Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Seventh Annual VUI Thanksgiving Political Awards

It is Thanksgiving.  Time to gather with friends and family to be thankful of the blessings in life and time for football and parades.  It is also time for VUI to hand out its Thanksgiving political awards.  This is the seventh time we at VUI have done this, and this year was as difficult as any in making the choices.  But, after much debate and what not, here we go.  

The Cornbread Dressing Award for Career Achievement goes to outgoing State Senator Jake Knotts.  Sure, Knotts made a mess of things in his legal efforts to get Katrina Shealy off the primary ballot, and that made him a candidate for the Holiday Ham Award as well, but we look at things as a whole.  Shealy got on the Fall ballot and defeated Knotts at the November polls.  But, let's measure Knotts on his entire career.  Knotts was accessible to South Carolinians inside and outside his district and was always good for straight politically incorrect remarks.  Knotts stood for the everyman, the little guy, the redneck, the ne'er do well.  Further, Knotts was not the product of out of state big money or well paid handlers.  He did his own work and he was who he was, like him or not, honestly.  The State Senate filled with handlers and out of state money whispering in State Senators ears will miss an honest voice like Knotts, whatever his faults.  VUI thanks Knotts for his service in the South Carolina House and Senate and wishes him well in his retirement.  

The Cranberry Sauce Award for achievement in local politics goes to Eight Circuit Solicitor Elect David Stumbo. Stumbo took a big risk taking on the political establishment in Abbeville, Greenwood, Laurens and Newberry counties when he left his job in the South Carolina Attorney General's office to take on the politically entrenched and well connected incumbent Solicitor Jerry Peace in the Republican Primary.  Stumbo rightly saw that people in that area wanted a fighter for justice, not the status quo. Stumbo defeated Peace in the primary and then a Democratic opponent in the Fall.  Stumbo has goodwill and support that transcends party politics in that area and his integrity will be a breath of fresh air to that area.  

The Fruitcake Award goes to all those people on Twitter, Facebook and the blogs who just kept spewing nonsense about President Obama and former Governor Romney during the campaign.  You have heard the phrase, "that guy is as nutty as a fruitcake," well, read some of the outlandish stuff people posted about both Presidential candidates and you can see how nutty that they were.  Donald Trump was the leader in that he just embarrassed himself when it came to President Obama.  But, there were so many others.  That is what is both amusing and disappointing   People that we personally know, people we thought were sane until  we read the nonsense they posted and reposted on social media.  They earned the title "fruitcake." with their nonsense. 

Speaking of nonsense on social media, the self chest thumping by staffers and by the man himself gives Congressman Jeff Duncan of the Third District of South Carolina the Holiday Ham Award for self promotion.  Duncan got 60 plus percent of the vote in a heavy GOP district against a convicted felon who did not run a campaign.  From some of the remarks of his supporters and even some of  his staff, you would think the man won a dogfight against a formidable foe.  It was not the case. He ran against a joke.  But, the joke got bigger in how his minions claimed how great the victory was.  To add to it, Duncan joined the Lindsey Graham for Senate campaign by bashing UN Ambassador Susan Rice.  Sure, it is his right to do so, but he formed a petition on Facebook to oppose her nomination as Secretary of State.  That might seem okay to some, but think on this.  The President has not nominated the woman for that job.  The House has nothing to do with confirming appointments to that job, and the day the Congressman launched his all important petition was the same day his leader, Speaker Boehner was meeting with President Obama to discuss something that the US House actually has something to do with, the upcoming fiscal cliff. That's a triple dose of self promotion worthy of a Holiday Ham. 

Speaking of President Obama, lets get to the Golden Drumstick Award for political achievement.  That goes to the President.  A struggling economy, all those fruitcakes on social media, nearly a billion dollars spent to derail his campaign, some rather ugly racial undercurrents, and still the man won re-election.  The President showed that he is a smart pol.  He got Clinton involved.  He appealed to middle class values.  He overcame a dismal first debate.  Whether you like him or not, the President is good at the game.  And, he showed himself to the best at it this year.  

That brings us the Political Turkey of the Year.  That award goes to the political figure who really fowled things up.  Romney and his inner circle might contend that Karl Rove deserves such because Rove blew $300 million on a loss.  But, the real turkey is South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley.  No Governor in South Carolina's history, or the history of any state in the United States for that matter, has ever oversaw a Cabinet whose failures did so much harm to its people than Governor Haley.  Millions of people were harmed by the hacking scandal under the Governor's watch now and for years to come.  Millions of people, and hundreds of thousands of South Carolina businesses have had their private information that they trusted the state government cabinet department under Governor Haley to keep safe compromised. 

What is really galling is how the Governor shirks taking responsibility and hides behind a so called credit monitoring program that the state is paying for that is just window dressing.  Indeed, Governor Haley seems like the farmer, who after his cows went away, decided that those who advised him to spend money on fences might be right after all.  But, make no mistake, the Department of Revenue is in her cabinet, under her control, and the it was her choice to secure the information as she saw fit, or did not. The harm done to the people of South Carolina will be long lasting and is unprecedented,  For that, Governor Nikki Haley richly deserves being dubbed VUI's Political Turkey of the Year. 

Friday, November 02, 2012

Keep Electing the Lt. Governor

One of the best kept secrets in this year's election politics is that the office of Lt. Governor of South Carolina is up to be revamped via a state constitutional ammendment on the ballot.  The ammendment proposed would take away the people's right to elect the Lt. Governor seperately, abolish the Lt. Governor as President of the State Senate, and allow candidates for Governor to pick their Lt. Governors as running mates like Washington does for the President and Vice President.  It short, its an effort to make South Carolina's government more like the federal government. 

The push for such a change came with the scandal of former Lt. Governor Ken Ard.  Ard's embarrassing resignation sparked the General Assembly to push through the proposed constitutional ammendment.  As with most things, the heat of the moment often makes bad law. 

Now, academics and the political pundits disagree.  They seem all too eager to have Columbia mimick Washington in many ways.  But, we have learned that mimicking Washington, i.e., with the the cabinet form of state government under the Governor we moved to currently have, does not result in ideal things.  Just ask all those taxpayers and businesses who had their identification information stolen under the Governor's cabinet if you doubt that. 

That said, here are the reasons to vote no and keep things as they are. 

First, as it stands, right or wrong, the people of South Carolina, as a whole, elect the second highest ranking state official and the President of the State Senate.  Allowing the State Senate to choose their own President via its membership would reward cronyism and factions.  Further, a candidate for Governor would likely pick a running mate that satisfied some narrow interest or reward some campaign donor.  Thus, instead of a Lt. Governor who serves as the people's elected President of the State Senate as a whole, we would end up with two public officials, the Lt. Governor, and the President of the Senate, who would be beholden not the people of South Carolina, but the narrow interests that gave them their offices.  Instead of being vetting at the polls by the people of South Carolina as a whole, they would be chosen by a few. 

That brings the second point.  There is an ever growing movement that South Carolina's government should be more like the federal government.  It is a great irony that some of those who demand this change the most are those who protest the most against the federal government.  Their reasons are petty and personal.  Some politicians, groups and pundits are just flat unhappy with Lt. Governor Glenn McConnell being Lt. Governor and were unhappy with former Lt. Governor Bauer.  They want a Lt. Governor who walks lockstep with their pet Governor's agenda.  And, that is why South Carolina's way of having the people elect the Lt. Governor matters most.  South Carolina is not supposed to be Washington.  Our Lt. Governor is not supposed to be anyone's pet.

We in South Carolina have this notion that the people, as a whole, decide who is President of our State Senate.  Forty-six senators are elected.  The Lt. Governor is elected to preside.  Acadmemics and pundits contend that the Lt. Governor has no real power.  They do not understand real politics.  As a statewide elected official, the Lt. Governor serves as a "state senator at large" if you will, a person who can use the weight of being elected on his own to help constituents, and stand for good things for the state.  People like George Bell Timmerman, Fritz Hollings,  Robert McNair, John West, Nancy Stevenson, Mike Daniel, Nick Theodore, and yes, even Bob Peeler and Andre Bauer, used that bully pulpit of election on their own to do good for the people of South Carolina.  They made a difference not because they walked lock step with the Governor, but because they were elected on their own.  Their, and others contributions serve as shining examples of why a state government, particularly South Carolina's should not mimick Washington's.

Think on it a bit.  If we decide yes to the change, then come 2018, the Lt. Governor will be just another member of the Governor's adminstration.  A call from the Lt. Governor will have no weight on a matter with someone until what the Governor wants done is checked out.  People will have one less elected representative contending their case in that those in government will know the Lt. Governor is just some political pet picked from a narrow agenda. The respect for the office, and what its occupant can do for South Carolina will go down, not up.  The days of Lt. Governors doing great things will forever be gone.

That brings up the last point.  It is contended that a Governor needs to be comfortbable with who might take over their office.  Again, this is not Washington.  The transition argument is all but a red herring argument.  Rarely has it happened in state history.  And, state issues do not correspond with issues like national defense and the like at any rate.  Perhaps its healthy that the people of this state have someone like a freely elected Lt. Governor to vent to with an agenda free of the Governor's.  Historically, our state government structure with a freely elected Lt. Governor kept us from having the likes of Talmedge and Wallace.  Having the people decide freely who was Governor and who was Lt. Governor kept us from such things. 

In sum, we are South Carolina.  We are not Washington, D.C.  Letting the people freely elect the Lt. Governor of South Carolina has served this state and its people well in our history.  No one bad guy or no outside groups who want us to be more like the federal goverment should change that.  The people should choose their Lt. Governor, not politicians in a back room.  Vote no to the constitutional ammendment proposing to take that right away.