South Carolina is one of the most conservative states in the nation, a place where Republican presidential candidates are often assured of a supportive crowd. So, when Michele Bachmann took to the stage to give a foreign policy speech aboard the WWII air craft carrier USS Yorktown, harbored near Charleston, South Carolina, she was taken by surprise when a group of around 30 protestors, affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street movement, shouted her down with chants of “you cater to the 1 percent!” Instead of giving her policy speech, she was ushered off stage. Score one for Occupy Charleston.
This was not a huge political story, but the fact that it took place in South Carolina drew significant media interest. So often, it seems, the media delights in spreading the news of South Carolina’s political nuttiness. To be fair, the state has often served as a wellspring of such stories in recent years. Former governor Mark Sanford’s well-publicized affair with his Argentinian mistress, which included his weepy and weird press conference did nothing for the state’s political reputation. Then, there was Alvin Greene, an unemployed Air Force veteran who was indicted for showing pornographic photos to a female student at the University of South Carolina, who still garnered enough votes to become the state’s Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate.
Some in the media seem shocked that a pocket of populism (much less liberalism) exists in a state known for its conservative politics and its Tea Party governor, Nikki Haley. The action taken by Occupy Charleston simply does not play into popular perceptions of the state; therefore, it was news that, even in South Carolina, people are taking a stand on behalf of the 99%.
This election, however, is ultimately about the economy and South Carolina is suffering. The state’s unemployment rate is at 11% and in some areas that percentage is far higher. So, when the GOP’s presidential candidates gather tomorrow at Wofford College in Spartanburg for yet another debate, don’t be surprised if you hear from members of Occupy South Carolina and their friends in the pro-labor “Redneck Party” who are going after what they call “cheap labor” conservatives. The Occupy Movement is alive and well in the Palmetto State. Don’t be so surprised.