So it’s on to the Palmetto state! South Carolina, which refuses to lower the Confederate stars and bars, the state where one third of all Africans shipped as slaves arrived in the New World, the state of Fort Sumter, where the US Civil war really began. It is this state that will prove the last real competition for the vying delegates, before February 5 — Tsunami Tuesday — potentially (and I emphasise potentially) delivers a slam dunk for one candidate, on one or both tickets.
How did it come to this? Back in the day, it was New Hampshire that set the agenda, followed by a gruelling march through one primary after another, like an electoral battle of Stalingrad. Each big state — California, Florida, New York, Illinois — was a staging ground for a fresh contest. But that was, of course, before campaign costs really took off, from the high to the clinically insane, when a campaign like Goldwater ’64, McGovern ’72 or Carter ’76 could subsist largely on volunteers, spending their time like it was money.
Now, you need both a grassroots movement and a media ad blitz, and so the primaries have been coralled into one big one — Tsunami Tuesday, February 5 — when between 19 and 22 states will deliver their verdict (the variable number is because some of them — as in Texas — are hybrid primary/conventions, and other have question marks hanging over their ability to seat delegates).
To march through state by state would be ruinous now, and drain the coffers for the actual Presidential campaign — hence the corralling of primaries into one huge wave, which party bigwigs hope will set up a single candidate who can stick it to the status quo over the six months to December.
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But the unintended consequence of that is that the primaries before TT become the big one, because they could potentially set the winning candidate up as the front runner — especially when the two votes so far have delivered different results. So, glitter gulch Nevada and South Carolina, Southern cinderella, has become the only game in town.
Really it should be Michigan, a populous, industrial, multiracial state, but it moved its primary up too early and so has been penalised by both parties — the GOP will only seat half of its 60 delegates at the convention, the Democrats none. In response, all Dems except Clinton pulled their names off the ballot. In response to that, local Dems have started a grassroots campaign to vote an “uncommitted ticket” to the Convention. The fight therefore has the hallmark of America today — crippling dysfunctionality.
Nevada was regarded as running dead until recently — outside of Vegas, it’s desert, a pseudo-state carved out during the Civil War so that Lincoln could get the extra three delegates he needed to shore up his position in the Republican Party. It was run by gangsters from the 1920s onwards, Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel establishing the US heroin trade from Mexico through it, and using the profits to help fund the ’48 zionist insurgency in Palestine. But I digress.
What put the place into play was the phenomenal employment growth when Vegas ceased to be a gangster burg, and became an appalling anodyne family gambling Disneyland. Now one of the most powerful forces in the state is the Culinary Workers Union — dishwashers and waiters — who have just thrown their support behind Obama. It won’t supply him many delegates, but in the symbolic battle for poll position before TT, every endorsement counts.
Yet SC is where all the candidates are putting their base for the next couple of weeks. Why? Because it’s 50% black, the first such place polled, and a vital measure of how both US blacks as a whole, and the South in particular, is going to swing. In class terms, Edwards offers the black working class the best deal — in a society where millions of people shamble round exhausted from the two-job 16 hour days they need to do to support their family, anyone offering basic health care and a rise in the minimum wage should be the candidate of choice.
Obama, by comparison, offers a right wing economic agenda, and abstract nouns — hope, change, audacity, blah blah blah — and any assumption that SC blacks will vote skin is mistaken. Clinton (Bill) had enormous black support, but he didn’t really return the favour with improved conditions. Will Hillary be a beneficiary or a victim of his hollow promises?
And, most excitingly, will the Huck get the nod? Huckabee will most likely still be wiped out by TT, but a good win would set him in position to do a Goldwater/McGovern and pass through the divided ranks of the moderates to take the nomination. His supporters are evangelicals and the enormous ranks of home schoolers — that unique American phenomenon, people with so little belief in their own society that they have withdrawn from it entirely.
Huckabee’s supporters are God’s Trotskyists, the Republican equivalent of Militant — they could care less whether a moderate Republican wins. Control of the party is all. They’ll work harder, meet longer, do whatever it takes to occupy a divided and disillusioned party, and that gives them a power beyond their meagre numbers.
What better place to take a stand for that than the state that has never really accepted that it is a part of the US? Who will it crown, in either contest, as the heir apparent? And will Tsunami Tuesday deliver a clear result, or a confusion beyond anything witnessed for a generation?
Crack a few Buds, and serve up the grits, whatever they are, this is going to be good.