If there were any South Carolinians hoping that Governor Mark Sanford would go away quietly during the last 15 months of his term, they got a reality check when Governor Sanford made a stop at the Clemson Rotary Club Monday on the Governor’s apology tour.
The Anderson Independent Mail reported that Governor Sanford called the 1895 constitution’s set up of state government as “an insane model.” Further, Sanford trotted out his old racism arguments about the 1895 constitution, contending that it was structured out of the fear a black would be elected Governor.
The “insane” remark is incredibly strong rhetoric for a Governor to use. One wonders if it slipped out because of all the Columbia whispers about the Governor’s own sanity. Of course, the Governor has always had a fixation about running against Ben Tillman and the framers of the 1895 state constitution. One would think that they were current political figures the way Sanford uses them in his arguments. (One wonder's why Sanford did not show some real guts and call for Clemson's Tillman Hall to be renamed.)
As for the Governor’s contention that the Constitutional Convention of 1895 was afraid of electing a black man Governor, well, it is a marked ignorance of history. In 1895, no black man was going to be elected Governor. Full blown racism was in effect. Those men did not fear what they thought would never come to pass. Sanford, for the past seven years, has used race to get attention for his ideas about constitutional restructuring. Arguing the racism of the time is easier than actually understanding what was going on.
The men who wrote the South Carolina Constitution of 1895 were conservative in their approach, perhaps to a fault. They were farmers and merchants afraid of strong executive power, not black power, buy any strong executive power. Most of those men either had suffered great loss or knew people who had suffered great loss at the hands of strong executives in power during Reconstruction. Further, South Carolina already had a strong tradition of being a legislatively dominated state. Indeed, the notion of the legislature being uncomfortable with strong governors goes back to the days when South Carolina had a Royal Governor from the British Crown.
At any rate, the Convention of 1895 was not filled with lunatics. The attendees were serious men who took their duties with a sense of purpose. Perhaps that seems “insane” to a man who has acted as selfishly and as erratic as Mark Sanford. The irony is when Mark Sanford was missing last summer and when he was just flat embarrassing since with several different acts, he made the writers of the Constitution of 1895 look like geniuses for limiting the power of the Governor. Insane indeed.