support us on the others. We have to go back to being proud of our ideas, and espousing why our ideas work, not why those who disagree are evil, corrupt, out of touch, clowns, etc.
To accomplish that, we Republicans needs vocal bloggers and supporters who have the maturity and the intellect to avoid the immature inclination to blast someone who does not say "amen" to every part of the Republican agenda. We should want to win those people over, not run them off.
When we Republicans do not do that, we create an atmosphere in which people who work for a institution such as public education not only feel comfortable in voting against most of their beliefs for a Democrat, but feel justified in skirting the rules to promote doing so.
Do not misunderstand me, I do not for a moment condone the misuse of public resources or the manipulation of election laws. I will fight for justice not only for Republican candidates, but for the people of South Carolina on such matters. However, for those us who have spent our lives as Republicans, we need to be honest with ourselves and realize that the more vocal faction of our party has contributed a lot to what we face on Tuesday. The situation is a lot harder than it had to be. When the former Sanford spokesman who uses his blog to espouse the Sanford agenda by attacking other Republicans endorses the Democratic nominee for US Senate, who is a candidate for the annual Fruitcake award by VUI, against Lindsey Graham, well it is clear what is wrong with the Sanford crowd's leadership. When some House member fighting for re-election like Don Bowen in Anderson gets a lukewarm shoulder from Sanford, someone Bowen has shown loyalty to, it shows what is wrong.
In future posts, I will write about what can be done to return the GOP to dominant status without question in South Carolina. For now, though, lets all pray that not enough damage is done to wound too many or our candidates on Tuesday.