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.

No comments:

Post a Comment