By Bob Cesca: Arizona has been such a hotbed of wingnuttery and ignorance lately that it's easy to forget about the almost-as-backwards-and-ridiculous state of South Carolina.
The home of legal firecrackers and the abundantly racist tourist trap called South of the Border has been the reigning super-champion of right-wing demagoguery and radicalism almost since the formation of the country. Toss in its status as the first nation to secede from the United States and the state that re-elected Strom Thurmond to a gajillion consecutive terms in the U.S. Senate, then multiply Mark Sanford's hike on "the Appalachian Trail," then throw in their new Jim Crow style Voter ID law, then add in a dash of this guy and you might have a partial view of how wacky South Carolina really is.
As a replacement for Mark Sanford, South Carolinians elected Nikki Haley, a very ethnic choice considering the state's penchant for whites-only segregation (Strom Thurmond, its decades-long senator, famously filibustered the Civil Rights Act of 1957 -- the longest standing filibuster in American history). Even though she was born into the Sikh religion, there aren't any witch hunts or demands for birth certificates proving her South Carolina heritage -- interesting how that works when Republicans have unusual ethnic and religious background versus African American Democrats born in Hawaii.
But it turns out that Haley isn't just a demagogue against illegal immigrants, she also doesn't care much for the state's female population.
Naturally, she endorsed the controversial policy of state-mandated government ultrasounds for women who choose to have an abortion. She also voted for the Penalties for Harming an Unborn Child/Fetus law, which, in some cases, could criminalize women who suffer from miscarriages if no specific cause provides a legitimate reason for the natural termination of the pregnancy.
And several days ago, Haley did this:
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) vetoed nearly half a million dollars that was slated to go toward domestic violence and sexual assault prevention. Haley defended the veto, according to the Charleston City Paper, saying that rape and sexual assault prevention programs “distract from” the Department of Health’s mission, and that sexual assault victims are “only a small portion” of South Carolinians who need help.
Not to be overly alarmist about this, but did she seriously accompany her veto of a sexual assault prevention bill by saying that rapes and assaults against women are a "distraction?" Wow. That's staggering, especially given the state's above average record on sexual violence. South Carolina also has the seventh highest rate of female murders at the hands of men in the nation. Seventh. This is somehow a "distraction" from the real issues.
Seriously, too many southern states are rapidly returning to pre-Civil Rights, pre-gender equality status. And they're doing it successfully without much push-back. In South Carolina, a woman with immigrant parents is actually facilitating it. Now that's how screwy South Carolina really is.
But by way of a post script, there's a South Carolina Republican who's actually doing the right thing by breaking with the GOP groupthink on the climate crisis. Former Congressman Bob Inglis is spearheading the “Energy and Enterprise Initiative” which will, according to the National Journal, "push one policy: a new tax on carbon pollution or gasoline consumption, paired with a cut in the income or payroll tax, creating a revenue-neutral, market-driven solution to an environmental problem while cutting taxes that conservatives dislike." I don't like the second part, since I strongly believe the payroll tax should be expanded to include the full income of Americans earning more than the current income cap of around $102,000 -- perhaps exclusively, while exempting workers earning less than that amount. It would keep Social Security solvent for decades beyond the 2040 mark. So whenever I hear about another more than temporary payroll tax reductions, I worry that perhaps it's a means of sabotaging the program. Nevertheless, it's refreshing to see a Republican -- especially a South Carolina Republican -- take on the climate crisis in a serious way.
Perhaps, after all, there might be some hope.