SCHLOSSBERG: Race to the bottom in South Carolina

South Carolina is cruising, as they say, for a bruising. This state has been asking for it for a long time, and its most recent offense came on Jan. 21 in the Republican primary.

As a Democrat following the 2012 presidential election closely, I was happy to see that South Carolina voted overwhelmingly for Newt Gingrich, a candidate almost too easy for President Barack Obama to beat in the fall. I was not, however, surprised at the state’s gaffe. South Carolina has made a mess of almost every chance it has gotten, and this time South Carolinians’ logic proved nonexistent as it has so many times before.

Before I get into the absurdity of a blowout win for Newt, let me give some historical context to my view that South Carolina is nothing but trouble.

We begin in the heat of America’s finest hour: the American Revolution. At the outbreak of war, an estimated one-third of South Carolinians remained loyal to England. These loyalists caused considerable trouble for American forces. They aligned with the Cherokee tribe to fight with the British. In 1781, the governor, one John Rutledge, issued a pardon to a loyalist. These offenses, while in the distant past, still put my knickers in a twist.

It is now 1860, and Abraham Lincoln has just been elected. He’s a bro from Illinois. He doesn’t want war! He says he won’t abolish slavery anywhere that it exists. Seems pretty chill to me (if I didn’t mind slavery), but not to South Carolina. They promptly secede, becoming the first state in history to do so. Leading the charge is Yale’s beloved John C. Calhoun. The ’Houn, as some like to say, was on fire.

The first battle of the Civil War, at Fort Sumter in 1861, saw South Carolinians attempting to take over a federal military site by firing shots at Union troops stationed there.

Okay, so South Carolinians were little brats during the first two major wars in U.S. history. Who cares?

To this I would say that South Carolina has always been, and remains to be, the hotbed of racism in America.

South Carolina was the single largest slave trader of Native Americans in U.S. history. So much for that alliance with the Cherokee.

By 1860, South Carolina had more slaves than any state in the nation. Blacks, the overwhelming majority of whom were enslaved, outnumbered whites two to one.

Let’s move to some more contemporary offenses.

In South Carolina, the Confederate flag flies high on countless flagpoles. Those who defend this practice by saying it is part of Southern culture are lying to themselves. The Confederacy was formed for the purpose of seceding from the Union because those states could not part with their rights to own slaves. The flag flies in front of the Statehouse, and fewer than half of the candidates who have ever run for governor there have said that they would even consider removing it.

South Carolina’s bigotry does not stop at racism. In fact, the state was the second-to-last to ratify the 19th Amendment and give women the right to vote.

How about South Carolina Representative Joe Wilson, who infamously shouted, “You lie!” at Obama during a joint address to Congress? Wilson showed perhaps the most disrespectful and egregious display in the House chamber since Preston Brooks, another South Carolinian representative, beat Sen. Charles Sumner with a cane in the name of slavery.

Finally, the most recent display of stupidity, the one I began with, came just last weekend during the Republican primary in South Carolina.

I am not a fan of Mitt Romney, but I admit that he is, politically speaking, a good candidate for president. He has no personal baggage. He’s as handsome as they come. And he’s a talented orator. Newt Gingrich, on the other hand, is possibly the worst candidate for president in the Republican field.

From a purely political standpoint, Gingrich is laughable as a potential candidate. He had two divorces, both of which apparently resulted from his infidelity — this coming from the man who led the impeachment effort against Bill Clinton for adultery. This hypocrisy surely indicates flaws in Gingrich’s character.

In addition, Newt has a horrific record. He has been fined $300,000 for ethics violations while in office. And, if all that weren’t enough, he worked as a historian for the widely hated insurance company Freddie Mac. The company paid Gingrich $1.6 million. This is the same company that holds considerable responsibility for the subprime mortgages that lead to the financial crisis in 2008.

South Carolina, what’s going on down there? Are you guys okay?

Jack Schlossberg is a freshman in Trumbull College. Contact him at john.schlossberg@yale.edu.

Comments

  • justanopinion

    The author clearly has only a cursory understanding of the examples he cites.

    The author begins by chastising the state of South Carolina because 33% of its residents were loyalists. While I agree that such a high number could well be damning, I would point the author to the Encyclopedia Britannica. If he were to read that esteemed publication’s article on the topic of loyalists, he’d find that 33% was actually the national average. Additionally, some studies suggest that in the center of the British military in the United States, New York, some studies suggest that over 50% of people leaned towards being Loyalists. Why does the author neglect to mention the horrible anti-American tendencies of New York? One can only guess.

    Next, the author skips to the Civil War. For some reason, the War of 1812, widely regarded as actually legitimizing the United States as a sovereign international power, doesn’t warrant any mention. Could this be because New England was so divided over the war that they actually considered secession from the United States, as suggested by the Hartford Convention? Surely not. Regardless, opposition to the War was strong in the North East that the British focused their blockades on southern ports. In the end the War of 1812 was won by a strong, American movement, consisting both of northern forces (as evidenced by the Battle of Baltimore) and southern forces (as evidenced by the Battle of New Orleans). Commentary on this matter remains suspiciously absent. So let us move on to the Civil War.

    But wait, before that war can even begin, the author points us to South Carolina’s role as a “hotbed of racism.” He cites South Carolina’s status as the single largest slave trader of Native Americans as undeniable proof of his claim. Of course, only South Carolina, a malicious and racist state, could cause so much wanton destruction for Native Americans. That is, if one ignores King Philip’s War, the destruction of Native American peoples in New York, and so on. It proves difficult to enslave Native Americans when they’ve all already been exterminated.

    Unfortunately, this publication has a 3000 character limit, so I can’t cite more arguments.

    Essentially, the author tries to portray South Carolina and, in essence, the entire southern region of the United States as ignorant and backwards. Of course one could just as easily point to the riots in Boston over de-segregation, the fact that Massachusetts was the first state in New England to have slaves, and the fact that today it only has a 6.6% black population (as opposed to a national average almost double that) and claim that Massachusetts represents American racism. This article reeks of North Eastern elitism and bigotry.

    Newt Gingrich is a poor candidate, but this article only proves that whoever wrote it is a poor author.

  • The Anti-Yale

    “From a purely political standpoint, Gingrich is laughable as a potential candidate. He had two divorces, both of which apparently resulted from his infidelity — this coming from the man who led the impeachment effort against Bill Clinton for adultery.”

    There’s a difference between “infidelity” and having sex ( “I did not have sexual relations with that woman”) with an intern in the physical symbol of your power as her boss (and, btw, the most powerful executive in the world) the Oval office (antechamber), itself.

    Quite a difference.

    DDD:

    Don’t diss divorce.

    Divorce in Mercantilia is analogous to trading in a car for a new one. Nothing wrong with that.

  • Frashizzle

    The best part of being from the Great West: during most of the political-foot-mouth-ed-ness mentioned in this article, my state’s European inhabitants were barbarian pioneers.

  • DavidLott

    Jack, South Carolinians have put the Civil War behind them. You might try that as well. South Carolina has changed, but apparently you don’t know much about South Carolina. Have you ever been here?

    Your grandfather, John F. Kennedy, was very happy to take the electoral votes of South Carolina in 1960, when the politics of Democratic South Carolina were racist and segregationist. Without these votes, and the votes of all of the southern states, he would not have become President. As President he helped to set in motion the huge changes in the American south of which you seem unaware.

    Newt’s infidelities may hurt him politically, but an interesting thing about the primary was that the so called bigoted South Carolina fundamentalists didn’t let this be the major factor. Why is unclear, but part of it seems to have something to do with a belief that people can be forgiven their transgressions. As your grandfather was by the American press of the 1960’s and by those who loved him, even as those transgressions continued. (Glass houses, Jack.)

    You would do well to untwist your knickers, Jack, and stop judging people by the frailties of their ancestors. People rise and fall on their own merit, by and large. That fact will become more apparent to you as your life unfolds.

    • xfxjuice

      “Your grandfather, John F. Kennedy, was very happy to take the electoral votes of South Carolina in 1960, when the politics of Democratic South Carolina were racist and segregationist. Without these votes, and the votes of all of the southern states, he would not have become President. As President he helped to set in motion the huge changes in the American south of which you seem unaware.”

      “You would do well to untwist your knickers, Jack, and stop judging people by the frailties of their ancestors. People rise and fall on their own merit, by and large. That fact will become more apparent to you as your life unfolds.”

      How about you take your own advice?

      • DavidLott

        I did not judge him by his ancestors. Indeed I voted for his grandfather for President, so if I did rate him based on that man, he would rate considerably higher in my eyes than his childish column merits.

  • bcrosby

    I’m assuming this whole piece is fairly tongue-in-cheek. All the same, it’s remarkable to me just how acceptable crude anti-Southern bigotry is on this campus. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not apologizing for the racism and sexism so characteristic of the history and, in many ways, the present day in the southern states. But I think it is a highly disingenuous (and politically dangerous) strategy to project all our national sins onto a hazy conception of the southerner (who is, in the Northeastern imagination, also invariably white, straight, male, able-bodied, Christian, etc.). Let’s remember that our national problems aren’t only the fault of that Other; there’s plenty of institutionalized racism right here, in New Haven, and in the rest of the “progressive”/”liberal”/whatever northeast. Moreover, there are plenty of folks in South Carolina who, well, aren’t white straight men.

    By all means, criticize outrageous racism in South Carolina politics from the state flag to Joe Wilson. And yeah, I agree that Newt’s win in the GOP primary there is kind of hilarious and also deeply troubling. But there’s no need to engage in the sort of shoddy essentializing and otherizing so central to the author’s project.

    • ElizabethGrayHenry

      I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who thinks there’s an unacceptable level anti-Southern bigotry on this campus. Of course the sins of the South’s past are inexcusable–but so are the sins of the North and of America as a whole!

      Of course, I agree that Newt Gingrich’s win is terrible for the Republican party (and frankly I’m disappointed in South Carolina for voting for him), but I don’t think that an op-ed saying it was stupid of SC to choose Gingrich should include this ridiculous anti-Southern hatred.

    • Inigo_Montoya

      Spot on, bcrosby.

    • River_Tam

      > All the same, it’s remarkable to me just how acceptable crude anti-Southern bigotry is on this campus.

      Damn straight.

  • ignatz

    Poor guy, he’s just a liberal freshman toting a suitcase full of obsolete stereotypes about the South being racist, sexist, and (wait for it) “stupid.” He wouldn’t vote for any Republican in 2012 in any event, so his “thoughts” (they’re really just emotional indigestion) on the South Carolina primary hold scant interest. Why YDN sees fit to publish such trivia is beyond me.

  • Frashizzle

    Why did the YDN publish this piece? It’s more like what you’d find in a b-list highschool tabloid (… you know, not the main one, but that other one that just publishes anything and ends-up being a soap-box for bigoted rants that not only play on old stereotypes but don’t even add anything new to them!).

  • yayasisterhood

    I’ll stick up for Schlossberg. Having visited that miserable state once or twice, I can say with a reasonable degree of certainty that it completely sucks.

    • GeoJoe

      Aww… have you been to Charleston? I’m a liberal Democrat but I love it there.

  • Madas

    Calhoun was a huge states righter… sure. A proponent of slavery? Yes. But leading the secessionist movement in the civil war? HE DIED IN FRICKEN 1850, dude. Seriously, at least get your basic history right. You’re a student at Yale publishing in the YDN. Get the basics facts right if you want people to take your seriously…

  • BR2013

    Why was this awful piece published? It is historically inaccurate and not affective at being humorous (if that is the writers intent). This is one occasion in which the YDN should have said no. It doesn’t even merit being published as a letter.

  • Undergrad

    John C. Calhoun died 28 years before South Carolina seceded from the union.

  • btcl

    jack newsham probably let this happen

  • MapleLeaf14

    As amusing as this article is, it’s pretty dumb. Every city, every state, and every country have rocky histories, but the past is the past. Blame SC for endorsing Gingrich, not for endorsing slavery. They shouldn’t be blamed for the sins of the father (or, in this case, the sins of the great-great-great-great grandfather…)

    If JFK were alive–with his political acumen–he’d be sick to his stomach. Jack Schlossberg just lost the entire Southern vote for when he inevitably runs for office (I mean, his whole family does it!)

  • River_Tam

    I wrote “f**cking lol”.

    Clearly, with my double “**”, the word I was eliding was “fracking”.

    Jeez.

    • jamesdakrn

      fuck that shit.

  • CH0306

    If an Old Blue may offer a Freshman some avuncular advice, don’t skrimp on American history courses while in New Haven.

    You’re entitled, of course, to your own opinions as to both Gingrich and South Carolina. But not your own facts.

    South Carolina played a crucial role in American independence. The American victory over the Royal Navy at Sullivan’s Island, Charleston harbor, in June 1776 was the first patriot victory over the British in a major battle. Later, the Battle of Cowpens in the South Carolina backcountry was the only American victory of the entire war pitting colonial troops against British regulars — not Hessians or militia — in a set piece battle. Indeed, the American victory at Cowpens began a string of victories over Cornwallis’ army that ended in his surrender at Yorktown. Altogether, more Revolutionary War battles were fought in SC than in any other colony.

    Several of your classmates have pointed out that Calhoun died a decade before the Civil War. Preston Brooks caned Sumner to avenge Sumner’s calumny of Brooks’ kinsman, Sen. A.P. Butler, and the Palmetto State — not slavery as such. Speaking of slavery, several other southern states had more slaves than SC in 1861 (though SC did have the highest percentage of slaves, just under 60% of the total — but not “two to one” as you’ve alleged).

    In closing, I suppose I should point out that Clinton was not impeached for “adultery.” He was impeached for, among other things, perjury.

    • MapleLeaf14

      CH0306, I mostly agree with you…but as to the very last point, come on…it was adultery. Gingrich and the holier-than-thou crusader were out for puritanical blood…Clinton’s impeachment was purely political, meant to embarrass him.

  • OFitzpatrick14

    Interesting article. It’s very true that South Carolina has a troublesome past. In addition to being the first state to secede in the Civil War, SC made attempts to secede during the Nullification Crisis as well (they may have succeeded without Andrew Jackson’s threat of military intervention). I think that Schlossberg is referring to Calhoun’s role in the Nullification Crisis by his anonymous publication of ‘South Carolina Exposition’, because it would be very inaccurate to suggest Calhoun was alive during the Civil War (he was the first of the immortal trio to die in 1850, and Clay and Webster were dead by 1852.) Also, this article does include some anti-Southern stereotypes that do not apply to all Southern people. Still, they do apply to certain radical individuals (‘The Unfinished Civil War’ is a great documentary covering the flag debate in Charleston and the life of some Civil War reenactors.) Moreover, one thing in this article does ring true: as a Pennsylvania Republican, I agree that Gingrich is not a strong enough candidate to defeat President Obama. But, I believe Mitt Romney is an excellent candidate with a great shot of success, and the Republican party’s only hope at a presidential victory. Interesting format: tying the past and the present. I enjoy seeing history connected with modern day politics.

  • HMJ

    It troubles me that Yale allows the publication of this “history.” I believe it’s only because young Jack is John F. Kennedy’s grandson, and therefore he’s a good voice for liberal propaganda.