Observations on the South Carolina GOP Presidential Primary, 2012
I love Charleston. I love it profoundly and passionately, but that is not the same as loving South Carolina. Like rural states with imbedded, culturally oriented metropolitan areas, there is a huge dichotomy in South Carolina’s identity, a slight bipolar disorder of sorts. Still, it’s a place I’m comfortable in and with and many of the people I most love and respect hail from there; not that I agree with them on all that many things, but they certainly have a call on my heart.
Yesterday, South Carolinians made the GOP presidential primary season distinctly more interesting but in doing so showed its citizenry’s less attractive aspects, a strange hypocrisy, disconnect with reality and religious bigotry. There are plenty of reasons not to have voted for Mit Romney: he’s a hypocrite, a liar, unprincipled as to political values and in the economic arena, an unprincipled corporate looter whose negotiating strategies were allegedly based on dishonest bait and switch tactics. Not that he’s not intelligent, efficient and capable of generating effective solutions; it’s just that he rejects those sides of his personality in favor of momentary political expediency and thus has no rock of principles to anchor him. I think South Carolinians were right in rejecting him, but he seems to have been rejected because he was a Mormon, and a Mormon Bishop at that. That was disturbingly ironic for a people who purportedly stress family values. They rejected a person whose personal morality reflected their own in favor of an ethically challenged hypocrite who viciously attacked Bill Clinton’s peccadilloes while in the midst of his own (and his own not for the first time). Even more, they anointed a politician with an ethical background condemned even by his own party when last he held positions of power. A man linked to those mortgage lender leaders they erroneously hold responsible for the current economic crisis. A Washington insiders’ Washington insider who earns huge lobbying fees through his own lobbying organization, but presenting himself to that state I love as a Washington outsider: and they bought it. They liked his feistiness and the way he talked. I think I liked it better when people were selected on the basis of their looks, although JFK was a disaster as well. What can have happened to their intellect, their judgment and their values? Are they too Gone with the Wind?
Two other candidates, both better candidates and certainly better people than the Newt, came in third and fourth. Only one, Ron Paul, was even distantly acceptable to me. I was especially struck by the fact that in the post-election conferences, most of the candidates evaded their Party’s responsibility for having both caused the current economic disaster (to me way beyond a mere crisis), and then, in a politico-centric ethical pivot, have spent the entire Obama presidency doing everything possible to assure that the crisis is not resolved during a Democrat’s tenure in office. Factionalism reigns, patriotism wanes, and we suffer the results.
Perhaps I’m just not cynical enough yet. But then again, those were only Republican South Carolinians; perhaps the rest (independents and Democrats) are more lucid (although clearly in the minority). Not that the Democrats are a positive force for efficient governance. Will Rogers was right about them, they are politically inept and more and more subject to the same economic and Israeli-centric special interest corruption that permeates the GOP.
So, where are we left? Me? I’m most frustrated by the fact that those South Carolinians I most love and admire, an extremely talented group brought up under the profound responsibility of neither lying, cheating, stealing nor tolerating those who do, cannot find it in themselves to assume the leadership roles we so sorely lack, and creating the new sociopolitical and economic institutions we so sorely need, institutions embodying the noble ideals we so cherish.
But it seems that partisanship is a black hole from which not even the best can escape. Woe on us.
 © Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2012; all rights reserved