Families and Politics

We are all part of the same family, if you go far enough back.

Though exemplified by the biblical Adam and Eve, it is sometimes difficult for our immediate, nuclear families to cope with such eco- kinship. We have trouble acknowledging our greater responsibility to those who share our DNA and are affected by our failure to exercise our responsibility. I believe we all have a political responsibility to our global human family who die daily in Iraq and suffer from a diminished quality of life here in the 2nd Congressional District of South Carolina.

For the past few weeks I have considered running for Congress in our District. A perfect storm of issues cloud the path of an incumbent who has been thought of as a Congressman in a safe district.

Our shrinking middle-class are becoming the working poor, as more and more American jobs are sent overseas to exploit cheap labor and lax environmental standards in places like China and India. Despite the happy market talk of "Morning in America," "a City on the Hill," and "a flat world," we can't all be rich. We must save and expand the middle class rather than give more tax breaks to the rich. Our district has far too many folks without accessible and affordable health care, housing, education, and meaningful job opportunities, while the oil, war, and health-care industry profiteers make out like bandits. Perhaps the biggest elephant in the room is the all-time highest public and private debt in U.S. history.

If someone with credibility and name recognition runs a campaign based on respecting the rights of everyone in the district regardless of their race, religion, gender, or economic status, and restoring respect for the United States in the global community, they might win. The present administration has a credibility problem of lying to and spying on its own citizens and torturing suspected enemies.

Current polls reveal the President has a national approval rating in the mid-thirties and the Vice-President's performance is approved by only 18% of the people. South Carolina polls also reflect increasing dissatisfaction with the Bush/Cheney leadership. Our present Congressman toes-their-line on every issue and his support for their failing policies has had a very detrimental effect on the citizens of our district.

We need more independent thinking members of Congress who will really investigate the lying, spying, and torturing and take action to restore respect for our government, rather than engage in the same 'ol narrow, top-down partisanship. My wife Judy's wholehearted support for my candidacy is essential to its success, but she has a lingering sense of foreboding about my full-time involvement in politics.

Almost forty years ago, I was Executive Director of Alabama Governor George C. Wallace's National Campaign for President. While Judy remained in Montgomery, my principal job in the 1968 Presidential campaign was to organize activities to gain ballot position for Wallace's third party presidential electors and I was all over the country and spent several months in California. Volunteers from Alabama came out to California to help and stories of some of their escapades drifted back to Montgomery.

One involved a beautiful blonde from Santa Monica who worked for a rent-a-car company at our hotel headquarters. She carried on about how much she loved Southern drawls and proceeded to fall in love with a succession of good ol' boys from Alabama. The bellmen at our hotel alerted the Alabama boys to certain Venezuela Airline stewardess crews who doubled as hookers on their overnight stays in L.A.. In the oldest of Southern traditions, they seemed to enjoy slipping around and crossing the forbidden color line their leader had stood in the schoolhouse door to maintain.

Since coming back to South Carolina in 1971 I have waged several political battles against much of the South Carolina political establishment as a reformer who became a South Carolina State Senator and ran close, issue-driven campaigns for several other state-wide political offices and the U.S. Congress. Lee Atwater was incumbent Congressman Floyd Spences's campaign consultant in our 1980 campaign. Wikipedia says Atwater's "tactics included push polling in the form of fake surveys by "independent pollsters" to "inform" white suburbanites that Turnipseed was a member of the NAACP. He also sent out last-minute letters from Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) telling voters that Turnipseed would disarm America and turn it over to liberals and Communists. At a press briefing, Atwater planted a "reporter" who rose and said, "We understand Turnipseed has had psychotic treatment" Atwater later told the reporters off the record that Turnipseed "got hooked up to jumper cables" - a reference to electroconvulsive therapy that Turnipseed underwent as a teenager."

Running against heavily funded candidates on controversial issues like racial and economic justice, utility regulatory reform, oil and war profits, and environmental sustainability was quite stressful to our family. Politics can be very vicious and debilitating. I went to jail with the farmers during the 1977 farmer's strike, and the Ku Klux Klan has picketed my law office and called me a "liberal turncoat." Judy and I have been married for 42 years and our family relationship is most important to us.

Winning the 2nd Congressional District and taking on the Bush/Cheney administration and the petty partisanship in Washington would be exercising my responsibility to our greater human family, but even more important is my loyalty and love for my immediate family.

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