Sunday, January 21, 2007

The South: Who Is Related to Whom?

The old saying goes, at least about Southern politics (and South Carolina is certainly no exception!), that you really don't know what's going on unless you know "who is related to whom," that is, what are the strong family connections that help to explain the successful political careers of individuals. Take Paul Thurmond, for example. If his last name wasn't Thurmond, would he have been taken seriously as a candidate, much less have been elected, to the Charleston County Council? Or, should I digress on the Ravenel family's grip on many aspects of South Carolina politics, now including even the CCSD?

Even those voters who did not grow up in the South (and their numbers are becoming legion in the state) can recognize these aspects of the "old boy" network, especially the famous last names, but myriad not-so-visible connections remain that are not well-known to transplants unaccustomed to thinking about family connections or even to those Southerners who do not travel in political circles. Think of them as spiders' webs.

Don't misunderstand me. These connections that grease the wheels of politics are not bad because they exist. I'm sure such webs have always existed and always will. In the days when everyone knew everyone else, such connections were a factor in everyone's vote. Today such is not the case.

So when I saw the Newsless Courier's "Know Your State Lawmakers" section this Sunday, I thought, "Good. Finally some factual information." S.C. Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell is profiled along with a brief bio and several questions posed by Yvonne Wenger. My favorite is "What are your political ambitions?" Now, that is a fair question. The problem is that the reporter treats Harrell's more obvious political connections that got him where he is today as though he had none.

What could they be???

Certainly being "Junior" hasn't hurt him anymore than it has hurt Strom Thurmond, Jr., a more famous name. To whit, the Robert Harrell Bridge at I-526 and US17 west of the Ashley named for Harrell, Sr., "Whereas, he has been especially active in transportation matters and [. . .] was instrumental in the development of I-526 known as the Mark Clark Expressway and twice served as a South Carolina Highway Commissioner from the First Congressional District." He is also one of the controversial second-term appointees to SCDOT, whom the courts recently struck down.

Family--just can't do without it.
UPDATE: Sunday, January 28th--the latest profile is of conservative Republican Jim Merrill of Daniel Island. Now, Merrill is from Florida according to his bio, but his wife's maiden name is Gaillard. Now, what are the chances that she is related to the former mayor? Nothing wrong with that; however, it makes my point.


Anonymous said...

Wow, yet another example of why blogs are some of the worst sources for information. In this recent post about "Who is related to whom?” this author does what most mis-informed bloggers do, that is write before they research!

The current House Speaker Bobby Harrell is in fact the son of former Highway Commissioner Bob Harrell. On this, the author is correct. The problem is that they make an incorrect assumption that Bobby got to where he is by being the son of Bob.

In 1992, the first year that Bobby ran and won his House Seat, his father Bob Harrell had been a member of the Highways and Public Transportation Commission for a WHOLE 2 YEARS! Bob Harrell did not really throw his hat into the political ring until 1994 when he ran for US Congress and yes, that would be 2 years after his son was a member of the House.

The idea that Bobby got to where he is at, the highest ranking member of the South Carolina House, by being the son of a “HPT” Commissioner who had been on the job for less than 2 years, is quite a stretch!

So please, in the future, do your homework, use some common sense, and think before you blog!

Babbie said...

Yes, anonymous, but that doesn't mean that Harrell's first run for the House had NOTHING to do with who his father is. Knowing the connection DOES explain why Harrell Jr. has a particular interest in SCDOT & that is useful for voters to know.

Anonymous said...

Hey Babbie,

You sound like an informed source; whose your reliable informant, whose your teacher Babbs.