Surging to the top of a nutty list

SURGING TO THE TOP OF A NUTTY LIST…. It’s fairly common for folks in particular areas to argue that their state is the nuttiest of them all. There’s a counter-intuitive element of civic pride involved — rather than feel humiliated by their state’s, shall we say, eccentricities, these Americans embrace their area’s uniqueness.

Illinois, in the wake of the Blagojevich scandal, had a fairly strong case to make. States like Louisiana and New Jersey are perennial contenders. To my mind, Florida, where I was born and raised, is always an easy choice in this category.

But reader K.J. flags this Tommy Tomlinson column from yesterday’s Charlotte Observer, which offers a compelling argument that South Carolina is making a serious run for the top spot.

So let’s pretend for a second. Go back to 1861, when Confederate forces fired on the Union base at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. As you know, those became the first shots of the Civil War.

Let’s say, though, that the Union replied by drawing a line around South Carolina and saying: We’ll fight for the rest of the South, but, boys, you can have this part.

The question is this: Would South Carolina politics be any nuttier than it is now?

You should know that the person who came up with this idea is my editor, who has lived in the Palmetto State for many years. I’ve lived in South Carolina myself — two different times — and I’ve got kinfolk around the state. I love the place. But man, sometimes it makes itself hard to love.

Well, unless you’re a political commentator or a late-night talk-show host, in which case South Carolina is easy to love.

Tomorrow the state will host several primaries, the most interesting being the Republican gubernatorial contest, where frontrunner Nikki Haley will apparently cruise to a win despite allegations of extra-marital affairs. Also keep an eye on Rep. Inglis (R), who may lose a primary for being insufficiently right-wing despite a very conservative voting record.

But South Carolina’s nutty quotient goes so much further. Did you hear about state Sen. Jake Knotts (R)? And how about Gov. Mark Sanford (R)? And Rep. Joe Wilson (R)? Who can forget Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer (R) comparing low-income children who receive free school lunches to stray animals?

There’s a very good reason this “Daily Show” clip from last August is still amusing 10 months later — South Carolina is the gift that keeps on giving.