Political analysts have argued that Democrats are wasting their time and money on Senate races in South Carolina and Kentucky. We're so pumped at the prospect of defeating Republicans Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell that we aren't keeping our eyes on the ball. If we did, we'd know there is no actual ball, but there are four Senate races in November we can actually win -- Colorado, Arizona, Maine, and North Carolina. We're never going to flip Senate seats in states Donald Trump won by a billion points.

Yet, I dare say that the South Carolina Senate race isn't just a shiny object. We don't have too many polls for the race, but Democrat Jaime Harrison has gained ground over the past few months. It's not just wishful thinking. There's evidence that Harrison is winning over the moderate, Truimp-averse voters -- yes, they do exist in South Carolina -- he needs to send Graham packing.

Richard Wilkerson, the former chairman and president of Michelin's Greenville-based North America operation, announced recently that he's endorsing Harrison. Wilkerson is no common hippie Democrat. He's a former Graham donor. Wilkerson was even a member of Graham's South Carolina finance committee during the eight minutes or so he ran for president. Why the switch? There are two reasons: One, he knows Harrison. He worked with Harrison when the candidate was lobbyist for the Podesta Group. Harrison advocated for legislation that would ultimately improve fuel efficiency and lower greenhouse gas emissions, which Michelin supported. Go figure.


Wilkerson described Harrison as "the change South Carolina needs" (ooh, burn, Lindsey). His LinkedIn testimonial didn't end there:

I am confident that as our next U.S. Senator, he will be a tireless advocate for creating well-paying jobs, improving our state's health care system, and training the next generation for the jobs of tomorrow. Jaime is the perfect candidate to bring together South Carolinians from all walks of life.

What's the other reason for Wilkerson's endorsement? Well, he also knows Lindsey Graham.

We've exhaustively detailed what an obsequious, opportunistic slime ball South Carolina's senior senator is. There's no one he won't betray or asserted principle he won't abandon for the barest glimpse of power. It's hard to respect or much like a guy with the morals of a slimy bedbug, and that's why Wilkerson drags Graham to the curb for trash pickup in an op-ed that ran in Sunday's Greenville News.

I supported Lindsey Graham until 2017. I saw him as a moderate Republican who could work across the aisle to get positive change made. But I started having real misgivings about him when he failed to mount any significant defense when Donald Trump attacked his best friend, the late Sen. John McCain.

I asked myself, "What is the character of a man who will not defend his best friend? If he won't defend John McCain, why would I expect him to defend any of us in South Carolina?"

Damn, Gina, that's a Harrison attack ad for your ass. Folks are conservative down in South Carolina but they're also loyal. It means something when you're called out as fickle. Graham was ride or die with John McCain but when the Arizona senator died, Lindsey hopped on the Trump train. Trump at least talked smack about McCain while he was alive, and unlike Graham, he never pretended they were friends or held interviews with him like they were in the same boy band.

Full interview: John McCain and Lindsey Graham, July 3 www.youtube.com

Harrison doesn't have the advantage of running against a credibly accused pervert, so his best model for success isn't Doug Jones in Alabama, but rather Kyrsten Sinema in Arizona, who campaigned as a moderate voice. Wilkerson's endorsement bolsters that effort.

South Carolina, however, is less fond of independents and Graham struggled for a while when he was considered a Republican In Name Only, so it's key that Wilkerson attacks his honor and links his moral failings to his political positions.

Recently, [Graham] has tried to block the PPP because he feels that it provides unemployment benefits that are too high for the working people who lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 crisis. Apparently, he feels that it is OK to share government dollars with those who don't truly need the money, but deny any small windfall to working people who have lost their jobs. These two actions tell me who is important to him, and I do not agree with his direction.

Even if Harrison loses, I think it's worth the effort to make Graham sweat. It's not because I'm petty -- not entirely. It just means something when men like Wilkerson are declaring in my hometown newspaper that the black Democrat can best represent South Carolina values.

[Greenville News / Post and Courier]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle. Tickets are on sale now for his latest Nordo collaboration, "Curiouser and Curiouser," an adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." It promises to feel like an actual evening with SER (for good or for ill).

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