Saturday, June 20, 2009
SC politics and facebook
Rusty Depass’s facebook comment comparing the gorilla that temporarily escaped from the gorilla exhibit in Columbia’s Riverbanks Zoo to the First Lady of the United State’s family was boneheaded, unwise, insensitive, not funny, offensive, etc. Mr. DePass, a longtime GOP activist has resigned his job with a real estate firm and apologized to the NAACP.
Yet, the story still has legs. Politics is at play.
First, the story was broken by the FITS NEWS blog ran by politico Will Folks. While Folks was correct in calling the remark out of line, it must be noted that he did have a political ax to grind. The comment was made to a remark made about the escape on Trey Walker’s facebook page. Walker is a political rival of Folks. It is reasonable to assume that Folks posted the comments to embarrass Walker and his employer, Attorney General Henry McMaster. It is also reasonable to suspect that Folks did not see just how big the story could get and it could hurt Governor Mark Sanford’s Presidential aspirations. It is a classic case of a politico playing political checkers instead of political chess. Most reporters do not read facebook pages, but they do read Folk’s blog. His remarks kicked off the firestorm.
DePass has ties to nearly every elected Republican official in South Carolina. At some point or another, all of the major players have dealt with DePass at some level. That is what has moved the Democrats at the state and national level to keep this story alive. With Mark Sanford being seen as one of the five possible Republican nominees in 2012, the Democrats are motivated to play up any story that can embarrass the South Carolina Republican Party by association. For, that matter, any story that makes South Carolina appear as backwards, racist, stupid, whatever, is a good story for the national Democrats to push in the media.
Some readers might ask “how does that happen?” Well, it is rather simple. A Democratic operative on the national level simply sends an email or makes a call and says “look what this Republican in South Carolina said about the First Lady.” The story grows from there, with reporters falling all over themselves to make South Carolina look bad.
The result is that a comment that otherwise would have went unnoticed, even perhaps by the facebook page owner, becomes a political bullet for South Carolina and its candidates. Depass’s losing is over. He has lost his job and his reputation over a few words. Mark Sanford’s loss may have only just have begun. Make no mistake; if Sanford does run for President, he will hear the name Rusty DePass more than Sanford ever wanted to. Perhaps it will not be fair to Sanford. But, that is politics, and why politics is a game in which the players need to think three moves ahead instead of hitting the guy in front of them.