Differing opinions on Rep. Cunningham’s impeachment vote
AN ACT OF POLITICAL COURAGE
Joseph P. Riley, Jr.
Acts of political courage have shaped our nation time and again. They are a thing of beauty to watch — an elected official taking a principled stand they believe is correct knowing full well that they will be attacked. Unfortunately, they have become very rare. After all, political courage can have undesirable consequences — criticism, loss of popularity and, at times, defeat at the ballot box.
Joe Cunningham, a newcomer and a moderate Democrat, surprised many by winning a heavily gerrymandered, historically Republican Congressional district in 2018. He won in part because he was willing to challenge the status quo and push for a ban on offshore drilling. He also focused on other vital issues, like getting dark money out of politics and changing the tone of our discourse. His strong stands on these issues resonated powerfully with the voters who saw Cunningham as a man of convictions and courage.
And then, as our congressman, he worked tirelessly to stand up to special interests and succeeded in having the House of Representatives pass legislation banning offshore drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. Instead of doing what was easy and expedient, Cunningham did what he thought was right. As a freshman congressman, Cunningham has proven to be a whirlwind of legislative activity and constituent service — from education to veterans to the “Charleston loophole” which extended firearm background checks to 10 days. His accomplishments are many. All are grounded in decisions based on doing what is right, not what is partisan. That is exactly the type of Congressman Joe Cunningham said he would be.
Despite what some may assume, he is not “going along to get along” with his party. Republicans control the Senate, and there is every expectation that the impeachment process will die there. So why is Cunningham – who will be seeking re-election in a heavily Republican district – supporting the impeachment of President Trump?
Political courage. Character.
Qualities most admirable in a public servant. The facts are clear. President Trump withheld from Ukraine – an important ally – congressionally-approved vital military aid, requesting that Ukraine dig up dirt on his potential political rival. Ukraine is not just a normal ally. Ukraine is at war with Russia, which invaded their country and seized control of the Crimean Peninsula. Ukraine is in urgent need of our military aid.
President Trump withheld congressionally-approved aid to an ally in desperate need. Our ally standing strong against Russia. If that is not an impeachable offense, what is?
George Washington would roll over in his grave.
Then President Trump refused to cooperate with the resulting investigation, withholding all documents legitimately requested by congressional investigators, and prohibiting his entire executive branch from providing information or testimony. That’s obstruction of Congress. Another impeachable offense.
Seeking political aid from a foreign nation and stonewalling a Congressional investigation are impeachable offenses. They have been substantiated by facts and obfuscated by fables. As he faces potentially strong opposition in a heavily Republican Congressional District, Joe Cunningham could have easily clung to the fables.
Instead, he is betting that his constituents will continue to honor and support political courage over political expediency. After all, political courage is what created this great nation. And it’s what we urgently need, now more than ever.
Joseph P. Riley, Jr. was the mayor of Charleston from 1975-2016. He currently holds an Endowed Chair of American Government and Public Policy at The Citadel.
AN ACT OF PARTISIANSHIP
I guess if you got elected on a bumper sticker slogan you didn’t really mean, it makes perfect sense to try to get re-elected the same way. But there’s a problem if your record doesn’t match your rhetoric. Instead of a guiding principle, it becomes an empty promise.
I know we’re all used to seeing it, but frankly, even I was surprised recently when the latest politician acted this way, too — our very own Congressman Joe Cunningham.
I think a lot of us share the same disappointment in our current representative: disappointment that he isn’t who he said he would be, and disappointment that he didn’t follow through on his promise to put the Lowcountry first.
I’m talking, of course, about Joe Cunningham’s announcement that he has chosen his political party over the Lowcountry yet again; he has chosen to hand Nancy Pelosi and national Democrats his voting card, and vote for impeachment.
As if his vote was not bad enough, now, with election season around the corner, he writes a hand-wringing op-ed in The Post and Courier that really takes the cake. He’s not listening to his constituents, and now he wants you to vote for him. He’s trying to pretend he stood up for us here in the Lowcountry. But the fact is, this district voted for President Trump. This district does not want to go through an impeachment that flies in the face of our electoral system. This district will vote for the president again next year.
What Joe actually did is what he’s been doing all along in Washington — just what the national Democratic Party and Nancy Pelosi tell him to do. Like many of us, when he was elected, I wanted to believe Joe would be different like he said he would be, to believe he wouldn’t be partisan or beholden to national Democrats.
Unfortunately, this simply isn’t the case. And this isn’t the only time. In fact, the bill he proudly cited in his op-ed puts his partisanship on full display, too. He and I share a love of our coastline and want to protect it from drilling. But Joe is claiming credit for what was actually a mistake on his part. Instead of working on a bipartisan bill, he chose a partisan path on drilling that has absolutely zero chance of ever becoming law. In fact, not a single other member of South Carolina’s delegation even voted for it.
In other words, it was either for show, or he simply can’t make the case for the Lowcountry.
We deserve better.
I believe I better represent the fiscally conservative conservationist values of the Lowcountry. I also have a 98% rating with conservationists, and I’ve worked with both Democrats and Republicans to stop drilling along our coast and protect our land.
I won’t put my party ahead of my constituents or what I believe in, and I’ve proven that over and over again in my time in the South Carolina Legislature. I actually work across the aisle; in fact, my first bill that was passed out of the House was a bipartisan criminal justice bill, and I’ve crossed my own party to vote against its wasteful spending.
In other words, I’m the true independent voice Joe only claims to be but isn’t.
The Lowcountry deserves this, but we’re not getting it right now, and that’s why our representatives must answer to their constituents.
I grew up in this district. I’ve run a business in this district. I’m raising my kids and am educating them here. I’ve done everything from working at a local Waffle House to becoming the first female graduate of The Citadel. I know the district, the people and our values.
Joe seems to think we can’t see through his bumper sticker slogans to his actions. But that’s not going to be the case next year.
I’m running to offer common sense, fiscal conservative, conservationist representation our 1st District used to have and can again. I’ll stand up for our shared beliefs, and I’ll stand up for the Lowcountry, every single day.
My record proves I’ve never been beholden to any party and don’t plan to start now. Count on it.
State Rep. Nancy Mace represents District 99 in the Legislature. She is a Republican candidate for the 1st Congressional District seat.