Dorchester County is coming in for a lot of well-deserved licks lately. I want to say that the people of Dorchester County deserve better than this. It's their politicians, after all, who are acting like fools. Then I have to remind myself, who elected those fools anyway?
On Sept. 9, I described how, in this politically absurd little corner of this politically absurd little state, white people fear Democrats so much that the Republican-dominated county council rescinded a resolution on health care reform because it sounded like something that Democrats would support!
That's right! The council had passed a resolution affirming a "health care crisis caused by increasing numbers of uninsured people, skyrocketing costs, and limited access." It called for elected officials and candidates to "work together with consumers, businesses, and health-care providers to ensure quality, affordable health care for everyone."
Then someone pointed out that this resolution might have been written by a Democrat. The resolution was called up for a second vote at the next council meeting. Four Republicans flipped and the resolution was rescinded.
"It was an honorable intent," Councilman Mike Murphree said of the resolution. "But when I read it more, it started to sound more and more like Hillary (Clinton) care. I think this is an issue that needs to be left to the Democrats, and I don't want to be associated with them."
In a sane and rational world, that would be enough to end any politician's career. But I am betting Murphree will still be warming a chair at the courthouse after next month's election because he's a Republican in Dorchester County.
Things got worse, when Dorchester County Republican Party Chair Arthur Bryngelson decided to politicize a mundane bit of county business and did it with the kind of ham-handed sensitivity that is the mark of truly stupid and arrogant people.
Two weeks ago, Dorchester County Auditor Johnette Connolly, who was resigning her position, asked Gov. Mark Sanford to appoint Deputy Auditor Brenda Nix to finish out her term. It was a reasonable choice. Nix had worked in the auditor's office for 30 years and Connolly felt that no one else could fill the job better.
But Nix was not Republican enough to suit Chair Bryngelson. Not only would she not divulge her party affiliation, she had supported Democrat Patsy Knight in a successful bid to replace GOP Rep. George Bailey in last fall's general election. After Bryngelson made it clear that he did not consider her fit to be auditor, Nix announced that she was no longer interested in the job.
It takes a proper Republican state of mind to be auditor, Bryngelson said, and Nix's mind was suspect. "If she acts like a Democrat, she's a Democrat," the chair told The Post and Courier. "You want to make sure you have someone with the right mind-set ... I would say that your mind-set is always important. It seems to me that Democrats believe in more taxes and more spending as the answer to our political and moral problems."
While this was going on, the Dorchester County Council and Summerville City Council both ran roughshod over the state Freedom of Information Act, according to an attorney for the S.C. Press Association. The county council is run by partisan Republicans. And while city council is technically nonpartisan, you can be assured it is heavily stacked with white elephants.
And there is the matter of the GOP-controlled Dorchester Two School Board, which recently rammed through a constitutionally questionable Bible-study class without proper state guidelines or materials. Dorchester Two has been warned by the national office of Americans United for Separation of Church and State that they are headed into a litigation minefield. Yet the school board is moving ahead with the unshakable confidence of those who know that God is on their side and that Republicans are unbeatable in this bastion of white-flight suburbia.
Put it all together and what you have in Dorchester County is government run amok, driven by partisan firebrands and religious crusaders, who have no respect for law, tradition, or diversity. This is the kind of arrogance and indifference to consequences that Southern politics are famous for. Whether it's a call for secession in 1860 or a litigious Bible class in 2007, white Southerners are brash and emotional. They love the feel of freedom and the wind rushing through their hair. That's why they jump off cliffs so regularly and predictably. They don't worry about the consequences until they hit bottom. Then, as they lie there bleeding, they claim that it was all worth it. They had to take a stand against gravity, even if it meant breaking a few bones.
That's the way the Democrats ran the state when they were the White People's Party. Republicans learn from the best.