Race has long played a major role in South Carolina politics, although most elected officials, democratic and republican alike, will tell you otherwise.
Republicans generally sweep issues of race under the rug. They treat it as a nuisance that is better left ignored. Democrats, on the other hand, treat race as one of those sensitive topics not to be discussed “in mixed company.” If the matter does arise, they like to pretend that South Carolina’s Democratic party is progressive and forward thinking. It seems that liberal democratic leaders — white and black— have an inability to be self-reflective and that the only time they will admit racist political tactics and policies is when criticizing SC republicans for their heavy handed political hardball approach to governing.
It is with this in mind that we turn an eye towards the 2018 primary elections and the subtle role that race once again plays in South Carolina politics. With the Democratic gubernatorial tickets announced and South Carolina’s primaries just weeks away, if Smith’s all-white ticket receives the largest percentage of African-American votes, despite other more diverse options, a clear message will be sent to the white democratic leadership that black voters don’t value black candidates. It says to the white community that black voters can easily be persuaded to choose party over their communities and families. It sends a message to the white establishment that having a political ticket with diversity in South Carolina doesn’t matter to black voters.
Why Would Black Voters Choose an All-White Ticket?
Despite there being two tickets that include African-American running mates with political clout, statewide name recognition, and a history of serving the citizens of South Carolina, the all-white ticket has been declared the favorite to win —even among African-American voters. Why?
Because our current political system loves to unilaterally anoint white men with nice smiles and $60 haircuts as the defacto front-runners regardless of whether or not they have any relationship with SC’s black constituency.
African-Americans make up 28 percent of the state’s population and we possess a slight majority, around 55 percent, of the democratic electorate. Black voter participation in South Carolina is generally better than the national average, yet our votes are taken for granted. White democratic candidates don’t worry about fighting for or standing up for black voters in South Carolina because they almost certainly can rely on the time-honored system of plantation politics that’s alive and well in the Palmetto State.
Because of black leaders’ endorsements, Smith is all but guaranteed to receive a large number of black votes on June 12. This concept of getting endorsements from black community and political leaders comes from Jim Crow ideology wherein politicians believed that only a few intelligent members of the black community needed to be persuaded to vote for them and those black voices would take up the mantle on your behalf, allowing you to all but ignore the black community at large.
There is no canvassing, no phone calls, no money spent buying ads in black newspapers or appearing on black media programs to ask for black votes. Just lining up endorsements from leaders more interested in themselves than their community. All while the belief that the black community has a low political aptitude and is less politically savvy than their white counterparts continues to prevail.
All of this works to imply that, as black voters, we don’t have a choice. We are either going to vote for the candidate that the liberal leadership has chosen or we are not going to vote at all —they know we’re not going to vote for the Republican candidate. This type of thinking puts the black community in a serious predicament. It gives away our political bargaining power when dealing with the democratic party and our well-being is left totally up to the benevolence of white democrats.
Probably the most heartbreaking thing about this strategy is that black leaders go out of their way to reinforce and promote this stereotype to the white community in order to make themselves appear more important.
A political endorsement is nothing more than the pimping-out of your constituency, usually to white democratic candidates. I find it an utterly appalling and disgraceful political practice.
James Smith: A Genuinely Nice Guy and a Great Candidate
Before closing, let me be clear that this article is not an endorsement of any gubernatorial candidate or ticket. Second and most importantly, this article is not an indictment of Smith, racial or otherwise. We are not calling into question his record or his engagement with the black community. Nor are we negating the accomplishments and stellar political qualifications of Rep. Mandy Powers.
Truth be told, Smith is a super nice guy and a great politician who has a genuine desire to serve the citizens of South Carolina and the nation. His record speaks for itself and, like any great politician, it’s his job to leverage the system for his professional benefit. Thus far, Smith has navigated his way through this political system masterfully and if he is elected, he would more than likely be a damn good Governor for South Carolina. Moreover, Powers is exactly what Smith needs in November. She’s a popular democratic centrist that can win over independents, moderate conservatives, and few of our state’s cornbread conservatives who are disillusioned with Trump’s antics and McMaster’s ineffectiveness. And although Powers may be great for Smith and SC Democratic party, it will symbolize the first nail in the coffin for black political power and influence.
It says that elected black leadership feels white candidates are more acceptable than candidates of their same race. It says black voters would prefer to be governed by whites than to have a member of their own race with a seat at the table.
Therefore, it is important to call into question those black political leaders who have opted to endorse the only all white democratic ticket. This article was meant to give black voters across the state of South Carolina a little food for thought. And it cannot be overlooked that black voters have been subject to involuntary bondage and servitude to a political system that still uses political tactics from the Jim Crow era.