Diversifying the GOP majority in South Carolina, Part 1

Recently the folks at FITSNews have raised some concerns about the leadership of the SCGOP talking a big game about racial inclusiveness, but delivering very little:


Just when you thought the SCGOP couldn’t get any more politically tone-deaf, it turns out their state Party Chairman and 2010 gubernatorial front-runner are both members of additional “whites only” societies.

SCGOP Chairman Katon Dawson and S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster are members of the Camellia Ball and Columbia Ball, respectively, two all-white dance clubs that hold annual debutante balls at swankly local clubs.


Republicans who are serious about reaching out to the black South Carolinians who represent a third of the state's electorate should read these words with much concern. Despite the empty words and occasional window dressing, the leadership of the Palmetto State GOP has all but set up a cross in front of it’s headquarters and set it afire when it comes to reaching out to non-white South Carolinians.

We saw the racial exclusivity of the GOP leadership in 1994, when then SCGOP Chair Henry McMaster decided to add an advisory question about flying the Confederate flag over the State House on that year’s GOP primary ballot. We saw it again a few years later when efforts by black Republicans to convince former Governor David Beasley to appoint blacks, regardless of party affiliation, to a wide range of state boards and commissions were rebuffed. We see it yet again in the names of supposed GOP leaders who are involved in whites-only social clubs.

In spite of this, many Republicans seriously don't understand why black voters won't give them the time of day.

One of the most important lessons from the Barack Obama candidacy is that a growing number of Americans expect the membership of their social organizations, churches and political affiliations to at least somewhat resemble the demographic make up of their communities. Consistent with this trend, those who are interested in politics and are conservative may not join the Democrats after attending a mostly (or all) white GOP meeting, they’re increasingly going to be leery of joining a party that is sorely lacking in diversity, or whose leaders could care less about shutting the door in the faces of one-third of the state's population.

Time and time again, the support of the GOP grassroots for advancing black candidates for elected and party offices proves they aren’t racist and know the GOP needs to reach out and become more conclusive. As the actions of Dawson, McMaster and others run counter to those efforts, it's time for grassroots Republicans to insist their leaders do better, or step aside in favor of those who will make the GOP more welcoming to new constituencies. Given the recent strong performance racked up by Obama in South Carolina, as well as the slowly shrinking GOP legislative majority, there may not be much time to act before the Democrats are once more running the show in South Carolina.

We’ve got a lot more to say on this issue. Stay tuned for our next posting on this issue ...

12 Response to "Diversifying the GOP majority in South Carolina, Part 1"

  1. Anonymous 5/1/09 21:24
    man oh man, katon is not going to like this. you're stepping out of line big time, boy.
  2. Anonymous 5/1/09 22:49
    The GOP didn't give a flip about diversity until they started losing, so their appeals to young voters and people are color are going to ring a bit hollow for a while. As Michael Steele said in the RNC debate, why haven't Republicans at the local level attempted to reach out to these voters before? It's because they didn't have to, and now demographics are catching up. They can take SC for granted if they want to.
  3. Earl Capps 5/1/09 23:00
    2249 - that's not exactly accurate. I'll believe that the party leadership often took a "we don't need them to win, so who needs them" attitude, but a lot of us have been crying for sincere outreach and engagement for years.

    What we get is token efforts that are abandoned once election day passes. What is needed is sincere outreach and engagement first before political support is ever an issue.

    As you point out, trust is an issue and that's going to take time, effort and respect to accomplish. Time is running out.
  4. Paul 6/1/09 02:17
    Earl,

    The two of us would definitely know better than most any if "what" committment the SCGOP is willing to invest in the palmetto state.

    In 1998, you were heavily invovlved in the succesful GOP primary for Vince Ellison who ran in SCCD6. Ellison was polished on the issues, had an attractive family and identified with both values and pocketbook voters. He was the perfect candidate to run the year that the lottery was on the ballot. While he raised enough money for collateral material, it was not enough to compete on television or radio. Nobody at the SCGOP or NRCC did anything more for Mr. Ellison than shake his hand and say we'll see ya on election night bubba.
    I am not saying that the totally unknown Ellison would have beaten the now majority whip,James Clyburn, however with some additional consulting help, a backbone and real commitment from then Chairman Henry McMaster to help minority candidates and candidates who ran in minority districts, if for no other reason to spread the party message. Lastly for the NRCC to have provided Mr. Ellison with at least some assistance in fundraising, or in helping him line up fundraisers as well as "any" other services that they provide the nominee of their party. Who knows what would have happed if the assistance been afforded to Mr. Ellison, However, a genuine and organized effort on behalf of Mr. Ellison would have done a great deal to encourage minorites of all sorts to join the the GOP because they could visually see through that campaign that they had a home in the party.

    Great piece earl, I enjoyed reading it earl and you did a an even better job beating Gary McLeod to get Vince Ellison that nomination in 1998.
  5. Calhoun Fawls 6/1/09 06:46
    Katon Dawson led the Republican party to its greatest divide since the Campbell revolution. His tacit support of the Howard Rich efforts to oust long time Repubilcan stalwarts like Bob Walker is evidence. The RNC under him would set up an Alf Landon like election four years from now. For those of you not schooled in history, in 1936 Landon last his ass and the Congress to FDR and the Democrats.
  6. Earl Capps 6/1/09 09:36
    Paul - I appreciate the sentiments, but I only spent a few weeks helping the guy in 1998 and he didn't win the primary. Without the money needed to run an effective campaign, Ellison was unable to overcome the residual name ID McLeod built up in several runs.

    The party should invest in supporting black candidates running in black districts, to show that they're taking the black vote seriously. But that's only part of what is needed.

    There will be more discussion about that subject this evening.
  7. Anonymous 6/1/09 19:55
    Earl, Katon is a bum and McMaster only likes people he can control. You are more right than you know.
  8. Mattheus Mei 6/1/09 20:46
    Earl, I appreciate and applaud your pondering on how the GOP can expand and is expanding, albeit slowly, into the AA community. Waldo has an interesting post about Congressional Districts and Gerrymandering that offers new ideas that would, in South Carolina at least, still end up helping your party - than the current static mindset in Columbia which offers more of the same and can't get past the colour of a man's skin in how it relates to ideology.

    Another question, are you only trying to limit this expanding coaliion to AA's and young folk? What about others, what about folks like Waldo?
  9. clarendon mg 7/1/09 19:18
    I am going to weigh in on this in a couple of days more but I can tell you this Henry McMaster and Katon Dawson are not prejudice against anyone because of the color of their skin. Also if most of us look around on Sunday morning at our place of worship you would think we were members of an all whatever club. Be it white or black.
  10. Anonymous 8/1/09 16:33
    clarendon mg,
    You missed the point of Earl's blog. He never accused Katon or Mr. McMaster of being prejudiced. If I can speak in Wi-Fi terms, he's saying that between the state GOP leadership and African-Americans, (who constitute 1/3 of S.C.'s population) the signal is weak. While they are not flagrantly offending black South Carolinians, they are also not aggressively courting them. The GOP nationally and locally must diversify its base in order to remain relevant as a viable Party.
  11. Anonymous 17/3/09 20:42
    Vince Ellison is a deadbeat father. Not such a good guy to run since he can't truly speak on family values!
    We need to learn more about canidates before pushing forward their images.
  12. Earl Capps 18/3/09 00:20
    Anon - a lot of those who worked with Vince early on, myself included, backed away from him by the time he made his second bid for the 6th District seat.

    He kept pushing more and more the line that if you didn't give money to his candidacy, then you didn't care about minority development in the party. He started telling long-time supporters who'd worked for him that if you didn't raise money, what good were you?

    Then one who looked at his campaign expenditure reports would see a lot of the campaign money spent on himself, essentially.

    One could say success went to his head, but he was never successful in the first place.

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