Not in generations have two more unpopular politicians been deemed the presumptive nominees of the USA’s major political parties.
Over 70 percent of Americans recoil at the prospect of another election choice between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump. Yet, the Democratic and Republican national committees relentlessly insist on manipulating their nominating processes for 2024 to force precisely those distasteful alternatives on the voters, with each side resting its hopes for victory on the public’s abhorrence of the opposing party’s candidate.
The parties’ leaders are ratifying and enabling the massive egoism of their respective leading candidates. Trump manifestly seeks a return to the White House as a platform for personal revenge and “retribution,” no matter the price the already divided country will pay for his further self-aggrandizement.
In his own ricochet selfishness, Biden seeks to exploit Trump’s obvious defects as a rationalization for his own insistence on running for reelection despite his age and declining physical and cognitive abilities. He believes Trump is unfit to lead the nation and that he, Biden, is the only leader capable of preventing that disaster.
But there remains one other candidate in the race: former South Carolina Gov. and United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley — and her stalwart presence terrifies both Trump and Biden.
Malign parties beyond America’s shores are also worried about Haley. After observing her standup performance at the U.N., Russia and China and their North Korean and Iranian allies share the trepidation. Our foreign adversaries desperately want four more years for either Trump or Biden rather than potentially eight years of a new American leader who ranks in vision and toughness with former United Kingdom Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and former U.N Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick.
South Carolina’s voters will have a lot to say later this month about America’s choices in November — possibly even a decisive voice.
Turnout for the weekend’s Democratic primary was among the lowest it has been in the last several presidential primaries. In 2020, Joe Biden was slumping against a surging Bernie Sanders until seasoned South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn rode to the rescue. Convinced that America would never support a professed socialist, he rallied the state’s Democrats and independents behind Biden and entirely reversed the momentum of the race.
This year’s low numbers means hundreds of thousands of eligible voters who did not choose to participate in the Democratic primary can now vote in the Feb. 24 Republican primary, thanks to South Carolina’s totally open primary rules. Only about 131,000 turned out for Biden’s coronation.
The state’s Democratic and independent voters can again make history. And they can do so by temporarily rallying to the cause of one of their own, a former governor of the state — without losing the option of returning to their Democratic roots in November.
The situation provides South Carolina’s Black voters with a unique opportunity to assert their independence, by demonstrating that they do not march in lockstep with instructions from the political establishment. DNC Jaime Harrison declared over the weekend that Democrats “will not bail [Haley] out.” But voters can decide for themselves what is in their individual and collective self-interest, something many Black leaders have been advocating for some time. By going where the political action is now — the GOP primary — they can show that they no longer can be taken for granted by Democrats, which will increase their political leverage with both parties.
South Carolinians now have the unprecedented power to shake up not only this year’s depressing political landscape by voting for Haley but also to help eliminate what all their political leaders say is an existential threat to American democracy: another Trump presidency. For that, South Carolina’s voters would win the gratitude of the nation.
Democrats could also decide on a pernicious course of action by sabotaging the Haley candidacy and voting for Trump, whom Biden believes will be easier to defeat in November. But, given the ups and down of the polling, that would be a highly dangerous and irresponsible course of action that could easily backfire. Helping to defeat Trump now is the surest and most moral approach to eliminating the danger to American democracy presented by another Trump presidency.
Biden says South Carolina can “make Trump a loser — again.” Voters don’t have to risk waiting until November to do that; Feb. 24 gives them their first and safest shot at it.
Joseph Bosco served as China country director for the secretary of Defense from 2005 to 2006 and as Asia-Pacific director of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief from 2009 to 2010. He served in the Pentagon when Vladimir Putin invaded Georgia and was involved in Department of Defense discussions about the U.S. response. Follow him on Twitter @BoscoJosephA.
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