South Carolina, Democratic Bellwether | Dissent
Nonetheless, the South Carolina primary has the potential to serve as a referendum on African-American support for the Democratic Party. Republicans of course long ago gave up on even trying to pursue African-American voters, instead adopting a “Southern Strategy” in the 1960s that became a national strategy by Ronald Reagan’s victory in 1980. Democrats, tied to the success of the civil rights movement, have become a de facto home for African-American political power. But such power comes with a responsibility for the party to respond to the needs of African-American voters. This means addressing economic inequality, civil rights, and a wide range of other issues—environmental justice, government spending, foreign policy—that impact the lives of African Americans.
South Carolina, and the South in general, has served as a bellwether for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination since 1992. “Super Tuesday,” as we know it today, was born out of the belief that the Democratic Party had to start nominating more moderate candidates in order to have a fighting chance against a popular Republican Party in the 1980s. Although Jesse Jackson’s impressive 1988 victories in South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Virginia ultimately ended in failure, recent Southern Democratic primary campaigns have been turning points for candidates who have then gone on to win the nomination. In 1992, Bill Clinton used Southern states to revitalize his campaign. In 2004, John Kerry’s victories in many Super Tuesday states, including Georgia, sealed his victory. Memorably, Barack Obama’s landslide victory in South Carolina during his 2008 run against Hillary Clinton was a sign that African-American voters believed he could win the nomination and the presidency.