S.C. Statehouse Report
Sunday, Nov. 5, 2006
VIEW: http://www.statehousereport.com/columns/06.1105.elect.htm

State needs real two-party system
By Andy Brack
SC Statehouse Report

NOV. 5 , 2007 - - South Carolina needs a real two-party political system. Otherwise, the state's political process becomes one-sided, which isn't healthy for any democracy.

Unless something big changes, it looks like a virtual one-party system could be coming on Election Day. Republicans are poised to pick up all of the state's constitutional officers for the first time and to continue control of the Statehouse. In effect, the state could be completely run by Republicans, even though Gov. Mark Sanford often bickers and battles with the General Assembly.


Andy Brack, publisher of S.C. Statehouse Report, will provide analysis and commentary of the 2006 elections on SCETV on election night.

While a complete shift in power to the GOP might be hailed as great by many, it's really not in the best interest of the state. For a democracy to be truly healthy, it needs broad and full debates and arguments over the big issues - - jobs, health care, education, environment and more.

But with one party completely controlling the agenda, debate can be muted. Opposition is often steamrollered. The majority is able to push things through without much of a peep from the minority opposition. What may be in the best interest of the whole state - - the common good - - becomes subjugated to the political ideology of one party.

Republican domination of South Carolina has been two generations in the making. Before the 1960s, Republicans were almost scarce species in the state. Then when the late U.S. Rep. Floyd Spence switched to the GOP in 1962, followed by the late U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond two years later, the state's Republican Party started picking up steam.


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A decade of building and networking led to the party getting its first Republican governor in modern times with the 1974 election of Jim Edwards. With more party-building and the hard-knuckled politics of people like Lee Atwater, Republicans regained the top job in 1986 with Carroll A. Campbell Jr.

With Campbell, a master party-builder, in power, Democrats started defecting into the GOP in droves. But also during the legislative sessions during Campbell's tenure in the late 1980s and early 1990s, South Carolina became a true two-party state. Debates were rollicking. Arm-twisting and politicking reached interesting new levels. But even though Campbell had a Democratic-controlled General Assembly and partisanship was high, both parties worked together to craft generally good policy for the state as a whole.

In other words, all of the raucous debate forced people with vastly different opinions to talk and compromise. Important issues weren't ramrodded through, as they often are today. In the long run, the democracy was healthier because of the divergence of opinions that existed.

Since the Campbell era, the GOP has continued to grow in power as state and national Democrats imploded.

These days while South Carolina Democrats continue to stumble and falter, Democrats nationally appear to be on the rise again. One of the chambers of the U.S. Congress may become controlled by Democrats after several years of GOP control. Many analysts say this will restore balance to the system. And while it may also cause change to become hung up due to politics, that's not necessarily a bad thing in the long run. Why? Because it means change will be better considered over time.

In South Carolina, the near-term political reality is that Republicans will largely be in control as the state continues to struggle with education, health care, poverty, obesity and a list of issues that seems endless. It may take a few years of political monopoly for people to realize a vigorous two-party system is really better for the state.

A fundamental foundation of American democracy is the system of checks and balances. While these structures don't erode with one party in power, if those doing the checking or balancing have the same political ideas as the ones being checked or balanced, then true checks and balances lose their power.

A two-party system (or even a multi-party system) keeps checks and balances healthy. You might want to consider this any time you vote.

Send your comments to Andy Brack at brack@statehousereport.com. His book of commentary, Bugging the Palmettos, is available for $15.00. Click here for more.

Recent commentary

lighter side
11/5: Voting machines

Another great cartoon from Bill McLemore:

10/30: Great column

Just wanted to let you know that I read your column on a weekly/daily basis and your latest one, "Look at job before deciding how it should be filled", was excellent! Keep up the good work!

-- Michael Reese, Spartanburg, S.C.

10/29: Appoint constitutional officers

Appoint all Constitutional offices and allow Lt Gov to run with Gov as a 'ticket'.

-- Tom Marchant, Greenville, S.C.

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  • MEGAPHONE: SC: the lab rat

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