South Carolina––what’s at stake

CHRISTINA GREER PH.D | 2/27/2020, 1:39 p.m.
It appears Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is currently in the lead with delegates for the Democratic Party primary nomination.
Dr. Christina Greer

It appears Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is currently in the lead with delegates for the Democratic Party primary nomination. After strong showings in the Iowa caucus, the New Hampshire primary, and just recently the Nevada caucus, Sen. Sanders is being discussed as the possible heir to the Democratic nomination. But South Carolina could knock a little wind out of his sails. It is too soon to know just yet, but here are some things to look for when assessing the results of the South Carolina primary in just a few days.

South Carolina is essentially “do or die” for former Vice President Joe Biden. He has not won any of the primary or caucus states as of yet, and he has essentially put all of his chips on a South Carolina win. There are a few obstacles in his path––most glaringly, two billionaires. Billionaire Tom Steyer has spent large sums of money in South Carolina to gain the support of Black voters. He may be relatively unknown to most people in the country, but in South Carolina he has been making inroads with his support for various Black institutions. The second billionaire obstacle comes in the form of Michael Bloomberg. Although the former New York City mayor is not even on the ballot, I am curious to see how many write-in votes he manages to accrue. In the New Hampshire primary, Bloomberg was not on the ballot, but still managed to garner well over 4000 write-in votes. In comparison, African American former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick was on the ballot and received only roughly 1200 votes. Will the excitement for the new candidate to the race overshadow Biden on Saturday Feb. 28 when South Carolinians go to the polls?

Another incredibly important variable to consider is that South Carolina is the first primary state with a significant Black population. Over a quarter of South Carolinians are Black and most are registered with the Democratic Party. Are Black voters still as enthusiastic about Joe Biden or are they concerned that he will not be able to make it across the finish line in a general election due to his missteps on the campaign trail, the shadow of the scandals following his son Hunter Biden, and the absence of a Barack Obama to actively campaign for him?

Turnout is always key in elections and next Saturday will be no different. Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, and Amy Klobuchar will also need to show that they connect with Southern voters––Black voters in particular––and that their campaigns are viable moving forward. We will have to wait and see, but in the meantime, if you have family or friends in South Carolina, call them and encourage them to participate. Too much is at stake to sit on the sidelines.

Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Fordham University, the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream,” the co-host of the new podcast FAQ-NYC.