Up Close And Personal: Why Democrats Keep Losing The South

Southern Republican candidates have nothing to fear from the Southern Democratic electorate if my recent, highly distasteful experience, is a harbinger of things to come. If you’re new to PoliticusUSA, I’m a contributor of some 425 submissions or so, a pretty old guy and an activist Democrat.

I’m Anchorman Howard Beale, from the 1976 ‘Network’ movie, urging viewers to lean out their windows and scream, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” Problem is, with an almost universal lack of local party support, I guess I am going to have to sit back and take it some more; lots more.

In fact, I just got hell from a room full of Democrats for challenging a Republican state legislator’s record. Here’s how it came down. Our County Democratic Party Chairman invited local District 36 State Representative, Marita “Rita” Allison, to speak at our ongoing second Monday of the month Democratic luncheon. Rita’s a likable lady. She’s been active in helping out with beauty pageants for decades. She’s a great retail politician who also has some positives in her voting record, especially in the areas of domestic violence and child abuse.

The remainder of her record is largely abominable.

Representative Allison is a veteran of years in the House and is sadly the new Chair of the House Education and Pubic Works Committee. She gave a good speech, rightfully focused on education and roads as befitting her new leadership role. To hear her talk, you would think it was Elizabeth Warren at the podium. Just as moderate as could possibly be. Just as Democrat as could possibly be. Then came the après-speech Q & A.

Prior to the start of the luncheon, I had asked the Representative if she minded some ‘tough’ questions. She allowed as she did not. I reiterated that the questions would indeed be tough. At the end of her speech, she even mentioned that a ‘young man’ had warned her that he might ask some tough questions, so fire away. One of the few attendees with the courage of his convictions, did indeed, fire away with some thoughtful fuel tax questions to cover the expenses involved in desperately needed state road repair. The pair went back and forth, and a voice or two was raised in a political exchange without rancor, but a spirited one to be sure.

Subsequent questions all seemed to be coming from the opposite side of the room from my locale. I looked at the Party Chairman and he nodded in understanding that I would get my chance. I did.

I praised Rita for the positives that I wrote of earlier and congratulated her on making sure over the years that the nation realized that South Carolina had the “Purttiest girls.” I then made reference to our earlier conversation about tough questions and told the Representative and my fellow Democrats that “Here they come.”

I cited Allison’s record of bill sponsorship that included either sponsoring or co-sponsoring such legislation as opposition to same-sex marriage, tax credits for those sending their children to private, often religious, specialized “Exceptional Needs” schools. Not only taking money from public schools, but building a back-door entree into privatization of all the public schools the for-profit education industry could get their hands on. The American Legislative Exchange Council has pushed the bill for years. The name of the ALEC bill is “The Special Needs Scholarship Program Act.” The name of the South Carolina bill, H4021, is “Special Needs Scholarship Program.” Look up the ALEC model legislation. Compare it to H4021. Not a nickel’s worth of difference.

Rita wants to get rid of the President’s health care plan in its entirety with a strong sponsorship of H3101, a bill that would do exactly that. Those trying to enforce the plan could face criminal charges. She further gilded her tarnished “let the poor die” lily by co-sponsoring H3355, legislation that would block the expansion of Medicaid. A Harvard study estimates an additional 1,000 annual statewide deaths at a minimum as a result. Prior to that heartless gesture, she sponsored the 2011 Voter ID Act, H3003, a bill so discriminatory that the Department of Justice kicked it back for a do-over. The bill is also based on ALEC model legislation.

In a later development, she voted her love for the house version of S836, a bill enacted to create the nation’s first Interstate Healthcare Compact in conjunction with eight other states. The bill has but one purpose; destroy Barack Obama’s health care effort.

There was an additional stack of distasteful and hurtful legislation, but I only had so much time. I asked Allison to explain her attendance at the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice event as filed with the South Carolina Ethics Commission, 3/13/2014. The Foundation was founded by the late, and much discredited free market, supply-side economist, Milton Friedman. The person in charge of the legislator contacts was once a Policy Manger at ALEC and graduated from the Charles Koch Institute’s Koch Associate Program.

The representative vehemently denied attending any Friedman event. I responded that I found it in Ethic’s Commission records. “Then I’ll have to get that corrected.” Later, after the meeting had broken up, she said I should find the record of the meeting and email it to her. Knowing the particulars, I scribbled down the contents from the Ethic’s page, noted the filing date, the Friedman name and the $604.68 gift of food and lodging. “Oh, maybe I did attend something in Charlotte. I just don’t remember.”

Before the meeting, she had denied in a conversation with the Chairman of the party that she had ever been a member of ALEC. The Chairman and I then had a conversation where he sounded a bit skeptical of my information. At the meeting, she admitted that she had paid dues to ALEC, but supposedly never participated in any functions.

Had I had time at the luncheon, I would have pointed out that Allison earned roughly a quarter of a million dollars as Communications Director of the Commission on Higher Education, most of the money coming while serving in the house (another 20 grand or so).

But, what was really galling was the reaction of my colleagues as I continued to civilly grill our representative. They literally started yelling at me. I was taking too much time and I was encouraged, not too subtly, to shut up. They cared not one wit about the issues. Blacks joined in the chorus, extraordinary, given the irreparable harm to the minority community from Allison votes. Later, one of our local State Senators, Glenn Reese, bowed and scraped before Allison, in telling the crowd how great she was for the area. Reese, popular Krispy Kreme shop owner, has served in the senate since ’91. Keep those right-wing tax deciders happy.

I’ll admit that time constraints had me talking marginally longer than I should have, but, frankly, with one exception, I’m the only one that had done any Allison homework and these questions needed to be answered. They weren’t, as Allison simply refused to comment on any of her repulsive votes.

Down South, you’re not allowed to ask Republican office holders any challenging questions.

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