Sunday, Oct. 10, 2004
Strategy 2.0 takes
hold in South Carolina
SC Statehouse Report
10, 2004 -- Picture a room filled with Republican strategists.
Its probably no longer filled with smoke. Instead, it
smells like Old Spice and features a bunch of white guys in
suit pants, white shirts, sweat stains and loosened ties.
One of them says, Well, how about if we go after bald-headed
Nah, that wont work, a balding guy says.
Theres too many of them on our side. But how about
alcoholics? Or philanderers?
A third says, Nope, same problem. He thought for
a moment. Inspiration hit: But we could go after gays.
Yeah, and lesbians, the first guy adds.
Heck, the bald guy says with a smarmy grin, We
could even go after single pregnant women.
the Sunday edition of the Post and Courier, reporter
Schuyler Kropf analyzes how gay-bashing isn't too uncommon
in South Carolina politics.
OK, the conversation certainly never happened. But with recent
comments by U.S. Senate candidate Jim DeMint and another elected
GOP candidate from South Carolina, it seems like some in the
party are up to old tricks of trying to win votes through
dividing people by capitalizing on fears.
Now almost 40 years after the Southern Strategy of the late
1960s that preyed on white fears about blacks to win white
votes for the GOP, theres a new, more subtle version.
Call it Southern Strategy 2.0. But at its heart, its
the same old thing - - demonization of one group of people
to touch a nerve with a larger group to win its votes.
Rumblings of the Strategy at work came in hate-filled campaign
rhetoric a couple of weeks ago from surly S.C. Rep. John Graham
Altman, R-Charleston. In a letter asking GOP friends for help,
Altman wrote (among other things), Weve got to
stop that ultra liberal Democrat crowd and the militant homosexual
crowd before they do great harm.
A few days later, a staffer of GOP U.S. Senate candidate Jim
DeMint sent an e-mail to the wrong person that included derogatory
comments about gays and lesbians. DeMint said the staffer
was disciplined, not fired, for the extremely inappropriate
WORLD: It's debatable
Committee, not conference
Who's up and down
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Then came another attack on gays during the televised debate
between DeMint and Democrat Inez Tenenbaum. Toward the end,
DeMint unloaded a blockbuster his view that gay teachers
shouldnt teach in the public school system.
Tenenbaum said DeMints comment was Un-American.
And Republican columnist Michael Graham observed, In
a single moment - - in a single statement - - DeMint may have
transformed himself from an innovative conservative
to homophobic kook.
But DeMint then made everything worse. Two days later in explaining
the answer, he poured salt on the wound by bashing another
group. This time, he said single, pregnant women shouldnt
teach in public schools either.
Is there a pattern here? Many observers are stunned. After
DeMint dropped two bombshells in a row, they wonder whether
he had a reason to make the polarizing comments, or whether
his true convictions just slipped out in an otherwise controlled,
Eventually, DeMint apologized for his comment about single,
pregnant women. He said, I clearly said something as
a dad that I just shouldnt have said. And I apologize.
At best, its a half-hearted sentiment. It sounds like
he doesnt really believe it that he still believes
unwed pregnant women shouldnt teach in public schools,
but he knows he has to say something to turn around his campaigns
Unfortunately, neither DeMint nor Altman have apologized to
gay South Carolinians. Their party should demand it. The longer
these candidates refuse to apologize, the more it looks like
they believe and peddle in the politics of division.
Lets hope for something more than this cynical Southern
Strategy 2.0. Lets hope some politicians in our state
arent embroiled in a cynical pattern of demonizing small
groups of people based on their sexual orientation or some
South Carolina cannot base its future on such division and
discrimination. Its only if people work together
Republicans, Democrats, black, white, gay, straight, haired
and bald that the state will move forward.
The latest from cartoonist Bill McLemore:
Committee, not conference
OCT. 10, 2004 -- In last week's column on how a new rationale
is sweeping through SC politics (Statehouse Report, 10/3),
we reported that an isolated wetlands bill got derailed at
the last moment in a House-Senate conference committee. Actually,
it didn't make it that far. It got sidetracked in a Senate
committee that kept it from getting to the floor. We apologize
for the error and thank a sharp reader who caught the error.
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SOUTH CAROLINA SCORECARD
Here's a "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" related to various
political events from the past week:
Merrill. Hats off to S.C. Rep. Jim Merrill, R-Daniel
Island, who was elected House majority leader this week.
Carolina Investors. It's good news a federal judge
has approved a $41.8 million settlement in the fracas over
Carolina Investors. While the investors won't get all of their
money back, they'll get at least 18 cents on the dollar, compared
to the dime on the dollar they were expecting.
Sanford. The most unsafe place in South Carolina may
be between Gov. Mark Sanford and the media. The fellow seems
to have a pathological desire to hog the limelight, as highlighted
below in Megaphone.
Hunley. The pressure is on S.C. Attorney General Henry
McMaster to look into some financial deals involving the H.L.
Hunley. Likelihood it will happen before the November elections?
DeMint. Kudos to U.S. Senate candidate Jim DeMint
for offending gay South Carolinians, then offending single,
pregnant teachers, then apologizing to the teachers and then
reoffending gay teachers for not apologizing to them.
Bailey. More resume questions are haunting S.C. Rep.
George Bailey, R-St. George, in his tough reelection campaign.
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