The indictment is just one of the political headaches across the South that are making Republicans look more vulnerable than they have in years to losing ground in the region’s legislatures and statehouses. Though there isn’t any sign of them losing their dominance in the region, the once-formidable “Solid South” coalitions they forged in the 1980s and 1990s to end a century of Democratic dominion have given way to messy schisms and infighting. Today, they look a lot like the bitterly divided Democrats of three decades ago.
But this sweep was aided by the fact that there was no monolithic Democratic machine. Factional in-fighting amongst Democrats resulted in party-switching by the dozens among elected officials, and many "Democrats for" movements which helped Republicans win critical crossover votes. Their fights and blood feuds became our opportunities, which Carroll Campbell and others were wise enough to exploit with brutal effectiveness.
Now, we have a Republican governor who fights with a Republican legislature to the point where a Democratic gubernatoral candidate counted on a large and vocal group of Republican supporters, along with highly-publicized investigations of GOP statewide elected officials.
This wasn't much different than the mid-1990s, where former Governor David Beasley's split with party moderates helped fuel a rout in which he lost, along with the party losing several legislative seats and two other statewide offices to Democrats.
Now, look back to last year at the national level, where GOP voters, disgusted by a Congressional majority far more interested in doling out pork than ethics, sat home and helped elect Democratic majorities in both houses.
Those insiders arrogant enough to think the people aren't watching should have learned from last year's Congressional rout that the voters aren't stupid. They expect government to work, and if it settles into corruption, incomptence, mismanagement and petty feuding, then they clean house. They did it here, and they did it at the national level in 1994 and 2006. They will do it again - it's just a question of when, and to which party.
While much time and many opportunities have been lost, there is still time for the state's GOP leadership to clean up their act, try a little harder to get along and find a workable middle ground. But not much. Otherwise, when they take casualties at the polls, the only ones they can blame is who they see in the mirror.