S.C. Statehouse Report
Sunday, Nov. 7, 2004
VIEW: http://www.statehousereport.com/columns/04.1107.dems.htm

COMMENTARY

State Democrats need to do some serious regrouping
By Andy Brack
SC Statehouse Report

NOV. 7, 2004 - - There’s a reason for adages like, “Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.” Why? Because the advice they offer often turns out true.

In the recent election, South Carolina Democrats seem to have put all of their hopes for the party’s future in the U.S. Senate candidacy of State Superintendent Inez Tenenbaum. Now that she didn’t win, the party is in a state of disarray that may last for years.

Sure, Democrats picked up one seat in each chamber of the General Assembly in the elections. But they’re so far from retaking power in the House that the gain is immaterial. In the Senate, things aren’t much better.

Historian Walter Edgar this week told The Post and Courier that the party wasn’t dead, but added, “I think it’s safe to say the Democratic Party is now relegated to permanent minority status.”

While state Party Chairman Joe Erwin says the party isn’t rolling over, Tuesday’s election results reflect a remarkable turnaround for state Democrats, who ruled the state’s political roost for most of the 20th century. To get back into South Carolina’s political game, Democrats need to start getting the basics of politics right again. They have to have a serious internal regrouping that takes into account several factors:

Stand for something. It’s not good enough to run candidates whose main message is, “Vote for me; I’m not Republican.” The party can’t be “Republican-light.” It needs to get back to real values of fiscal security, social justice and boosting the public good. It needs to translate its national roots from the days of Franklin Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy in a way that means something to South Carolinians. In other words, state Democrats need to capitalize on the kinds of things that made John Edwards popular here earlier in the year during the presidential primary process.

ALSO THIS WEEK

McLEMORE'S WORLD: Neck and neck to the end

FEEDBACK: Brack's right and wrong

SCORECARD: Who's up and down

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Stop missing opportunities. In the recent state elections, Democrats missed a huge opportunity to define GOP Gov. Mark Sanford. While the governor is very popular with people across the state, most don’t realize he has accomplished little in the last two years. If the Democratic Party had been thinking past this election - - and not put all of its eggs in the Inez basket - - it would have developed a unified message for its Statehouse candidates to hammer again and again to start eroding the Sanford image. Now with Democrats in disarray, they don’t have the credibility or political capital to do much about Sanford. Bottom line: it looks like Sanford will be in the governor’s mansion for the next six years.

Stick to a focused message. By having a focused message and sticking to it, the party can build the foundation for future successes. If it doesn’t have focus, its members will be flapping in the breeze.

Work together. Party leaders should start strategies to promote party unity. If there’s something they can learn from Republicans, it’s that they should use the power of their like interests to promote their values. By acting as a bloc vote, they’ll earn more power and respect over time. Democrats are known for not penalizing members who “do their own thing.” To continue such a practice will allow the party to keep eroding.

Rebuild the machine. On local levels across the state, Democrats remain contenders. But the state party uses old precinct systems to try to keep the party alive. It needs to throw away 19th century organizational models and rebuild using new frameworks that incorporate, rely and value input from local leaders.

Some who read this column might criticize it for promoting Democrats. That’s not what it is intended to do. Instead, it’s a clarion call for Democrats to start pulling together and working in a unified manner because the state’s whole political system will work better if there is a real two-party system.

If one party monopolizes power, corruption ensues. If two parties work together to fashion real compromises on major issues, better governance ensues.

South Carolina Democrats need to get out of the ditch, stop crying about the recent elections and move forward. It will make our state healthier.


RECENT COMMENTARY

McLEMORE'S WORLD
11/7: Neck and neck to the end

The latest from cartoonist Bill McLemore:


FEEDBACK
11/5: Make voting changes now

To the editor:

Never mind not doing anything about this antiquainted way of voting at present (See 10/31 commentary.) Let's make some changes now.

For example, I almost missed voting on Tuesday because there were so many people voting and it was taking as much as 4 hours to get through the lines. I went home thinking I could come back a little before 7 p.m. and I almost did not make it in time to vote. It still took me 1 hour and 45 minutes to go through the line at 5 minutes to seven. And I know that some people did not vote because of the wait on those long lines.
.
Here is what I propose: You people need to send me a voting ticket of some kind at least two weeks before the National or any election. I can than go over the ballot, complete the thing and send it to whoever is keeping tally of this votes. That way I don't even have to leave my house.

Voting on the weekend is ridiculous. We have other more important things to do than that. So, changes to this mess need to be done and let's do it now before the next big fiasco comes about. Make sure you get those so-called lawmakers to get things moving about this.

-- Nathan Zavala, West Columbia, S.C.


11/2: GOP provides role models

To the editor:

I read your "Brack Report" piece on the "Southern Strategy 2.0." I have no objection to your expressing your opinion but I do think someone needs to set you straight on a couple of things. First is the importance of role models in education. One of the single biggest and most important issues in our country today is teen-aged pregnancy. Virtually all communities are united in wanting to do everything possible to combat and reduce it. It is impossible to do this when a teacher is single and pregnant. And I think you have read about the problems which the Catholic Church is having with predatory homosexual (and hetrosexual [sic] too) priests who prey on children. Most parents want no part of homosexuals in positions involving young children while having no objection at all to them in other posts. There is no need whatsoever to apologize for these positions.

The Republican Party seems pretty serious about role modeling. President Bush has not one but two African Americans in key cabinet-level positions. The President himself admits to an early drinking problem which he has clearly beaten. These are the kinds of role models which are important to me and I think to many others.

The truth of the matter is that the originator of the politics of division in this country is the democrat party [sic]. Its infamous incitement to class warfare permeates its every position on taxation and it never met an organized minority it didn't like and didn't try to pander-to. I remind you that it dominated the South for years until the electorate saw what it really was.

-- Chris Hammond, Charleston, S.C.

11/1: Southern Strategy 2.0 seemed to be right on track

To the editor:

Thank you, thank you for the report on Jim DeMint and what his campaign has been about! He is an absolute embarrassment, and if he is elected to the Senate, SC should be ashamed of themselves!

-- Christine Greenleaf, Charleston, S.C.


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SOUTH CAROLINA SCORECARD

Here's a "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" related to various political events from the past week:

Thumbs up

Turnout. Hats off to the hundreds of thousands of South Carolinians who went to the polls last week and participated in the process of strengthening democracy.

DeMint. Congratulations to new U.S. Sen.-elect Jim DeMint.

Thumbs down

Morris. Prosecution witnesses testified during the week that former Comptroller General Earle Morris knew more about Carolina Investors' dire financial situation than he's admitted.


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