Fifty years ago this summer, intrepid South Carolinians set off for the American west. Their destination was campaign rallies for Sen. Barry Goldwater, who was then considering a run for U.S. President in 1964.
The ascendency of Goldwater conservatism was striking. For a generation, liberal, northeastern Republicans had ruled the Republican Party with an iron fist. Goldwater’s supporters, including future President Ronald Reagan, turned the old political model on its head.
Despite Goldwater’s defeat in 1964, conservative Republicanism led by young, vibrant party leaders including Reagan, spread across America. U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond’s switch to the Republican Party in 1964 slowly opened the floodgates here at home, leading to the 1974 election of Jim Edwards – South Carolina’s first Republican governor since Reconstruction.
Since then, our South Carolina Republican Party has won historic gains, including now holding the Governor’s Mansion and all of state’s other Constitutional offices for the first time in history. South Carolina’s two United States Senators are Republicans. Six of the state’s seven U.S. Congressmen are Republicans. Our party holds large majorities in the State House and State Senate.
South Carolina’s Republican grassroots infrastructure is as strong as ever. We have active county Republican parties across the state and local leaders recognize the timeless quality of the party’s platform. Just last month, I attended a ceremony to welcome Lancaster County Sheriff Barry Faile into the Republican Party. In 2012, Republicans won their first-ever County Council majorities in traditionally Democratic Barnwell and Lancaster Counties.
Gov. Nikki Haley and Attorney General Alan Wilson are America’s youngest holders of their respective offices. U.S. Sen. Tim Scott is the nation’s only African-American senator. With incredible Republican leadership, South Carolina is a national model for the party’s diversity and potential. Like Goldwater in 1963, our new generation of South Carolina conservatives is a cornerstone for the national Republican Party’s youth movement. To remain successful, we must embrace that movement.
Over the past month, President Obama’s support has fallen by 17 points among those under 30 years old, according to CNN. The fall is not surprising, given controversies over U.S. government surveillance of telephones and the Internet, the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of Tea Party groups, the Justice Department’s snooping into journalists’ phone records, and the president’s bungled response to the Sept. 11, 2012 terror attack in Benghazi.
In other words, young Americans are finally concerned about the size and scope of government. This concern, coupled with fresh anger over the refusal of the Democratically controlled U.S. Senate and White House to address doubling student loan rates, has led to young voters fleeing the Democratic Party in droves. Our Republican Party should be their natural home.
It is hard to deny that national Republicans must do a better job of communicating and connecting with such voters. They would be wise to look to South Carolina for pointers. In South Carolina, we have refused to let our Democratic opponents litter the playing field with divisive wedge issues that have no bearing on our future prosperity.
Instead, South Carolina Republicans have focused every waking hour to build a state that has quickly become the envy of the nation. Led by Gov. Haley, our state’s economy has put to rest any misconception that American manufacturing is dead. The manufacturing success stories – planes, cars, tires, ATVs – are almost too numerous to count.
But don’t just take my word for it. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, South Carolina added 613,352 residents from the year 2000 to 2010 – an increase of 15.3 percent. Voters are rewarding good Republican leadership by voting with their feet. Many of those new South Carolinians departed from states weighed down by bad government, red tape on small businesses and hostility towards families. The nanny states are stooped and tired. South Carolina stands ready with open arms.
South Carolina’s November 2014 elections, with all nine constitutional officers, both U.S. Senators, all seven Congressmen and the entire State House of Representatives on the ballot, are an historic opportunity for keeping our state on its winning streak. We refuse to give in to a Democratic Party that seeks to make South Carolina more like New York and California.
As state chairman, I am committed to South Carolina holding its position as ground zero for the exciting, conservative renaissance that will lead to Republicans winning the U.S. Senate in 2014 and winning back the White House in 2016. It begins not with abandoning our conservative principles, but with reminding voters that the Republican story is the American story. Our party’s central message of limited government, free markets, and individual liberty remains truer than ever.
Matt Moore is chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party.