South Carolina and Georgia: A Contemporary Tale of Two Southern States
“Nothin’ could be finer” than to see Georgia flip yet again.
- Democracy tolerates stupidity with impunity. But it also makes at least equal room for correction.
- A man of the law, James L. Petigru famously said, South Carolina is too small for a republic and too large for an insane asylum.
- Trump continues to advocate the myth of MAGA (“Make America Great Again”) and to spin stories about election fraud.
- Trump is playing with fire: His persistence could have an effect on the Georgia run-off election for the US Senate.
- Conspiracy theorists are advocating to Republicans to sit out – to boycott – the run-off election for the two senatorial seats in Georgia.
- Everyone should vote – calmly, legally, with generously toward the other side – exercising what Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature.”
On December 20, 1860, my native state of South Carolina seceded from the Union of the United States of America. There were diverging opinions about the legality of this move. Above all, President-Elect Abraham Lincoln thought secession was illegal.
Another man, nearer to the case, thought it was not only illegal but also just plain stupid. Firmly positioned on the side of what we now call “the rule of law,” James L. Petigru had served as South Carolina’s Attorney General.
He had also argued — and won — a case before the S.C. Court of Appeals that held that allegiance to the federal government prevailed over allegiance to the state.
That did not sit well with many people in his home state. Nor did his opinion expressed upon the secession of South Carolina:
South Carolina is too small for a republic and too large for an insane asylum.
A republic or an insane asylum?
Following the act of secession, South Carolina’s General Assembly combined two military academies and readied for a war that would leave their state in ruins and backward for at least a century. I would contend that it has politically held that status for longer than that.
On January 9, 1861, Citadel Cadets fired the first shots of the Civil War, which still remains the United States’ most brutal war experience.
Ramming against the rule of law in 2020
Now that Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani have continually rammed their noses up against the wall of the rule of law, one would think — as the judge in Pennsylvania intimated — that without evidence, they should quit trying. But no, not a chance.
Not unlike the “boys” from the Citadel in their fever for a great war to justify their way of life and the “peculiar institution” of slavery, Trump continues to advocate the myth of MAGA (“Make America Great Again”) — and to spin stories about election fraud.
Georgia on our minds
Like the southern boys from The Citadel using cannons for their first time in real conflict in 1861, Mr. Trump is playing with fire: His persistence could have an effect on the Georgia run-off election for the U.S. Senate.
Election Day, the last day to cast ballots, for that race is January 5, 2021, with in-person early voting beginning on December 14 and absentee ballots being mailed out starting November 18.
It must be said yet again that in the 2020 presidential election in the United States, the system worked, as has the rule of law since then.
It worked in large part because of honest local administrators all across the country. It was a matter of their honesty, their honor and their patriotism that they were determined to have a fair election. Their often-partisan preferences and backgrounds played no role.
No doubt, the task to secure elections in the future remains a big issue, not just in Georgia. The country-wide system needs updating and securing, as Steven Hill has argued in these pages. But for now, because of efforts of both federal and local officials, it worked.
Let us now praise not-so-famous men (and women)
Among the men and women who deserve praise because they worked hard for a fair election, is the Republican Secretary of State of Georgia, Brad Raffensperger.
He defended the integrity of Georgia’s election, despite pressure from the two U.S. Senate Republican candidates, Trump himself and the senior U.S. Senator from none other than neighboring South Carolina, Lindsey Graham.
It is intriguing how South Carolina tends to take the losing side and to continually be on the cutting edge of idiocy.
According to Mr. Raffensperger, Senator Graham purportedly pressured him to find ways to overturn the Georgia election.
Graham denies that. But if one understands what a chameleon he is, one doesn’t doubt that he encouraged his fellow Republican to do something, well, if not fraudulent, at least untoward.
The simple solution of honesty and data
Still, Brad Raffensperger decided according to the data, citing his engineering background. That’s just too straight, too supremely simple, for Graham or for Trump.
Raffensperger decided correctly about the election — even though he said he personally had wanted Trump to win.
And he says the senatorial candidates should work on their election campaigns, instead of spewing conspiracy theories, so that they might prevail over their Democrat opponents.
The liar tweets tonight
Meanwhile, Donald Trump continues to lie and tweet, attacking not only Georgia’s Secretary of State, but also its Republican Governor.
He is also revving up groups of his base given to conspiracy and to influence by the likes of convicted felon Roger Stone.
In a sense, what Trump is doing — once again — is to follow what a former President, Lyndon B. Johnson, once so pointedly expressed:
“If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”
Make my day and boycott the Georgia election
And so, it comes as no surprise that right-wing conspiracy theorists are suggesting a particular kind of revenge for the electoral “theft” that robbed Trump of a victory in Georgia in the November presidential election.
They are advocating to Republicans to sit out – i.e. to boycott — the run-off election for the two senatorial seats in Georgia. Talk about idiocy.
Now the Democrat in me wants to lean back and say, “Well, if they want to be that stupid, by all means let them be. It betters Democrats’ chances of winning two more seats in the Senate.”
After all, democracy tolerates stupidity with impunity (look at the last four years!). But it also makes at least equal room for correction.
The democrat in me, then, takes counsel from people like Brad Raffensperger or Christopher Krebs, and says, “Everyone should vote” — calmly, legally, generously (toward the other side) — exercising what Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature.”