It was a relatively ho-hum Election Night 2018 in South Carolina.
With the exception of Democrat Joe Cunningham’s upset win over Republican Katie Arrington in the 1st Congressional District, there were few surprises.
- Buoyed by a strong ground game and an even stronger economy, the McMaster/Evette team cruised to a 8.5 point margin of victory over the Smith/Norrell ticket, a margin close to the Trump advantage from two years ago.
- In the Statehouse, safely drawn House districts yielded little change. Two Republican incumbents lost, but the GOP is likely to pick up seats in two other districts. Even Steven.
This equilibrium, however, didn’t extend far beyond our borders. Georgia is still awaiting the outcome of a too-close-to-call gubernatorial election. Florida, no stranger to tight elections, saw a Republican squeaking to victory by less than 1% over his opponent. And our neighbors in the Tar Heel state have been trending “purple” over the last decade with power see-sawing between the two major parties.
Now certainly, there are many demographic, geographic and economic factors that collide to create unique electoral currents in each of these states.
But is South Carolina immune to these trends?
We’d be foolish to think so. The Southeast is growing as a region. And in South Carolina, our population has grown by 43% (compared to 31% nationally) since 1990. As people migrate from the North and Midwest looking for job opportunities or a great retirement community, they often bring different politics with them. Our coastal region has certainly seen this borne out with the Cunningham victory and closer than expected Statehouse races across the Lowcountry. The trend is more and more blue.
To be clear: Palmetto Promise Institute’s work transcends party. Our mission is to promote free-enterprise-based policies, not carry water for politicians or political parties. We work with anyone willing to come together around common sense solutions to South Carolina’s challenges.
But as President Obama liked to remind us, elections do have consequences.
Take the issue of Medicaid expansion: as a candidate for governor, James Smith ran on taking the Obamacare expansion for able-bodied, working-age adults. As we’ve written for years, South Carolina has been wise to not accept this fool’s gold that is exploding state budgets and harming the truly vulnerable people it was initially created to serve. Had the governor’s race gone the other way, we could have soon been in a pitched battle for the heart and soul of our state’s fiscal future.
Bottom line: South Carolina now has a window of opportunity that could very well be closing.
The question before our freshly-elected leaders?
Will we seize the opportunity to drive a bold, forward-looking agenda to set South Carolina on a path to a better future or will we continue to be content to let our state lurch from crisis to crisis as we protect small fiefdoms of self-interest and nibble around the edges of a totally dysfunctional status quo?
Will we promote a bold Freedom Agenda that unleashes the incredible potential of South Carolina and her people? Or will we twiddle our thumbs and continue to waste the incredible gift we’ve been given to leave our state better than we found it?
There is no shortage of work to be done. The need for significant reform in education, tax, budget, energy, infrastructure, pension, healthcare and ethics policy looms large. And that’s the short list!
The good news is, other states are proving that these things can be done. Courageous leadership, paired with smart, data-driven policy solutions will put South Carolina on a sustainable path to a future where everyone thrives.
Red, blue or purple notwithstanding, let’s get busy on the big ideas and transformative solutions that can make our South Carolina the very best it can be!