Memo to SC Democrats: Here's Your Message
The South Carolina Democratic Party has a golden opportunity to recapture its historic hold on South Carolina politics.
How? Out-flank Republicans on the right.
Sound crazy? Given traditional Democratic spending inclinations it probably is, but with Republican leaders in South Carolina poised to grow government by more than 20% from just two years ago, a fiscal conservative backlash from voters whose incomes are growing at less than one-fourth that blistering pace is not long in coming.
Combine the imminent failure of the property tax-sales tax swap in the Senate with this Roosevelt-esque expansion of government, and Democrats have a window that comes along maybe once in a decade.
Sadly, the current standard-bearers of the party, Senator Tommy Moore and fellow gubernatorial hopeful Frank Willis (pictured above) have thusfar combined to produce zero ideas, zero message and zero acknowledgement of the new reality in S.C. politics - it's the spending, stupid.
Of course the real opportunity for Democrats isn't in the governor's race. Mark Sanford is unflankable on the right on fiscal issues, and the lack of credible candidates running against him is proof positive that his immense war chest and still-high approval ratings are all but insurmountable.
No, the real opportunity for Democrats lies in the House of Representatives, where the GOP leadership is force-feeding its members a budget that grows government by anywhere from 12-16% this year alone.
Many in the GOP aren't swallowing it, but most are - which presents Democratic candidates like Leon Stravinakis down in Charleston a monumental competitive advantage. By endorsing annual spending caps of 5% - roughly equal to growth in population plus inflation each year - Democrats can still run on growing government.
So where's the advantage? Simple - they can tell increasingly pocketbook-conscious voters they're just not growing it at dangerous, irresponsible levels like the tax-and-spend Republicans.
Wait a minute, did FITS just say tax-and-spend Republicans? In South Carolina?
Yup, we did. With no major tax relief in sight and a budget that makes Luciano Pavarotti look skinny, "Tax-and-Spend Republicans" as a label has the potential to stick this year.
Think about it, traditional Democratic constituencies obviously aren't going to bolt the party, and endorsing spending caps all of a sudden puts moderate, independent voters in play in a way the Democrats have thusfar been utterly incapable of doing.
The bottom line is that big-spending Republicans would be wise to start re-emulating that limited government, lower taxes message they're supposed to be all about.
After all, you never know when a minority party that's currently devoid of its own message might decide it's time to steal one.