By DeWitt Zemp

 

Since my last article we have seen an amazing year in American politics. It has seemed like a return to my political science professor’s university course in politics 101, “the remix.”

This new age political discussion, driven by social media and sensationalism “gotcha media” posts is changing not only the face of our national and international political discussion but it is also seeping into local and state politics.

When I thought we had seen it all, I get another surprise on the nightly news or on the social media scene as we witness the WWE of politics; where in one corner we have the president and in the other corner we have the national mainstream media. Years ago, there used to be a well-known and respected message: “Never pick a fight with anyone who buys ink by the barrel.” I don’t think that is a message that anyone adheres to any longer. Social media has enabled political direct access to millions. I would suggest that this is more access than the number of people buying the local paper and watching the nightly news.

As we witness the issues being played out on the national level, we recognize the impact at the state level.

In our Statehouse, it is back to work, after a summer of political resignations and a few indictments. The South Carolina General Assembly is now in a full on sprint. Maybe closer to wind sprints based on each separate but equally important issue.

First and most importantly, as I travel this great state and hear the frustration at the lunch buffets and in meetings about our elected officials and see the social media posts, I get a little frustrated and concerned. I work with all members of the General Assembly everyday. These men and women have sacrificed time away from their careers and their families to pursue state policy that will make a great state even better. We may not always agree with a particular position. We may oppose specific actions undertaken by state leaders but there is always room for RESPECT. Our state policymakers have their constituency in their best interest in each of the actions they take.

S.C. has some important issues to resolve. Currently, the most prominent issue sucking all of the energy out of the room is the SCANA Santee Cooper nuclear reactor project. The complexity of this issue and how it impacts the state is mind numbing. This issue alone and the state policy actions taken as a result of the failure of this construction project will take a great deal of time out of this session. Everyone in the state has a stake in this issue. I’m confident that with the leadership we have in the governor’s office, the General Assembly along with the input from the experts in the nuclear energy field, this issue will be resolved and make our state stronger as a result.

Every year the budget debate is another important topic in the Statehouse. Each year state leaders spend an enormous amount of time debating many spending priorities while simultaneously juggling legislative policies that impact not only future spending but also the success of those funding initiatives. There are also economic policy discussions driving future investments during a booming economy, workforce development initiatives that impact education and workforce readiness, the next phase of shoring up the future of the states pension fund, tourism development, sentencing reform, offshore drilling and many other important policy debates. There are many more important issue debates that are time consuming and in a constant state of formulations during the next four months

As all of these issues are debated, from time to time each occupies a space in the social media spin cycle. Some information may be based on facts; some may be just another example of the opposition or the advocates spinning the issue in an effort to move the debate in a different direction. Sensationalism always gets the attention.

As someone who witnesses the leaders in the Statehouse wade through the maze of debates and issues, I feel compelled to mention to the readers that they are each focused professionals working hard and honestly for each of us. It would be easy to be discouraged based upon the national news or the infrequent stories of the politician who may or may not have done something wrong, but there is no reason to be discouraged because we are represented by amazing leaders and are living in the greatest state within the borders of the greatest nation on earth.

 

            DeWitt Zemp is a native of Charleston who has spent more than 22 years in the political arena, working for two S.C. governor’s executive offices and two presidents in election politics and in The White House. DeWitt currently is an owner/partner in a Southeastern U.S. lobbying firm, the Southern Strategy Group.

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