Good news, everyone! The state Department of Motor Vehicles has begun issuing “Don’t Tread On Me” license plates just in time for the fourth of July, which means South Carolina tea partiers will be able to stick it to Big Guv’mint as they drive down the taxpayer-funded (read: socialist!) highway.
Yes, it’s just one of hundreds of new specialty plates available from the DMV as part of a law signed by Gov. Nikki Haley last week. Other speciality tags, many of which raise money for related non-profits, range from beach music and the USC baseball team to former members of Congress — and even a ‘tree my dog’ plate supporting the State Coon Hunters Association.
The tea party plate features the Revolutionary War-era Gadsden Flag, which was designed by South Carolina native Christopher Gadsden before being co-opted by angry pseudo-libertarians after the 2008 election. Proceeds from the plates are slated to go toward the State Museum’s exhibit about the Palmetto State’s role in the revolution.
Neither of the state’s two main political parties have specialty license plates, though that might not last long. South Carolina Republicans are looking into specialty tags of their own, according to The State’s John Monk — though state Democrats seemed a bit more skeptical about the idea:
S.C. Republican Party chairman Chad Connelly said the idea of putting an elephant or other Republican symbol on S.C. license tags is something he will explore with the party’s executive committee, composed of party leaders from across the state. “People use those things as things that they stand for and believe strongly in,” Connelly said.
S.C. Democratic Party chairman Dick Harpootlian ridiculed lawmakers for “wasting taxpayers’ money” by coming up with an idea that would politicize the state’s millions of license plates. “I hope every time citizens see one of these yellow snakes on a license plate, they think of how the Legislature wasted taxpayers’ time and money while neglecting major problems this state has,” Harpootlian said.
It’s unclear how many of those yellow-snake license plates you’re actually going to see, given how far the tea party’s star has fallen since propelling Haley to the governor’s office in 2010. According to a Winthrop Poll conducted in April, the tea party’s approval in South Carolina was down to 26 percent. While half of Republican-leaning respondents said they approve of the tea party, only 11 percent counted themselves as members.
As the Free Times’ Corey Hutchins reported last week, the tea party’s influence has waned considerably after this year’s SCGOP primary turned out to be a bust:
Winthrop University political scientist and pollster Scott Huffmon says a lot of tea party momentum, strength and anger ended up getting co-opted by political actors with their own agendas.
He points to various tea party endorsements in the Republican presidential primary here as examples. Several of them, for instance, endorsed Gingrich, who went on to win the South Carolina presidential primary. “That’s as sure a sign of a movement being co-opted as any you’re going to find,” Huffmon says.
On the other hand, there’s always a bright side to a state having politicized license plates… At least it’ll be easier to figure out who to avoid!