I have in the past tended to follow national politics, so much louder and glitzier than the local variety. But a few years ago I began tracking state legislation for our ACLU and a whole new world opened up. And sucked me into it.
Local politics is not pretty. And it is exhausting work documenting so much stupidity. But somebody ought to do it. Because we really, really need to know what is going on up there in Columbia. Because it has so very much impact on our lives.
Here in South Carolina, the dark work of the legislature is evident in our "minimally adequate" schools, with extraordinarily high dropout rates and inadequate employment. Whenever a South Carolinian does not go to a doctor because they are uninsured, we can thank our legislature and our governor for refusing the federal Medicaid expansion dollars that are actually our federal taxes. "No thank you, I don't want my money."
It was the wisdom of our state legislators that, in light of the horrific mass shootings in our country, passed a law allowing guns in drinking establishments, making restaurant and bar owners responsible for posting when guns are not welcome. Of course, the thing about guns is that when you don't want them you anger the people with the guns.
And oh my, our infrastructure. Any homeowner with an ounce of sense would make use of a windfall to make needed repairs -- keep up that important investment. Yet when the price of gas falls precipitously, instead of looking at our crumbling and dangerous roads and bridges and seeing the opportunity to make them right argue about "new taxes." We remain a poor state because we squander any kind of financial opportunity.
Meanwhile -- and you have all heard me rant about this -- the idiots at the Statehouse continue to flood the docket with new anti-abortion bills that say the same thing as the old ones. We also apparently need a bunch more bills that honor and revere the 2nd amendment. Instead of paying for better education, our tax dollars are going to go to plaques in every school that declare that "In God We Trust." I guess with the poor state of our education, those yahoos figure we'd better pray.
And they are all over the threat to our state presented by poor Mexican immigrants, gays, Muslims, atheists, pregnant women, low wage-workers, and workers attempting to form unions. They are on guard protecting the interest of big out-of-state businesses who have the god-given right to pollute and profit here in South Carolina. Nikki Haley has fought the valiant fight to channel millions of tax dollars to big corporations while anyone living below the poverty line -- and there are quite a number of us here -- are subject to scorn and the threat of laws that would require drug testing and other humiliating and near-impossible requirements. And pay attention, small business owners. When our legislators say they are "for small business," y'all better check your pockets.
So we can track the legislation, call and write senators and representatives, but unless we change the makeup of the Statehouse, we are shouting into the big winds caused by global climate change that our legislators mostly deny.
Here it is, 2016, and every damn member of the legislature is up for re-election. The sad thing is that in way too many cases, they will be re-elected without a breath of protest. We can complain about gerrymandering, and it would be a legitimate complaint, but the fact is that most voters want the same things, and don't have (or don't think they have) anyone to vote for that would get us there.
If there are few courageous individuals that are willing to speak loudly to the abuses of our current legislators, not only will there not be options, voters will not even be aware of those abuses or the better options.
I don't believe that the majority of the people that re-elect Lee Bright really are voting against abortion, although I'm sure he does stay awake nights imagining all the dirty doings that create that "preborn child." His war against anything that looks like a tax -- which I believe is the secret to his longevity -- needs to be countered with facts about how much more it costs most of us when taxes are cut.
We Dems don't tend to run on the need for taxes because we have let ourselves wear the "tax and spend" label even when it has proven false. And yet, here is Bernie Sanders getting support from republicans who see him as more responsive to their needs than Trump or Cruz. If we believe in good government services, we need to learn to sell it. As Trump has shown, politics is mostly about sales. And in sales, you have to believe in yourself or no one else will believe in you.
I am hoping that our State Democratic Party this year will show some of that fearlessness. I am hoping that they will encourage people to run against the right-wingnuts that we have for too long thought were impregnable. And put some money behind it. A candidate that runs against a right wing wacko needs funding, needs publicity. And our party needs to find a way to support all the Democratic candidates that are stepping up to fight this entrenched and old party.
Instead of thinking that money spent on a Democratic candidate may be money lost, we should believe that money spent to give a Democratic candidate airtime is money spent on the future of the Democratic party. I believe that our platform is the right one. I believe that responsible taxation creates jobs, improves our standard of living, and pays it all forward.
And on the other side, I see the party that claims to be for small government stealing from small business owners to give to big corporations and taking away workers' rights to fight for better working conditions so that those big corporations can boast bigger profits. I see this party that fought Obamacare on the grounds that it would bring big government into our doctors' offices propose twenty or more bills doing just that to women, from conception to the disposition of a fetus.
That old party is the party that fights government regulation if it means making our neighborhoods safer, our air and waters cleaner, our children better educated. Yet they propose bills to regulate the poor and monitor refugees. Yes, under this bunch there would be laws that require immigrants and refugees to produce documentation, but they invite those from other states to bring in y'all's guns, and oppose background checks and bans on assault weapons. Because as they say, if they can stop just one terrorist from coming into South Carolina it will be worth denying all those others the right to live free. But if you take one gun away from one gun nut, you are denouncing American values and bringing down the nation.
So we have a lot of hypocrisies that need to be confronted. And we have lots of smart people who could do the confronting. So let's get our Democratic Party behind them. And let's give them the opportunity to be heard this election year.