For South Carolina and Democrats, Crisis is Opportunity

By Phil Noble and Roy Willey

In the Chinese language, the symbol is the same for crisis and opportunity. For both the state of South Carolina and for the Democratic Party – this truly is a time of both crisis and opportunity.

First our state’s crisis. Anyone who reads a newspaper knows our state is at the beginning of a political corruption and ethics crisis the likes of which we have not seen in a generation. And, add to this the huge related $9 billion nuclear scandal with SCANA, Santee Cooper and the Legislature.

There is not enough space in this column (or dozens of columns) to detail what’s happening, but it’s bad and deep. This corruption is a disease, it’s infectious and it’s spreading across our state. It is going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

So far, the scandal has seen the indictment and/or conviction of Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell, former Majority Leaders of the House Jim Merrill and Rick Quinn and Senator John Courson. Perhaps dozens of others are lying awake at night with the cold sweats. There will surely be many more indictments to come and the questions of their guilt or innocence will be played out in the media for months and years to come.

Next, the Democrats’ crisis. It is no exaggeration to say that the Democratic Party in South Carolina is on life support. A Democrat has not won a majority in a statewide election since 2006. Democrats have lost seven of the last eight governors races and the last win was in 1998. Since 2000, the Republicans have had a majority in the both the state house and senate, and since 2004 Republicans have held both US Senate seats and all but one of the Congressional seats.

The governor’s office is the big prize in state politics and it’s worth noting that all of the last seven Democratic candidates who lost were career politicians from the Statehouse – no mayors, no business or community leaders, etc. Maybe there is a pattern here…you think?

Now, the opportunity for our state. The erupting ethics sandal may well wipe out much of the existing political power structure and a sizeable portion of them will be Republican. And, if you believe as we do that the corrupt good old boy system has prevented us from doing what we need to do with education, roads, pensions, etc. – then this change will be a very good thing.

This is not to say that somehow Republicans are all bad and Democrats all good – far from it. The reality is that the Statehouse political system is corrupt and the Republicans just happen to be in control of that system. Surely, some corrupt Democrats are likely to go down in the current scandals as well – and good riddance.

But, in politics as in science, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction…and the corruption scandal will open the door for new reform candidates, in both parties, who are committed to big change and real reform.

Now, the opportunity for Democrats. Since the late 1980s, there has been a strong voice for reform within the Democratic Party. It started on the national level with the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) and then Gov. Richard Riley started the South Carolina chapter. Bill Clinton was a Chairman of the DLC and their reform agenda of ‘Community, Responsibility and Opportunity’ became his mantra and led Clinton to two election victories and America to eight years of unprecedented economic prosperity.

In the years since, on the national level, Barack Obama picked up the mantel of hope and change and the DLC faded to be replaced by Obama organizations. In South Carolina, the voice for reform and change continued as the SC New Democrats.
The SC New Democrats have been a strong (often lonely) voice for reform among Democrats. We believe that in South Carolina, Democrats must ‘reform to win’ and the only way to win is with ‘new ideas, new people and new technology.’
Since before 2000, Phil Noble has been the president of the SC New Democrats and Sen. Floyd Nicholson ably served as Chairman. Many folks around the state have regularly read Phil’s weekly newspaper columns urging the SC New Democrats reform agenda as published by the SC Press Association.

Now it is time for a new generation to lead the SC New Democrats and the new president is 30-year-old Roy Willey. Roy, who’s day job is as a trial lawyer, will bring new energy and a new vision to our traditional SC New Democratic values. The goal is to bring about change by winning again and Roy knows what it takes and how to win.

You can learn more about Roy and the new SC New Democrats on Facebook (/RoyTWilleyIV and /SCNewDems). Go to the site, see what’s happening and become a Friend, make a Like, and keep in touch.

Throughout the Democratic Party’s recent history, when we have been the party of big ideas, we have won – but more importantly, we have achieved great things for our country and our state.

Nationally, it was Franklin Roosevelt with his bold ideas who pulled us out of the Depression and won World War II. Harry Truman desegregated the military. John Kennedy challenged us to send a man to the moon. Lyndon Johnson ushered in an era of civil rights. Jimmy Carter made human rights and environmental issues a priority. Bill Clinton gave us a balanced budget and economic prosperity. And, it was Barack Obama who gave us the Affordable Care Act, equal pay for women, marriage equality and so many other important reforms.

And in South Carolina, it was Gov. Richard Riley who gave us bold education reform and Gov. Jim Hodges who gave us the lottery to fund higher education.

When we as Democrats run on big and bold ideas, we win – both nationally and in South Carolina.

This is the Democrats opportunity and the opportunity for South Carolina.

Join with Roy and other SC New Democrats to transform our current crisis into great opportunity for our state.

Phil Noble lives in Charleston as does Roy Willey who can be reached at

Author: Duane Childers

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