Simple Politics or Social Poison
BY TIM KELLY
You know what pisses me off? Simplistic political analysis on the editorial pages of newspapers. If you want simplistic political analysis, you ought to get it from me. This is brought to mind because of an issue of vital national importance. I'm speaking, of course, of the issue of video poker in South Carolina.
A recent column in The State quoted a gutless Republican operative characterizing an upcoming referendum on the fate of video gambling in South Carolina as a contest between "the fat cats and the grass-roots." Since when can nearly all political elections not be characterized this way, except for the much more common case of "this group of fat cats vs. that group of fat cats."
The growth of video poker in South Carolina as a political issue is, of course, mainly the result of The State's quest for a Pulitzer. The vast majority of South Carolinians I talk to couldn't give a rat's ass whether Bubba wants to spend his money on video poker or hand it over to the Baptist church on Sunday. The nice thing about South Carolina is that, with the exception of newspaper editors and members of the Christian Coalition, most folks are content to let you make your own decisions and live your own lives.
Oh, we'll gossip about whatever the hell you do, but nobody except newspaper editors and hypocritical Republican legislators is too concerned about stopping your behavior. If we outlawed all stupid behavior in South Carolina, there'd be very little to do and even less to talk about, except how damn hot it is.
But I digress. This rant is about simplistic political analysis, particularly that South Carolina is in danger of corrupting its political system with the money of poker barons. (Only a South Carolina newspaper editor would dub a redneck who owns slot machines a "baron" of any sort.) Truth is that South Carolina's government, like those of most states in the Union, was long ago corrupted by one group of barons or another. The state itself was founded as a political payoff to friends of the King of England, as were most of the early colonies, a notable exception being Georgia, which was settled by petty criminals from the outset.
Over the past three centuries, South Carolina has sold its soul to wealthy planters, slave-owners, textile mill barons, bankers and, in recent years, Yankee and foreign corporations lured by cheap, under-educated labor and sweetheart tax breaks.
These groups bought the state's government and peopled it with their supporters long before the first quarter was dropped into a video poker machine. The question, apparently, isn't whether or not we in South Carolina are whores, but the class of people paying for our services.
Tim Kelly is a Columbia writer and a senior public affairs specialist for an advertising/public relations agency. While his agency provides communications services to the S.C. Coin Operators Association, the views expressed here are his own. More of his work can be found at www.dietryin.com.