Political opponents stand together to educate future political leaders
Put the leaders of South Carolina’s two largest political parties in the same room and some might expect a heated debate, an exchange of harsh words or for them simply to avoid each other. University of South Carolina students are learning this semester that political disagreements need not lead to personal enmity.
“Jaime and I are citizens, husbands, brothers and fathers before we are Democrat or Republican,” said South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Matt Moore of his Democratic counterpart, Jaime Harrison. “Our political differences are obvious, but we share a deep love for South Carolina and its future.”
Moore and Harrison are helping shape some potential leaders of that future by co-teaching a political science class on political parties at USC this semester at the invitation of instructor Don Fowler.
Tuesday, the two leaders spoke and led a class discussion about the upcoming presidential primaries and the general election to follow. Harrison said he sees this as a time of transition in American politics.
“There are deep divisions even within the parties,” he said, adding that the gap between the parties is wider still. “If you ask what their priorities are, it’s almost like you have two different parts of space going on. It’s almost like a tale of two countries.”
He and Moore were not afraid to express their disagreements and even poke fun at each other, but they never made the jabs personal.
Moore made references to the Benghazi hearings and the ongoing investigation of Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton. Asked about Bernie Sanders chances in the primaries, Moore said, “If Hillary goes off in handcuffs, I promise you Bernie Sanders will be the nominee.”
Harrison took the jokes in good spirits, and responded with his own regarding Donald Trump’s chances of winning the presidency if nominated by the Republicans.
“I’m rah rah rah for Trump,” Harrison joked. “I’ve got a sticker on the back of my car.”
The two polled the students for their thoughts, and found the prevailing sentiment in the classroom was that Marco Rubio will eventually take on Clinton in the general election.
The students asked about the chances of current Republican front-runners Trump and Ben Carson staying on top, and as they do far more often than some might think, the two leaders agreed.
“If it’s still 10 or more candidates [as the primaries proceed], it’s going to be a Trump versus Carson contest,” Harrison said. Moore agreed that the best chance for another candidate is for the field to narrow.
Moore said the big question for Republicans is whether they will break with tradition in primary voting. “Will this party nominate someone who is not a governor or senator?”
The two often returned to the central theme of unity even among political opponents.
“ I hope that the students in this class learn that Democrats and Republicans can and should work together where they can, and secondly, I hope they see that young people can achieve great things if given an opportunity,” Harrison said.