Football & Politics: What the Gamecocks can teach SCDP about Accountable Leadership

It’s About Accountability

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6 mins read

By: Johnnie Cordero

South Carolina’s Democratic Leaders are failing the party. Yet, no-one within the party seems to be willing to hold them accountable. 

In maritime culture, it is said that “the captain goes down with the ship.”  It is an honorable idea that demands the highest level of accountability from a ship’s leader. If the ship goes down, the captain is held responsible and is required to put everyone else on board ahead of themselves. 

On the football field, the same standard holds true for the team’s coach who holds the highest level of accountability for the team’s success. If the team fails, it is the coach who is ultimately responsible. Just ask Will Mushchamp who was recently let go from his position as head coach of the University of South Carolina football team after leading the Gamecocks through a dismal season.

Why then, isn’t that same standard of accountability demanded of South Carolina’s Democratic leaders?  The ship is sinking. The team is losing again and again. So, why are we idly standing by allowing this feckless leadership to continue?  

Trav Robertson and Jay Parmley have both personally presided over multiple losing election cycles. However, the party rank and file seems disinterested in holding them accountable and they seem oblivious to their inability to lead the party to success. Unlike Cheri Bustos, former chairwoman of the House Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee who resigned because of poor performance on her watch and acknowledged that age-old saying “the captain goes down with the ship.” 

However in South Carolina, the status quo continues. Robertson hasn’t voluntarily stepped down nor has he been asked to resign. Parmley, who has personally been at that helm during at least half a dozen losing election cycles, also continues to remain comfortably in his seat. 

Why? How?

These questions are not to serve as a personal attack on these men or their character.  Even when Mushchamp was dismissed, Ray Tanner said, “When you get down to it, the decision was made because of wins. It wasn’t because of Muschamp’s character or the culture or anything. It was about the bottom line and that makes it hard. Makes it very, very difficult.”

Tanner went on to state, “the Coach didn’t win enough to keep moving forward with the program saying, “At the end of the day, the expectation is to win games. That’s what we’re judged on.”

To reiterate, “The expectation is to win…That’s what we’re judged on.” A powerful statement by Ray Tanner and one that is definitely worth saying twice. The real question here is, why as Democrats are we expected to accept a culture of losing, and why isn’t the expectation for our leaders to win?

Could it be that white privilege goes a long way in the South Carolina Democratic Party or could it be that since a third of the state’s Democratic Voters are African-American, we don’t deserve accountable leaders? Maybe we stay quiet because, as black voters, we don’t have a choice of political affiliation.

Consider recent history. Robertson ran former SC State Senator Vincent Sheheen’s unsuccessful 2010 gubernatorial campaign. In 2020, Sheheen lost his reelection run for the SC State Senate. 

Under Chairman Robertson leadership, Republicans were able to flip a congressional seat, two State House seats, and three state Senate seats. Republicans now control 30 of the state Senate’s 46 seats, giving Republicans the biggest majority in the State House in 140 years. 

Parmley’s losing election record is much the same. It just extends several years longer than Roberston’s. But for some reason, the state party still keeps bringing him back. Why is that? Could it be because the one thing Parmley has been successful at doing is making the South Carolina Democratic Party a party that caters to the wishes of white Democrats? And as long as the state’s white members are kept happy and the black members stay complacent there are no further demands on party leadership.

If the party is going to win in the future, hard decisions have to be made and we must demand a change. 

I can appreciate the time and commitment that Robertson and Parmley have given to the party. However, just as Ray Tanner made clear that Muschamp was a great guy who had a profound effect on the student-athletes but ultimately he was held accountable for his record, we must hold them accountable for their inability to bring home wins. 

But at the end of the day, we the party members are the ones they answer to. So, why aren’t we doing our part and holding our state democratic leadership accountable? Why aren’t we demanding they go down with the ship?

Johnnie Cordero is an African American thought leader who identifies as a Radical Centrist. He is the current Chairman of the Democratic Black Caucus of South Carolina. Cordero is the host of the “Radical Review” podcast and is a frequent political contributor and commentator for The MinorityEye. Cordero holds a Bachelor's degree in Political Science and a Doctorate in Jurisprudence. He is the author of ‘Total Black Empowerment: A Guide to Critical Thinking in the Age of Trump.’ His new book ‘Theodicy and The Power of the African Will’ is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other online book sellers.

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