Well, it’s Saturday and I have nothing for you. I spent the day re-reading Hunter Thompson and Philip K. Dick, playing Two Worlds II, talking a nice constitutional with Otis, and napping. Mostly napping, actually. Still, the Work calls.
Today is the South Carolina primary, and while it just here ended (6:30 Central as a I write this) the Big Dogs in the media are already calling it for Joe Biden and, already, the Bernie Sanders faithful are beginning to lose their shit and scream “the fix is in”. Well,… probably not.
Sure, Sanders did pretty good in Iowa and fairly dominated in New Hampshire and Nevada, but South Carolina is a brand new game. For one, Biden has around 85% approval level among African American voters in the Palmetto State as opposed to Sanders’ 56%. More telling, maybe, is Sanders’ 35% disapproval rate among black people as opposed to Biden’s 11%.
Now, before we step in this and get it all over our shoe, I feel the need to clarify a couple of things. One, I’m a white dude. If that comes as a surprise, I assure you I intended no deception. We must operate under the assumption that white folks will never, ever fully understand what it’s like to be black or, indeed, fully grok on how black folks think. Anyone who claims otherwise will probably say some horribly racist shit soon after.
Furthermore, there is no standard “how black folks think,” because black people, like everyone else, they’re varied and different across the country. New Orleans is different from New York City is different from Atlanta, and rural black folks are different from city black folks are different from suburban black folks. There are certain things and experiences they share, especially in these United States, but to think there one thought among the 40 million-plus African American population is showing your ass, even though we as Americans do that way too often.
Indeed, South Carolina has the Gullah people, and they are way, way different from what most of us (non-black folks) think of black people. They’ve got an interesting history, so check it out. But I digress.
Again, I don’t claim to be all that special, just an old country boy with a big heart, an open mind, and a bad case of rambling in my shoe. I don’t see the need to go into great detail why, though, but I do think I have a slightly better sense of how the American black person navigates the world than my fellow honkies. It’s nothing special or, really, unusual. I’ve just had opportunities and experiences others haven’t, I think, and it’s given me a different perspective and perception.
I could not tell you why Sanders numbers in South Carolina are what they are, nor could I fully explain why Biden’s are so high with any certainty. That being said, I have an idea and I don’t think I’m far off. Bear with me and, please, I mean no insult or expertise in this matter, just trying to help us all understand.
Black people do not fully trust the American government and why should they. Every advancement they’ve made since the days where it was legal and, indeed, not unusual to have them in chattel slavery has come with sweat, tears, lots and lots of blood, and as often as not the almost total resistance by the ruling class and those that prop up said class, i.e. white people. You might not like it, but it’s a fact.
Black people were solidly Republicans because Lincoln and because Southern Democrats were awful, until Truman desegregated the Army and Northern Republicans bucked. They bucked even further in the ’60s and the Great Society, and the Southern Democrats (and the Dixiecrats) started shifting towards the Republican party because they were more welcoming to what we now recognize as conservative thought.
The final nail in the coffin was the “Southern Strategy“, and let’s touch on that for a bit. The general idea is that Nixon and Barry Goldwater, earlier, took advantage of Southern white resentment over desegregation and the dismantling of Jim Crow to completely flip-flop the voting habits of the South on a national level and, eventually, a local level.
While that’s true to a point, it’s also incomplete. Goldwater, for example, ran against Civil Rights because of “government overreach,” which white Southerns liked, but he also thought the same demanded the privatization of the Tennessee Valley Authority and dismantling of Social Security, which they decidedly did not. Nixon and, later, Reagan used things like “welfare reform,” “government overreach,” white antipathy to Affirmative Action, and, later, “states’ rights” to garner racists’ votes. White churches also played a role, as they brought in conservative voters on things like abortion, school prayer and what all.
Historians like Kevin Kruse argues that a “suburban strategy” also played a part, in that Republicans pursued policies that attracted the growing middle-class, suburban-based, “white flight” vote. To paraphrase political consultant and Satan’s pool boy Lee Atwater, no one actually said anything about anyone’s race because pointing that out would hurt a candidate, but they could talk about “welfare queens” and “strapping young bucks on food stamps” all day long.
This isn’t to say Nixon or Reagan or Goldwater were active racists, or no more so than the average white man in America of that time. Indeed, Nixon was more favorable towards Civil Rights than JFK was when they went head-to-head. They did, however, use what we’ve come to call “dog whistles” to attract voters who might be a bit miffed that black people don’t have to tip their hat to white women or all all white men “sir” anymore.
A lot of conservatives will argue this isn’t so but they’re either liars or idiots. The proof is in the pudding. Not only did Southern whites become Republicans, American blacks shifted just as heavily towards the Democratic Party, particularly after LBJ’s “Great Society” reforms. Since then, the GOP has gotten between 8-12% of the black vote in every election up to and including Trump in 2016, except when Obama was elected and re-elected.
As to the why, well, if you bring up that fact to 100 solid conservatives, I’m willing to wager around 95 of them will say something along the lines of “the Democrats give them free stuff” with out recognizing that perceptions like that are exactly why the GOP can’t make much headway with African Americans. If I had to say, and this is just me, black people don’t trust a party that actively courts an electorate that thinks they’re subhuman drug dealers, baby mamas and gangstas who were better off as chattel slaves.
Of course, every four years (except for 2008 and 2012) the Democratic Party assume that the black vote, as well as the Latino vote, is theirs and do the bare minimum while wondering why the voters aren’t turning out. Black conservatives are, of course, not as rare as we’re led to believe and, indeed, if the GOP wasn’t so dead set on courting the Confederate Veteran vote, they’d have a much bigger pull among black people. Trump is attempting to gain more black votes for his 2020 run, but right now he’s stuck at a four percent approval rate and what his efforts will bring is anybody’s guess.
So bringing it all back home, why does Biden have a leg up on Sanders in South Carolina and, perhaps, the entire South? Well, a lot has been said about Sanders’ problems attracting black voters, especially in his difficulties wrangling the Black Lives Matter movement back in 2016. He’s doing a bit better this time around, and, indeed, many thought he’d siphon votes from Biden.
For what it’s all worth, and that’s probably not very much, I think much of Biden’s support among African Americans has nothing to do with Obama and more to do with the idea that black people aren’t going to mess around and take a chance on an unknown quantity. This goes double in the days of Trump, who’s supporters believe everything he says without hesitation and have been mumbling dark and surly promises of bloody armed insurrection if there’s even a hint of nationalized health insurance.
And now we’re at 8 p.m. Central – I broke off for supper – and Biden’s still being called the winner, spurned on greatly from an endorsement from South Carolina’s Senator James Clyburn. Right now Sanders has a 45-31 lead over Biden, South Carolina would give him the lead with 54 delegates up for grabs.
It should be noted that despite all this, only around four percent of the 1,991 delegates needed to win the nomination are spoken for and there’s still a long, long way to go before anything’s written in stone. We might see some people throwing in the towel and Pete Buttigieg is still in the game. There is such a thing as momentum, and come Super Tuesday – March 3rd – where 1,357 delegates are up for grabs, it could be all over but the car door slamming.
But there are no rules now, not in the Age Of Trump. Just hang in to see what happens, vote for who you want, and don’t listen to pundits or analysts. Especially me, what are you thinking, man?