Leonardo"s Notebook by Mattheus Mei

I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Sanford on the State and the key to Obama

Last night was Governor Sanford’s State of the State address, there were a few interesting points, but one especially stood out in light of his recent Op-Ed piece in the State Newspaper on Sen. Obama.

“The 1895 Constitution that set today’s governmental structure was built around the fear that a black man would be elected governor of South Carolina, and any structure built on this foundation is an insane model from which to run your government in the 21st century.

I ask you allow the people of South Carolina the opportunity to vote to change it - not for me because I’ll be gone from this office before any change could be instituted - but for your neighbor, for your cousin, for your grandchildren.

With the 1895 Constitution, Ben Tillman was very frank in his intentions: “We of the South,” he said on the floor of the U.S. Senate, “have never recognized the right of the negro to govern white men, and never will.”

Think about that quote for a moment - “We of the South have never recognized the right of the negro to govern white men, and never will.”

Leaving aside for a moment the cost and inefficiency of the government model that went with this thinking, all of this is code for a larger that allows a small group of people to control or disproportionately influence the rest of us.

This is the plantation model of “we know what’s best for y’all” - and the complete opposite of what Friedman argues in the vital urgency of freeing people and empowering individuals to imagine and act quickly on their imagination.

I believe the Tillman model has held South Carolina back for more than a century, that it is wrong, and that our government should not be operating from this framework given the way it brings too little in accountability, too little in transparency and too much in cost.”

Well they say hindsight is 20-20, and it looks like we’ve figured out what the folks commenting over at Not Very Bright call political maneuvering. In the Op-Ed piece he said:

“I won’t be voting for Barack Obama for president. There are too many vital issues — from taxes and spending, to immigration and national security, to traditional values — on which we have fundamentally different points of view about the right direction for our country. However, as the presidential campaign trail now makes its turn toward this state, and as South Carolinians make their final decisions on whom to vote for, it’s worth pausing to take notice of something important that the Obama candidacy means for our corner of America.

South Carolinians are rightly proud of our state’s rich heritage and history, dating from the earliest Colonial times and our ancestors’ heroic efforts in the Revolutionary War right up to the present day. I say this because we’re a state that loves history, and one of the nicest parts of my job lies in constantly being exposed to the extraordinary achievements of South Carolinians past and present. In the Obama candidacy, there is a potentially history-making quality that we should reflect on. It is one that is especially relevant on the sensitive topic of race — because South Carolina and the South as a whole bear a heavier historical burden than the rest of our country on that front.”

Does it therefore resonate when the Governor quote’s Ben Tillman about how “We of the South have never recognized the right of the negro to govern white men, and never will”?

The Governor, much like Mr. Obama stressed in his Op-Ed piece how he believes that he is an agent of change. Let me clarify, he considers himself a bulwark against the flawed ‘operating paradigm’ that is the 1895 government structure and much of the ‘policy’ making of the last century plus some years.

And Mr. Sanford has proof:

“As governor, I try to keep that historical burden in mind [in speaking on race disparity], because being sensitive to race has both policy and symbolic implications. I strongly believe that policies such as school choice and reforms to allow Medicaid recipients additional health care options will have a disproportionately positive impact on African-Americans in our state. Others disagree, favoring a larger role for government than the private sector, and those legitimate policy disagreements will always be with us in the political arena.

On the symbolic front: Having a more diversified Cabinet, issuing the first formal apology for the Orangeburg Massacre and traveling across the state line to Georgia to address the South Carolina NAACP convention have all represented small steps aimed at building bridges across waters that have divided us for too long as South Carolinians.
In short, just like hundreds before me and scores of others trying in their own ways, I try to build bridges where I can — but I write because it all pales in comparison to the change that may be before us.

Sen. Obama is not running for president on the basis of his race, and no one should cast their ballot for or against him on that basis. Nonetheless, what is happening in the initial success of his candidacy should not escape us. Within many of our own lifetimes, a man who looked like Barack Obama had a difficult time even using the public restrooms in our state. What is happening may well say a lot about America, and I do think as an early primary state we should earnestly shoulder our responsibility in determining how this part of history is ultimately written.”

Not surprisingly many of the above highlighted portions are the same as were highlighted in my previous post on when the Governor’s Op-Ed appeared in the state. So the mystery to why Governor Sanford would appear to be ‘supporting’ the Obama cause is now clear.

I believe the governor is using Mr. Obama’s candidacy and potential of winning, or at the very least his having such an impressive showing amongst South Carolinians (especially and symbolically among White South Carolinians) as to be justification of just why our form of government is flawed, outdated and in need of change. And not just as justification, but also as a catalyst to push that change successfully through the legislature. TouchĂ© Governor.

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