Politics in Florida, in general, and Miami, in particular, were odd, to say the least. I moved to Miami just before the Bush-Gore-Hanging-Chad kerfuffle in 2000, but, luckily, I had voted absentee in California so I didn't hang my head in the days following the election,
And local Miami politics wasn't any better. I can't even count the number of politicians who went to jail, for everything from bribery charges, to allegations of spousal abuse, only to come out of prison, run for office again, and win.
I had hoped South Carolina would be different, and it is, but not in a good way.
South Carolina politics is mean and racist and, let's not forget, Christian--although how those three work in tandem I have yet to figure out.
Apparently, back in 2000, when John McCain was running against Bush in the presidential primary, rumors swirled that he fathered an illegitimate black child; and you just know that didn't go over too well with our Christian and racist voters. Then there is the story from 1990, when political consultant Rod Shealy, hoping to increase the turnout among anti-black white voters in the GOP primary, recruited a black candidate--which he correctly assumed would help his own candidate--to run for Congress. And of course we had Mark "Appalachian Trail Hiking" Sanford, who called himself a fiscal conservative family values man while flying first class to Argentina to see his mistress. Finally, I give you Joe "You lie" Wilson, who showed most of the country, the rational thinking part of the country, just how ridiculous our politicians are here in South Carolina.
We're so proud.
But now we have another asshat, running for governor, amid rumors of infidelity, and, well, this is a stretch, her ties to the Middle East; and we all know that's a bad thing.
Republican front-runner Nikki Haley is yet another pro-family, pro-life, pro-gun candidate who has the dubious backing of The Double Wingnuts, the Tea party and Sarah Palin. But she has been dogged by rumors of not one, but two adulterous affairs, both lodged by conservative political operatives who claim to have slept with her. And, as if that wasn't bad enough--we don't need another cheater in the governor's mansion--one of our state senators, who supports a Haley opponent, casually referred to her as a "raghead" because she is Indian-American. He then went on to suggest that she is some sort of Manchurian candidate supported by a "network of Sikhs" to take over the governorship.
During a visit to something called "Pub Politics"--an online political chat show hosted from a bar in Columbia...and you know that can't be good--state senator Jake Knotts said: "We already got one raghead in the White House; we don't need a raghead in the governor's mansion."
Ah, South Carolina politics. A breath of fresh air....mixed with skunk and horse manure.
You'd have thought that last idiotic statement by Knotts would have had his handlers scrambling to shut him up, but he just kept talking. He also claims that Haley was a plant being controlled by nefarious handlers; he believes Haley has been set up by a network of Sikhs and has been programmed to run for governor of South Carolina by outside influences in foreign countries. He claims she is hiding her religion and he wants the voters to know about it.
But, and I'm not saying there is some deeply secret Middle Eastern cabal working to elect Nikki Haley, she has taken to speaking less and less about her Sikh heritage and more and more about her Christian beliefs. Her own website, which once played up her attendance at both Sikh and Methodist religious services, now says only that she is a devout Christian, and that she sttends Sikh service only out of respect to her parents.
Is she hiding her Sikh background for the reasons Jake Knotts says, or is she hiding it because of the outbreak of adultery allegations? See, people here seem to think that if you're a Christian and you sin, it's kind of okay, because you'll cry on TV and beg to be forgiven. However, if you're any other religion, especially one o' them middle eastern ones, well, maybe cheating is part of your culture and we don't want none of that.
Whatever the reason, it's the same dirty politics here. Name-calling; allegations of "sinful" behavior; dark secrets. We don't cotton to the facts, to the record of the politician, to the actual words of those running for office. We prefer gossip and dirt and mud.
Jake Knots issued an apology for the "raghead" comment, claiming that it was "intended in jest" and that the "humorous content was lost in translation." Yes, it is funny to call someone a that word, as it is funny to call someone an N-word, or a gay man a fag, or a Latino person a spic; it's all fun and done in jest, at least that's how we roll in South Carolina.
Yet, even while apologizing to Nikki Haley, Jake Knotts got in one more jab by proclaiming that she, by hiding her religious background, or at the very least downplaying it, "is pretending to be someone she is not."
Andre Bauer, another Republican running for governor who has been the subject of taunts about his sexual orientation, also used the "pretending to be someone she is not" line himself when he asked that she take a lie-detector test to prove she isn't a cheater.
I make the suggestion that all political candidates in South Carolina take a polygraph.
Then we'll know whether Nikki Haley cheats on her husband.
Then we'll know whether Andre Bauer is a Friend of Dorothy's or not.
Then we'll know whether Joe Wilson is playing with a full deck.
Then we'll know whether Jake Knotts really is as racist as he sounds.
Then we'll know.