About Last Night: The South Carolina Democratic Primary
This article will not reference any current candidate as it is meant to address issues concerning Black voters, interpreting the state’s results overall and an analysis of the political and social climate in South Carolina.
1. The Palmetto State Is “Never-Blue”
Since 1964, the state has consistently voted for a Republican president excluding 1976 when Jimmy Carter won. When President Obama was on the ticket he won both primaries but lost the state in the general election. To view the results of the most recent Democratic primary as decisive is wishful thinking bordering on arrogance and delusional. This is the state that loves #45 so much they cancelled the Republican Primary. States like Georgia and Texas are moving closer to turning blue as the fight for Democratic causes (pro-life, voter suppression, police accountability, affordable housing) intensifies. Louisiana who just elected a Democratic Governor in 2018 will go blue before the Palmetto State does.
2. The State Activists' Views Are Not Like The 1960’s
In the 1960’s the Black Church was the leader and a united activist front against anti-civil rights policy and activity. The voices concerned about advancing anti-racism policy today are members of marginalized groups who include Black, Latinx, Asians, Native Americans and suburban women.This is the most successful winning coalition since the 1960’s. Although 76% of residents are registered as Christian, religious leaders in the state are not publicized as standing out front in the Democratic fight. In fact leaders of Christian churches are increasingly revealed as GOP supporters citing #45 as aligned with, “God’s plan". Today’s coalition leaders around the country see the Palmetto states' voting results as the ongoing duality of “group voice” of the Black community. Many see it as evidence of the damage systemic racism still has on our community, The choice to surrender and subject oneself to a reality that cannot be changed. Voters under the age of 40 and those whose first priority is combatting systemic and overt racism say, "No" to settling for living with today’s social and political wrongs.
3. When You Love Your Family And…
Half of the black folk I know have roots in this tranquil, picturesque, deeply historic state as I do. As we all love our elders and extended families, we know our individual beliefs have evolved as the damage to our community has increased. Many Black residents left the South for opportunity, personal safety and a better education. Black residents still leave what has been described as a stifling culture in the present. In addition, accepting/ tolerating some levels of systemic racism is antithetical to taking an anti-racist position. "Not racist but...", "Not as racist" and , "Did some racist stuff but.." are unacceptable for a record number of black voters. This sentiment is increasing.
4. Past Methods For Challenging The Status Quo Are No Longer Effective
Speaking out against what is wrong is not a carefully thought out, measured act for many when it comes to inequality. It is an "in the moment", raw and passionate act that is the right of every citizen (just as the 2010 Tea Party protests were). That is not to say todays organizers are not strategic visionaries and long-term planners. Socially the choice in a tech based world is to speak up and out now. Although activism is alive and well, anti-equality sentiments still prevail politically in the state resulting in a GOP majority in state and local government.
5. Political Strategy
Representative Jim Clyburn, ranked 3rd most powerful in the House of Representatives is a strong leader on the state’s political establishment. His pre-primary Fish Fry is the premier event of the season and his words hold sway with a large number of Black Democratic voters. His choice of timing, decision to announce and candidate selection is said to have impacted voters this season in particular. The Black vote in the state is said to be the decisive direction of the party. If that is truly the case, why haven’t they organized a united effort to change the political landscape by voting in past open Republican primaries? Why haven’t Black candidates fared better in elections? Black politicians and residents have increasingly changed their party affiliation to Independent reflectinflg a lack of confidence in local Black voters. The mayor of Columbia successfully ran as Independent and came forth early as a Bloomberg surrogate even though the former NYC mayor is not on the state primary ballot. GOP Senator Tim Scott has adopted an, "I am with #45 on everything except Charlottesville" approach to stay in office. He knows people in South Carolina that support systemic racism by (actively or passively) resisting the fight against it are ultimately silent allies to racism whether they say it or not. His Senate votes say more about his positions than anything. Outsiders view the GOP as the state’s most unified party and their results bear that out.
6. When You’re Sick And Tired Of Being Sick And Tired
When you’re tired of seeing the way black and brown people are being treated for breathing, standing, sleeping, barbecuing and speaking while black as well as the increasingly violent interactions between public servants like police and Black residents, choosing a conservative (or moderate) response or representative does not fit the need or reality of the damage or sentiment felt by the continued passive resistence to prioritizing an anti-racism agenda
7. Courting New Voters
Half the black population did not vote nationally in 2008 and 2012. In 2016, of 3.1 million total registered South Carolina voters, 2.1 million voted for #45. In 2018, of 5 million residents there were 927,000 registered black voters. U.S. Census estimates say there are 5.1 million people living in the state this year. The Democratic primary (excluding absentee ballots) drew a total of nearly 550,000 votes. What does that mean to you? Although our excitement about the first viable Black candidate was energizing, potential Black voters still felt (feel) excluded from the democratic process of voting and impacting America and South Carolina’s political decisions resulting in the decision not to register. The efforts of political parties and candidates to actively support voter registration and engagement have not become a bipartisan priority.
That said, political parties have an opportunity to build a new voter base that reflects the issues of the current times. It behooves them to address issues directly and truthfully as old political moves and strategies are increasingly less effective. In addition, scheduling primaries to reflect a new electorate should be priority number one for the Democratic party.