Guest Op-Ed: Larry Marchant - "2012: The GOP’s McGovern Moment?"

This guest op-ed comes from Larry Marchant. A long-time activist in the GOP going back to the days of Governor Carroll Campbell, he is the President of The Palmetto Policy Group, a public policy and governmental relations firm. As always, if you'd like to speak your piece, email your op-eds to

I’m the guy that risked his marriage and career, lost some friends, clients and income, and was the butt of a few late night comedic jokes.

I’m concerned about a division – a “my way or the highway” approach to politics – which is being fed by a small but well-funded segment of the Republican Party. The continuation of the media sound bites, political gamesmanship and the division does nothing to solve the many serious problems we face – in fact all those things conspire to make those problems worse.

Have we forgotten just twenty years ago when South Carolina was – if not the envy of the nation – certainly on its way up the national ladder? Under Governor Carroll Campbell, the Palmetto State was starting to climb out of the bottom. We had one of the lowest unemployment rates in America, our schools were improving and we were attracting quality jobs at every turn - and a Republican governor was making all of this happen with a Democratic-controlled legislature!

Campbell’s formula was simple: Leadership plus cooperation equals progress. It’s not too complicated – but it is becoming far too uncommon in our state.

During the 1980s I had the privilege of working with some very honorable people as we started the seemingly impossible task of making South Carolina a majority party for the Republicans. It was slow and tedious work, but step-by-step, we made gains. During that decade, I had the opportunity to work for Governor Carroll Campbell, Congressman Joe Wilson, the late Congressman Floyd Spence and Congressman Tommy Hartnett. I was a state officer of the Republican Party and a delegate to the 1984 Republican convention enabling me to cast my electoral vote for Ronald Reagan at the age of twenty-one.

My greatest teacher during this period was Carroll Campbell. Words simply cannot explain the influence he had on my life as a young adult. I was taught by Gov. Campbell to respect our elected officials, regardless of party, especially once the election was over. I was taught to participate in the process and be proud of our government because although flawed, it is still the best system in the world.

Most importantly, I was taught to try to work with everyone. That meant compromise. Now that didn’t mean we didn’t have our battles, but at the end of the day, we were all working for the same goal: the State of South Carolina, and everyone understood were we were trying to go.

Today, I see the two political parties as far apart as they have ever been in my lifetime. But even more frightening is that I am hearing concerns from many friends regarding how rigid the Republican Party has become. Repeatedly in recent months I’ve heard a phrase that cuts me to the bone:
“I’m not leaving the Republican Party, the Republican Party is leaving me.”

Those words are frightening because I heard them decades ago while canvassing for the Republican Party in the early 1980s. Except then, people were saying: “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left me!”

In 1972, the liberal wing of the Democratic Party got its long-awaited wish in the nomination of George McGovern. We all know what happened next – an overwhelming majority of Americas rejected this liberal extremism and McGovern wound up carrying only one state, Massachusetts (and the District of Columbia).

This is not some parallel doomsday prophecy, my Republican friends.

However, could history be on the verge of repeating itself? Ask yourselves – is the Republican Party of today really representing the majority views of America? Or will the Republicans have a “McGovern Moment” in 2012 by nominating a candidate who is pandering to the ideological fringes of the Republican party?

Closer to home, can our Governor work with state legislators of both parties to start finding solutions to the very serious issues at hand? Can we stop the finger pointing – and report card grading – and start finding the common ground necessary to begin the arduous process of moving us forward again?

I hope so, because this division is slowly killing our state from the core. We face the most serious issues and troubling times in our history and we desperately need our leaders to come together and start tackling those issues – lest the times pass us by.

I know we can do better because I have seen and participated in government that actually worked. Unfortunately, all I see now is politicians bickering and arguing with each other while they neglect the neediest among us.

It’s time for that to change – or else the GOP’s days will be numbered.

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