We now interrupt our regularly scheduled partisan rancor for a message from Henry McMaster.
The governor paid tribute to the late Fritz Hollings not once but twice this week. On Monday, he was first in line as the former governor lay in repose at the Statehouse. On Tuesday, he delivered one of the eulogies at his funeral.
“Fritz worked hard. He campaigned hard, but he did a great job, and I’m proud to have known him,” McMaster said. “He was among the best of us.”
Those kind words were honest and heartfelt — and no doubt shocking to today’s ideologues.
See, McMaster is a die-hard Republican and Hollings was a lifelong Democrat ... and these days those folks never say anything nice about one another. They just call each other evil and treasonous, melodramatically accuse their opponents of trying to destroy the country.
Make no mistake, professional politics has always been nasty. But time was, members of Congress or the Legislature could scream across the aisle at each other during the day then grab a drink together that night.
With his homages to Hollings, McMaster was giving us a little taste of how it used to be — and still should. Most people will tell you that civility in politics was laid to rest long ago. But there are signs that some people are getting nostalgic for less-troubled times.
Last week, a pro-gun activist suggested shooting state Rep. Peter McCoy, and police rushed to guard his family because, well, these days you never know who’s serious. The Charleston County Democratic and Republican parties responded by issuing a rare joint statement. “Good people are in each political party. We have a difference in beliefs, and we appreciate passionate advocacy, but threats of violence are not acceptable. We ask all political advocates to set an appropriate tone of civility for this election cycle.”
Then-GOP Chairman Larry Kobrovsky and Democratic Chairwoman Colleen Condon agreed to speak in one voice against violence. It was significant.
A recent Marist poll found that 79 percent of U.S. residents fear today’s nasty political rhetoric will lead to violence in this country ... if it hasn’t already.
In that poll, 40 percent of people unsurprisingly blamed President Trump for this decline in decorum, and 29 percent blamed the media. Let’s hope by “media” those folks meant radio and TV talk show hosts and the internet — because that’s where much of this problem has originated for the past 20 years.
Talking to Condon and Kobrovsky separately, it’s funny how similar they sound. Both of them note that people post things on the internet they wouldn’t dare say to anyone’s face, and that emboldens others to get even nastier. It escalates from there.
They’re right, so no big surprise. But it’s an example that, no matter what a person’s political stripes, most folks share many of the same beliefs. You know, aside from despising trolls.
Kobrovsky has been preaching this sort of civility for a while now, and Condon says she was happy to find common ground. Both would like for this to be the start of something.
“We both want the same things, we just have different ideas of how to achieve them,” Kobrovsky says (he chose not to seek another term as chairman last week, and former state Sen. John Kuhn was elected to replace him).
Condon says civility is her goal as Democratic Party chair and hopes Kuhn follows Kobrovsky’s lead. “I may disagree with our opponents’ positions on issues, but I’m not going to attack them, their families, their pets or their basic humanity.” If only everyone was as mature as those two.
McMaster’s tributes to Hollings were even more striking considering they once ran against each other for the U.S. Senate. That’s how politics should be: Two people debate, disagree but still respect each other. “I think we ought to remember that politics is a part of life, but it’s not all of life,” McMaster said Monday.
Far too many people have forgotten that. Maybe with a few more reminders it’ll come back to them.
Reach Brian Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org.