If there’s one irrefutable truth in this world, it’s that everybody has a friend who is a conversational carnival barker, the kind of guy or gal who blurts out searing, conventional-wisdom skewering, molotov-cocktail comments just to stir up trouble.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, the South Carolina Democratic Party is that friend.
In their quixotic quest to slay the GOP dragon in this one party-rule protectorate, the S.C. Dems have employed a strategy that is at once baffling and offensive.
Let’s take a quick look at their past charges at the Republican windmill.
Way back in 2002, when then-U.S. Rep. Lindsey Graham was running for Strom Thurmond’s U.S. Senate seat, Democratic Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian decided that there was only one way the party’s nominee, former College of Charleston President Alex Sanders, could emerge victorious on Election Day: sling some homophobic mud. And in this case, that meant drawing attention to the long-standing rumors that Graham was gay. Harpootlian accomplished this by proclaiming that Lindsey was “a little too light in the loafers to fill Strom Thurmond’s shoes.”
Light in the loafers? Ugh.
Of course, that didn’t keep Dick from stepping in it again.
In 2012, he decided to attack former State Senate President Pro Tempore Glenn McConnell, who had given up his position as the most powerful man in Palmetto State Politics to become the least powerful, the lieutenant governor. The Democratic chair thought McConnell’s ascension to the office of lite guv was the perfect time to remind the public about the Confederate cosplayer’s rumored sexual orientation. Harpootlian said, “Lt. Gov. McConnell also dresses the part, wearing a Civil War uniform and prancing into Civil War reenactments every weekend.”
Flash forward to 2013. In response to a no vote on a bill preventing Uncle Sam from firing federal workers simply because they’re members of the LGBT community, Harpootlian’s successor, Jaime Harrison, decided to it was time to resurrect those rumors about Graham, because, you know, it worked so well the first time. And the best part, Harrison was going to toss in U.S. Sen. Tim Scott as well.
The new Democratic chair wrote, “Senators Graham and Scott’s opposition to this common-sense, pro-family, and anti-discrimination measure is both bizarre and hypocritical.”
Hypocritical? How so Mr. Harrison? Please explain. (Narrator: He didn’t.)
Today, there’s a new homophobic Democratic Party playground bully, Trav Robertson.
Last month, Chairman Robertson decided the best way to attack Gov. Henry McMaster was to call him gay: “Will Henry be the pandering pansy or will he stand up to Trump and Sanford to stop offshore drilling?”
Pansy — uff. At least this time the Dem chair didn’t try to hide his homophobia. He went full slur.
To make matters worse, this kind of behavior isn’t limited to the state Democratic Party. It has infected the Charleston County Democratic Party, too.
In the lead up to this year’s election vote to fill disgraced Republican Jim Merrill’s Statehouse seat, the Charleston Dems decided that the surefire way to defeat their GOP opponent Nancy Mace was to try to a turn a video of her sharing mouth-to-mouth liquor shots with a woman into a homophobic viral hit.
The gay bait didn’t work, and the Trump lovin’ Citadel grad Mace won.
But last week, the S.C. Dems decided to abandon homophobia as their weapon of choice. This time, they went straight after the Women’s March crowd by proclaiming that a proposed GOP bill to rewrite the state constitution was an “effort to discriminate against women permanently.”
Elaborating on this audacious claim, Robertson wrote: “This bill is nothing more than an attempt to oppress every woman in South Carolina. The time has come for women in the districts of these legislators to step forward and challenge the men leading this assault on their rights.”
But there was a problem: Robertson never explained how these legislators intended to oppress South Carolinian woman. And so whatever message Robertson and his crew were trying to get across was lost amid the strum und drang of high school theater histrionics and bewildering logical leaps into a cloud of complete and utter confusion.
All of this speaks to a bigger problem in the S.C. Democratic Party, the unspoken rule agreed upon by the Stockholm syndrome-suffering Democrats in the Statehouse: they will never publicly attack the Statehouse Republicans. The way it is today, that’s solely the job of the Democratic chair, whether it’s Harpootlian, Harrison, or Robertson.
While there is a certain cowardly logic to all this, having one lone voice speaking for your party doesn’t work when that individual is little more than a carnival barker.
I know don’t about you, but I think it’s time for the carny to take a seat and for the Dems in the Statehouse to actually speak for themselves. The S.C. Democratic Party is not a clown car, unless you want it to be.