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It’s the Year of the Panda in S.C. Politics

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February 8, 2018
By Andy Brack | Contributing Writer

If the 2018 gubernatorial race in South Carolina were a sound, it probably would be the chilling screech of fingernails dragged across a blackboard.

Folks, it’s the Year of the Panda, a season already with some of the worst political pandering in recent memory. The nonsense coming out of gubernatorial campaigns is more painful than bamboo shoots being stuck under those screeching fingernails — shoots that should nourish pandas, not irritate voters.

Winner of the week’s pandering award is Gov. Henry McMaster for the blatant ploy to suck up to voters by proclaiming Feb. 4 to be “Stand For The Flag Super Bowl Sunday.”

Some Einstein in McMaster’s campaign wins a graduate degree from Bonehead University for this farce. McMaster, normally a genial establishment guy, wants people to honor South Carolina veterans by standing up during the playing of the national anthem at the Super Bowl. It’s a move to latch onto a cause celebre in conservative circles to counter any football players who take a knee as a silent protest for racial inequality and police brutality. These silent protests, which have been going on since the 2016 season, haven’t been too successful among fans, but keep making headlines thanks to politicians.

So McMaster, obviously scared of the fundraising prowess of former state agency director Catherine Templeton of Mount Pleasant in the GOP battle to get the gubernatorial nomination, wants a new way to connect with voters and show his conservative bona fides.

In an official proclamation, McMaster encouraged “all South Carolinians to stand for the national anthem before Super Bowl LII to honor the service and sacrifice of generations of men and women of the United States Armed Forces.”

Horse hockey. This is pandering of the worst sort and voters should see it for what it is — a longtime politician desperately looking for a way to shore up support for a lackluster campaign.

Hours after McMaster’s proclamation, Templeton jumped in to continue a narrative of cynicism and unfounded anger that drags the race more into mud. In a web video, Templeton said it was spoiled to not stand up during the anthem and that she would have an important message online during the game. Why? To get people enjoying a game to think of politics during that game.

What a buzz kill. It’s unbridled pandering by a candidate seeking to wrap herself in the flag to veterans of a military in which she didn’t serve.

Let’s be clear. If I were at the Super Bowl, I’d stand during the national anthem. Why? Because I believe it’s the right thing to do out of respect for our country. But I have absolutely no problem at all in anyone exercising the right of free speech by kneeling like they do in church to illustrate we need to pray for a country that hasn’t done enough to minimize shootings of black youths or racial inequality. Quite frankly, as one Facebook reader pointed out, the Super Bowl is a game and might not even be an appropriate venue in which to play any banner, star-spangled or otherwise.

Nevertheless, when candidates come around and use the anthem for their partisan, political purposes, voters should take offense that these pandering politicians actually are disrespecting the anthem because they’re using it for selfish reasons.

Incidentally, Templeton took pandering to another level in recent days when she went ballistic about a mistake by The State newspaper over a picture in a news story. The paper mistakenly used her photo instead of another former agency director named Catherine in a story about the latter. Mistakes like this happen periodically in newspapers simply because those in the business juggle millions of words and pictures every year. It’s not good to have mistakes, but it’s pandering to yell “fake news” when it’s not.

South Carolina’s Democratic gubernatorial candidates James Smith of Columbia and Phil Noble of Charleston haven’t yet slipped into much pandering, but it’s sure to come. With Florence lawyer Marguerite Willis joining the race this week, the candidates will have to work harder to distinguish themselves.

Rule of thumb: If a candidate seems particularly strident about something, look closely to see if they’re serious or if they’re trying to use an issue just to get an emotional reaction — and your vote.

Andy Brack is editor and publisher of Statehouse Report. Have a comment? Send to: feedback@statehousereport.com


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