Letters to the editor columns aren't the only place to feel the steam rising in America.
The S.C. State Fair also works to get the pulse of the people, and the people are fed up with their government.
So says Jim Rex, who stood in a fair booth last year selling a whole new political party. He and Dr. Oscar Lovelace of Prosperity found plenty of takers when they asked for signatures to help get the American Party of South Carolina certified.
It would be based on the unheard of concept that politicians could achieve things for the nation if they worked from the middle, where most people reside in their hearts.
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As they made their pitch, it helped that the federal government was shut down last October when South Carolinians milled about the midway, maybe munching on fried butter.
"We got 5,000 signatures," said Rex, the 72-year-old former Democratic state superintendent of education.
Neither Rex nor Lovelace, a family-practice physician who ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for governor in 2006, plan to run again.
Rex stopped by the newspaper office last week while he and his wife, Sue, were on the road pushing the party's four candidates who will be on the Nov. 4 ballot: Jill Bossi of Tega Cay, a former American Red Cross executive, for U.S. Senate; Ed Murray, a public school administrator in North, for state superintendent of education; Emil DeFelice of Columbia, who made his name raising heritage hogs on pasture land, for state Commissioner of Agriculture; and Donna McGreevy of Columbia for state House District 74.
Rex describes Washington as tribal warfare, where politicians do what it best for themselves and their political parties, not America.
"This great experiment called American democracy is going down the tubes," Rex said. "It's because of politics. It's not the people. It's because of the system."
In the system, incumbents who have carved out safe districts for themselves win 90 percent of the time, Rex said, and half the time they face no challenge. Incumbents get introduced to their party's money sources, and more than nine times out of 10, the candidate who spends the most money wins.
Meanwhile we're $13 trillion in debt. People are sick of it, but the system is not budging.
"Neither the Republican nor the Democratic party is able or willing to change the inadequate status quo they have collaboratively created," says an American Party brochure. "Only a new party that requires term limits, transparent financial campaign limits, and a nonpartisan problem-solving agenda that focuses on economic growth, fiscal responsibility, and increased global competitiveness will allow the 21st century to become yet another 'American Century.' "
Bossi has been endorsed by the Centrist Project (centristproject.org), which proclaims: "Most Americans are moderates. So why do we keep electing extremists? There's got to be a better way."
Rex believes that a few more centrists in the U.S. Senate, occupying what he calls "folding chairs in the middle of the aisle," could break the gridlock in Congress.
But success for the fledgling party may be measured in more humble terms: high single-digit or perhaps a double-digit percentage of the votes cast.
Rex hopes the party is not seen as focused on a single issue or philosophy as some of those out of the mainstream are. Its candidates have no litmus test on the hot-button social issues that are so divisive.
"Vote for who you think is best," Rex said.
That means not voting straight-party.
And it means using the vote to send a message, which can make a stronger statement than answering a survey or poll.
Rex knows the new party faces long odds, no matter how badly people say they want change.
But then there is his own story. He was in his mid-60s the first time he ran for office. He was a Democrat in a Republican state. He was outspent 3-to-1. And he won a statewide election by 455 votes out of 1.1 million cast.
It was a fluke.
America needs some more flukes.
Follow columnist David Lauderdale at twitter.com/ThatsLauderdale.