Hate politics, but yearn for policy? Me too.

By Laura Haight
President, DWGC

Every time I hear people use the “I don’t do politics” excuse for not wanting to discuss an important issue, it makes my head hurt. I don’t really like politics either. 

Politics is the process of getting someone elected and then keeping them in office. Policy is what is supposed to happen when elected politicians become policymakers. 

Politics is a means to an end, not the end result. 

In 2003 – 21 years ago – Republicans gained control of the governorship, the Senate and the House – known as a “trifecta.” SC has held onto this trifecta longer than 45 other states.

So given this total control, let’s see how their policies are working for South Carolinians.

– Our education system has never budged out of the basement. We are among the bottom 10 states in the country and have been there for decades – currently 42nd best, or 8th worst depending on if you’re a glass half full or half empty kind of person. 

– Instead of solid educational solutions, we have a Secretary of Education who has never stepped foot in a classroom, not even – it seems – to get her required master’s degree. And a law that diverts public funding (from underfunded schools in under-performing districts) to private schools.

– The state Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that the state was not fulfilling its Constitutional responsibility on education. Three years later the court vacated that ruling. Now some of those same justices are being asked to rule on whether the diversion of state education funds violates the state’s Constitution. 

– Before that ruling is handed down, the Legislature may have amended the law to make it even worse. Eliminating the income cap for families (I guess so more rich people could get the “scholarships”). That would increase the number of eligible kids (thus increase the amount of money leaving the public education system). The bill might also remove the requirement for an audit of the schools that get the money, and the requirement that the schools administer the same standardized tests that public schools do. 

Thankfully, the 125th Legislative Session has concluded. There were some wins – like the removal of the tax on feminine hygiene products. But for the most part, wins came in the form of stopping the worst of the bills Republicans thought up.

– Women lost their rights to make a choice about their own healthcare. 

– Families lost their rights to make decisions about the health and well-being of their children, whether they be gay, trans, or just voracious readers.

– Members of protected classes (racial, religious, gender, LGBTQ) lost their rights to real justice as the state failed – again – to pass a hate crime bill. South Carolina is the only state in the country that doesn’t have some kind of hate crime legislation.

– South Carolina’s working poor still can’t get health care for their families because we continue to refuse Medicaid Expansion – one of only 10 states – even though public and business interests are in favor. These are workers and their families that are not poor enough to qualify for regular Medicaid but not making enough money to get ACA subsidies. They fall into a donut hole that we refuse to fill. 

– Why are they so poor? Consider the minimum wage, we are in the lower third of the country that still has a $7.25 minimum wage. A worker making this wage in a full time job brings home $290 a week before taxes. Additionally, we are one of only five states that has never even bothered to have a conversation about the minimum wage and has not set one of our own. We are pegged to the federal rate.

– This weekend, we’ll commemorate the lives lost to gun violence with Wear Orange Weekend. And I hope you’ll join us on Saturday the 8th to hear Democratic Gun Sense candidates at a rally following the Moms’ Demand walk. Over the past 25 years, SC has been #1 in the country four times for women killed by men with a gun, we’ve been in the top five states on that list 14 times. Our position in the top 10 of the worst states for 23 of the past 25 years is surpassed by only two other states. 

We’ve had one of the most horrific mass shootings in the country right here. It even has a bill named after it. A bill that also cannot get passed: the Charleston Loophole. 

Instead, we have Permitless Carry.

– How about financial health? So many Republicans think only Republicans can handle the economy, but perhaps they’d like to know more about our state Treasurer finding $1.8 billion (that’s billion!) and having no idea of where it came from or what it was supposed to be used for. 

Our governor has created a task force that includes the Comptroller General’s Office. That’s rich. It has been under the supervision of an interim director since last May when the elected director resigned over a nearly $4 billion error that overstated the state’s holdings.

Despite these abysmal examples, South Carolina is one of just six states in the country that has not had even one arm of the government change hands since attaining “trifecta” status. That’s 21 years of unchecked rule by a party that has proven it has no interest in making the jump from politics to policy.

Does any of this sound like good government? Do these sound like results you would reward with yet another term? 

No, I don’t think so either. It also bears mentioning that most of these examples of actions or non-actions fly in the face of the desires of a majority of South Carolina residents, including Republicans. And knowing that, I wonder how many of our neighbors would be so quick to pull the R lever if they gave some thought to where their decisions have brought them. 

Be the change you want to see: Help the party with a much-needed donation or volunteer to help!