As a state delegate of the South Carolina Democratic Party, I get to vote on who I hope to be next state party chair at the April 30 convention. And the selection has been a rather grueling process for me.
I mean, I kinda know one of the candidates (Phil Noble
), got to meet and speak with another one on a recent occasion (Lee Walter Jenkins
), and have only read about the other (Dick Harpootlian
). That didn’t exactly leave me with enough information to make the most responsible choice, I thought.
So, to be a responsible delegate, I went to work and looked them all up, and even contacted other state delegates to get their input (about 30 of them, actually).
While all of those influences played a part in my decision, one mental image of contrast and comparison probably drew the last straw, leaving me with no other option, and one I now make with true, positive expression.
I’m voting for Phil Noble
That’s the same choice of a wide majority of the folks I spoke with, too, who think Phil is the one candidate who can put our paddles in the proper political pool, and who can row the SCDP lifeboat in the right direction.
But before I go into any other details on Phil, though, let me give you my assessment of the remaining candidates, and why I had to eliminate them from my slate.
Jenkins is a good man. As party chair of Marion County, he maintains regular contact on strategic topics with other county parties. He has the right ideas for our party, too. I agree with him on just about everything he says, especially regarding the need for state party focus on the local and county level, where so much of the lowdown labor gets done, and which has much influence on many key voters. I also agree that the chair spot should be a paid position; to leave it as an unpaid honor seat restricts the general public (the true, everyday Democrats who do most of the work) from this position.
The specific duties and tasks he described for the chairman, however, seem more appropriate for the executive director’s position, or that of the 2nd Vice Chair. I hope that Jenkins will consider competing for one of those spots, instead. (Exec Director is a paid position, though, and not up for election.)
Dick Harpootlian is listed as the favored candidate by media, but not by a majority of the delegates I spoke with (who are openly for Phil Noble). And for those who do support him, they stand behind Harpootlian because of his previous record as state party chair, which he held from 1998 to 2003. They want him back in the chair seat because of his boldness and bluntness, they say, which they hope will return the party to victory in the 2012 elections, just like SCDP had in his first term.
But there’s where the deciding contrast set in. And it was those comments by his supporters that poured the contrast on the picture, too.
When I now think of Harpootlian, my mind always pops up an image of … Mike Ditka. (I recently made similar statement
on SC Soapbo
I’m dead serious in that comment. No joke. I’m not making that up. Now, let me expound – please read on before your laughter produces so many tears in your eyes that you can’t legibly view the remainder of this article. I’m being serious in this comparison. Ditka
was a great coach of the Chicago Bears, just like Harpootlian did a lot for SCDP in his previous term.
Ditka won the Super Bowl; Harpootlian held the chair when Democrat Jim Hodges was elected governor of South Carolina.
Ditka developed a reputation for uncouth verbal discharges
to the media and fans; we’ve all heard of Harpootlian’s infamous comments
regarding the African-American vote (before he was state party chair), and his official party press release questioning
Sen. Lindsey Graham’s sexual orientation, too.
Ditka left the Bears after a dismal season; Harpootlian resigned the chairman’s seat in 2003, after Hodges didn’t get re-elected.
And then one day about five years later after his dismissal from the Bears, Ditka attempted a comeback, taking the head coach spot for the New Orleans Saints (my very favorite team, by the way). He had big dreams and made big promises. Hoping for a return to victory and respect, millions of Saints fans awaited return of Super Bowl Mike.
But those millions soon learned that Ditka lost his fizzle. His insistence on using his old coaching style and an old playbook of old football strategies didn’t produce positive results in the newer NFL. The competition had him figured out and was well-prepared for him and his methods, and made it clear that they knew how to stop him on each and every play.
Ditka made insulting statements about his own Saints team on national media. He recruited poor talent at a very high cost that the team still pays for, and for which have the Saints been publicly ridiculed ever since. And in his short time in this head coach position, the team did even worse than before Ditka took the spot. The old strategy of the old Mike Ditka didn’t produce anything for the new New Orleans Saints. He was canned after three losing seasons, the last of which was a mere 3-13.
And this comparison of similarities has made me wonder, is Harpootlian today the same as Harpootlian of yesteryear? Will he produce the same Super Bowl results, or will he use some old playbook that the competition knows, is prepared for, and is ready to play against? (Please recall the SCGOP’s statement
it hopes he wins the chair…) Will Harpootlian make dismal draft picks or sign costly player contracts that will leave the SCDP worse off than it was before he took the chair? And if things don’t turn out the way he hoped for, will Harpootlian do just like he did in his last term as party chair and simply resign, leaving us hanging?
It was the recent CNN coverage of Harpootlian on its website that solidified it for me. Harpootlian’s latest comments drew back images of his last term. In that one quick interview
, he used sarcastic comments, insults and stabs to describe the current slate of potential Republican candidates for president, even describing two as overweight.
And don’t get me wrong; I enjoyed the hell out of reading them. Even hope to see and hear some more, too.
But I don’t think that’s the playbook for a state party chairman in the 2011 and 2012 seasons. For a mad as hell Democrat? Absolutely. For a prominent player in South Carolina politics? Why not? But for a state party chairman? I don’t think so, especially when I keep being reminded of how the old playbook might not work in the new ballgame on the new playing field.
I’m voting for Phil Noble, who has maintained consistent development and progress in the political scene, and who’s continued to move forward, welcoming new projects in new political environments.
I’m voting for Phil Noble, who is credited
internationally with being the innovator of developing use of the Internet in political ventures.
I’m voting for Phil Noble, who started Politics Online
, providing insight on use of Internet and other new media in political and civic projects.
I’m voting for Phil Noble, who was Resident Fellow
of the Institute of Politics of the John F. Kennedy School of Government of Harvard University, who’s taught at the University of Amsterdam, and has served 10 other colleges around the world.
I’m voting for Phil Noble, who’s worked winning political campaigns not just in the U.S. (like Rep. Tip O’Neill, Rep. Bill Richardson and Pres. Barack Obama) but in 20 other countries, too, and who also worked in civic affairs projects of 45 different nations.
I’m voting for Phil Noble, who’s worked with the United Nations, Amnesty International and the European Union.
I’m voting for Phil Noble, who founded Palmetto Project
, the community service group that addresses issues like health care, education, conservation and economic development.
I’m voting for Phil Noble, who is now president of the SC New Democrats
, the organization originally founded by former U.S. Sec. of Education and former South Carolina Governor Dick Riley.
I’m voting for Phil Noble, who founded “One Laptop per Child SC
,” the organization that has provided over 3,000 personal computers to young students in our state.
I’m voting for Phil Noble, the man who kept moving forward, and who made sure to bring Democratic issues right along with him with every forward step.
In other words, folks, I’m voting for the future of the South Carolina Democratic Party, and not its past.
If we’re stuck in a rut of bitter, dirty politics at the moment, then why try to move backwards in that rut, which we might only wind up right back in by using the same old playbook?
I’ll welcome Jenkins or Harpootlian with open arms, mind you, and have utmost respect for both, but I firmly believe that Phil Noble is the one candidate who can address our needs in the right way at the right time, and who can best take us in the correct direction.
Let’s move out of the rut. Let’s move forward.
Let’s elect Phil Noble.
Now, I know this “endorsement” might not mean much to very many. I don’t claim to be a political insider or campaign guru, after all. And I know that a couple of folks still doubt my dedication to the Democratic Party since my brief departure last year to run as a third party candidate (but please remember that I only did so to make sure there was an actual Democrat in the CD1 race).
I do hope that delegates will consider my opinion, though, when they select their choice for state party chair at the April 30 convention. I already know that a great majority of those whom I previously spoke with agree with me; I hope others who are undecided will follow this apparent majority.
And as for those who spoke to me in favor of Harpootlian, I ask you don’t hold it against me, cuz we still have lots of work to do. Together.
When it comes right down to it, all of us delegates need to remember that no matter who wins, let’s face it – after the election, we’ll all still be in the same boat. And I know each one of us is going to grab an oar and start rowing no matter who gets elected state party chair.
I was the CD1 Edwards delegate in 2008; I quickly jumped aboard the Obama campaign, however. And not just in my vote, but in bumper stickers, lawn signs, canvassing, telephone campaigning, party functions and – probably most assuring – my vote at the national convention.
Let’s continue this pattern of working together as move towards 2012 victories, and with Phil Noble as chairman.