This year, individual SC votes will actually MATTER!


On that earlier post, I failed to point out the most remarkable thing about that PPP poll showing HIllary Clinton in a statistical dead heat with Donald Trump in South Carolina.

It’s a fairly obvious point, but I feel I should use this separate post to bring it up for your examination.

It is this:

For the first time in a long time — since well before I moved back to South Carolina in 1987 — how you and I and each individual South Carolinian votes will actually matter to the outcome of the presidential election.

Whether you vote for Trump or Clinton or someone else, or stay home and sit it out, could actually make the difference in whether South Carolina stays red or goes blue, in whether all 9 of our state’s electoral votes go to Donald or Hillary.

No more can Democrats complain despairingly that their votes don’t matter. And it’s different for Republicans, too — in previous elections, they could stay home if they liked, secure in the knowledge that the state would go Republican anyway. And the importance of each of us swing voters stands out more starkly than ever.

Heady stuff.

Of course, you could say that South Carolina going blue wouldn’t matter, because if THAT happens, it would already be a Clinton landslide. But you would be a real killjoy to say that.

Go ahead and savor your importance in this election, average South Carolinian. Who knows if you’ll every experience it again?

40 thoughts on “This year, individual SC votes will actually MATTER!

  1. Kathryn Fenner

    Will they really matter if it’s a landslide?
    2000 was when every vote in certain states mattered…..

      1. Claus

        I believe this will not be the case in November, I believe Trump will beat Clinton by 20+ points.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Well, that would really be something — seeing as how no one has won South Carolina by that wide a margin since Bush beat Dukakis by almost 24 percentage points in 1988. And sorry to tell you, but Trump is no G.H.W. Bush, and Hillary is no Dukakis.

          Back in 1984, Reagan won the state by an even larger spread — 63.55 percent to 35.57 percent for Mondale.

          My money would still be on Trump to win SC, but the news here is that that is no longer a sure bet…

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Since I went to all that trouble (a couple of minutes worth!), here are the margins by which Republicans won the last few presidential elections in SC:

            2012 — 10
            2008 — 9
            2004 — 17
            2000 –16
            1996 — 6
            1992 — 8
            1988 — almost 24

            1. Mark Stewart

              So we are probably going to see something in the minus 5 to plus 4 spread. Basically even money Trump will lose SC, or a bit more likely than not.

              The interesting comparable year is 1996. Seems difficult to believe Trump could better Bob Dole’s showing that year.

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                Dole ran a HORRIBLE campaign, which was a disappointment to me, because I preferred him to Clinton.

                All through the early months of that campaign, I was writing editorials and columns saying good things about Dole, and critical things about Clinton.

                But then, when it came time for our endorsement, I went to my boss, Tom McLean (this is before he retired as EPE and I succeeded him) and told him I could not in good conscience write an endorsement saying Dole would be a better president than Clinton, because he had run such a horrible campaign he had undermined my confidence in him. I liked him more than Clinton on a personal level, but it seemed to me by that point that Clinton was a more competent president than he would be.

                I knew I wasn’t going to convince Tom and the others to go with Clinton, and personally, I didn’t want to try. I just couldn’t honestly write the endorsement of Dole at that point.

                So Tom wrote the endorsement instead of me.

                Here’s the kicker. On Election Day, I voted for Dole, even though I had decided by that time that Clinton would do an objectively better job.

                Why did I do that? As a protest vote. I knew that Clinton was going to win big, so I just voted for Dole as my way of saying I had problems with that. So I was a part of Dole’s slim win in SC.

                Complicated enough for you? Basically, it was an election in which I wasn’t going to be happy either way.

                It’s the mirror image of my vote in 1972. That time, I voted for McGovern purely as a protest because I didn’t approve of Nixon. I believed McGovern would have been a terrible president, and if he’d had a chance, I’d have held my nose and voted for Nixon as the more competent president. But the fact that McGovern was going to lose so badly liberated me to make a gesture.

                Ditto in 1996. If Dole had had a chance, I’d have made myself vote for Clinton.

                Those are the two hardest-to-explain votes of my life, but the explanation is the same in both cases…

              2. Tex

                One thing that will matter, what will the black voter turnout be like now that there is no black candidate. Those 10 and 9 point losses would have likely been double that if someone other than Obama were running. That’s not racist, that’s fact… will black churches be running buses to the polls like they did the last two elections?

                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  Would you have a problem with that? Churches have from the start been a significant part of the civil rights movement, which was largely about empowering black citizens by helping them regain the right to vote.

                  Providing rides to the polls for people who may not have easy access seems to me a perfectly fine public service.

                  Do you see it otherwise? Why?

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          That would be something. The current situation is like “The Walking Dead.” It’s like the SC Democratic Party is a walker, but not much of a threat, and you hate to put it down because you knew it when it was alive, and you’re sentimental…

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            OK, bad analogy… In “The Walking Dead,” the survivors are MORE likely to put down a walker that used to be a friend, because the friend would want it that way…

    1. Michael Bramson


      (I actually agree with you, but I do think an electoral repudiation of Trump’s candidacy—a landslide—would be good for the country.)

        1. Michael Bramson

          It’s hard to tease these things apart, but I think 2008 said more about enthusiasm for Obama and the unpopularity of Bush by that point than it said about McCain. Whereas a landslide for Hillary, especially if she doesn’t even get 50% of the vote, would suggest to a lot of people that you can’t win an election with this sort of alt-right demagoguery.

          I’m not sure there’s another Trump-like candidate waiting in the wings for 2020, though, in which case you’re right that it wouldn’t really matter. But it would make me feel good to see him get walloped at the polls.

          1. Kathryn Fenner

            You forget “distaste for Palin”–Christopher Buckley was bounced from his father’s magazine for opposing McCain-Palin, for example.

        2. Brad Warthen Post author

          What landslide? I don’t recall a landslide.

          Perhaps you’re too young to recall actual landslides — 1972, 1984. Go look those up, and notice the difference in the numbers from 2008.

          The most you can say about 2008 was that it was a clear win, instead of one of the nail-biters we’ve experienced in some other years.

          And of course it was a foregone conclusion from the moment the economy collapsed in mid-September. After that, the ineptness of the McCain campaign assured that he did not catch up…

          1. Doug Ross

            It was 365 to 173. If not a landslide, a drubbing… I still believe Trump will do at least better than McCain. And since that election didn’t change anything, then neither will this one.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              See, now that’s one of the great things about the electoral college — at its best, it can make elections look more decisive than they are. Thats helpful, in that it militates against polarization.

              But I usually hear the term “landslide” defined in terms of proportions of the popular vote (because usually we’re talking about some office other than president). Some say it’s 60 percent; others draw the line at 55. I tend more toward 60 — that generally indicates not just getting the base you can take for granted, but pretty much all independents and even a few adherents of the opposing party. THAT, to me, is a landslide.

              Obama won the popular vote in 2008 with 52.9 percent — a clear, solid victory, leading to that emphatic result in the Electoral College.

              But in an actual landslide — say, 1972 — the electoral vote is more like 520 to 17. Or, as in 1984, 525 to 13. A true landslide in the popular vote leads to a virtual shutout in the College…

              The last presidential election generally regarded as a landslide was 1988. Bush got 426 electoral votes to 111 for Dukakis.

              1. Doug Ross

                Ok, I agree. McCain wasn’t a landslide. But if Trump does better electorally, it means more of the same for the next four years.

                Plus it is likely Hillary won’t get 50% of the popular vote. She’ll have no mandate, no political capital. It SHOULD force her to be more conciliatory to Republicans since she wouldn’t be the first choice of most Americans — but it won’t.

              2. bud

                See, now that’s one of the great things about the electoral college — at its best, it can make elections look more decisive than they are. Thats helpful, in that it militates against polarization.

                Really? So there was no polarization over the last 8 years. Really? Come on Brad that’s just plain dumb. Of course it doesn’t do that. Nixon beat McGovern by a huge margin. Most polarized period in American history. Besides, I’m not entirely convince that polarization is all bad. Shouldn’t the people have disparate policy views?

  2. Bryan Caskey

    “Of course, you could say that South Carolina going blue wouldn’t matter, because if THAT happens, it would already be a Clinton landslide. But you would be a real killjoy to say that.”

    I already did say that.


  3. bud

    The electoral college is what makes these types of asinine discussions come about. Any justification for keeping that indefensible relic around was blasted into oblivion with the 2000 election. We would have been spared the worst president since James Buccanan had we simply had the rational, common sense to go by the popular vote. Let’s get behind a constitutional amendment to repeal this terrible aspect of our constitution.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I’ll pass.

      If you have suggestions for improving the College, I’m all ears. But I’d be opposed to a straight, popular vote.

      That’s because I’m wedded to what the Framers did — carefully making sure that each part of the government was elected differently, so they’d see their constituencies differently, the better to enable checks and balances to work.

      It’s bad enough that we went to electing Senators popularly. The whole IDEA of the Senate was that it was to represent states, not groups of individuals. At least, thank God, they’re still elected statewide.

      I would not like to see the POTUS elected the same way. Next thing you know we’d have direct democracy, and then we might as well give up the whole thing…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        The difference here between Bud and me — OK, ONE of the differences — is that he regards Bush’s election in 2000 as some great, national disaster, and I don’t.

        Not that I was a fan of Bush. I was really about as neutral as you could get.

        We had endorsed Bush, but I had no great love for his candidacy. Remember, it was still a bitter pill for me that we’d endorsed Bush over McCain in the primary (the one significant debate on the editorial board that I lost in my years as EPE) — and that he’d gone on to WIN the primary (the one time I would have liked for “our” candidate to lose).

        I didn’t feel invested in him.

        All through that long night when it seemed victory was slipping back and forth between him and Gore, I realized I didn’t have a preference. Had this been before 1992, I’d have preferred Gore. I’d gotten to know and like him in my years in Tennessee. But I felt that 8 years as Clinton’s veep had sort of… diminished him. (I’d felt the same in 1988. In 1980, I thought Bush was EASILY the best-qualified Republican. But after 8 years as Reagan’s second banana, I felt like he had faded into a sort of imitation Reagan. Hence “Read my lips.”)

        I used to like to wander around from one place to another on election nights, watching returns from different venues. For about an hour that night, I visited Bud Ferillo, who was sitting alone in his office watching the returns. Bud kept getting excited when it looked like Gore was ahead, and depressed when Bush was up. That’s when I noticed that, by contrast, I felt nothing either way. I just wanted it to be over.

        So, imagine my disappointment at the way the Long Count dragged out.

        Of course, in the end, Bush was the winner, despite the Democrats’ fantasies about it being “stolen” in Florida. (A news media effort to recount every ballot later — months later — confirmed that Bush won when you counted the votes three out of four possible ways — including the way the Gore team insisted they be counted. So if Gore had had his way, and the thing had dragged out longer instead of the Supreme Court mercifully ending it, Gore would still have lost.)

        But I would have been just as happy if it had been Gore who won. I just wanted it to be over. The country NEEDED it to be over, which is why after the Supreme Court decision, Gore did the right thing by conceding…

        1. bud

          Bush’s election in 2000 as some great, national disaster, and I don’t.

          Not Bush’s election, his presidency. I didn’t vote for Al Gore. But over the course of his 8 years it is crystal clear that the nation declined more rapidly that at any time in my lifetime. Recessions, debt, housing crisis, wars, terrorist attacks, Katrina disaster. Yeh, his presidency was a national disaster. ALL the evidence points to that as a fact. His approval ratings at the end of his second term, half of what Obama’s are, suggest the American people thought so at the time also.

    2. Mark Stewart

      Bud, It is a system designed to create coalescing winners, not divisive ones. It works pretty well with that in mind.

      The worst thing for us as a country would be to have consistent 48-52 votes. That is far more corrosive to the nation than the electoral college system.

      1. Tex

        The issue I have is in the constantly predetermined states, voters virtually have no voice. Look at which counties vote for Democrats and Republicans in New York, California, etc… A candidate could win the entire state by one vote when actually the state is equally split. We have the technology to count individual votes quickly, there is no reason to keep the electoral college.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          There’s EVERY reason to keep it.

          Faster voting isn’t better voting. The best thing is a process that promotes deliberation and discernment, not snap decisions.

          That’s one reason I oppose early voting and absentee voting for all but the folks who can’t vote any other way. Voting shouldn’t be EASIER; people should have to make an effort. And while they wait in those long lines on Election Day, they should think long and hard — especially if they have failed to do so in the preceding days, which is too often the case.

          More agonizing over the decision — that’s what we need…

          1. Tex

            Take SC for example, people talk about “every vote matters”. Well no not really, if you vote for the loser and he loses the state by one vote with the electoral college he gets nothing, the same as if he lost by 10 million votes. With the actual vote count he’s one vote behind the other candidate rather than behind 0-55 for example with California with the electoral college. As we’ve seen it’s possible to win the actual vote count and lose the election.

            I agree, early voting needs to go away, I suspect most are too lazy to go to the polls so they (or someone who votes for them) just requests a mail-in ballot.

      2. bud

        So having a candidate with few votes become president is “coalescing”? Not sure how that’s supposed to work.

  4. David Carlton

    For me this debate is beside the point. In this election, Tennessee will be about as red as a state can get, and the Democrats about as pitiful as one can imagine. Basically, we’re a southern state without all that many black voters, and the non-college white population exceeds the college-educated white population–very different from present-day SC.

  5. bud

    The current version of the electoral college is especially odious. The way it’s structured is merely a clumsy attempt to approximate the popular vote. The founding fathers intended to charge a group of wise men with the task of picking the best POTUS one step removed from the voters. It never really worked that way. It really is the worst aspect of our constitution with no coherent justification. Let the people decide the highest office in the land without some artificial impediments. It smacks of elitism. And it just flat doesn’t work. The result was watching a hapless clown cluelessly read a child’s book while the nation was under attack. Worst 5 minutes of the American presidency.

    1. Bryan Caskey

      “The current version of the electoral college is especially odious.”

      Especially odious? Hardly. Come on, bud. It’s just a system that balances the direct election with governance by states. It’s federalism. So unless you think that federalism is “especially odious”, let’s not get so hyperbolic.

      “The way it’s structured is merely a clumsy attempt to approximate the popular vote.”

      No, it really isn’t. In fact, it was designed as a check against directly electing the Chief Magistrate of the United States by popular vote.

      “The founding fathers intended to charge a group of wise men with the task of picking the best POTUS one step removed from the voters.It never really worked that way.”

      No, they didn’t. They weren’t trying to substitute “wise men” for citizens. They were balancing the idea that citizens in one state would have different opinions and motivations than citizens in another state. Again, federalism. And yes, it does work that way.

      “It really is the worst aspect of our constitution with no coherent justification.”

      It’s has substantial justification. Just because you don’t like the underlying justification doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

      “Let the people decide the highest office in the land without some artificial impediments. It smacks of elitism.”

      Direct democracy is certainly an option. However, it’s not how the USA has ever elected its Chief Magistrate. It’s also not an “artificial impediment”. It’s simply apportioning the votes by state based on Congress. Larger states have a larger say, but less populous states aren’t totally ignored. It’s simply a blend of the House and the Senate.

      “And it just flat doesn’t work. The result was watching a hapless clown cluelessly read a child’s book while the nation was under attack. Worst 5 minutes of the American presidency.”

      Look. We know you’re still upset that Bush won the election in 2000. We all get it. But blaming Gore’s loss on the electoral college is dumb. It’s like complaining about a football team losing the game, but trying to argue that the losing team should have won because they got more first downs that the winning team. Getting first downs is nice, but at the end of the day the points on the scoreboard determine the winner. Complaining about long-standing rules is just silly. If you want to have football games decided by who gets more first downs, fine. Lobby the NCAA and get them to change the rules of the game. Let it go.

      Equally as futile as trying change the way football games are decided is trying to amend the Constitution to do away with Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 of the Constitution. It ain’t gonna happen. Do you really think you’re going to convince 75% of the states to give up their power? No. It’s not going to happen. We balance federal and state power here in the USA (thank goodness).

      If you want direct democracy, the USA ain’t your place, bro. Finland, Venezuela, France (and many other countries) elect their head of state by direct election. Maybe you should check them out. The downside is none of them have any good football teams. Tradeoffs, right? 🙂

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          This year, Donald Trump won the GOP nomination (pause, and let that soak in), and Bernie Sanders — a socialist who got the heebie-jeebies when required to talk about international affairs — managed to keep Hillary Clinton from clinching it MUCH longer than he should have.

          This is not a year in which to even MENTION direct democracy. It’s always a bad idea, but now we have such fresh examples of WHY…

          1. bud

            Here’s something to think about. According the Nate Silver’s website Donald Trump has a 4.4% chance of winning the electoral vote but lose the popular. Hillary Clinton has a 1.6% chance of doing that (using Nate’s polls + model) It’s still long odds but if the elections tightens because of the debates or a terrorist attack it could get much likely. I wish I could visit a parallel universe in which Trump becomes POTUS but loses the popular and see the look on Brad’s face trying to explain why THAT outcome made the electoral college a good thing.

          2. bud

            This is not a year in which to even MENTION direct democracy.

            Direct democracy is when all decisions are made by a direct vote of all the people. What we have is a representative democracy. If giving the people the opportunity to decide elections directly why don’t we just get rid of voting. What’s the point? Just convene the fortune 500 CEOs and let them pick. But let’s not pretend the electoral college is anything but a clumsy, ham-handed way to approximate the popular vote. Many if not most states mandate the electors vote for the winner. All but 2 states are winner take all. People vote not states. A state after all is nothing more than a plot of land that contains people who may or may not have anything in common. I suspect there are plenty of people who are more like me who live in Harrisburg PA than in Edgefield SC. Yet I share the same plot of land with the Edgefield folks. It makes no sense to give the artificial entity of ‘state’ some empowerment that essentially stems from map makers who lived many decades ago. People move in and out of states all the time. Why should their vote change in importance because of moving. I say 1 person 1 vote for POTUS. Nothing else makes any sense.

      1. bud

        Look. We know you’re still upset that Bush won the election in 2000.

        Like I’ve pointed out elsewhere I did not vote for Al Gore in 2000. I was pretty indifferent between him and Bush. It was only in the fullness of time that Mr. 25% approval rating “earned” his worst since WW 2 reputation.

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