As you know, one of the great joys of reading the City Paper — although some folks will argue that there's nothing fun about our favorite rag — is turning to the opening page of our Views section and seeing Steve Stegelin's weekly cartoon. Time and time again, Stegelin makes us laugh, cry, or curse the powers that be — and more often than not, he does it all at once. And that's a rare feat indeed. So join with us as we take a Stegelin look back at 2012. Enjoy. —Chris Haire
An election year, 2012 started with a swarm of presidential candidates descending on the Palmetto State for the Republican primary. While the roster was full of memorable personalities, the eventual nominee was the candidate known for a distinct lack of one, Mitt Romney. After fighting with Florida to remain the first Republican primary in the South, South Carolina primary voters went with former Speaker of the House and Georgia good ol' boy Newt Gingrich, thus ending the state's decades-long streak of picking Republican presidential nominees.
Aside: Days before the primary, Jon Huntsman dropped out of the race, throwing his support behind Romney and causing some last-minute rework to this strip. For the first time, here's Huntsman's original (and somewhat prophetic) panel.
With the Affordable Care Act a hot-button topic, health care was a constant presence in the news, women's health care especially. After some religious organizations took issue with the notion of providing insurance to cover birth control, Republicans used this as fodder in their fight against Obamacare and assembled a crack team to look at health care. This begged the question of whether the all-male politicians chosen by the GOP were better experts on women's health than, say, medical professionals and women. The debate over Republicans' stance on women's issues would continue throughout the year, culminating in talk of what exactly happens to female physiology during "legitimate rape" (but more on that later).
Some topics are easier to address in an editorial cartoon than others, and child molestation is not one of them. However, the tragic headlines around local serial child abuser Louis "Skip" Reville were too difficult to ignore. In March, Reville, an active youth coach and Citadel summer camp counselor, had his day in court against a litany of sordid allegations including molestation, indecency, and sexual abuse. Pleading guilty, Reville now sits in prison with a 50-year sentence. The Citadel was dealt a public relations nightmare when it was revealed that they had, based on early allegations from concerned parents, conducted a failed internal investigation of accusations against ReVille without notifying police, allowing Reville to continue to prey on the children put in his care. The school finally turned over its records of the investigation after being pressured by the media.
Another constant topic for the year was the ethics (or lack thereof) of South Carolina politicians. Gov. Nikki Haley faced a flurry of ethics charges, starting with the salary she claimed when she applied for work with the Lexington Medical Center and extending to whether she inappropriately pulled strings for that employer while a state representative. No stranger to controversy, Haley would spin these allegations as further examples of the uphill battle she endures as a minority woman in the Boys' Club of South Carolina politics, as "documented" in her autobiography. Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Ken Ard resigned his post after misappropriating campaign funds for family vacations, game systems, and fast food dinners. As per the state's Constitution, Glenn McConnell traded his powerful position of Senate president pro tempore for the lieutenant governor's mostly decorative role. A frequent Civil War reenactor, McConnell was no stranger to decorative roles.
The onset of summer brought the annual invasion of Spoletians. 2012's Spoleto exhibition brought a slew of performers and acts to the Lowcountry, including storyteller Mike Daisey and the dark fairy tale The Animals and Children Took to the Streets. However, several of the bigger acts were priced for the tourists, leaving locals with a severe case of sticker shock. For this strip, I enjoyed the challenge of pushing the visual components to do some cartooning pantomime, matching the arts and cultural theme of Spoleto.
With the success of Robert Kirkman's comic-turned-television series The Walking Dead, America was in the throes of zombiemania. So when news hit of a Miami, Fla., police officer shooting a naked man found eating the face of a homeless man, much was made of the coming zombie apocalypse. Turns out the "zombie" was just tripping on hallucinogenic drugs, but it allowed me to cobble together this strip that tackled multiple trending stories of the week, including Hurricane Beryl, the gay marriage of X-Man Northstar, and Donald Trump's attempt to revive the Birther Movement (which was so 2011).
What started innocently as Independence Day festivities at Folly Beach turned into a "riot" ... well, a kerfuffle between Folly police and a bunch of drunks that ended with a viral video and a temporary booze ban at the Edge of America. To some, it was an appropriate response to the alcohol-fueled incident; to others, it was the end of the laid-back lifestyle that made Folly Folly. By the end of the year, the ban was voted into a permanent status, marking last call along Charleston's shoreline.
As if the zombie apocalypse wasn't enough, Florida also had to contend with the Republican National Convention in Tampa. Among the opening acts was Nikki Haley, the token female minority to prove that the party had more to offer than old white men. Ultimately, Haley, nominee Mitt Romney, and the event in general were overshadowed by Clint Eastwood talking to an empty chair. I thought the visual of Haley as a puppet was an appropriate representation of her role in the proceedings. Making her a puppet with the GOP elephant's trunk buried in her nether regions, however, also seemed an apt analogy for the party's fumbled attempts at women's issues and recent foot-in-mouth comments about "legitimate rape" and rapes that result in children being God's will.
After the RNC, Haley had a busy schedule cheerleading for Romney on the campaign trail and traveling to Japan. Following a book tour in support of her autobiography and jaunts overseas to Paris and London, much was made about the amount of time the governor was spending out of state and whether the international travels were more for the benefit of Haley's passports than the state. Haley would eventually cut her campaigning short in the aftermath of a hacking scandal involving the S.C. Department of Revenue.
The first Presidential debate resulted in two big topics of discussion: Barack Obama's sleepwalking at the podium and Mitt Romney's name-dropping Big Bird in targeting PBS for budget cuts. While Obama would eventually wake up for the remaining debates to win re-election, the Big Bird comment stuck to Romney through Election Day. All told, 2012 was a big year for the creations of the late Jim Henson, with his company cutting ties with Chick-fil-A following CEO Dan Cathy's wading into the gay marriage debate and Elmo actor Kevin Clash resigning amid accusations of sexual relations with underage boys.
While Nikki Haley was stumping with Romney, the state was under attack by an international hacker who used an e-mailed link to access the Department of Revenue's servers and make off with millions of taxpayers' unencrypted Social Security and credit card numbers. Weeks after discovering the hack, Haley informed the citizenry, pointing fingers at antiquated hardware and the failures of third-party auditors before eventually taking responsibility for the compromised data. The year ended with Haley suffering a record-low approval rating, taxpayers nervous about potential identity theft, and the state scrambling to cover a $20 million bill for credit monitoring offered to try to ease those nerves.
Disenfranchised after Romney's defeat on Election Day, Sen. Jim DeMint left his elected position for Republican think tank the Heritage Foundation, deciding he was more powerful as a one-man SuperPAC than as a politician — and earning a new $1 million payday. Oddly, neither party seemed too distraught at losing DeMint. The job of picking his replacement fell to Gov. Haley, and after weeks of daily media circus, she handed the mantle to Rep. Tim Scott, making him the state's first African-American senator since Reconstruction.