South Carolina would provide a fitting backdrop for Biden to drop out
Joe Biden had his eyes on South Carolina from the start.
The Palmetto State would be his springboard to the Democratic nomination. It would be his “firewall.”
Months later, the frontrunner for that nomination ran to his firewall with his campaign in flames.
The picture of Biden running to South Carolina with his tail between his legs is certainly ironic. The support that he sought to cash in on was birthed more than a decade ago.
At that time, Biden hadn’t even been selected as Barack Obama’s vice president. Obama, his wife, Michelle, and entertainment mogul Oprah Winfrey wooed Black South Carolinians during a campaign stop that became one of the defining moments of Obama’s 2008 campaign and eventual victory.
Biden’s entitlement to those voters was certainly warranted, based on the polls. And yet, Biden distanced himself from the former president.
When Biden asked Obama not to endorse him, it seemed like a noble gesture — the height of neutrality, even. As the campaign went on, Biden was so bold as to say he didn’t “need” Obama’s nomination.
Upon further review, Biden’s tender rebuke of Obama wasn’t about nobility, but being a centrist. Biden aspired to run a campaign that not only appealed to Democrats, but also the Obama-hating Trump crowd as well.
It’s in that same spirit which Biden spoke glowingly of infamous South Carolina legislator Strom Thurmond and other known segregationists. When he was challenged on those working relationships last June, Biden used the term “civility” to describe them.
Civility — a word that has been used to suggest togetherness, even as the political landscape is hyper partisan. It’s a word that often fails to promote accountability, even as it seeks to promote unity.
This is part of the centrist playbook — a methodology that Biden still employs. He does so to the detriment of the same Black voters he continues to petition in South Carolina.
At the same time, Biden’s opponents are invoking Obama’s support as a means of drawing voters. Michael Bloomberg has run a pair of ads suggesting that he has the support of the 44th President. Tom Steyer, who has seen an increase in support from Black voters in recent months, is running a more intimate ad with the presence of Obama.
Edith Childs, a Greenwood, S.C. councilwoman who Obama credited for the “Fired up! Ready to go!” campaign slogan, headlines Steyer’s latest pitch to (Black) voters.
“We’re fired up, and Trump got to go!” she says at the end of a commercial endorsing Steyer.
Biden recently chalked it up as “billionaire spending.” But that spending has been noticeably effective, even if some view it as pandering.
Bloomberg has the support of Columbia, S.C. mayor Steve Benjamin, who has the title of “National Co-Chair” for Bloomberg’s 2020 campaign in his Twitter bio. Benjamin also spoke about Bloomberg’s “Greenwood Initiative,” a focus on economic justice for African-Americans, calling it “groundbreaking.” Bloomberg and the National Newspaper Publishers Association recently agreed to a $3.5 million ad buy, which means that Bloomberg’s Initiative will be advertised nationwide in 230 Black-owned newspapers.
The landscape for Democratic nominees is changing, particularly considering that voters of color will factor greatly in South Carolina and on Super Tuesday. Bernie Sanders, on the strength of his victory in Nevada and strong showings in Iowa and New Hampshire, is the new frontrunner for the nomination. He also has a strong coalition of young Black voters.
What does all of this mean for Biden? It may mean that the end of his campaign is coming soon. This past Sunday, Biden spoke to congregants at the Royal Ministry Baptist Church in North Charleston, S.C. Speaking in Black church pulpits are the tried-and-true method of many politicians. But again, the landscape is changing, because that particular outlet doesn’t engage young voters.
Biden is literally and figuratively counting on the old guard to keep his campaign afloat.
“Although I’ve had a lot of support from the community my whole career, I don’t expect anything. I’m here to earn your vote,” Biden said.
If Biden can’t earn that vote, he’ll likely have too much pride to drop out before Super Tuesday. Yet for all intents and purpose, though, not only will his firewall be extinguished, but so will his campaign.