The fall of the confederate flag on the grounds of the South Carolina State Capitol last year marked a rather significant turning point for the state. South Carolina, as articulated by its governor, the conservative and forward thinking Nikki Haley, is looking toward the future, not the past. The past, for South Carolina, is often an unpleasant thing. The first state to leave the union in 1860. The place where the confederates first fired on their own nation’s troops. The place where Jim Crow was responsible for such atrocities like the execution of a 14 year old black boy for a crime he didn’t commit and a governor that boasted of killing black people.
Haley is turning the page, and looking toward a future of a strong South Carolina that is a hub for innovation and growth. South Carolina today is home to advanced manufacturing with modern factories that build, among other things, BMW cars and Boeing jet planes. Haley has combined the appeal of a reformer who is fixing an outdated system (in the state legislature she often drew the ire of the state’s political establishment) and that of an optimist. She famously instructed state employees to answer the phone at work with “it’s a great day in South Carolina.” She’s fought battles with the legislature, and has used her public profile to push her issues.
The results seem to be positive; Haley is popular. Unemployment, well north of 10% when she took office, is now below 5%. Her name is being discussed as a presidential contender of the future, and with good reason. She is leading her state to a brighter future, a process symbolized by the removal of an old symbol of racism, hate, and the state’s dark past. But the changes in South Carolina run much deeper than that.