Column: Democrats shouldn’t be forgotten in South
In response to Gary Bunkerís column in the March 18 edition of the Aiken Standard, I would like to offer another view as to why there has been a gradual switch in the South to the Republican Party from the Democratic Party. It is true that the trend started with Barry Goldwaterís campaign for president. This was about the same time that the Republicans launched their Southern strategy. The strategy entailed pitting the majority population against the minority population with all types of race based tactics. That strategy continues to this day with the highly gerrymandered Congressional and state legislative districts. People living in these gerrrymandered districts are convinced that only one party can adequately represent their needs.
While this is not true, the belief prevails. A case in point is the estate tax, also known as the death tax. Large swaths of the Republican base believe that the estate tax applies to them, but unless one has an estate of least $5.34 million, there is no estate tax impact. Another example is the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Republican leadership has convinced their base that Obamacare would be disastrous for its base, when in fact, it will greatly expand health insurance coverage for millions of people. Due to the lack of expansion of the Medicaid program under Obamacare that most southern states have opted not to implement, millions of low income people will not qualify for health insurance coverage. The majority of the people that will be left out are part of the Republican base.
As stated, Republicans in the south do not support the expansion of Medicaid, but if one polls most hospitals, they will find that most hospital administrators support the expansion. The state of Georgia has lost eight rural hospitals in the past two years. These hospitals were closed due to having to absorb too much uncompensated cost for treating people who donít have insurance. Nathan Deal, the current governor of Georgia, has proposed a solution that entails not treating people who come to the emergency room and donít have insurance. In other words, let those poor people die. Does S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley subscribe to this type to thinking? She apparently does since no proposal has been made by her office to provide health care for the thousands of South Carolina residents that donít have health insurance.
Bunker cited the example of S.C. Sen. Shane Massey, R-Edgefield, being elected to the senate. It is true that Massey won the election, but he only won by 159 votes.
Unfortunately, there are other reasons why the Republicans have expanded their hold on the South. Voter apathy is a problem that confronts all political parties, but due to the misleading information that is disseminated by Republicans, their base tends to vote in higher percentages in mid-term elections than does the Democratic base. Vincent Sheeheen lost his run for governor of South Carolina in 2010 by four percentage points. The reason for his loss was lower voter turnout in the Democratic base. That is a trend we hope to reverse in 2014.
The southern region of the United States falls short in almost all economic indicators. The South has the lowest wages, the lowest household wealth and the lowest per capita income. Much of this economic malaise comes from Republican politicians that donít support such action as unionization of workers and a minimum wage for workers. South Carolina is one of the states that doesnít have a minimum wage law. Theoretically, employers in South Carolina could pay $3 or $4 per hour if state sovereignty was in effect. Fortunately, the federal governmentís minimum wage protects the low-income workers in South Carolina.
Republicans dominate the South for now, but as Bunker concedes, that may not be the case forever. As soon as the Republican base realizes that they often vote against their own best interests, that dominance will begin to wane.
Finally, I need to remind Bunker that the demographics of the South are changing each day. For the last presidential election, Barack Obama received 46 percent of the vote in South Carolina. If the Democratic base voted with the same level of enthusiasm in mid-term elections, the results of some of these local and state races will have a different outcome.
Moses Mims is the communications director for the Aiken County Democratic Party. He is a 2005 retiree from the Savannah River Site.