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Thursday, February 18, 2016


Voting with their middle fingers

by Tom Sullivan

Bernie Sanders volunteer car in Greenville, SC yesterday.

People in upstate South Carolina didn't get out much back in the days before Michelin, BMW, Hitachi, and Fuji. That was the way they liked it. People from outside were still Yankees. They preferred being left alone and distrusted outsiders. But off course, the textile industry had collapsed. They'd take their money.

Outside the immediately adjoining states, you almost never saw a South Carolina license plate. You didn't ask South Carolinians where they were going on vacation; you asked them when they were going to Myrtle Beach. Unless they had money, in which case they had vacation homes on Hilton Head.

While traveling outside South Carolina (when I lived there) and people would ask, "Where are you from?" and I'd say South Carolina, they had one of two responses: 1) "What part of North Carolina is that?" or 2) "So how long have you been living in North Carolina?" When I corrected them and said South Carolina, their eyes would glaze over as they attempted to visualize the state on a mental map of the east coast. Mention Charleston and you would see a glimmer of recognition. Except for Sen. Strom Thurmond, the rest of the country might not know the state existed.

This is now. The place is crawling with press and, as I wrote yesterday, presidential campaigns.

Here in Greenville, South Carolina, a used-car salesman summed up the anti-establishment mood of the Trump-supporting electorate succinctly, "We’re voting with our middle finger." Even after his performance here on Saturday night, people still support Trump. The Los Angeles Times elaborates that demographics have shifted in the Palmetto State:

Like several people interviewed at Trump’s Monday night rally, Daigle was not originally from South Carolina, having lived in California and several other states before retiring in Spartanburg. Demographic data show an increasing number of residents have moved from out of state, perhaps loosening the traditional boundaries of Southern politeness.

In 2000, 64% of the population was state-born, according to census data, but by 2013, the number of resident born in the Palmetto State had fallen to 58%.

GOP strategist Kevin Madden, a former Mitt Romney spokesman, said he believes Trump may yet suffer in Saturday’s South Carolina primary, noting that attitudes here often shift in the final days of the campaign.

It seems as if the mood in "Bush country" has already shifted — away from the traditional GOP. But people here rebuilt their economy from the ashes of the textile industry, looked around and wondered where all these furriners came from with their strange ways.

Martin Longman at Political Animal explains that it is not limited government these voters want, but something else:

No, the appeal of George W. Bush was more in his swagger than in his ideology. “Compassionate conservatism” caught in the throats of relatively few conservatives so long as it was succeeding in punishing liberals and making them crazy.

So, too, with the appeal of Donald Trump. Evangelicals like him despite his adultery and womanizing and foul language and lack of piety and decorum. They don’t mind his many heresies against limited government and Conservative Movement orthodoxies.

What they want is someone who will fight liberals.

If they piss off the intellectuals and cultural elites, that’s a huge bonus. Being politically incorrect is a big feature in Trump’s popularity with evangelicals, not a bug.

All Trump has to do is to promise to fight for them. It doesn’t matter to them if he actually shares their values. They’ve had their fill of politicians who claim to share their values and, yet, can’t stop the wave of demographic and cultural change that is going on in this country.

Be careful what you wish for. You invite Them in because you want their business and next thing you know they're in your business.

BTW: The SC primary circus is clearly in town. This hotel caters to construction workers, many of them Latinos. Except, guys with laptops and backpacks suddenly appeared at breakfast this morning. White guys with names like Judson.