Tim Dunkin: Dirty Politics and Why South Carolina Needs a Good Dose of TEApublicanism

Politics is a dirty game, which is probably why more good people don’t get into it. Politicians seem to come in two types. The large majority are those who end up being sucked into the swamp, however idealistic they initially were, and however good their intentions might have been. The constant drumbeat of corruption – everything from lobbyists trying to buy their vote to the temptation to respond in kind to political enemies trying to backstab them – can make many a good man or woman go bad. The culture of Washington and the culture of the Statehouse take over, and these end up being just another career politician for whom reelection is more important than good government, who begin to view the people as a source of revenue rather than a source of political legitimacy. Of course, many of them never were idealistic or had good intentions to begin with. Many of them intended to get into politics simply to further their own power and wealth.

The other type of politician, much in the minority, is the one who is able to resist the temptation to corruption. These are nevertheless touched by it because of the simple fact that evil can never cease to harass the good. This type is the man or woman who genuinely tries his or her best to give the people good government, to adhere to the constitutional limits of their office, who doesn’t view you and me as an ever-leafing money tree. They also, unfortunately, end up being the target of those corrupt and dirty politicians who want to drag them down, who want to keep these knights in shining armor from being a hindrance to the spending, the corruption, the “business as

usual” mentality.

We see this taking place in South Carolina today.

If you have been watching the Republican primary race to see who will be the Party’s nominee to run for the governorship of that state in November, you have seen this in action. Four people are running in this primary – Nikki Haley, Gresham Barrett, Andre Bauer, and Henry McMaster. Up until about two weeks ago, this race was pretty vanilla – four individuals, all conservative to one degree or another, fighting it out to see who will become the GOP nominee to run for the highest office in one of the most conservative states in the union. Three of these – Bauer, McMaster, and Barrett – were backed by various elements of South Carolina’s GOP establishment, as well as by national-level politicians. McMaster (the state’s Attorney General), for instance, has won national level endorsements from Rudy Giuliani and John McCain, clearly marking him out as the national Party insiders’ choice. Bauer (currently the Lieutenant Governor) is reputedly the choice of the state GOP’s establishment. For most of the spring, the race was between Bauer and McMaster as being the two who would advance to the inevitable runoff election. In December, Insider Advantage had the two tied at 22% each, and a March 3 poll from Rasmussen had McMaster leading Bauer 22%-17%.

However, a funny thing happened on the way to the voting booth. Early in May, Sarah Palin stepped into the fray and endorsed Nikki Haley, a very conservative state representative from Lexington. This followed on the heels of some Tea Party endorsements that also went to Haley, as well as the thumbs-up from Jenny Sanford, the former first lady, currently estranged from her two-timing husband, Mark Sanford. These endorsements had an effect, as Nikki Haley was drawn out of obscurity and thrust into the spotlight as a new conservative rising star. A Rasmussen poll on May 17 put Haley in the lead with 30% of the vote (a healthy margin for a four-way race). This was followed by a Public Policy Polling report on May 23 that put Haley up with 39%, more than doubling her nearest opponent, McMaster, who garnered the support of 18% of respondents.

This is when the race started to get ugly.

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