by Bennie Swans.
As we look forward to the new year, it is heartening that the election of Democrat Doug Jones in Alabama to the U.S. Senate offers real hope for Democrats in other southern states that what not long ago was unthinkable may well be within reach in 2018, including right here in Horry County.
Although Republican Judge Roy Moore was defeated, at least in part, by his reported shenanigans with teenage girls when he was the state’s prosecutor, the fact that the reddest state in the nation elected a Democrat has shattered the Republicans’ iron grip on Alabama and continues to reverberate in Washington.
If it can happen Alabama, it can happen here. And we don’t need a sex scandal to make that a reality. What we do need, however, is for Democrats – and thinking Republicans and independents of all races – to consider the course of our nation under Donald Trump and the Republicans and to act, and vote, accordingly.
There is, indeed, a lesson to be learned from Alabama. Increased turnout among black voters ― particularly black women ― fueled Democrat Doug Jones’ stunning victory, demonstrated how crucial they are to the party’s base. In fact, an astounding 98 percent of black women who cast ballots voted for Jones (as did 93 percent of black men).
In statewide races since 2008, the black share of Alabama’s electorate had been about 25 percent. But in this election, blacks ended up accounting for 29 percent of the electorate, and black women alone contributed 17 percent of that total.
So, here in Horry County, I’m urging all voters – including women of all races – to share with us your concerns about specific issues that affect your community, whether it is the need for improved education, equitable and effective law enforcement, improved roads and transportation, attacking drug abuse, or preserving our beaches and our environment. We in the Democratic party stand ready to address your concerns and fight for your rights and beliefs. Let’s get behind our candidates and let’s leave no stone unturned. We need to turn Horry County blue, and now is the time to do that.
Already, the election of Jones – just that one additional Democratic vote – is making a difference in the thinking of the Republican leadership in the U.S. Senate on at least one major issue – healthcare.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) says he expects Republicans to pursue a more bipartisan agenda in 2018. As we all know, the GOP rammed the new tax reform scam through Congress without a single Democratic vote, and there was no effort – none – to gain Democratic support through serious consideration of objections and concerns from our side of the aisle.
Some read those comments as indicating a retreat from a comprehensive overhaul of the Affordable Care Act, which the tax reform law attempts to gut, in large measure, by eliminating the requirement that individuals purchase health insurance or pay a fine. That single action is expected to leave 13 million people uninsured and result in sharp premium increases for everyone else.
Our own senator, Republican Lindsey Graham, promises to continue his determined efforts to repeal the ACA and then send money back to the states to provide whatever health coverage they choose. It doesn’t matter that thousands of South Carolinians now rely on the ACA to provide health care for themselves and their families. In fact, by December 9, 110,225 people had signed up for coverage this year – up nearly 17 percent from the same period in 2016.
“I’m fully committed to repealing and replacing Obamacare in 2018 by block-granting the money back to the states and away from Washington bureaucrats who are completely unaccountable to the patients of America,” said Graham, who with Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) unsuccessfully attempted to push such legislation through the Senate late in 2017.
However, even some Republicans acknowledge that the election of Jones, which narrows the GOP’s majority in the Senate to 51-49, will make that significantly more difficult.
That’s just one example of how that single Democratic vote may well change the political landscape in the year ahead. I say, that’s a good start. Let’s keep up the momentum and elect lawmakers, nationally, and at the state and local levels who will put the American people ahead of special interests, big-time donors, corporations and the wealthy.
It’s time to act. 2018 can be a turning point for our county, state and our nation if we all do our best to make it happen.
Meanwhile, please accept our best wishes for a happy, prosperous, healthy and safe 2018. Let’s make it a year to remember.