Opinion: Jim DuPlessis on SC Democrats


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Democratic Party LogoOver the last five years I have developed a number of friendships with fellow Democrats in South Carolina.  When I first became involved with the campaign and political process, I saw things that I believed could be improved.  However, when you are new to any organization I believe you should reserve your opinion until you gain more knowledge.  I have now been actively involved in the process, locally with Obama/Organizing for America-South Carolina, the SC Democratic Party, local campaigns and most recently being elected 6th District Vice President with the SC Democratic Women’s Council.  I believe in the overall philosophy of the Democratic Party, a party for the common person, inclusive, and compassionate.  Yesterday, I read a column in The State newspaper written by my friend Jim DuPlessis; reflecting on what Democrats must do in conjunction with the resignation of Jim DeMint from the U.S. Senate.  With Jim DuPlessis’ permission, I have posted his words as they were published in entirety.

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DuPlessis: Democrats can’t afford to squander opportunity from DeMint departure

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I have a lingering bad memory from the 1988 Democratic National Convention in Atlanta. It’s one I remember every time Democrats wonder why they’re not in office.

I was with a friend who had tickets to a convention reception. After spending most of the day outdoors in the summer heat, it felt surreal to step into this vast, air-conditioned space scattered with bars and food tables.

I heard some familiar music. I looked over and saw Stephen Stills standing in the middle of a small crowd, singing and playing guitar. There was no Crosby. No Nash. No Young. Just Stephen Stills and his guitar. He was ringed by mostly prep-school white kids, well dressed down to their loafers. Socks were optional, but longish helmet hair and sunglasses hanging on tethers seemed to be required. They seemed vaguely bored as they fidgeted with their drinks.

I sized them up quickly: sons of rich donors. I would have been merely amused had I been visiting a Republican gathering with Ted Nugent playing the role of Stills. But here, among Democrats, it was nauseating.

I am a Democrat because the party fits my values: practicality over irrational faiths, serving the common good, helping those less fortunate than myself and rewarding merit, not connections. Seeing Stills reduced to a party favor was revolting.

I have that same sense 24 years later as I see the Richland County elections office reduced to a toy of our legislative delegation. Hundreds or thousands of voters were turned away from the polls in November’s election because of needlessly long lines.

From a purely partisan view, Republicans should be getting a good laugh. Here are Democrats who actually control something. What do they do? They suppress votes in the state’s most populous, most heavily Democratic county.

It is against this backdrop that Jim DeMint has decided he will resign his U.S. Senate seat, which will be filled by an appointee of Gov. Nikki Haley for the next two years. In 2014, the three biggest statewide offices will be up for grabs: the governor’s office and both U.S. Senate seats.

I imagine Republicans are feeling like it’s a safe bet that Democrats will squander this historic opportunity.

They might be right — if Democrats behave as they have done in the past.

I believe it is possible for Democrats to win all three seats, but we will need leaders who recognize the priorities of the moment:

•  Good candidates are more important than money. Money can be raised to support a good candidate who demonstrates viability by creating a strong organization heavily dependent on volunteers.

•  People matter. There are too many intelligent, committed and competent Democrats — of all races — for insiders to waste by appointing the incompetent or uncommitted.

•  Details matter. The Richland County election fiasco is the most recent example. Prepare for everything that is on the calendar, and all the parts that make each work.

•  Ground means more than turning out the base. In South Carolina, someone claiming to be a Democrat can count on winning 35 percent of the vote without waking up. Getting beyond the core Democratic voters requires intent, effort and no small amount of faith. Candidates need to send their people out into the scary, uncertain territory of persuadable voters.

• Republicans can always count on more money. There is only one resource doled out equally: time. Democrats can’t afford to treat this moment like a game that can wait for the first fall kickoff of 2014.

Mr. DuPlessis, a freelance writer and researcher, worked as a reporter in Birmingham, Ala., Knoxville, Tenn., Nashville, Greenville and Columbia from 1983 to 2008, and for the S.C. Democratic Party from 2008 to 2010; contact him at wiltonians@msn.com.

(Source: The State Newspaper http://www.thestate.com)

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