The Daily Gamecock

Dick Harpootlian blasts GOP politicians

Democratic Party chairman speaks at SG function

Ask South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian what he thinks about the future of South Carolina and its citizens’ futures, and he’ll tell it to you straight.

“It’s that you ought to be worried. You’re in the sh---er; you’re in deep sh--,” he remarked Tuesday night to a group of about 25 students. Harpootlian’s appearance was part of Student Government’s Voter Registration Initiative.

“Your employment prospects next year, if you graduate, are terrible,” he said. “The country’s debt is going up, we have no plan to compete globally [and] we’re doing a terrible job on education.”

Such was the tone in Currell College as the often brazen and perennially controversial chairman took aim at the state’s Republican majority, letting loose his frustration with the party’s policies and actions on everything from education and sales tax exemptions to reapportionment and the recent voter identification bill.

Harpootlian took the opportunity to accuse Republicans in the Statehouse of racial gerrymandering to concentrate black voters into majority-minority congressional districts in an effort to limit the number of blacks represented in government.

Referring to an increase in the percentage of blacks in the sixth congressional district, which is represented by Democratic Rep. Jim Clyburn, Harpootlian  said Republicans “want to drain the African-American vote out of the new Seventh District and the First District, so they don’t have to talk to black people.”

Harpootlian also spoke of his intent to file suit against these redistricting plans, a move he admits won’t make him many friends.

“It’ll be good for the state, and I’m sure I’ll be vilified for that, and I kind of like that in a weird way,” he said.

The chairman discussed the condition of the state under Republican governance in more broad terms as well.

“We’re a third-world country,” Harpootlian said. “We’re No. 50 in about everything except for gonorrhea — and we’re No. 1 in that.”

In the ways of solutions, Harpootlian suggested that his party needed to energize the state’s young voters and draw more connections between Republican legislators and Gov. Nikki Haley.

“You’ve got to take the shine off the [Republican] brand, and Nikki Haley is doing a good job of that for us,” Harpootlian said.

More generally, Harpootlian called on politicians and voters to move beyond the gridlock and status quo of the political system, part of what he called “the Dick Harpootlian 101 on how to save the world.”

“We face real challenges, and if we don’t do something about that and get hung up on in the sloganeering of both sides — of the Tea Party or of the people — then we’re going to be in serious trouble,” he told students.

According to Student Body President Joe Wright, the Voter Registration Initiative will bring a variety of politicians and elected officials to campus, and their appearances will be announced on a Student Government Facebook page.

As of Tuesday night, the only listed events were talks by Harpootlian and Democratic state Representative Boyd Brown, which was in late September.

Though both speakers so far have represented Democratic Party viewpoints, Harpootlian noted that Chad Connelly, chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party, was invited to speak at the event but declined the offer.

Student Government will incur no speaking fees, said Wright, because most politicians are willing to speak for free, especially during an election season.