With each passing year the state of South Carolina slips a little bit further beneath the waves …
As we’ve pointed out on numerous occasions (until we’re indigo in the face), the Palmetto state is economically anti-competitive, academically ignorant, governmentally dysfunctional and politically corrupt. Unemployment is sky-high, income levels are plummeting, poverty is soaring, social costs are rising and our students are dumber than they’ve ever been before.
Meanwhile, government in South Carolina is bigger than it’s ever been before …
And guess what … it’s been this way for decades, and will stay this way for decades until such time as the S.C. General Assembly is populated with lawmakers who are willing to implement common sense reforms.
Into this fight has stepped an amorphous movement known as the Tea Party – the same movement which at the national level (for the time being) has succeeded in pushing the Republican Party back toward its limited government, fiscally conservative roots.
So … how’s the Tea Party doing in South Carolina, one of the so-called “reddest states in America?”
Not so well.
In case you missed it, on Wednesday S.C. House Speaker Bobby Harrell – one of the most fiscally liberal legislative leaders in South Carolina history – was reelected as Speaker by a 112-5 vote margin.
You read that right … 112-5. And that was after Tea Party backers mobilized against Harrell’s reelection bid.
Harrell’s convincing win means that no matter who resides in the constitutionally-neutered (spayed?) governor’s office – the real power in South Carolina will remain in the hands of tax-and-spend liberals who have been growing government at the expense of taxpayers for years. Along with Harrell, we’re talking about Senate Finance Chairman Hugh Leatherman, Senate President Glenn McConnell, House Ways and Means Chairman Danny Cooper and a handful of other legislative leaders who have been running this state (into the ground) for years.
Before the S.C. Tea Party (whatever that is) can “rise up,” first it must “wise up.”
And that starts with recognizing that there is a mountain of work to be done before a legitimate challenge can ever be mounted.
We’re not saying that Harrell should not have been challenged this go-round (he absolutely should have been), we’re just saying that the Tea Party needs to figure out the lay of the land and develop a long-term strategy for shifting the ideological balance of the S.C. General Assembly – something that no one in the reform movement has figured out how to do.
Harrell faced no real threat to his power because a) RINOs dominate the House Republican Caucus, and b) he had all of the Democratic votes in his pocket.
Since Harrell faced no real threat, no one was going to stick their neck out against him (hence the lop-sided margin) – not even the woman who claims to be the leader of the Tea Party “movement.”
“I won’t stop until we get a conservative House, a conservative Senate and a conservative governor,” S.C. Gov.-elect Nikki Haley said during her bid to capture the GOP gubernatorial nomination.
Then why did Haley support Harrell’s candidacy for Speaker?
Hmmmmm … and people wonder why nothing ever changes in this state.
As we’ve noted previously, one of the greatest failures – if not the greatest failure – of the administration of Mark Sanford was its inability to identify, recruit and equip conservative challengers to go up against the rank-and-file RINOs in the state legislature. Sanford had five electoral cycles (2002, 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010) to shape the balance of power in Columbia, yet he only got involved in a handful of races. In fact, in 2002 and 2004 he supported numerous pro-status quo candidates – particularly in the S.C. House.
That’s pathetic – and it’s one of the main reasons he got absolutely nothing done in eight years as governor.
Of course as our founding editor plans to reveal in his forthcoming book, Sanford never wanted to get anything done. He was all about raging against the machine in an effort to build his brand for a presidential bid – a fantasy that obviously went up in smoke last summer somewhere along the Appalachian Trail.
Is Nikki going to be the same sort of governor?
We don’t know yet … certainly Haley has the potential to help create a more conservative legislature, but her 51.3 percent general election total isn’t exactly “mandate” material.
With or without Haley, though, the Tea Party movement had better make a show of strength in this next election or risk joining groups like Reform SC, the S.C. Policy Council and S.C. Club for Growth in the graveyard of “pro-taxpayer movements.”
These groups have spent millions of dollars … and all they can muster is five friggin’ votes against Bobby Harrell?
Legislatively-speaking, this year was another wasted opportunity. Despite a wave of voter revulsion against status quo politicians, few if any S.C. House members faced legitimate primary challengers. As a result the seventeen new “Republican” House members headed to Columbia in January are no different than the legislators they replaced, and Harrell’s commanding margin of victory in the Speaker’s race is proof positive that the majority of fiscal conservatives in the House were more interested in avoiding retribution from the thin-skinned Speaker than they were in standing on principle.
That has to change … and it must start with the 2012 GOP legislative primary elections, in which every single Representative and Senator could conceivably be challenged. Obviously to do that will require a tremendous amount of effort – and money – but that’s what building a “movement” is all about.
We’re going to continue doing our part by articulating a concise, common sense agenda, hammering away at the RINOs in Columbia and holding the so-called “reformers” accountable for their votes, too.
In fact, this year we’re stepping those efforts up by keeping a tally of key votes on our 2011-12 Scorecard.
But we can’t do it alone.
If the Tea Party and other “movement” conservatives can’t put together a slate of credible, well-funded candidates who are “ready to rumble” (with an agenda) against rank-and-file RINOs in the House and Senate … then nothing will ever change in this state.
The time for bitching and moaning has passed … the time to ante up and kick in is upon us.
Can the Tea Party “wise up?” And then “rise up?”
We’ll see …
EDITOR’S NOTE: Stay tuned for our next report, “The Targets,” which will take a look at which RINO lawmakers in both the House and Senate need to be voted out of office.