State Rep. Carl Gullick is the future of the South Carolina Republican Party.
OK, OK, I know he barely eked out a victory in Tuesday's primary against a candidate who got help from out-of-state school voucher advocates. I know he was targeted for defeat by members of his own party, possibly including the governor.
But that was Tuesday. With no Democratic opposition in the fall, Gullick, whose district encompasses much of northern York County, is assured of retaining his seat. And I predict he will thrive in coming years.
Why? Because he is not an enemy of government but rather an advocate of good government.
The governor and his cohorts in the Legislature have a single, fundamental guiding principle: Cut taxes and shrink government. And they adhere ruthlessly to that principle no matter what the circumstances, while also taking authority over the purse from local governments and bestowing it upon themselves.
We have had a continuous array of tax cuts over the years. Last year, lawmakers enacted the largest single tax cut in state history -- $220 million, which will rise to $420 million once all the cuts are phased in next year.
That is a boasting point for the governor and many in the Legislature. It is, they seem to think, an end in itself. But what did it get us?
Where are the thriving schools? Where are the environmentally friendly, high-tech industries rushing to move here? Where are the sound roads and bridges? Where is the educated work force? Where are the new, high-paying jobs? Where is the prosperity up and down the economic ladder?
This session, radical supply-siders -- including some in the York County delegation -- voted to sustain the governor's veto of a cigarette tax increase that would have provided access to health care for hundreds of thousands of South Carolinians and discouraged young people from taking up the habit. Our 7-cent cigarette tax remains the lowest in the nation.
Legislators pat themselves on the back for passing a largely toothless bill to stem illegal immigration. But they did nothing to address the critical shortage of prison guards in a state that spends less per prisoner than any other state in the nation.
Thanks to the diligence of our lawmakers this session, South Carolinians soon will be able to buy a license plate that declares "I Believe," but the roads on which we drive are crumbling beneath us.
While the governor and like-minded legislators work to divert public money to help pay for private education, schools in the "corridor of shame" are falling apart.
But change is coming ...
Even the national Republican intelligentsia concedes that the Reagan Revolution has run its course and that trickle-down economics have failed to produce the widespread contentment they once promised. Americans no longer seek merely to shrink government and get it off their backs; they want good government that solves problems and improves their sense of security and well being.
GOP leaders worry about an electoral bloodbath in November. Even if John McCain succeeds in winning the presidency, they predict significant Republican losses in both the House and Senate. Voters no longer are buying the Republican "brand."
Some of this is cyclical, the slow back-and-forth swing of the political pendulum. But it also stems from a dearth of new ideas within the Republican Party and a stubborn reluctance to adapt its policies or alter its message to reflect a gradual but real social transformation.
No one outside a few wild-eyed Democrats expects South Carolina to turn blue in the fall, but the tide of change is lapping at our shores. It may take years to engulf us, but it won't take decades, and the rising tide will be hastened by the ascendance of those in their 20s and 30s to positions of power and influence.
As the realignment occurs, moderates such as Gullick will be the voice of reason, advocating fiscal restraint but also a government that plays a larger role in fostering the overall social and economic health of the state. They will be the ones who seek not simply to shrink government but to reconstruct one that is lean, efficient, caring and fair -- one that works.
Lawmakers like these may have endured the indignity of being on a hit list compiled by members of their own party or being labeled insufficiently slavish to the old Republican dogma. But they will prevail -- and soon.