How do we fix a broken SC?

By Laura Haight
President, DWGC

Something is very broken in South Carolina. 

For starters, in June, our governor said he looked “forward to the day that Democrats are so rare, we have to hunt them with dogs.”

Then, last year, newbie legislator Republican David Vaughn, who represents District 27, made signing on to sponsor a bill that would make abortion a death penalty crime one of his first official acts.

That doesn’t seem to really be in line with the findings of a 2022 Planned Parenthood poll that found that between 77 and 86 percent of South Carolinians believe abortion decisions should be made by a woman and her doctor.

Doctors, as it happens, are also pretty insistent that abortion is a medical issue – a health care option – not a crime. And then said so quite vociferously when hearings were held on the heartbeat bill in Columbia a few years ago. Surprisingly, or not, their pleas, their data, their experiences fell on deaf ears.

How about permitless carry? Different issue, same story. A 2022 survey taken by a Republican pollster found 86 percent of the state’s voters supported background checks, and 79 percent were in favor of red flag laws.

Psshaw, it’s just the voters. But what did law enforcement think? When hearings were held on permitless carry last year, several state law enforcement agencies including the state association of Police Chiefs, testified against it, arguing that citizens and law enforcement officers would be less safe. (Greenville Sheriff Hobart Lewis is, however, a fan).

Thanks for coming in, guys! But we’re going with it. Perhaps the only surprising thing was that the House ultimately passed the Senate bill after it had added a provision exempting felons from this unrestricted right to carry a concealed weapon with no permit and no training. 

How about health care? Forty states – including recalcitrant North Carolina – have now accepted Medicaid Expansion. But South Carolina will not be moved. Not by the financial windfall accepting the expansion would bring to the state. Not by the plight of the medical community in much of the state’s rural areas where services are sparse. Not by the risk of seeing more rural health facilities close due to lack of funding – a problem that would likely be resolved by expanding Medicaid to the working poor who currently fall into the donut hole of making just enough money to keep their heads over the poverty line, but not enough to qualify for subsidies via the Affordable Care Act.

“Gov. McMaster isn’t for sale, regardless of whatever ill-conceived ‘incentives’ congressional Democrats may come up with,” the governor’s spokesman said in 2021. “What the federal spending plan does is attempt to offer a short term solution for a long term problem.” Of course, that does beg the question, what is our state government doing about the long-term problem? That’s just rhetorical. We know the answer.

The governor has dug his heels in despite evidence that the large majority of the state (73 percent ) consider expanding Medicaid to be “extremely or very important.” That result in a survey conducted by AARP South Carolina, included 69 percent of Republicans. 

These examples highlight a disturbing trend: State legislators seem to care little for the advice of experts if it conflicts with their personal perceptions. 

We have been governed by this cabal for almost a quarter of a century. During that time, our state has wallowed in the basement of state rankings on nearly every measure of success. We are consistently at the bottom of every list we want to be at the top of and at the top of every list we’d rather be at the bottom of.

Worse than the results – bad roads, bad governance, disrespect of citizens and more – is the corruption that arises in governments with one-party dominance. 

Our current ruling party is tone deaf to the views of its constituents because they believe – not incorrectly – that nothing will make them change their votes. Republicans don’t vote for candidates, they vote for a party. They don’t ask for accountability, they won’t demand good government because they have no context of what that looks like. 

But we Democrats do know. As we get ready for a full court press on local and state elections this year, let’s stay focused on our goal: Better, more responsive governance. To get that, we have to flip at least 1 damn seat. A journey of a million miles begins with a single step. 

Something is very broken in South Carolina. Let’s fix it.

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