The Politics of ‘Manifested Destiny’
“Barack Obama was destined to win in South Carolina.” That’s the line that his nearest rival Bill and Hillary Clinton will be repeating, or at the very least implying, all of the way up to Super-Ultra-Mega Tuesday on February 5th.
The claim isn’t really that off base. The idea that no one but Obama was going to win in South Carolina may hold credence. This is a state, as former President Clinton has made a point of, which Jesse Jackson won in both the 1984 and 1988 Democratic caucuses. If Obama didn’t win, then all signs point to the conclusion that it would’ve been the end of his presidential hopes and dreams.
In South Carolina, 50% of Democratic voters are black. It was known that the vast majority of African Americans were going to vote for Obama. With a percentage of white votes thrown into the mix, it seemed that Obama really couldn’t lose.
It turns out that nearly 80% of blacks did vote for Barack Obama. Combined with the 24% of whites who voted for him, he garnered 55% of the vote in South Carolina, beating his nearest rival, Hillary Clinton, nearly two to one.
But wasn’t the outcome pretty much to be expected? Any professional politician or pundit who says that the South Carolina results are “shocking,” “surprising,” or use some other buzz word to describe the outcome, are either dumb or dishonest. Let’s look at the South Carolina 1988 caucus results: Jackson 54%, Gore 18%, Dukakis 7%.
Politics of Race
Here’s something that should be very troubling for Obama, but no one is talking about it. In South Carolina he only won 24% of white votes. That’s down tremendously from Iowa, (33%) and New Hampshire (36%). In fact, the winner among white voters was John Edwards with a total of 40%.
The problem for Obama is that blacks make up 20% of the population and whites 65%. So, he’s apparently in danger of losing ground with white voters, though his support among African American voters is surging. He’s also losing ground in the next largest demographic, Hispanics, which account for 16% of the population.
Obama’s win in South Carolina is expected, not surprising, or stunning, or any of that. It is, in a sense, history repeating itself.
Bill and Hillary Clinton have already begun to dismiss the result in this race as ‘a black win in a black state.’ The goal is to minimalize the effect of Obama’s landslide victory in South Carolina heading into Super Tuesday.
There are a few things that have been amazing about this race. One is how rank and file democrats are bolting from the Clintons. Bill Clinton, since he was elected in 1992, has long been the most revered and influential member of the party, looked to as the party leader by most.
Nevertheless, lifelong Democrats and major party figures such as John Kerry, the 2004 presidential nominee, Tom Daschle former Senate Majority leader, and Party fixture Edward Kennedy are all giving public support to Obama’s campaign.
In the end, though, despite Hillary Clinton’s longer list of official endorsements, these announcements serve as a reminder that the Clintons were Washington outsiders and they really weren’t too well liked by Congressional Democrats.
Moving out of South Carolina, Barack Obama’s victory guarantees him the viability to raise funds to finance his campaign through the 22 contests that take place on February 5th.
Hillary Clinton has hatched a bizarre plan to raise the significance of Florida, a state that had its delegates stripped that she and all other candidates agreed to not campaign in, just so she can have the last “win” before Super Tuesday.
John Edwards, down but still not out, isn’t even thinking about quitting this race. His campaign is working to capitalize on the surge of support they experience among white voters in South Carolina to craft a plan to win delegates in conservative states. He’s already begun to craft his populist message as a centrist one.
The result of South Carolina didn’t make anyone a winner or a loser, but ultimately provided all three candidates with some clairvoyance to retool and focus both their message and campaign for the biggest nominating contest in history.