Research isn’t his strong suit

Richard Rapaport shows us why hard-hitting journalists make the big bucks:

At the start of the Revolution, South Carolina informed the Continental Congress that it would refuse to sign the Declaration of Independence unless slavery was recognized. South Carolina even demanded the right to disregard an embargo on trade with Great Britain agreed to by the 12 other colonies. It was an exemption that allowed South Carolina to maintain its lucrative rice trade and remain among the richest colonies throughout the Revolution, which it largely sat out, happily occupied by the British army.

Um, South Carolina didn’t exactly sit that one out, dude.  The Palmetto State possibly played host to more Rev War engagements than any of the thirteen.  By one estimate, almost one-fifth of all combat deaths in the entire war took place in South Carolina during the last two years of fighting.  “Happily occupied” is a most inappropriate description of a state riven by bloody partisan warfare for much of 1780 and 1781.

Granted, this has little bearing on his larger point, which is that South Carolina has been and continues to be a state which is off its collective rocker.  Personally, I’ve always been of the opinion that this reputation for extremism has been overstated.  The evidence Rapaport presents—a restriction of the right of manumission in the colonial period, rampant secessionism in the mid-1800’s, and so on—doesn’t really indicate a greater degree of lunacy than that found in any other state’s history.  I’m not sure how a social scientist would account for centuries of sustained kookery on such a scale.  Some heretofore unidentified Lamarckian process—an inheritance of acquired political characteristics? Something in the water?

Oh, well.  Not being a South Carolinian myself, I suppose I don’t have much at stake in the matter.  I do travel to the Palmetto State on a fairly regular basis, and wouldn’t at all mind taking up residence there, so that probably explains why the article irked me.  That, and one other thing: Rapaport’s byline describes him as a “Bay Area writer.”  Surely San Franciscans above all people should hesitate before diagnosing an entire population with psychosis?  People who live in glass houses, etc.

4 Comments

Filed under American Revolution, Civil War, History and Memory

4 responses to “Research isn’t his strong suit

  1. Granted, this has little bearing on his larger point, which is that South Carolina has been and continues to be a state which is off its collective rocker. Personally, I’ve always been of the opinion that this reputation for extremism has been overstated. The evidence Rapaport presents. . . doesn’t really indicate a greater degree of lunacy than that found in any other state’s history.

    Hailing from Rick “Secesh” Perry country, I rarely let pass an opportunity to point at South Carolina and say, “if you think we’re nuts. . . .”

    But more in line with your thinking (and apropos of this particular moment in the presidential campaign cycle), it’s worth pointing out that going back to Ronald Reagan’s 1980 campaign, the South Carolina Republican primary has always been won by the eventual party nominee, and usually by the candidate who’s considered “establishment” or “mainstream” at the time. Insurgent campaigns and candidates (Buchanan 1992 and 1996, McCain 2000, Huckabee 2008) get lots of attention in South Carolina, but when it comes time to pull the lever, South Carolinians don’t vote for them. From Wiki:

    1980: Ronald Reagan won with 55%, defeating runner-up John Connally.
    1984: Uncontested (Reagan was the incumbent president and was re-nominated).
    1988: George H. W. Bush won with 49%, defeating runner-up Bob Dole.
    1992: George H. W. Bush won with 67%, defeating runner-up Pat Buchanan.
    1996: Bob Dole won with 45%, defeating runner-up Pat Buchanan.
    2000: George W. Bush won with 53%, defeating runner-up John McCain.
    2004: Uncontested (Bush was the incumbent president and was re-nominated).
    2008: John McCain won with 33%, defeating runner-up Mike Huckabee.

    That said, your observation that more generally “South Carolina has been and continues to be a state which is off its collective rocker” is spot-on.

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