Friday, January 11, 2008

Sanford on Obama

South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford (R) has penned an excellent editorial in The State (SC's largest newspaper) on the meaning and significance of the Obama campaign to his state. He doesn't agree with Obama on the issues, and won't be voting for him in November. But, he writes, "it's worth pausing to take notice of something important that the Obama candidacy means for our corner of America."
South Carolinians are rightly proud of our state’s rich heritage and history, dating from the earliest Colonial times and our ancestors’ heroic efforts in the Revolutionary War right up to the present day. I say this because we’re a state that loves history, and one of the nicest parts of my job lies in constantly being exposed to the extraordinary achievements of South Carolinians past and present. In the Obama candidacy, there is a potentially history-making quality that we should reflect on. It is one that is especially relevant on the sensitive topic of race — because South Carolina and the South as a whole bear a heavier historical burden than the rest of our country on that front.

As governor, I try to keep that historical burden in mind, because being sensitive to race has both policy and symbolic implications. I strongly believe that policies such as school choice and reforms to allow Medicaid recipients additional health care options will have a disproportionately positive impact on African-Americans in our state. Others disagree, favoring a larger role for government than the private sector, and those legitimate policy disagreements will always be with us in the political arena.

On the symbolic front: Having a more diversified Cabinet, issuing the first formal apology for the Orangeburg Massacre and traveling across the state line to Georgia to address the South Carolina NAACP convention have all represented small steps aimed at building bridges across waters that have divided us for too long as South Carolinians. In short, just like hundreds before me and scores of others trying in their own ways, I try to build bridges where I can — but I write because it all pales in comparison to the change that may be before us.

This is excellent material. It is surprisingly reflective, missing the reflexive defensiveness (verging into outright hostility) that one often hears from conservatives (southern and otherwise) talking about race, and forthright about the "heavier historical burden" issues of race cast upon South Carolina and the American South.

Nobody is saying that Gov. Sanford should vote for Obama. And I'm not saying that I think his policies, ultimately, are one's which benefit either African-Americans or the nation as a whole. Rather, what is promising about this editorial is that it at least conceptualizes itself in dialogue with a segment of the community that often is de facto excluded from democratic discourse. Insofar as Governor Sanford sees how his administration -- in both it's substantive and symbolic dimensions -- acts upon Black citizens as a relevant consideration and an important concern, that's a boon in of itself.

So kudos, Governor Sanford. That was a beautiful editorial.

H/T: CNN's Political Ticker

No comments: