When Catherine Templeton is elected the 118th governor of South Carolina, one question and one question alone remains: will she move to Columbia or demand that the Governor’s Mansion be moved to Charleston?
If that sounds like a silly question, you clearly don’t know anything about Templeton.
Although Templeton brands herself as a political outsider, she’s been involved in state government for sometime, first as the head for the state Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation and then as the director of the Department of Health and Environmental Control. She even spent a few weeks at the State Ports Authority, but let’s not talk about that.
As Labor Department leader, Templeton’s chief task was to ensure that Boeing workers didn’t unionize. She was successful.
As director of DHEC, her tenure was not quite as successful. Under Templeton’s watch, DHEC fumbled a tuberculosis outbreak at a Greenwood County elementary school, in which parents weren’t told that a school employee had contracted TB. Templeton claimed that she didn’t know a school employee had the disease until two months after the agency first began investigating.
In the end, the nurses deemed responsible for the communication failure were fired, and 53 students, 21 faculty members, and 32 members of the community tested positive for TB, according to the S.C. Radio Network.
All of that’s a matter of public record, and depending on how you feel about unions or the once and future lungers of South Carolina, then Catherine Templeton just might be your huckleberry.
Be that as it may, there’s one particular matter that makes the idea of a Templeton governorship questionable: she refused to move to Columbia when she was appointed the head of the Labor, Licensing, and Regulation Department and DHEC.
That’s right, while Catherine Templeton ran both LLR and DHEC, she stayed right at home in Mt. Pleasant. In the case of DHEC, she managed the massive state agency from their North Charleston office.
All of which is why I really don’t know if she’ll leave the Lowcountry when she beats her Democratic challenger, either Phil Noble or James Smith, on Tues. Nov. 6, 2018.
Of course, it goes without saying that she hasn’t beaten her GOP opponents just yet. In fact, Primary Day is still 11 months off.
But all of this ignores the fact that Templeton has learned the most important lesson of politics in the Digital Age: She speaks directly to her would-be constituents through her aggressive use of social media. Sometimes she simply types a statement, sometimes she posts a video, and sometimes she responds to another tweet with a bon-mot beatdown.
Templeton didn’t stumble upon this tactic on her own.
Sarah Palin practically invented the technique, connecting to her diehards on Facebook and Twitter with direct messages that capitalized on her down-home, we-don’t-need-no-book-learnin’ personality. She spoke plainly, in a language that everyone could easily understand, even if Palin didn’t always seem to understand exactly what she was saying.
Our very own Nikki Haley, a politician who owed her very success to Palin, followed in the Alaska governor’s snowshoes.
During her time in office, Haley largely refused to speak with the press and spoke mano-a-gobernador to her fanbase, revealing her devotion to her beloved Clemson Tigers and her life-changing love for Joan Jett. She also used it to respond to thin-skinned gripes against her critics, something that President Donald J. Trump has used time and time again to fire up his base of deplorables.
Of course, as Palin, Haley, and Trump have shown us, baring your soul to your social media besties is an often painful exercise in narcissistic self-immolation. You open yourself up to be relentlessly mocked by your detractors. But it’s a gamble that can, and does, pay off.
For every person that scoffs poop emojis and #resistance hashtags, Templeton is connecting with the very hypertension heart of the angry base that brought Trump to the White House.
She doesn’t care if you call her support of Steve Bannon racist — hell, she welcomes it. Because that means she can shoot a hastily crafted video lashing out at the politically correct elites that attack her and post it to her Twitter feed.
Her followers will eat up the outrage, her Democratic detractors will clutch their pearls and fall to the fainting couch, and her followers will feast yet again — on the red meat, the moaning and groaning, and the sheer spectacle of it. It’s an endless call-and-response of orchestrated outrage, overheated partisan passion.
You won’t find her GOP opponents doing any of this. They’re far too respectable and old school to connect with — and control — the red state rabble with such repugnant, pugilistic machinations. Instead, they hold hollow press conference and send out campaign team-crafted statements that read like the words of a robot trying to pretend they’re human.
But not Catherine Templeton. She feels human. She feels real. And on Primary Day, we’ll see that she was right all along.