The results are in, and Joe Biden’s “firewall” held up. Biden easily won the South Carolina Primary, receiving nearly half of the votes. There was a record turnout among Democrats, who cast over 539,000 votes. That’s more than 7,000 who voted in 2008.
It was a long race that saw dozens of candidates trek through the state. Since African-Americans made up about 60 percent of Democrat voters, many candidates made a special effort to show that they were in touch with Black voters. That rarely meant spending money to purchase advertisements in media outlets actually owned by Black people, but that’s another story.
When the field began shaping up, I thought that I would be a Kamala Harris supporter. She appeared to be smart, articulate and was a member of my mother’s sorority. But then I, and the other members of the Black Publishers Association, interviewed her.
In person, she comes across as a younger, prettier and tanner version of Hilary Clinton. When interviewing Clinton, you know that she has done her research to determine what you want to hear. Harris didn’t seem to be as well prepared. She was evasive with her answers and at times seemed to be just winging it. She could not articulate a compelling reason why she should be president.
I also liked Corey Booker, but a scheduling conflict prevented me from attending the interview. I prefer candidates who have actually run something. Booker had a successful record of running a major city and serving in the Senate. But he dropped out before the Primary.
I also did not get to interview Joe Biden. Apparently, the focus of his campaign, at least when it comes to Black folks, was that he was Barack Obama’s vice president and that he’s a moderate. Obviously, that was enough for him to win over Black voters in this state.
Tom Steyer was the most interesting candidate. Unlike most Democrats, he actually put his money where his mouth was. It is one thing to talk about economic development, it quite another to put up your own money to do it. I was impressed that he and his wife have a long history of starting and/or investing in financial institutions that serve underserved communities – including Optus Bank here in Columbia. So when we interviewed him, he could actually talk about the things that he did, instead of trying regale us with theories and promises. And also unlike most Democrats, he actually spent money with Black-owned media outlets to purchase ads, instead of trying to get free publicity and purchasing an ad in the last two weeks of the campaign.
Steyer probably spent more time in South Carolina than any other candidate. He made inroads, but he hurt himself by using profanity in his commercials and dancing onstage with a rap group sing “Back That A--- Up.” In an era where people want more decorum and discretion in a president, that didn’t go over very well. He dropped out after finishing third in South Carolina.
Mayor Pete Buttigieg campaign also died in South Carolina, and good riddance. He never should have run. He proved that he is not ready to be president. He came across as a typical white arrogant progressive. First, his campaign decided to throw some talking points together, name it after Frederick Douglass, and claim that is his plan for Black America. Then he sent out news releases and ads claiming that over 400 Black folks endorse his Douglass Plan. Problem is that nearly half of these people weren’t Black, and the others did not endorse it.
The Black Publishers Association set up a meeting with Mayor Pete. But it became obvious that he didn’t want to take questions on his Douglass Plan or his record as Mayor in South Bend, Indiana. He wanted a photo op so that he could say that Black publishers were endorsing his plan. Once the meeting was cancelled, some of his people went around telling people that he was being poorly received in South Carolina because of homophobia. No, it was because of his arrogance. If he runs again, and I am sure that he will, he better make the time to build relationships with people instead of trying to take shortcuts that alienate them.
I have some young relatives who are strong Bernie Sanders supporters. They will grow out of it. In person, Bernie is who he appears to be on television – a grumpy old man. Like I said, I prefer candidates who have actually run something and can talk about what they have accomplished for my community. Despite his decades of service in Congress, there isn’t much legislation that he can point to that he has championed and passed. At this point, we don’t need a protest candidate making pie-in-the-sky promises.
I’ve never met Elizabeth Warren. She comes across as a female version of Bernie Sanders – but armed with research papers instead of anger. She had little chance to make an impact in South Carolina. Unless a miracle happens, I doubt that she stays in the race past Super Tuesday. Deval Patrick started his campaign too late to get traction. Since I tend to prefer candidates who have actually run something (in his case, as governor of Massachusetts), I was actually impressed by Patrick. He was a successful governor, a Black man who won two terms in a state with a relatively small Black population. In person, he comes across as a person you can trust.
Unfortunately, his candidacy lasted less than four months. He ended his campaign less than three weeks before the South Carolina Primary.
Tulsi Gabbard had virtually no impact in South Carolina. She did meet with the Black publishers. Everybody thought that she was an interesting candidate, but that she had no chance to compete for the nomination.
Then there are candidates that seemed to exist only in theory. We are still waiting for Amy Klobuchar to make an appearance in South Carolina. Andrew Yang made a little noise, then disappeared. New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio hit a few churches around the state, and dropped out of the race. It must be the year for mayors who want to be president, because Miramar, Florida Mayor Wayne Messam figured that if white mayors can run for president, he could too. He also did a few photo ops at a few local churches, and dropped out of the race. As we went to press, voters across the country are going to the polls in Super Tuesday. Several candidates have dropped out of the race, setting up a showdown between Biden and Sanders. Democrats seem to be making an all-out effort (again) to make sure that Sanders does not win the nomination.
As for South Carolina, it is over. Whoever wins the Democratic nomination probably won’t spend any time in South Carolina. They won’t win the state. The only reason they will come back if they believe that they can help Jaime Harrison defeat Senator Graham.
Otherwise, South Carolina will have three years of relative peace before the next presidential candidate invasion.