With the first season of Bravo's Southern Charm in the books, I'm grateful to the City Paper for this opportunity to offer a few thoughts.
First, I'd like to reiterate: Southern Charm portrayed my life accurately. In other words what came through the television screen — the good, the bad, and the ugly — was reality. I didn't like every second of it obviously, but I won't make excuses for any of it.
Perceptions of the show differ dramatically. Some love it, some hate it. But more than a few people have asked me in recent weeks, "Thomas, why do you still consider yourself as having a future in politics?"
That's a legitimate question, and I've got a legitimate answer: I still consider myself as having a future in politics because the people of South Carolina — and America — are not being served by the current two-party system. Taxpayers across the country are tapped out as they struggle with stagnant incomes, rising costs, and mounting uncertainty. Good jobs are fewer and further between – with South Carolina's labor participation rate at a record low of 57.9 percent (the fourth-worst figure in the country).
This is not a recovery. It is a "reality show" we can't tune out.
We need someone in the U.S. Senate who cannot be bought off by the same old special interests, someone who is willing to advance the sort of pro-liberty, pro-prosperity agenda people from all backgrounds can appreciate and materially benefit from.
"How on earth can I still consider having a future in politics?" — easy. There is a growing constituency for the ideas I have consistently championed throughout my time in public life, broad-based tax relief, the elimination of unnecessary government, the restoration of fundamental freedoms, the decriminalization of recreational drugs, and a more realistic, less interventionist view of America's foreign policy.
I push these ideas not because I was a casualty in our country's failed "war on drugs," but because there are millions of Americans whose lives have been ruined due to ill-conceived federal policies. Government spends trillions in the name of promoting specific outcomes, like educating our children, lowering our healthcare costs, or keeping our country safe from terrorists, yet the opposite invariably occurs. We end up with dumber children, higher healthcare costs, and a country that's making new enemies with each new drone strike.
Worst of all, there is never any real accountability for failure. We just get another crop of cookie-cutter politicians each new election cycle promising "change" and "reform" only to get sucked into Washington's vortex of power and influence. All the while, excessive borrowing and money printing by the Federal Reserve keeps the gravy train flowing, extending the obligations of our future generations.
Speaking of future generations that leads me to the most important reason I still consider myself as having a future in politics — my new daughter, Kensie.
I've learned over the past few weeks that raising a child is the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. As I'm typing this column, I've got Kensie on my arm, a reminder (currently a quite noisy one) of the new definition of "responsibility" in my life.
The first time I held Kensie, I knew nothing would ever be the same. I also realized all the policies I've been advancing in the public arena over the years matter more than I ever imagined. Suddenly the "next generation" of Americans whose lives will be disproportionately impacted by terrible Washington decisions wasn't something abstract; it was a reality staring me in the face. That's sobering in more ways than one.
It's impossible to predict how Southern Charm will impact my political future, but I can say the bundle of joy Kathryn and I welcomed in the last episode of the show is my new motivation for not only being a better man, but being a better champion of ideas. And I look forward to sharing those ideas in the months leading up to November's election.