Tchaikovsky Sounds Funny: Book Review: "Against the Tide"

Is this where I put in key words such as sex, lesbians, vampires, Christopher Lloyd and others things to which this blog do not pertain, but by putting them here, I may get hits from all the Christoper Lloyd lesbian vampire fans (and you know who you are)? This is the primarily humorous and occasionally rambling writings of Leon Tchaikovsky, humor writer. Enjoy.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Book Review: "Against the Tide"

Tchaikovsky Sounds Funny

"Against the Tide" by former State Rep. Harriet Keyserling is of interest to many of us if only because it is one of the few autobiographies published of recent state legislators which focuses on what it is like to serve as a state legislator. It will further interest students of politics who wish to learn the observations of a liberal Democratic elected official watching how the past three decades produced the emergence of the politics of the "New South."

Harriet Keyserling retired in 1992 from the South Carolina state legislature and has produced this insightful insider account of that legislative body. A legislator who was devoted to such as issues as increasing support for education and resisting dumping nuclear waste in her state, she offers several lessons from her experiences.

Among the points to ponder presented in this book are: a.) alliances can be formed around agenda items which transcend political partisanship, b.) be open and honest with the press and they will trust you and treat you better in the long run, c.) recognize that not all men nor all women think alike, even though men and women may approach some issues differently, and d.) all issues are women’s issues and women legislators should not feel compelled to limit themselves to matters others believe primarily concern women.

Entering politics during the 1970s relatively late in late when in her fifties, she offers reasons why she believes fewer women than men run for office (a situation which exists as well in Pennsylvania). She believes men tend to be more ambitious and more apt to enter politics, women tend to focus on their families, and there is resistance to women furthering their careers. This makes it harder to convince women to fight this resistance by running for office. She noted even the subtle psychological deterrence women face, such as the realization that all portraits the public sees in the South Carolina Capitol are of men.

Harriet Keyserling served during the legislative scandals when several state legislators were caught in an FBI sting operation. Many of these legislators were members of what was termed the Fat and Ugly Caucus. The author was a member of the Crazy Caucus which often fought the Fat and Ugly Caucus. She cautions that the Fat and Ugly Caucus created its own undoing by creating an atmosphere of susceptibility to lobbyists and undue influences. The Fat and Ugly Caucus would meet weekly for lunch with an invited lobbyist who would pay the tab. The FBI saw this group as prime candidates for a vote selling sting operation and thus resulted the scandal. It is the author’s opinion that while the group practiced bad government, they never acted illegally. Unfortunately for the legislators caught in the FBI web, the FBI thought otherwise.

The infighting described in this book between the Fat and Ugly Caucus and the Crazy Caucus will interest students of South Carolina politics. Her description of many South Carolina Governors as essentially cheerleaders for the Chamber of Commerce provides insights into interest groups and government. Legislative observers may appreciate learning how as much as one third to one half of South Carolina legislative sessions used to be spent engaging in filibusters.

Rep. Keyserling is proud of her efforts to create a dedicated sales tax for education and for creating South Carolina’s Sunny Day Fund. Towards the end of her career, South Carolina politics transcended into an arena of greater confrontation and tension. Disliking these changes, she left politics. Harriet Keyserling, though, has left us with her knowledge and insights in this book. Readers who want to know what a legislature in another state is like will appreciate her writings.


Post a Comment

<< Home

Listed on BlogShares