Southern Politics: Sanford can play the race card too

Sanford can play the race card too

One of the certainties of South Carolina political life is that when the going gets tough, things get weird.

Such was my observation last Tuesday when Charleston County Council Chairman Tim Scott (R) announced he was throwing his name in the hat for consideration for the newly-vacated office of state treasurer and that he had the endorsement of Gov. Mark Sanford (R).

OK, the General Assembly was to meet a mere three days after Scott’s announcement to choose a successor to the recently disgraced former Treasurer Thomas Ravenel (R-Cocaine), and Rep. Converse Chellis (R-Summerville) had locked up a majority of state lawmakers approval.

Scott told The State, “I’m hoping this is my foray into the statewide process … I see it as an uphill fight — without question, but being an African-American who happens to be a Republican, I am used to that.”

Sanford, who was hedging his bets by also backing the candidacy of Sen. Greg Ryberg (R-Aiken) should Statehouse members choose one of their tribe, commented, “[Scott is] a competent individual with proven management skills.”

Ravenel’s replacement is of critical importance to the governor as the state treasurer is one of the five members of the Budget and Control Board, which oversees state borrowing and spending. Ravenel had been a kimosabe to the Libertarian-leaning Sanford, who’s never seen a dollar he thinks needs to be spent.

In his ongoing alienation of the General Assembly, Sanford said that it is “fundamentally wrong” that South Carolina hasn’t elected a black official statewide since the 1877 departure of Treasurer Francis L. Cardozo and Lt-Gov. Richard H. Gleaves in 1877.

According to Sanford, “We think it’s really a historic opportunity to right what I consider to be a 130-year wrong.”

There you have it, Mark Sanford … The Great Emancipator II.

Tim Scott is clearly an ambitious man who can take care of himself. I was surprised he would let his first “foray” with the General Assembly be colored by a governor whose relationship with state lawmakers can be characterized as hostile, at best.

It looks like I wasn’t the only one doubting Sanford’s newly-declaimed racial sensitivity.

Rep. Leon Howard (D-Richland) and chair of the Legislative Black Caucus says Sanford is endorsing Scott only because he is African-American and has almost zero chance of winning. “It’s a little offensive,” Howard told The Post and Courier. “He’s not leading by example.”

That Sanford has appointed only three African-Americans to cabinet posts has never escaped the notice of black lawmakers like Sen. Robert Ford (D-Chas): “If the governor was serious, he would have suggested Tim Scott when this first happened. To wait until five minutes before 12, when Converse Chellis has it locked up, it’s simply a slap in the face of the General Assembly.”

Even members of Sanford’s own party are scratching their heads over Sanford’s motivation.

House Majority Leader Jim Merrill (R-Daniel Island) says that lawmakers looked for a candidate from within because of the short timeline between Ravenel’s resignation and last Friday’s special election.

He told the P&C, “We didn’t want to make a mistake. I think the one thing that’s kind of obvious is that the governor wants anybody other than a lawmaker.”

Well, Merrill certainly didn’t have to impersonate Sherlock Holmes to deduce that little nugget of wisdom.

So, yet again, Mark Sanford has shown that while he wants to be in political life, he’s not interested in the political process of compromise.

What’s the point of waiting until almost zero hour to endorse an outsider and then insult the intelligence of the very folks whose votes are needed for that outsider’s success by claiming the mantle of racial progress?

I do think that as an individual, Mark Sanford is about as color-blind as a wealthy, white, educated Southerner can be. That’s why I found his playing the race card to be so peculiar.

It shows he’s more interested in economic theory and being thin-skinned with the General Assembly than he is in discerning the nuts-and-bolts causes of the problems that affect ordinary South Carolinians and how to fix them.

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