Politics in the Palmetto State


An Analysis of the American Presidential Primaries in South Carolina

Laura Groenendaal


Donald Trump is constantly on television, Hillary Clinton launched her campaign and the debates have started: The American Primary Presidential Elections are coming soon. At the moment of writing I am in South Carolina, nicknamed the Palmetto State, for an exchange. This southern state is both for the Republican and Democratic candidates of high importance as this article will discuss.

However, let us first have a closer look at the primary elections in general. After a very chaotic primary election in 1968 at the Democratic National Convention, it was decided that candidates for the presidential elections were to be directly elected by the party voters. In the current system it depends on the particular state whether only registered party voters can elect a candidate, which is called a closed primary, or whether unaffiliated voters can vote as well, which is the case in an open primary. South Carolina for example has an open presidential primary election.

South Carolina is one of the first states where the voting will take place. Why are the elections so early in South Carolina? In the upcoming 2016 primaries South Carolina might be more important than ever.

There is another reason why this particular state is so important: South Carolina is one of the first states where the voting will take place. Unlike many elections in other countries where all citizens vote at the same time, the American primaries have a particular order. Some states vote earlier than others. South Carolina is the third state for the Republicans after Iowa and New Hampshire and the fourth state for the Democrats after Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada. Both of these elections are going to take place in February. So why are the elections so early in South Carolina? The founders of the primary system wanted racial and regional diverse states to vote earlier than the more homogeneous states. South Carolina has a large African American population and is the first Southern state to vote. This last fact is especially interesting, because New Hampshire and Iowa -the first two states to vote- are relatively liberal, in contrast to most Southern States including South Carolina, which is the first more conservative state where the elections will take place.

Interestingly, this Palmetto state was, however, originally a great supporter of the Democrats, when this party stood for the farmers and supported slavery. This changed the last fifty years when the Democratic Party started to favor a relatively strong federal government -something Southerners heavily oppose. Therefore, during the last decades the Republican Party has been dominant in South Carolina.

In the upcoming 2016 primaries South Carolina might be more important than ever. The elections for both the Republican and Democratic candidates are going to be more intense than was predicted beforehand. With regard to the Republican Party Donald Trump –or also called “the Donald” here- is still far ahead of the other candidates according to the most recent polls. This businessman and political outsider is loved by a great part of the American public and the media, even though he has made some very controversial remarks about Latino-Americans and women. Surprisingly, Trump is not followed by Jeb Bush, who analysists had predicted as the most popular candidate, but by Ben Carson, known as the first surgeon to successfully separate the heads of conjoined twins. Other Republican candidates are far behind. One Republican candidate, the former Texan senator Rick Perry, has already given up on the candidacy. It is expected that others will follow him soon.

The democrats are facing similar challenges.  Hillary Clinton is not going to have a very easy victory as was expected. On the contrary, she is seriously challenged by Bernie Sanders, the former senator of Vermont, who is known for his progressive ideas. Sanders is therefore especially popular in the liberal states New Hampshire and Iowa – two very important states in the primaries as already mentioned before. South Carolina as the first southern state may make the difference here.

At the moment of writing is Donald Trump number one for the Republicans in South Carolina and Hillary Clinton number one for the Democrats. However, especially with regard to the Democrats, the race in South Carolina might be close. Bernie Sanders, who often visits this state for talks and Q&As, is especially popular with students. I have already met many students at campus who support him and believe he is a good alternative for Hillary Clinton. Clinton thus urgently needs to improve her image in the South to secure a victory.

To conclude, whoever is going to win these elections, they are by no means going to be boring and predictable. As the candidates desperately try to influence the voters, only the future will show us who is allowed to continue in the race for the presidency of the United States of America.

Featured Image

Donald Trump August 19, 2015 (cropped).jpg: BU Rob13 Hillary Clinton by Gage Skidmore 2.jpg: Gage (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Trump_&_Clinton.jpg), „Trump & Clinton“, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/legalcode.

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