Columbia, SC — THE REFRAIN is fairly constant, and by now all too predictable: I don’t want Nikki Haley to have any more power. I don’t trust her to appoint the superintendent of education. Or the adjutant general. Or to control state procurement decisions.
It’s just like it was with Mark Sanford, only more so, because Mr. Sanford didn’t lose our Social Security and bank account numbers, and there was never any real threat that the Legislature would actually give him any more power.
Nowadays, any time Gov. Haley or the Legislature or I or anyone else starts talking about giving the governor the tools that governors in 49 other states take for granted, too many Democrat legislators start complaining, and my inbox fills up with emails about how partisan or ideological or incompetent or untrustworthy she is. As if that’s the basis on which we should decide how our government will operate after she’s long gone.
To be fair, I have no doubt that a lot of Republicans who now support these changes would have been adamantly opposed had they been proposed during the administration of Jim Hodges, our last Democratic governor.
But they weren’t, and so here we are, with a lot of Republicans supporting smart structural reforms for all the wrong reasons, and a lot of Democrats opposing them for all the wrong reasons, chief of which is the “I don’t want Nikki Haley …” argument.
Although it’s not a legitimate argument, it’s a legitimate concern.
I don’t want Nikki Haley running the state’s public schools either.
I don’t want her appointing the adjutant general.
I wouldn’t want her picking our next lieutenant governor. (She won’t; the first time gubernatorial nominees choose their running mates is 2018.)
I don’t want her in control of the Budget and Control Board.
Or anything else.
That’s why I supported Vincent Sheheen in the 2010 gubernatorial election. It’s why I supported Gresham Barrett in the Republican runoff. It’s why I supported Henry McMaster in the Republican primary. I would have been perfectly comfortable with any of them having the sort of authority that governors ought to have.
But you know what? My candidates lost. All three times.
The majority of voters in our state disagreed with me. They wanted Nikki Haley to be their governor. And so she is.
A fundamental principle in our nation is that aside from a few fundamental rights — the freedom of religion and the press, to bear arms and to due process and fair trials, for example — the majority rules. Even if it’s uninformed. Even if its motives are repulsive. Even if its ideas are ruinous.
And when we find ourselves in the minority, we accept it, and we make the best of it. If we’re elected officials, we find a way to work with the majority on the many, many issues where we agree, and where we disagree, we try to ameliorate those majority ideas with which we disagree. That, by the way, is the appropriate and vital role for the minority faction in any government.
Unfortunately, this has become a quaint idea — to some, it might even seem radical. But it’s the way we did things for the first two centuries we were a nation. And it worked pretty well. Then political operatives started getting the idea that it’s better politics for those in the minority to lose at governance than to reach a reasonable compromise with those in the majority — because if the minority loses the debate, the results will be more radical than they would have been, and the minority has an easy way to energize its supporters at the next election.
Layered atop this no-compromise nihilism that has infected our entire nation is the anti-executivism peculiar to South Carolina, which holds that governors never, ever can be trusted and that we must construct whatever convoluted measures are necessary to prevent them from exercising any authority — even if that means undermining our state’s ability to function efficiently and effectively and move forward.
Fortunately, not everyone in our state is infected. Long before anyone could have imagined that he might one day run for governor, Sen. Sheheen emerged as our most energetic and creative and effective advocate for empowering governors. He has continued to lead the effort even after he lost to Ms. Haley. Even as she and her team constantly castigate his motives and his sincerity.
Now, our state could do a lot worse than to have Mr. Sheheen as our governor two years from now, but he of all people knows that the odds are against that happening.
So in a very real sense, he is devoting his political energy and capital to convincing his colleagues that how much or little they trust Nikki Haley is irrelevant. Anyone who supports Mr. Sheheen ought to think long and hard about that before they decide whether to keep fighting his efforts to move our state forward.
Ms. Scoppe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (803) 771-8571.