By Mike Hodges
Editor’s Note: The Horry County Democratic Party (HCDP) is embarking upon a major initiative to promote the positive initiatives of Democrats and President Biden and to call out Republicans for their obstruction and hypocrisy. The following article provides an overview of the concerns we must, and will, address. We invite your comments and support.
Horry County Democrats, Independents, and Republicans who wish for a better path forward no longer have time on our side. There are pressing issues confronting our nation that require immediate action to reverse the harm already imposed. Now is the time to take back our democracy!
How Did We Get Here?
The consistent and insidious damage done by the far right (and allowed by the silence and lethargy of others) over the past decades has brought us to a near collapse of our democratic election process – we only need to point to the attempted insurrection on January 6th, 2021 as proof.
And yet, far-right Republicans who claim they are on the side of law and order refused to support the January 6th Commission, which was solely designed to determine who killed and maimed police officers in the attempted insurrection at our nation’s capital.
Our own biases, as well as several changes to policy, court rulings, and media failings over the years have endangered our democracy’s very existence. These issues include the human dignity and rights of others, the war on drugs, the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, gerrymandering, voting integrity and voting rights, climate change, and so much more.
Human Dignity and Rights
We must first confront the lack of basic human dignity we have inured as a society that allowed and encouraged both slavery and disenfranchisement of human beings. It is our history. It cannot be defended and should not be ignored. It should be taught at all levels of education, and it should be discussed in all its shame, regret, sorrow, and pain.
We are not past the need for affirmative action. In housing, jobs, pay, and prison populations the statistics are overwhelming. Marginalized communities have far less home ownership, fewer educational opportunities, far worse employment opportunities, lower pay, and make up most incarcerated persons. This is not accidental.
We will never succeed in making this a more just society without first acknowledging and tackling these profound issues. Confronting racism of all kinds, as hard as this will be, will make us stronger as a nation. Change must come.
It is not only racism that must be confronted to honor all humanity. For past generations we have had a myopic view of who should be able to assume the full rights and privileges of a member of our United States community. We have based these decisions on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and prosperity (or lack thereof). Limits were set with no relation to compassion, fairness, or science. In essence-they were based on greed. It is time to change these views.
It is time to hold women’s rights as human rights issues. Women are now coming much closer to losing control over their own bodies. Taking away personal freedoms of an individual is the very antithesis of conservative small government principles, and yet, Republicans are on this forefront.
And it is disingenuous for far-right Republicans to be both anti-abortion and be against the Child Care Tax Credit and expanding Medicaid. The far right is hard-set on deciding what a female can do with her own body, and yet they will not consider providing any support for the result of this control. What freedom of yours can they claim next?
It is time to hold women’s equal pay as a human rights issue. According to the National Women’s Law Center “Women in the U.S. who work full-time, year-round are typically paid only 83 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts. This gap in earnings translates into $10,435 less per year in median earnings.” Equal pay for equal work should not be the exception.
It is time to hold LGBTQ+ rights as a human rights issue. The Human Rights campaign is calling “President Biden’s executive order extending civil rights protections to LGBTQ+ people is a major milestone for equality. Now, we must cement these protections into law. The Senate must pass the Equality Act, which will finally provide consistent, explicit non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people.” We must act now!
It is also time to hold affordable healthcare and affordable childcare as human rights issues. According to the Children’s Defense Fund “More than one in six children under six were poor and almost half of them lived in extreme poverty.” We have solutions if we chose. According to the same article “In 2018, 4.7 million children were lifted out of poverty with the help of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and other refundable tax credits;”
These profound indignities to our fellow citizens cannot stand. Without acknowledging these mistakes of our past, and without continuing to do what we can to correct them, we can never move forward.
The War on Drugs
In the mid to late sixties, the “Office of Economic Opportunity” was started along with a program known as the “War on Crime”. Several programs of The Office of Economic Opportunity designed to help the poor are still around today, but it never grew into a large-scale permanent agency. On the other hand, the “War on Crime” slogan during that era became a national obsession–a political and media blitz criminalizing the minorities and the poor.
This war on crime was further refined into the “War on Drugs”. The War on Drugs era brought about sentencing policies that resulted in huge increases in incarcerations for drug offenses. Since the beginning of the 1980’s, incarcerations have increased over ten-fold from 40,900 to 430,926 in 2019.
It is no coincidence that most of these additional prisoners are people of color. A Georgetown Law library article entitled “The War on Drugs and Mass Incarceration” stated “Although minorities use and sell drugs at a similar rate as whites, the proportion of those incarcerated in state prisons for drug offenses who are Black or Latino is 57 percent.” Intended or not, it is obvious that the war on drugs has been very successful at incarcerating more and more minorities.
To reverse this injustice, we must decriminalize all but the most serious of drug offenses. We must get back to making it a correctional system rather than a punishment system. We must choose to welcome those back to society who have paid their dues and are ready to make valuable contributions to their communities, beginning with the restoration of their voting rights.
Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission Decision
The 2010 US Supreme Court majority decision in the Citizens United case was an affront to our intelligence. It somehow found that corporations had the same freedom of speech rights as an individual, and that corporations would now be able to use their vast sums of money to unduly influence an election.
In a rebuttal to the majority opinion in the case, Justice Stevens argued that “corporations are not members of society and that there are compelling governmental interests to curb corporations’ ability to spend money during local and national elections.” Unfortunately, Justice Stevens concerns have been born out in fact.
Tim Lau, in his December 15, 2019, article entitled “Citizens United Explained” stated “Super PAC money started influencing elections almost immediately after Citizens United. From 2010 to 2018, super PACs spent approximately $2.9 billion on federal elections. Notably, the bulk of that money comes from just a few wealthy individual donors. In the 2018 election cycle, for example, the top 100 donors to super PACs contributed nearly 78 percent of all super PAC spending.”
It is obvious that we have allowed our elections, and unscrupulous representatives, to be bought by the highest bidder. We must work to reverse the Citizens United decision by congressional legislation if we ever expect to have free, fair, and transparent elections. Elections, as intended by the constitution, where elected officials represent everyone equally.
The definition of this term as listed in an article in Britannia by Brian Duignan reads “gerrymandering, in U.S. politics, the practice of drawing the boundaries of electoral districts in a way that gives one political party an unfair advantage over its rivals (political or partisan gerrymandering) or that dilutes the voting power of members of ethnic or linguistic minority groups (racial gerrymandering).”
Ask yourself why, in South Carolina, is there only one congressional district out of seven (representing less than 14 percent of the state’s population) held by a Democrat when over 43 percent of South Carolinians voted for the Democratic candidate in the last presidential election. And ask yourself why in every presidential election but one since 2000 the Democratic candidate has won the popular vote, and yet 12 of those 20 years a Republican has held the highest office.
The answer to these questions is unethical and unfair gerrymandering in our state and in our nation. It is far easier now with technology and the power of computing to use vast amounts of data to shade districts just enough to nearly guarantee a particular outcome. And the outcome is obvious—corporate money in politics is paying off.
If we ever wish to get money and corruption out of politics, we must also remove unfair redistricting. We do this by taking it out of the hands of partisan politicians and appointing an independent redistricting commission to draw districts. Districts should be drawn based on values like independence, inclusivity, good-faith negotiations, and transparency. The time is Now!
Voting Integrity and Voting Rights
If we can process billions of dollars’ worth of transactions online, verify your voice online, your picture, and your fingerprints safely and securely, why can’t we vote securely and safely online? If we can have a national holiday for our presidents, for Thanksgiving, and for a religious holiday, why can’t we have a holiday for our most sacred right–the right to vote? Several states already hold safe and secure elections by mail. Why is this not an option in Horry County, the biggest land mass county east of the Mississippi river?
There seems to be only one answer. There is a small but powerful contingent of people and corporations that do not want everyone to vote. That is obvious by the continued roadblocks put in place to restrict voters access to voting across the nation.
In an article titled “Georgia’s Voter Suppression Law,” Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice, said the law appeared neutral but targeted Black voters. “Mobile voting (polling sites on wheels that travel to different set locations) is also now illegal in Georgia — a practice that has only been used in Fulton County, which has the largest Black population in the state. “
In South Carolina and several other states, voter ID’s are now mandated, but according to the ACLU, voter ID laws are discriminatory. The ACLU states “Minority voters disproportionately lack ID. Nationally, up to 25% of African-American citizens of voting age lack government-issued photo ID, compared to only 8% of whites.”
We must continue to push for expanded election times, dates, and access, and a removal of the Voter ID requirement. And we should work towards a longer-term goal of automatic voter registration, vote by mail and/or vote online for all, and voting days as state and national holidays.
Voting is our right set forth in the Constitution. It guarantees all its citizens the ability to elect our representatives in government. Voting is already very safe and very secure. Now more than ever, it must be made accessible to all.
Climate change is an existential threat to our community, state, nation, and our world. It will continue to have a huge local impact on property damage and lives lost. It leads to increased flooding, severe weather swings, and increased severe weather activities. We have already experienced this threat in rivers and streams, and coastal areas of Horry County.
No less than 200 scientific organizations world-wide hold the opinion that climate change is real–and that it is primarily caused by human activity. On the first page of NASA’s website “Climate Change, Vital Signs of the Planet, it states “Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research demonstrates that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver.” Among all the issues we have discussed in this article, without a survivable climate, nothing else matters.
We must help all Horry County residents understand this issue. We must continue to push for sustainable climate policies, reduced carbon emissions, and to find ways through technology to reduce greenhouse gases. It is also time for wide ranging and expanded government and energy firm cooperation.
This cooperation at its core, must assume our energy grid as currently developed is inadequate to meet these climate change goals. Solutions should include “all of the above “options. It should include expanded use of tax credits for solar and battery system solutions for homes and businesses, and electric vehicles. It should include funding for mass transit systems where viable, offshore wind power, and the further development of energy efficient power sources, among other options. And it must start Now.
Where Do We Go from Here?
We have covered several topics in this article that need our full attention and effort, but they are not all inclusive. In the weeks and months to come, the Horry County Democratic Party will continue to speak out on these, and many other topics.
Over the remaining 2022 election cycle, you will see your local Horry County Democratic Party in your community, mobilizing our supporters, speaking with voters, and engaging more people than ever before. You can follow our efforts on our website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.
But we can’t do this without you. Talk to your neighbors about these issues and ask questions of your representatives. Each and every volunteer and dollar donated makes a difference in the issues that matter most to you. Volunteer with us, donate to your local Democratic party, or ask us about other ways to get involved. But most of all–Just Get Involved.
On September 17, 1787, delegates left the Constitutional Convention in Independence Hall in Philadelphia. As they exited, Benjamin Franklin was asked what kind of government do we have? “A Republic,” he replied, “if you can keep it.” He was referring to our Democratic Republic. He, and others knew it would be hard to maintain, but they also believed it the best system to fulfill the ideals our country were founded on.
It is the best system. But it requires attention, it requires persistence, and it requires honesty and integrity. For far too long we have left our democracy on autopilot, only to realize it has drifted off course while we neglected to watch. We must change that now-not later. We must act now-not later. The time is now–not later. Later is too late.