South Carolina editorial roundup: Friday, Feb. 2, 2024


Post and Courier

Jan. 31

Gates of hell? McMaster's tough-guy attempt is mostly just embarrassing

Gov. Henry McMaster is right: South Carolina doesn't need any more unions.

You know what else we don't need? We don't need any more of our governor's ridiculous, over-the-top rhetoric about fighting his foe du jour to "the gates of hell." He didn't even deliver his line particularly well - probably because he's a mostly responsible governor who doesn't wear the tough-guy image very well.

We're still trying to figure out what he hoped to accomplish with that stale rhetorical flourish in his otherwise mostly responsible State of the State address.

Governors have traditionally used the address to deliver a wish list to the Legislature for priorities they want approved in the coming session. But Mr. McMaster didn't ask for any new laws to fight union growth in general or the effort by the International Longshoremen's Association in particular to get its members ensconced in jobs now performed by state employees operating ship-to-shore cranes at the State Ports Authority's new Leatherman Terminal. Nor did he call for any laws to fight what he termed union targeting of "our thriving hospitality and tourism industry along our coast."

Little wonder: It's hard to imagine how we could make our anti-union laws any tougher without violating either federal law or the U.S. Constitution. As The Post and Courier's David Wren reminds us, South Carolina has the lowest union membership of any state, at 2.3%, in part because of some of the toughest anti-union laws in the nation. And we're supposed to believe the governor's laughable claim that South Carolina's thriving economy faces "a clear and present danger from the big labor unions"?

Governors also use the State of the State to boost their own political standing among voters. But Mr. McMaster is serving his second and final full term as governor and has indicated absolutely no interest in seeking any other political office. So he's in that longed-for phase of any politician's career where he has no need to keep throwing red meat to the base - and frankly, there's a lot redder meat he could toss than this - or trying to appeal to a wider audience with a populist message, which this isn't exactly either.

The State of the State address can be used to send a message to a wider audience as well - in this case perhaps to businesses considering whether to locate in South Carolina or to the Longshoremen or other unions looking for an entrée in our unfriendly state. But that "last in the nation" ranking already sends a mighty clear message to businesses, and who in the world was confused about Mr. McMaster's animosity toward unions or his intention to fight them all the way to …

And there's the really curious thing: The fight at the front of the governor's mind - against the Longshoremen - has a very specific end point, as our former attorney general of all people knows very well: the U.S. Supreme Court. Now, a lot of liberals consider that something akin to the gates of hell these days, but usually not conservatives. At least not real conservatives - which we've always taken Mr. McMaster to be - as opposed to the faux conservatives who use that mantle to promote self-interested positions that are really just the opposite. And the court's nine justices are certainly not going to be swayed by the governor's silly rhetoric.

There's no question that unions can inflict damage on individual businesses and on the larger economy, as we've seen from crippling strikes; they also can harm employee morale, by insisting that the worst employees get the same benefits as the best. Of course, the best way to fight unions is for more employers to do what the governor and the state Chamber of Commerce wishfully claim all businesses in our state do: Convince employees they don't need a union by providing competitive wages and a good work environment.

Pledging to fight someone "to the gates of hell" implies a lot more than simply taking a fight seriously and fighting hard: It implies that your foe is evil, and using such language encourages people to believe that those who disagree with you must by definition be evil. The last time Mr. McMaster used that phrase was when the Biden administration tried to force some businesses to require their employees to be vaccinated against COVID - which again had nothing to do with evil and didn't need our governor's intervention to stop.

Unions are not evil; they simply approach the economy and politics in a different way than we and Mr. McMaster do. Such disagreements used to be a respected part of our republic. They should be again.

Times and Democrat

Jan. 27

Haley needs more than independents

Bamberg County native Nikki Haley got more than 40% of the vote in Tuesday's GOP presidential primary in New Hampshire, but it wasn't Republicans getting Haley within 11 points of winner and former President Donald Trump.

New Hampshire allows voters to register as Republican, Democrat or independent/undeclared. An undeclared voter can pick a primary in which to participate. Republicans must vote in the GOP primary and Democrats must vote in the Democratic primary. But New Hampshire allows voters to change their party affiliation in advance of an election.

In New Hampshire on Tuesday, only 30% of Republicans voted for Haley. Independents and Democrats having changed their affiliation to Democrat accounted for 70% of the former South Carolina governor's total.

Haley says it's now on to South Carolina, where she expects significant support despite polls showing Trump leading in her home state. If she is to do well here, it likely won't be because of any Democratic help.

South Carolina does not require a voter to register by party. Thus any voter can participate in a primary of choice on any election day with the exception of runoffs. If a voter casts a ballot in one party's primary, the person can only vote in runoffs from that primary. They cannot cross over and vote in the other party's runoffs. Other than that, a voter is not bound to any party in succeeding primaries.

South Carolina Republicans have long wanted to end such independence, working to have voters register with a party affiliation that limits them to casting ballots in their party's primaries. A key argument is voters normally affiliated with one party should not be able to cross over and impact the results in the other party's races.

In New Hampshire, the thinking is independents and some Democrats-turned-independents voted Republican Tuesday more out of opposition to Trump than real support for Haley.

Haley may appeal to moderate Republicans in South Carolina, but she is not going to get much help in February from Democrats.

"Clyburn to Dems: Vote." The T&D headline from earlier this week speaks volumes. Congressman James Clyburn, a leader in the re-election campaign for Democratic President Joe Biden, was instrumental in having South Carolina become the first national primary in the Democratic race. New Hampshire's Democratic vote did not decide any delegates.

South Carolina holds its Democratic presidential primary on Feb. 3, three weeks before Republicans vote. If Democrats heed the call and turn out for Biden, they will forego the ability to cross over and vote in the GOP primary on Feb. 24.

What voters do and don't do on both dates will be watched closely by both parties, as Democrats could be seen joining Republicans in saying let's put limits on crossover voting.

Republicans have gone so far as to sue over the system. The GOP argues South Carolina law allowing any registered voter to cast ballots in any political party's primaries denies parties their 1st Amendment right of "free association," a legal concept meaning individuals' right to express themselves and promote common interests as a group.

A federal judge in 2011 rejected the lawsuit by the GOP, saying if Republicans don't want outsiders to help choose their nominees, they have other options, like picking candidates at a party convention or filling out petitions to get them on the ballot.

The decision was a victory for voters, though many do not understand why they cannot vote on primary day for candidates in both political parties.

The idea is not far-fetched and was proposed more than three decades ago by the late Sen. Marshall B. Williams of Orangeburg when the state moved away from the inequities and uncertainties of party-funded and -operated primaries to voting run by the state. Williams, a Democrat, sought to approve voting in more than one primary on the same day, thereby allowing a person to select races in which to make choices, whether the races be Republican or Democrat.

The idea was rejected as fundamentally putting an end to the party nominating process. If voters can pick and choose among candidates across same-day primaries, the vote may as well be a general election.

Thus South Carolina ended up with a system that retains the independence of voters to select a primary but does not allow people to participate in both parties' primaries in the same election.

Nikki Haley will have to count on independent voters not participating in the Feb. 3 Democratic primary to boost her against Trump in the Feb. 24 GOP primary. But unless she can convince loyal Republicans to abandon Trump, she will lose in her home state. And voter choice, not election procedures, will be to blame.


Jan. 31

How long can - or will - Haley stay the course?

On Saturday, those voting in South Carolina's Democratic primary ahead of November's general election will cast their ballots. Anyone expecting any surprises there? Probably not.

Three weeks later, it's the GOP primary ballot taking center stage. Is that one a foregone conclusion? Many pundits say it is, but the one person yet facing former President Trump is vowing to stay the course.

Our state's former governor and the former president's ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, has been traveling the Palmetto State with near Winston Churchill determination that she will not surrender.

However, if Feb. 24 ends with the results so many have long predicted, that being a strong Trump victory, what will Haley's message be that night or the following morning? Can she realistically and financially keep her campaign alive?

Give credit where it's due. Haley has hung in longer than others, including a certain governor who only mere hours after saying his campaign was alive and well waved the surrender flag and swore allegiance to the man who once called him Ron DeSanctimonious.

Still, it is hard to believe the Haley campaign can maintain any momentum if she fails to carry her own home state in the primary.