Now is when voters decide what 'Making America great' really means 

Election 2016

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Tom Galmarini

In a 1940 address written to young voters, President Franklin D. Roosevelt laid out the inherent problem associated with political campaigns and election season in general. And following what has felt to many like the longest, most negative election year in recent memory, his guidance still carries with it a weight of importance.

"This is the time of year when promises tumble from the lips of political candidates. Blessings are showered with a generous hand — in promises. The most difficult problems are airily disposed of — with promises. Promises enable some candidates to be all things to all men," the speech goes. "It is at this time of year also that men who at other times are mild and reasonable accuse, denounce, and view with slurs. Strange noises are heard in the land; in the night air are sound and fury."

Evoking the famous line from "The Scottish Play," FDR brings to mind Macbeth, a character who betrayed all those in his way before succumbing to paranoia and his own inevitable fate. Enter Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

It should come as little surprise that we at the City Paper are endorsing Hillary Clinton to serve as the 45th president of the United States. Many voters and pundits have couched their support of Clinton in terms of "the lesser of two evils," which, while true, does a disservice to her long career as an attorney, senator, and secretary of state. Among the candidates in this year's election, she at the very least has proven to have a strong understanding that America exists on a global stage. As a nation, we cannot wall ourselves in and sway international policy through vague threats, as has been the constant message from Trump.

Considering FDR's talk of political promises, it's always difficult to know with any certainty what a candidate will do once in office. With Clinton, we've seen how she operates in the political system — what she will do and what she won't. Some of this, of course, involves operating a private email server during her time as secretary of state. Claims of corruption related to Clinton's emails have dogged her throughout the entire campaign, and on Friday it was reported that the FBI was once again examining additional emails from Clinton for possible classified information. During any other election, the charges Clinton has faced may have been enough to dash her presidential aspirations. This should be an indication of the qualifications of her main opponent.

Looking beyond his competency as a businessman, a diplomat, and a public figure, there is one main promise that has served as the crux of Trump's campaign — and that has been his promise to "Make America great again." But over the past 16 months since Trump announced his candidacy, he's never made it clear which formerly great version of America he plans to restore. That's because it's not likely one ever existed. At least not for the broad scope of people who strive for the same level of financial success, celebrity, or privilege that he wields like a weapon. If Trump's promise is that of a return to a long-gone simpler time, then the greatness he hopes to achieve is superficial. If you're looking back for a period where things were simple in America, you won't find it. Things only seemed simpler because there were fewer voices being heard. And now, when it seems that we as a nation may be actually starting to acknowledge those long-silenced voices, the promise of simplicity is a threat. The promise of a return to "greatness" is a threat, an appeal to fear.

Looking back on FDR's address to young voters, presented by a president who acknowledged the risk of falling prey to our fears, it's important to heed his closing words: "You must choose between the party which represents the interests of a small party of the people, and the party which represents the interests of all the people. You must choose between the party which has its face turned to the past and the party which has its face turned to the future. You must choose, not on the basis of promises, but on the basis of performance."

U.S. Senate

In a race that has largely boiled down to who can unseat Sen. Tim Scott, Pastor Thomas Dixon has arisen as an inspiring figure in the campaign. Detailing Dixon's past struggles with overcoming addiction and a criminal record, Will Moredock recently wrote in a City Paper column that Dixon has learned from his experiences, leading to his efforts to help those with past convictions find employment, promote raising the minimum wage, and prevent gun violence. Clearly, Dixon is a different kind of candidate when considered among others running for election. He's a proponent of collective bargaining for workers, secured funding for Planned Parenthood, and establishing greater community oversight of police practices to ensure fair treatment for all communities.

When it comes to policing and race, Sen. Scott, the sole black Republican in the Senate, has acknowledged the separation that exists between he and his fellow officials. This past July Scott described his experiences of being racially profiled by U.S. Capitol Police during his time in office and mentioned that he is not aware of any other African-American men who do not have a similar story. While he and Dixon seem to share an understanding that not all communities share the same level of trust of law enforcement, Scott differs from his fellow candidate on the issues of abortion and collective bargaining for workers. This past March Scott stood with anti-abortion activists on the steps of the Supreme Court and has been a strong supporter of right-to-work states. As Moredock recently pointed out, "At first glance, Thomas Dixon and Tim Scott would seem similar enough. Both are middle-aged, African-American men. But the similarities end there."

U.S. House of Representatives

Rep. Jim Clyburn has represented South Carolina's sixth congressional district since 1993. During that time, the democrat has taken a strong stance on green energy alternatives and gun control. Challenging Clyburn on the Republican side is Laura Sterling, who has focused on the high levels of poverty found in the sixth district and stressed promoting entrepreneurship. In an interview with SCETV in October, Sterling said she is not receiving financial support from the Republican Party and called her race with Clyburn a "David and Goliath" situation.

Competing for a seat for South Carolina's first congressional district are incumbent Mark Sanford and challenger Dimitri Cherny, who has taken a novel approach to connecting with voters. Traveling the district via bicycle and customized boat, Cherny has promoted himself as the progressive candidate focused on what he has described as economic justice. For the challenger, this means fighting for universal health care, strengthening social security, and ensuring the right to collective bargaining for workers. Cherny is also pushing for demilitarizing the police force, legalizing medical marijuana, and investing in a carbon-free economy.

State House of Representatives

During his time as a columnist with the City Paper, K.J. Kearney tackled economic disparity and social injustice with a frankness that these issues deserve. Now running against Republican incumbent Samuel Rivers Jr. for the state House of Representatives district 15, the educator and founder of the nonprofit H1GHER LEARNING hasn't changed his tone and his willingness to discuss issues of inequality. Rivers has framed his campaign and time in office around working toward less government intervention, but also opposes same-sex marriage and a woman's right to choose. A conservative in the truest sense of the word, he works to protect Second Amendment rights and lower taxes.

Charleston County School Board

It's been a long couple of years for the Charleston County Consolidated School Board. Expanding from the massive budgetary shortfall, parents and students have seen rural schools faced with cutbacks and closures, and voters are looking for candidates who can restore faith in those who manage the education of students in Charleston County. This year, they'll have the opportunity to decide who will claim five seats up for grabs on the board.

Peninsula General Election

Competing for one seat to represent the peninsula are incumbent Todd Garrett and challenger Tony Lewis. Owner of a commercial real estate company with a masters degree in public policy from Harvard, Garrett comes from a family of educators and is a Marine combat veteran. Chair of the school board's Audit and Finance Committee, Garrett has claimed that district-level staff misled regarding budgetary concerns and called for the board to hire personnel to investigate whether or not staff violated any laws by overspending and withholding financial changes from the board.

Tony Lewis has been one of the most outspoken contenders in this year's election. As a constituent school board member, Lewis has publicly challenged the board on mismanaging funds and turning a blind eye to schools primarily consisting of disadvantaged and minority students. Lewis stepped down from his role on the constituent school board this summer following allegations that he had attempted to blackmail a district official to ensure the hiring or rehiring of unnamed individuals.

North Area General Election

With two board seats available to represent the north area district, four candidates have stepped forward this election. Challenging incumbent Rev. Chris Collins are Kevin Hollinshead, Russ Patterson, and Louis Smith, who is executive director of the Community Resource Center. Smith's main goals if elected are ensuring that members of the community have more of a voice in district matters, especially those facing economic challenges. In the past, Smith has called into question the negative consequences that can result from school resource officers stepping outside of their prescribed roles and how predatory policing in schools can contribute to what has been deemed the school-to-prison pipeline.

Russ Patterson sees Charleston as a place with a diverse world-class economy, plagued with low graduation rates, poor literacy rates, and — like his fellow challenger Kevin Hollinshead — a city in need of more vocational training opportunities. With experience as a community planner and project manager with an engineering and architecture firm, Patterson believes this experience will give him an advantage when it comes to helping the district stay goal oriented and recover financially. His main concerns are supporting educators and examining how students are transported to and from school, which he suspects isn't being done in the most economic or efficient manner.

West Ashley General Election

Two seats are also up for grabs for the school board's West Ashley district. Incumbent Michael Miller faces challengers Gary Leonard and Priscilla Jeffery. Among all the current members of the Charleston County School Board, Miller has emerged from the budgetary turmoil of the past year as a strong voice for constituents. Along with fellow board members Chris Collins and Rev. Eric Mack, Miller stood against the closing of Lincoln Middle-High School and proposed hiring more teachers of color and naming a chief diversity officer for the district. While many claim that district officials have often ignored the needs of schools with high-minority and high-poverty student bodies, Miller has maintained focus on schools that are most in need of assistance.

As former deputy superintendent at Berkeley County School District and past principal at Mt. Pleasant Academy, Gary Leonard brings an institutional knowledge to the board. He has a strong understanding of how allocation formulas can serve to disadvantage smaller schools. Fellow challenger Priscilla Jeffery also brings a healthy level of experience to the table. As a longtime educator, she recognizes the importance that the arts can have in the life of a child. While almost all of those running for school board this election have promised to restore and protect funding to arts programs, the true test of their intention will come after they take their seats on the board.



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