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South Carolina editorial roundup

January 2, 2019

Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:

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Dec. 30

The Times and Democrat of Orangeburg on whether South Carolina’s Republican Party will hold its February 2020 presidential primary:

National poll numbers consistently show more than 50 percent of Americans disapprove of the job being done by President Donald Trump. But the numbers may be as misleading as the popular vote outcome in the 2016 presidential election. The president is unpopular in “blue” Democratic states and quite popular in traditionally “red” Republican states.

Consider results from AP VoteCast, The Associated Press’ nationwide survey of the 2018 midterm electorate. Fifty-three percent of voters in South Carolina said they approve of Trump — and 86 percent of Republicans approved.

And the Trump popularity extends throughout the South. The latest Winthrop Poll numbers from November show 80 percent of Republican or Republican-leaning Southerners approve of Trump, who had a 44 percent approval rating among all respondents and a 48 percent disapproval rating. In addition to South Carolina, states surveyed were Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

Dr. Scott Huffmon, Winthrop Poll director, said, “Trump’s approval is still soaring among his base in the South and his overall approval ratings in the region remain slightly higher than his national numbers.”

The numbers and the lack of any announced Republican opposition to Trump’s re-election have Republicans in some states considering whether to hold primary elections in 2020. South Carolina is among them.

South Carolina’s GOP Chairman Drew McKissick told The Associated Press that the party is considering canceling its February 2020 presidential primary.

“At this point, I’m not aware of a need for a primary,” McKissick said, citing popularity among South Carolinians and no announced opposition.

“The state party and the grassroots within the state, all around the state, totally support the president,” McKissick said. “The purpose of political parties is to unify around the platform and elect candidates who will advance that platform.”

South Carolina Republicans have reason to be proud of their primary. Since its 1980 inception, the winner in the “first in the South” primary has become the eventual Republican nominee in all but one year. Republican nominee Mitt Romney finished second behind winner Newt Gingrich in 2012. And in some years, the primary has been critical in reinvigorating the campaign of the eventual nominee after early setbacks in Iowa and New Hampshire.

There is, however, precedent for not holding a primary. In 1984, the GOP called off the GOP vote as President Ronald Reagan sought a second term. The same was done when President George W. Bush was seeking a second term in 2004.

As a rule, Republican presidents fare better in the general election when they face no primary opposition. That may not be the case with Trump.

The president thrives on campaigning. If states in which he is most popular do not hold primaries, far less attention will be paid to the GOP campaign than otherwise would be the norm. And that lack of attention will come as Democrats are amid a major race for the party’s nomination. The Democratic field could exceed 20 candidates.

South Carolina will be a major battleground for those Democrats, with the primary on Feb. 29 falling fourth on the electoral calendar. And it will be only the second primary for the field of candidates. New Hampshire votes on Feb. 11 after Iowa’s caucuses on Feb. 3 and before Nevada’s caucuses on Feb. 22.

The Palmetto State will be awash with Democratic hopefuls during 2019 and into 2020 while Republicans, if there is to be no primary, will be sitting on the sidelines. It’s the type of scenario that will make Trump and his backers uncomfortable.

Of course, speculation about not holding a primary may become moot if challengers to Trump surface. As we see it, that is likely. If not Ohio Gov. John Kasich, then Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake is the most likely to run. And Orangeburg native and Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker is also mentioned as a potential challenger.

Republicans do not have to decide now. They have until 90 days before the primary date to notify the state whether they will be voting. We predict come Feb. 22, 2020, South Carolinians will have a choice between voting in a Democratic or Republican primary.

Online: https://thetandd.com/

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Jan. 1

The Post and Courier of Charleston on students in the criminal justice system:

A brawl last month at North Charleston High School resulted in nine students being charged by police, three of whom were arrested.

A fight of that magnitude is rather unusual for a Charleston area school. But incidents that leave students in the hands of law enforcement officers rather than school administrators are disappointingly common.

And the consequences can be long-lasting, leaving students serving jail time and carrying criminal records that will follow them through their adult lives.

In recent years, hundreds of students have been arrested statewide, mostly under the dubious “disturbing schools” law. That vague statute was originally intended to prevent outsiders from interfering on campus, but had more recently been applied to everything from arguing with a teacher to getting in a fight.

As such, it forced a troubling number of students — some as young as 9 years old — into the criminal justice system over issues that would have once been handled by school administrators and parents.

Charleston County schools had 265 arrests during the 2014-15 school year, for example, and black students were disproportionately involved, making up roughly 85 percent of disturbing schools charges.

Thankfully, the state Legislature passed a law in May that returned the disturbing schools statute to its original purpose, which ought to lead to fewer arrests on campus, although the same law created a new crime of threatening violence on campus.

The presence of resource officers in most South Carolina schools — state officials hope to expand a law enforcement presence to every school soon — also complicates matters. Police officers help keep students safe, which is obviously the intended purpose, but they can also arrest them.

To be sure, extreme incidents warrant arrests. And given the tragic record of deadly violence in United States schools over the past several years, it’s critical to take threats seriously and be particularly vigilant for potentially dangerous behavior.

Still, it’s critical to keep in mind that students are young people. Their capacity for making adult decisions isn’t fully formed yet, and methods for managing disruptive behavior should reflect that reality.

Arrests and involvement in the criminal justice system, on the other hand, increase the risk of poor school performance moving forward. Students become less likely to graduate. They could face challenges getting into college or finding a job.

It’s not an ideal situation. Of course, neither is a fight so chaotic that it forces an entire high school to go on lockdown until police get the situation under control.

But some behavioral problems that end up getting law enforcement involved could almost certainly be handled by school administrators and parents. If school staff need reinforcement to help them keep things under control, that’s something worth addressing when the state Legislature convenes in January. Dozens of school-related bills will be up for consideration.

Keeping students safe is of vital importance. So is helping prepare them for successful, productive adult lives. That’s a substantially tougher challenge with a criminal record.

Online: https://www.postandcourier.com/

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Jan. 1

Index-Journal of Greenwood on aspirations for government transparency in 2019:

... As we review last year, many of us will jot down resolutions — promises to ourselves about how we will lose weight, eat healthier, quit smoking, exercise more, get up earlier, keep a daily journal and — well, fill in the blank with your own resolution — with a vow to do better in the year that lies ahead of us.

Certainly, there is nothing wrong with that. It’s good to take stock of our lives and determine to rid ourselves of bad habits and to work toward becoming better people, for ourselves and those around us. Some of us will stumble and fall in the process, others will stumble and yet succeed. Change does not come all that easily, even in an ever-changing fast-paced world.

We have witnessed unprecedented division on our country this past year and headed into the new year with a sense that Washington, D.C., certainly could have used a larger dose of Christmas spirit.

Our state lawmakers are about to return to Columbia to conduct South Carolina’s business. Some topics will likely ring familiar as new ones arise. But we hope, just as we did a year ago, that lawmakers will be serious about doing the state’s work and the people’s bidding, that they will truly focus on doing what is right and best for the state.

Here in the Lakelands, we also hope that elected and appointed officials will do the same — busy themselves doing what they were elected and appointed to do, and, as we say each year, with great transparency.

This is a new year with new leadership in a number of positions, from school boards to mayors to city managers. Each has expressed a desire and determination to do what is right, and we have to believe they are sincere. Perhaps their resolve will endure.

Let them, and us, aspire to make 2019 a year of good and open government. One does not exist without the other.

Online: http://www.indexjournal.com/

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