I am not watching a lot of news coverage these days. It's ugly, and too many news shows are getting off on the ugliness. These days, the most important thing in the country appears to be the South Carolina primaries. Why anyone would look to SC is a bit frightening, as we tend to take the lead in ignorance and bigotry, except that seems to be the appeal.
Here are the two bits that I saw on MSNBC yesterday, en route to more enjoyable DVR'd fare like Colbert:
There was an interview in a field full of cows. The interviewer appeared to be a little unnerved by the size and number of cows; he made a point of being out of the way of anywhere they might intend to head. There were two guys being interviewed; one of them was a younger white guy, the other an older black guy who was the more well-spoken of the two.
The black guy identified himself as a blue-dog Democratic, and pointed out more than once that he was proud to be such. On the other hand, he was perturbed that neither of the candidates were talking about what they would do for the farmer. Our intrepid interviewer then asked what he would like to see them address. And this guy, who appeared to be intelligent, would get no more specific than to say that they needed to address the needs of the farmer. Which he wouldn't specify. And implied that maybe he wouldn't vote for the Democrats because they weren't addressing his needs, which apparently he couldn't address either.
After a few minutes of this go-round, the interviewer turned to the young white guy and there was an uncomfortable exchange in which the interviewer asked if he had decided who he would vote for, and then with an embarrassed chuckle added, "or if you are going to vote at all."
I was so flabbergasted by how unimpressive this blue-dog Democrat sounded in his fifteen minutes of fame that I wondered what was going on. It occurred to me that he maybe has heard or even talked to someone on the republican side who maybe suggested that the Dems weren't addressing the needs of the farmer in South Carolina. Just enough to sow the seeds of doubt, but vague enough not to bring up specific problems that could be addressed.
If I were working a Democratic campaign right now, I would be watching all those interviews. The blue-dog guy had a name and location. I would make absolutely sure that he was contacted, face-to-face, and that someone knowledgeable would be talking to him about exactly what he could expect from the Democratic candidate, versus from any one of the republican candidates. Because it is the republicans that are killing family farms with subsidies going to big agra, and refusing to provide aid and incentives to our local farmers. Let this guy know you are listening, and explain the actual policies and votes of each side, and of your Democratic candidate, and you have a vote, one who will share his view with others.
Here's the other gem I got from yesterday's "news." It was that jackass Donald Trump talking in Walterboro. I could only stomach a minute, but in that minute he said "second amendment rights" about a half dozen times. In the way he has of stirring up the paranoia and of course without any facts to spare, he convincingly lay the groundwork for getting out to vote because otherwise they would lose their right to bear arms.
It was insulting. This was not any more clever than Marco Rubio's repeating the same anti-Obama line at one of those debates a week or so ago. This is what you do when you don't want to spend a lot of time or brain-power trying to reach a crowd. An adviser had apparently informed Mr. Trump that guns was THE way to go with this crowd of yahoos in Walterboro, South Carolina. He wouldn't need to know a thing about the economy and jobs, or the poor schools, because if you just throw a little red meat at this bunch, they will follow you right over the cliff.
So this is politics in South Carolina. I have heard a few times over the past couple of weeks about Lee Atwater, the icon of dirty politics, and the dirty push polls against McCain in the 2000 primary. Mark Sanford was interviewed by Maddow or Hayes or one of them, and they had a good laugh at how South Carolina was kind of the "wild west" of politics. He should know. He has played the game well, with his own gimmicks, as well as by following the playbook of national right-wing groups, as he did two years ago by running against Nancy Pelosi instead of his actual opponent. The unspoken elephant in the room (no pun intended) of course is that here in SC, even someone as loathed as Mark Sanford can win election after election. Sanford who votes consistently against small business, the environment, funding for his constituents. Because our voters are obviously easily led by innuendo and bias.
And the Democrats again, true to form, are nowhere to be found to counter those strategies of lies and hate.
We keep talking about turning this red state blue, but in order to do that you have to actually listen and react to what is going on on the ground. And even better, you have to anticipate what is going to be said. You need to ask people what is important to them and respond with what you have done and what you plan to do. You need to know who makes up your audience and what they think is important. Because it really is not about the second amendment. It may be farms, or development, or schools, or environment. And there are votes that prove those right wing-nuts are not going to do a thing to move SC forward.
That blue-dog Democrat somewhere in farm country is just waiting to hear from one of us.