Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:
The Times and Democrat on the new leader of the South Carolina Senate Democrats:
When Lexington County Sen. Nikki Setzler arrived in the state Senate in January 1977, times were much different than today.
Setzler was elected as a Democrat in a county that was already considered a Republican stronghold in a state that was soon to make a fundamental shift to the GOP. But in 1977, state government, despite the election of GOP Gov. James Edwards in 1974, was firmly in the hands of Democrats.
In the state Senate, power and influence was not about party. Seniority ruled, and Setzler and other newly elected lawmakers took their place on the back row where they were expected to follow in political terms an old rule taught to children: You are to be seen, not heard.
Times have changed but Setzler survived as the GOP took over the legislature, including the upper chamber. His senior status today in the Senate gives him power, as seniority is important. But political partisanship has changed the Senate, putting the top positions of power in the hands of Republicans.
Setzler won another term in November in a district that now includes part of Calhoun County, but he opted out of seeking another term as minority leader. His decision came after Democrats saw their numbers in the 46-member chamber shrink to 16.
Stepping in to lead will be Orangeburg Sen. Brad Hutto, now a Senate veteran of 25 years. From his days as a Senate aide and law partner to Sen. Marshall Williams to succeeding the senator upon his death in 1995, Hutto is no stranger to the Senate and its ways.
By his Democratic colleagues electing him as leader, they will be looking to Hutto to ensure the minority party gets its positions considered and has a seat at the table in formulating and approving legislation.
It will not be easy. The Democratic minority is in a weaker position today than at any time since the GOP takeover of the upper chamber in the mid-1990s. But Hutto is known for his ability to work with Republicans as well as Democrats. And his seat on the Judiciary Committee gives him a key voice on nearly all legislation.
Partisanship is the order of the day, but with the Senate’s very own twist based on its rules and seniority system. Those Senate rules, from the seniority system itself to debate protocol, will again come under pressure as the majority party looks to prevent the minority from derailing legislation in the upper chamber.
Sen. Hutto plays down partisanship as a factor in the state Senate as it is in Washington, but he will need all his legislative skills to temper GOP initiatives. That will mean choosing battles wisely, knowing when to pull out all the stops on Democrats’ priorities and when to accept that it is better to fight another day.
The Index-Journal on practicing coronavirus safety guidelines during the holidays:
While it appears a vaccine could be available for general distribution in South Carolina within a few months, this is no time to relax how any of us deals with the very real presence of the COVID-19 virus.
When it is available, the vaccine will help prevent recipients from getting the virus; it’s not a treatment for the virus once it’s contracted.
During a press conference earlier this week, State Epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell noted that while the state is preparing for how it will receive and distribute a vaccine, DHEC continues to urge people to maintain vigilance by wearing face masks, practicing social distancing, frequently washing hands and avoiding large gatherings.
Here we are on the cusp of two major holidays that typically mean travel and gatherings with friends and family. There will be long breaks from school and the likelihood that a good many people will, as a result, mobilize is great. That means either Lakelands residents will travel for visits and holiday vacations or they will be visited by family and friends from outside the area.
No, we are not suggesting that everyone cancel all their plans. We are, however, urging people to use the utmost caution and, simply, be sensible.
If going over the river and through the woods is quite possibly putting Grandma’s health at risk, then forego the trip this time. Consider cutting back on how many people will gather, especially if anyone has underlying health issues. Limit those holiday parties in December. You don’t want to be the hostess or host with the most when it comes to spreading coronavirus.
Before plowing full steam ahead with the usual doings during the holidays, think of the health of your friends, your family and even yourself. These special holidays will roll back around in 2021. Far better to plan to have everyone together then than it is to risk creating a vacancy at the table or in the home.
Don’t let the promise of a vaccine cause you to slip into a false sense that all will be fine.
The Post and Courier on a Georgia official saying U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham asked him whether he had the power to toss out certain absentee ballots:
We had hoped that once the nation was past the rancorous Nov. 3 election, South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham would revert to the bipartisan leader whose pragmatism was an admirable feature of his three previous terms in the U.S. Senate.
It’s been only two weeks since the election — the sample size admittedly is small — but clearly we are still waiting for the Graham of old to reappear.
After a brief but hopeful nod to bipartisanship in a post-election speech, Mr. Graham has followed the lead of President Donald Trump in questioning the integrity of our election system.
Those are shocking imputations from the nation’s leadership. As we have noted, all candidates have the right to challenge election results through the legal system. But attacks on a pillar of our democracy must be backed up by strong evidence. So far, no evidence of mass voter fraud has emerged.
Witnesses of alleged fraud have recanted or, more often, simply said they feel like something was wrong without offering any proof.
All that has rightly prompted many people to ask: What is going on with Lindsey Graham?
Sen. Graham’s views are a reversal from 2016, when he commended the integrity of the nation’s election system in response to then-candidate Trump’s assertions that the vote was “rigged,” according to The New York Times.
“Like most Americans, I have confidence in our democracy and our election system,” Mr. Graham said on Twitter at the time. “If he loses, it will not be because the system is ‘rigged’ but because he failed as a candidate.”
More troubling are Mr. Graham’s awkward attempts to “probe” alleged election irregularities in states that Mr. Trump narrowly lost to Joe Biden. Most concerning is his conversation with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, that state’s top election official, in which Mr. Raffensperger says Sen. Graham appeared to suggest that his fellow Republican find a way to toss out legal ballots. Sen. Graham denies the allegation.
All of this unfortunately gives oxygen to conspiracy theories that damage Americans’ faith in the election system and our democracy.
Some speculate that Mr. Graham’s rabid efforts to question the election might be a bid to position the senator as a pivotal figure in securing President Trump’s cooperation in moving forward with the inevitable transition. If Mr. Graham changes course, it’s hard to imagine another senator assuming his role. In that sense, Sen. Graham might be compared to GOP Sen. Barry Goldwater, whose 1974 visit to Richard Nixon made it clear that Mr. Nixon’s presidency would end soon — either by his resignation or removal from office.
Even if true, South Carolinians deserve better leadership, and Sen. Graham’s track record shows he can provide it.
He needs to grab the oars and help row us toward calmer, saner waters, not further into the dark, choppy seas of conspiracies.