By Lachlan McIntosh

This probably won’t come as a shock to many, but politicians play up to their political base, especially when facing competitive primaries. Often in real life, they aren’t as passionate or as extreme those base voters are. But a politician wanting to win will often compromise their values a bit to get the job done. Does anyone really think Ted Cruz believes half the things he says? The idea that President Trump cares about working class families is preposterous. He has decades of verifiable history proving otherwise.

So, politicians playing up to their base isn’t particularly earthshattering. But can they take it too far?

Yes. They can. And we are seeing it more and more in today’s toxic, polarizing environment.

People seeking and holding elected office are indeed politicians, which to most has negative continuations. But they are also leaders. They are leaders who make decisions that effect our lives and our children’s future. Now more than ever this country needs leaders who demonstrate integrity.

Trump is the most unpopular president after year one in modern American history. That said he remains popular with a large segment of the Republican base, especially with older and less educated voters. Few of these voters will benefit from the tax cutting legislation recently passed and supported by Trump, but nonetheless, they stick with him. Many will instead suffer from the bill’s side effects. Polling indicates these voters have a skewed since of reality when it comes to the issues of the day. These folks believe that the news media is actually fake and make up false stories about Trump. They believe the Russian investigation is a hoax. They believe the constant lies coming out of the White House and willingly succumb to Putin-like propaganda that pollute conservative media.

Many traditional Republican leaders like Bill Kristol and George Will are horrified as their party drifts away from conservative and American principles into a more authoritarian style of communicating not seen here before. Trump and his (until recent) sidekick Steve Bannon seem intent on tearing down our American institutions like the FBI, the CIA and the entire idea of an open and free press.

These kinds of Trump supporters may not be the majority, but their undeniable journey to indoctrination should be of concern to all freedom lovers.

Although many Republican leaders have expressed concern and are speaking out, most have remained disturbingly silent. More disturbing are the Republican politicians who actively play up to this madness and court these misinformed voters by encouraging their derangement.

No better example of this is South Carolina gubernatorial candidate Catherine Templeton. Templeton is a relatively young, smart and successful attorney who has earned respect from her colleagues and members of the business community. She held numerous positions in Governor Nikki Haley’s administration, including director of DHEC.

Her decision to run for governor didn’t surprise anyone and many believed she would pose a real threat to incumbent Governor Henry McMaster in the primary.

Sadly, since announcing her candidacy, Templeton barely resembles the person her admirers have always known. Instead of running as the traditional, principled conservative she’s always appeared to be, she has instead decided to grovel to the Trump supporters by re-enforcing all the false narratives being pushed by the administration, by embracing the ugly hateful rhetoric of the fringes and cozying up with the worst elements of our society.

She has publicly embraced Bannon calling him a “voice for the rest of us” explaining that the rest of us means people who work hard, which of course is a coded and divisive message that has an ugly meaning to many of the older, rural Trump supporters she is courting. Templeton has asked for Bannon’s help in her campaign and he could play a significant role like he did for Roy Moore in Alabama. Even after the Trump-Bannon breakup, Templeton has refused to break ties with the nationalist chairman of right-wing propaganda outlet Breitbart News.

Several years ago, Templeton helped lead the charge to remove the Confederate Flag from Statehouse grounds; now she never turns down a chance to tout her Confederate heritage.

Fortunately, Templeton’s campaign is floundering and likely going nowhere. The campaign has been besieged with mistakes and miscues — most often by the candidate herself.

McMaster has shown an ability to be supportive of Trump without disgracing himself or changing who he has always been. Many business leaders once open to Templeton have decided to back McMaster who seems more like the safe choice and someone who won’t drive away new businesses to the state.

This is all really a shame. It’s political pandering gone way too far. Instead of showing courage, Templeton has demonstrated great weakness, lack of leadership and a lack of political integrity. It’s another example of what could have been.

 

Lachlan McIntosh is a political consultant based in Charleston. He consults for Democratic and independent candidates throughout the country. He is a former executive director of the South Carolina Democratic Party and aid to Governor Jim Hodges. www.mcintoshconsultingllc.com.

 

 

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