South Carolina: This White Northern Liberal Is Listening (UPDATE)

Today is the Democratic portion of South Carolina’s primary season. Nate Silver’s 538 doesn’t give us Bernie supporters any real chance.

But that is as it should be.   Any result will be how it should be.

SC was once a Confederate state with passions so hot that states had the right to protect the institution of slavery that South Carolina’s Ft. Sumter was where fighting began on April 12, 1961.

Ft. Sumter, South Carolina

The Democratic Party was of course the party of the Southern rebellion and loyalty remained for Southern Democrats until Northern Democrats finally won what must have been an uneasy truce within the party.  South Carolina was exclusively a Democratic state until 1948, “the year that changed South Carolina politics forever.”  Here is what happened from a short recent history of the SC Democratic Primary from SC’s Newspaper “The State”.

In 1947, George Elmore of Richland County challenged the state’s all-white Democratic primary for denying blacks the right to vote.  At the time, South Carolina effectively was a one-party state and winning the Democratic primary was tantamount to election.  The judge sided with Elmore, writing in his decision, “It is time for South Carolina to rejoin the Union.”  In an effort to block integration of the primary, the party’s executive committee started requiring all voters to take an oath pledging to “support the social, religious, and educational separation of the races.”  But the judge threw out the oath, putting an end to the all-white primary.


George Elmore

From the site

George A. Elmore born March 31, 1905 died February 25, 1959. At the time this picture was made, Elmore was probably a driver with the Blue Ribbon Taxi Club in Columbia. His would become one of the best known names in the annuls of post-World War 11 Southern legal and political history. He attempted to vote in South Carolina’s all-white Democratic primary in August 1946. Denied the ballot, he agreed to become the “guinea pig” in a suit filed by the NAACP on February 21, 1947 in Federal District Court for the Eastern District of South Carolina against the manager of Columbia’s Ward Nine and the Richland County Democratic Executive Committee, with John L. Rice named as defendant.

Elmore’s case was argued by Thurgood Marshall before Judge J. Waites Waring, who on July 12 ruled that the Democratic Party of South Carolina could no longer exclude qualified Negroes from participating in primary elections. Waring’s decision destroyed the all-white primary in the state.

So, fast forward to today in Humboldt County, CA.  I had been planning on writing a post from an activist’s perspective about South Carolina, but then a Charles Blow column on Berniesplaining changed that.

In his most recent column he also writes this…

There isn’t one black America, but two: The children of the Great Migration and the children of those who stayed behind in the South. (Black immigrants are another story.) Having spent the first half of my life in the South and the second in Great Migration destination cities, I can attest that the sensibilities are as different as night and day.

There is a scene described in the Stanley Nelson’s fascinating documentary “Freedom Summer” about an integrated delegation from Mississippi to be seated at the 1964 Democratic Convention instead of the all-white one.

At one point, Congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr. of New York is dispatched to the integrated delegation to persuade them to accept a pathetic compromise to remedy the standoff between the delegations.

Powell reportedly said to Fannie Lou Hamer, a member of the integrated delegation, “You don’t know who I am, do you?” Hamer responded, “Yeah, I know who you are. You are Adam Clayton Powell.” She continued, “But how many bales of cotton have you picked? How many beatings have you taken?”

It was her way of telling her Northern brother not to dictate what those in the South should do or how they should think.

African Americans make up 55% of South Carolina’s Democratic electorate. I look forward to hearing about the results of the primary today and I and tens of millions of others will be a proud supporter of whomever you elect as your candidate.  One way or another we will have a strong candidate on the issues coming out of our Democratic Convention.

UPDATE: (2/28/16 5:37 AM)

And from an Op/Ed in the NYT:

Juanita Moore, 62, said that she wished fellow black voters had done more research into Mr. Sanders’s campaign platform before making up their minds and voting for a familiar name.

For me, South Carolina’s voters closed the door on the possibility of a Sanders Democratic nomination.  I think the campaign was a great idea and it did amazingly well.  I haven’t paid close enough attention to Hillary’s  positions but the fact she came out strongly for universal health care is a good starting point.

My personal hope, and you saw some of this during the last Democratic debate, is that Bernie focuses on concrete proposals that would help shift an economy broken in part by inequality.  The most clear example of this is to begin to ask the question:  Why do we have a cap on the Social Security payroll tax at $118,500?  Hillary, could you please work to remove this?

Also, I think it’s never too early for Northern progressives such as Elizabeth Warren to reach out to Southern Democratic parties.  The 50 state strategy is critical, especially in the states where our African American brothers and sisters have been left behind by the dominant Republican Party.

Addendum:  What happened to Judge Waring?

From Charleston’s Post and Courrier:

Waties Waring and his wife, Elizabeth, were playing canasta in their living room when the first brick crashed through the window.

Shattered glass flew across the room as another projectile hit the front door. The Warings dove for the floor, certain they had heard gunfire.

Waring, still spry at 70, crawled to the dining room and called the police. Calmly, he told them what was happening and hung up the phone.

It was 9 p.m. on Oct. 9, 1950, and the home of a federal judge was under attack.

He had always assumed it would come to this. The Warings had been receiving threatening phone calls almost every night for the past few weeks. Recently, men had accosted Elizabeth on the street, called her a “witch.” One day a man came to the door with a petition calling for the judge’s impeachment. He said he was from the Ku Klux Klan. And seven months earlier, someone had burned a cross in his yard. It was clear that a lot of people wanted Julius Waties Waring off the bench and out of Charleston – no matter what.


Locals claimed he had been ostracized for the sin of divorce. To be sure, divorce was not even legal in the state at the time, and it had long been a path to social exclusion in Charleston. Waring had not only left his socially connected wife – he then had the audacity to marry a Yankee.  But in truth, much of the animosity toward Waring was simply the Old South fighting for a lost cause with its dying breath.

Note:  If you look up Judge Waring on Wiki today, his divorce is mentioned prominently.  “After divorcing his first wife and marrying the Northern socialite Elizabeth Avery, Judge Waring quickly transitioned from a racial moderate to a proponent of radical change.[2]

This animus is out there today.  As Trump might say, “Believe me”.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s