South Carolina: Not Quite as Backward as It Used to Be

New York Times Atlanta bureau chief Kim Severson showed a little anti-Southern, anti-conservative condescension on the campaign trail in her Friday filing 'From South Carolina, a Wary Welcome.' (Previously Jim Rutenberg on January 11 had declared the state "famous for surfacing the dark undercurrents of American politics.")

With much of the nation focused on South Carolina, the state's defiant nature and quirky brand of politics are on full display.

Here, in the state that was the first to fire shots in the Civil War and the last to enact a paid state holiday honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a version of the Confederate flag still flies in front of the State House.

Men wrapped in chains made from plastic baby dolls protest abortion on college campuses.


So when the national news media - including many pesky Northerners - invade the state, South Carolinians cringe. They know the colorful foibles they embrace like an eccentric country cousin do not necessarily translate well.

Severson gave the state backhanded praise for not being as backward as it used to be – there are even gays there!

[Greenville resident Jon] Evans and others across the state acknowledge that South Carolina's political history makes it hard to believe that strong pockets of progressive thought and urban sensibilities are growing here.

They are, especially in places like Greenville, the second largest city in the state. It has a revitalized, cafe-laden downtown that seems more European than Deep South. Earlier this week, gay couples chose Greenville as a place to apply for marriage licenses in an effort to challenge South Carolina's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

Change has been coming to South Carolina as more outsiders move in, longtime residents here say. South Carolina's population grew more than 15 percent between 2000 and 2010, making it one of America's 10 fastest-growing states.

People like Chip Townsend, an engineer who moved his family to Greenville from Boulder, Colo., in 2006, discovered that the state is not an insular, ultraconservative bosom of the Confederacy.

Severson can throw around excessive lines like 'ultraconservative,' yet it's been almost ten years since the paper has used the term "ultraliberal" to refer to a liberal political group.