The husband never told anyone other than his wife who got his vote. But this time it was different. The country was divided, the Armed Forces stretched thin, China paid tuitions for thousands of Chinese students to attend U.S. colleges and steal technology, the ice caps were melting, the traffic was always bad, and his wife’s bill for a brief visit to the Roper emergency room was a thousand dollars because he had health insurance.
Oops, sorry, the husband digresses.
Anyway, last week’s madcap special election to fill South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District seat was a zinger. Thirty-five people were initially in the running, including the former state treasurer who went to jail for drugs; the former governor who “hiked the Appalachian Trail”; the former governor’s former first lady who wrote a book about him soon after she told him to take another hike; the son of billionaire Ted Turner, who used to be married to Jane Fonda; the son of the late Sen. Strom Thurmond, who held office for what seemed like an eternity; and the enterprising sister of the hugely popular and effervescent Comedy Central star who grew up in Charleston.
After two primaries and one runoff in less than four months, the field was reduced to one man, one woman and one third-party candidate who for 40 years running has gotten his name on ballots but never stands a chance of winning outside the James Island PSD.
This time on Election Eve the polls showed the race was a toss-up: Democrat versus Republican, blue versus red, liberal versus conservative, truth versus a lie or two. So the husband and the wife did not fail to vote the next day for the person each believed would best represent them in Congress.
That evening as the sun slipped from the western sky, the man and his wife poured two glasses of red wine and talked, and soon realized they had canceled out each other’s vote.
She voted for the woman.
He admitted he chose the one who wears the pants in what’s left of his family.
“Uh, wait, honey, I didn’t say that right,” the husband quickly added. “Everybody wears the pants nowadays, especially those in the halls of Congress. It’s fine with me for women to wear pants any time, anywhere as long as they don’t walk around with their zippers down. But I’m not so sure about a man wearing a skirt in public unless he’s holding bagpipes.”
“You voted for HIM?” the wife asked.
“Umm ... yes, I did,” the husband said.
“Well, don’t tell anyone, it’s embarrassing,” she said.
Then he listed seven reasons why the former governor won:
No. 1: The 1st Congressional District is a huge, thoughtfully gerrymandered voting constituency that Republicans always win.
No. 2: He is fixated on the economy. That’s why he pumped into it more than a million dollars of previous campaign contributions that he could no longer spend on himself unless he ran for something. People in the plywood, paint and hardware industries were especially supportive.
No. 3: Washington is where our new congressman might set aside his frugality and get his district federal funding for really big projects such as the light-rail mass transit system from Summerville to downtown Charleston everybody’s been talking about since he was up there the first time.
No. 4: He isn’t the only one who has ever fallen “stupid in love,” and he did not hesitate to say so upon his return from Argentina. Most voters appreciate that. They know people in such a stupor do say the darnedest things.
No. 5: Everybody is aware that it was no mere coincidence that not long before Election Day word got out that the former first lady came home on Super Bowl Sunday night and found the former governor there, and that he confessed he had entered her house without permission to watch the second half of the game. This, of course, was a blatant personal foul. Yet most voters understood that fathers who risk everything to watch football with their sons do the darnedest things.
No. 6: The man had proven beyond a doubt that he could live a virtuous life. He went to Furman.
No. 7: He sure made Nancy Pelosi look stiff during one of his campaign debates. She could not answer any of his questions.
John M. Burbage has been a writer, editor and publisher in South and North Carolina for the past 44 years. He lives in downtown Charleston and owns a farm in Hampton County.