South Carolina voters deserve better
Our state’s governor’s race is beginning in earnest. And, the early indications are it is likely to be dirty, mean-spirited and devoid of substance and issues – in short, politics as usual from both political parties in South Carolina.
It does not have to be this way. We deserve better.
In recent days the juvenile name-calling and cheap political tactics have begun from both sides and it’s almost certain to only get worse – and we are still over a year away from the November election.
It’s the battle of nasty sound bites and ginned-up negative news stories, all orchestrated by campaign operatives and the party “officials” on both sides. Just two recent examples:
Last month, the Haley side hijacked Vincent Sheheen’s name and created a website, which purports to show what a rotten person he is. It’s complete with the grainy back-and-white pictures of Sheheen intended to make him look shady and it includes videos about all sorts of supposedly evil people that are giving money to Sheheen.
The Democrats are hard at the negative as well.
At the SC Democratic Party website, the first four stories are negative attacks on Haley. They start out with a “hypocrisy alert” about what Haley has said about Charleston ports, and her campaign contributions from folks with ties to the Savannah ports. Then there are a couple of stores implying that Haley is somehow responsible for someone dying of TB in Greenwood.
Is this the kind of stuff we are going to hear about for the next year?
Does any of this have anything to do with the most important issues that face our state – like education reform, or providing quality jobs, or ridding the State House of special interest campaign money and sleazy lobbyists? Of course not.
So, what should we do? What can we do? How can we as citizens of this state force the candidates to make this election about our state’s needs rather than theirs, and put an end to this mindless sandbox name calling?
Well, here’s an idea that might actually get their attention – let’s just refuse to give either candidate any more campaign contributions until they agree to do these two simple things:
• Don’t take out-of-state, special-interest campaign contributions – none. Only accept individual contributions from people who live in South Carolina.
• Agree to a one-on-one town-hall-style debate in each of the state’s seven congressional districts over the next year. Don’t hide behind negative campaign ads and campaign spokesmen – take real questions from real people, and debate your opponent face to face.
That’s it. These are two simple things that both candidates could do right now – today – to begin to clean up the corrupt, brain-dead, special-interest-driven politics that has plagued our state for a generation.
Would these two ideas make politics perfect in South Carolina? Of course not.
As Congressmen Steve Chabot once said, “Politics is a contact sport.” And it should be; it should be about the clash of ideas – not about money, petty name-calling and negative TV ads.
Again, this is not some sort of complication ethics reform package that the politicians can quietly conspire to debate to death in the State House. It’s a very simple proposal built around the principle of personal responsibility. Both candidates could agree to do these things today.
And if they did, it would tell the nation that we in South Carolina are tired of the same rotten politics-as-usual that has made our state a favorite of late-night comedians for years now.
Let me be crystal clear: I am a Democrat. And I expect to vote a straight Democratic ticket in the November election just as I have done in most every past election.
But, this is not a partisan issue – it affects all of us.
If Haley and Sheheen won’t listen to us – then we should just keep our credit cards in our wallets and refuse to hit the “Donate” button in their next campaign email.
Let’s all try it and see what happens.
We can do better …and we deserve better.
Phil Noble is a businessman in Charleston and President of the SC New Democrats, an independent reform group founded by former Gov. Richard Riley to support big change and real reform.