As a staunch believer in “People before Politics,” my passion for South Carolina politics extends beyond our state’s national position as “First in the South”. Instead, it is firmly rooted in the belief that South Carolina politics should always put the state’s citizens first.
That is why I have firmly stood behind the newly formed Democratic Black Caucus of South Carolina. It is why I am occasionally called a radical. And it is why I approach state politics as a realist who is pragmatic.
So it is with clear-eyed judiciousness that I say Jaime Harrison’s run for Senate will be the most important race on South Carolina’s 2020 ballot, even more so than the presidential primary.
Before I explain further, I must make it clear that this article in no way constitutes an endorsement of Harrison for Senate, in fact, I should mention here that Gloria Tinubu has also launched a campaign for Graham’s Senate seat. This article merely serves as a strategic analysis of Harrison’s campaign’s potential impact on the state’s political landscape the effects it may have on a national level, and most importantly, it’s possible repercussions for African American communities across South Carolina.
The intent behind this article is to give the black community a path to empowerment and the South Carolina Democratic Party a path back to relevancy.
Let’s begin with the more radical elements of the party that I represent. For this group, Jaime presents an interesting balance. He may not have our same unflinching approach to confrontational politics, but he has proven unyielding in his fight for the party and its more underserved constituents. In truth, he possesses all of the traits that our most aggressive black advocates admire. He is from humble beginnings, he understands the struggle, and he can relate to the average voter in South Carolina, especially rural blacks.
As an example, consider the families across the state and around the country as a whole who suffered during the nation’s longest furlough in history that took place at the start of 2019. Imagine how many thousands of people may have benefited from Harrison’s vote and experience in the Senate.
Which leads us into exactly what makes Jaime a good candidate. Among other things, Jaime is a great candidate because he was trained and groomed by Clyburn for this very thing. He spent years working on the hill and he knows DC and the players. He understands what makes the town work. He has the know-how to accomplish a legislative agenda, he understands the policy fight, and he is acutely aware of the ramifications back home when a policy is won or lost. He will not shy away from a legislative battle because he knows what that battle looks like and he knows how to win.
Jaime is from the grassroots. He’s run campaigns before. He knows how to count votes. Whether it’s on the floor of the capital chamber or tallying votes from Orangeburg and Bamberg county, he understands the numbers game.
So, what would be the implications of a Harrison win?
A Harrison win would have a far-reaching impact both on a state and national level.
First, if Harrison could pull off a defeat of Graham, it would be the first step towards loosening the Republican’s death grip on our state. And we all know South Carolina has long been one of those blood-red southern states that Republicans dub as a safe state. Currently, the GOP controls both state legislative bodies, they control all of the state’s nine constitutional offices, and even more demoralizing to the state’s Democrat Party is the fact that they haven’t been able to launch an even remotely competitive gubernatorial candidate in over 20 years. Despite the very best efforts put forth in the past few election cycles.
A Harrison win over Graham won’t break the back of the South Carolina Republican Party but it would, undoubtedly, break their right arm and loosen their political grip. This has the potential to create a once in a lifetime opportunity for the SC Democratic Party to mount a coordinated assault on a severely weakened Republican Party.
On a federal level, replacing Graham would severely weaken the Republican majority in the Senate. The Republicans currently control the Senate with 53 seats compared to the Democrats’ 45 seats. There are 2 independents and both of them caucus with the Democrats so reducing the Republicans’ cushion down to a count of four will provide them with little comfort considering the steadfast rule that requires 60 votes in the Senate to pass almost all controversial pieces of legislation.
And let’s not overlook that a Harrison win would serve as a referendum on Trump.
Senator Graham, once regarded as a reasonable and level headed conservative who was willing to compromise and consider all sides of an issue has allowed himself to become nothing more than Trump’s “Do Boy” and “Yes Man.” Gone are the days when Graham was unafraid to call Donald Trump out on his “BS.” Now, Graham has become one of Trump’s biggest defenders. Defeating him would serve as a warning to those conservatives who have shown a willingness to abandon their principals and values in order to win the favor of the demagogue who now leads their party.
So, as I said at the start, Jaime Harrison’s run for Senate is the race to watch. A competitive race would undoubtedly put the GOP on notice. A win will turn the tide and has the potential to set the stage for everything else to come for the future of the South Carolina Democratic Party.