If you live 100 years, you may never again have a chance like this to influence the course of the nation


The last few days, I’ve been increasingly conscious of just how momentous this primary is today. I’ve felt the weight of it more and more.

I can’t think of a time when South Carolina played such a dramatic role in the selection of a president. Which is a big deal in and of itself. But the possible effects go far, far beyond that, sending ripples through our national politics that could be felt for a generation and more.

In the short term, one of two things will happen, depending completely on what my fellow South Carolinians do:

  1. Joe Biden will emerge as THE moderate that mainstream Democrats can get behind and stop Bernie Sanders from capturing the nomination. He’d still have a long road to travel to get there, even if his momentum from South Carolina leads to significant rewards nationally on Tuesday. But at least someone — and you know I believe he’s the best someone for this purpose — will be a position to deny the nomination to Sanders.
  2. Sanders will cement his standing as the front-runner, the majority of the Democratic electorate will remain fatally divided still among too many candidates, and Sanders will cruise to nomination on the strength of his passionate support among a minority of the party.

The second option, of course, will almost certainly lead to the re-election of Donald Trump, possibly with the kind of historic win that he lied about having in 2016.

Oh, it would be possible that enough Americans could die of coronavirus, and enough fortunes be wiped out on Wall Street as a result, for anybody, even Bernie, to beat Trump. But I certainly don’t want to see such a disaster. I don’t know about you.

And if something along those lines did happen, it’s extremely unlikely that Bernie will have a Democratic majority in either the House or the Senate. While voters might reject Trump personally over a pandemic, those moderate-to-conservative voters who elected moderate Democrats in 2018, giving that party its majority, will be sufficiently horrified at the prospect of President Sanders that they’ll vote to switch those districts back into the red.

Even if — and this is impossible — Democrats could keep the House while electing Bernie, and miraculously win the Senate, Bernie won’t be able to get his agenda through Congress. With both chambers being Republican, and the Republican base up in arms (in some cases possibly even literally) because of the defeat of Trump, he’ll get nothing but the back of the legislative branch’s hand. He’ll sit there in the Oval Office with his face getting redder and his arms flailing about, fulminating at how the system is rigged against him.

And he will keep his base as stirred up and angry as Trump keeps his. Because he promised them things, and they actually believed he could deliver. Nothing left to do but hate the billionayuhs even more, because obviously, obviously it will be their fault — in the Bernieverse.

But that wouldn’t be the worst news for the Democratic Party. The worst news is that it would be as dead as the GOP, and from basically the same kind of cause — its capture by someone who is not actually a Democrat, and who has crushed real Democrats on his way to nomination.

And in a way, the situation would be more overt than outsider Trump’s capture of the other party. Trump had always been kind of all over the place about his affiliation until just before the 2016 campaign. Bernie Sanders has made no bones about the fact that he is not a Democrat, and has refused to called one. And since calling himself a Social Democrat would be too tame, too mainstream, he has gone with the label “Democratic Socialist.” More in-your-face. More I-dare-you-to-vote-for-me. That’s Bernie.

You might think that after making such a strong run at the nomination in 2016, and obviously intending to try again, he might have softened a bit on his insistence that he was not a Democrat. But he didn’t; quite the contrary. It’s either Bernie’s way or the highway; he doesn’t bend even to appear to be a team player.

After Trump’s election, decent people who care about the country could at least place some hope in the Democratic Party, which had not yet gone off the rails. Surely the Democrats could find a way to beat this guy, and return our nation to the standards of decency and sanity that we were able to expect with our first 44 presidents.

Knowing the stakes, Joe Biden — a guy who had done his duty for his country for longer, and gone higher in public service, than any other member of the party — stepped forward to offer himself as the vehicle for that national return to sanity. He did so when almost anyone else would have sat back and enjoyed his grandchildren full time.

And if South Carolina comes through for him today, he’ll have a shot at accomplishing the mission. Just a shot, mind you. Nothing is guaranteed, but the alternative is to be resisted with all our might.

The stakes just couldn’t be higher. And it’s all in our hands. We will decide the course of the nation.

38 thoughts on “If you live 100 years, you may never again have a chance like this to influence the course of the nation

    1. Mark Stewart

      Trump’s willingness to monkey with the SC primary should leave no one with any doubts; if Trump is urging his base to vote for Bernie, then it’s obvious who Trump views as the weakest possible candidate to face.

      Evey voter should take note – and vote for anyone but Bernie today. And then anyone but Trump in November.

      1. Phillip

        4 years ago, most (at this point in the process) thought the GOP’s surest path to losing to Hillary would be to nominate Trump. I recall that more than a few Democrats flirted with the idea of voting in the GOP primary for Trump for that very reason. As we now know, for anybody who actually did that, it backfired big time. I don’t put much stock in anything Trump says or believes, so I’m not going to play Trump’s game by NOT voting for Bernie just because Trump thinks he might be a weaker opponent in the fall.

        In the end, all the calculating, all the guessing about electability…we’re lucky to have the right to cast a vote in a presidential election, so I think one should vote for the candidate who most closely reflects what you believe, if you think they could do the job. You have to be able to look yourself in the mirror the next day and be proud of your vote. If one (like Brad) truly believes Biden is the best person for the job, by all means vote for him. But I think we’re devaluing the sacred right to vote and putting too much power in the hands of the pundits and soothsayers by voting according to who they think would be more likely to win, if that person is NOT the candidate who reflects our beliefs most closely.

        If there was ever a time to NOT accept conventional and received political wisdom, you would think it would be the election following the one in which almost every pundit and poll was proven wrong.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Honestly, Phillip, if I had to chose between “electability” and the candidate I like best, I don’t know what I’d do. Being me, I’d probably go with the candidate I liked — the way I did in 2004 with Joe Lieberman, knowing he was going to get creamed.

          Fortunately for me, the person I like and the one I think is most electable are the same person…

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            I remember a boss of mine at the newspaper once challenged me by asking “Would you rather be right, or be effective?”

            That was a tough one for me. Of course, I’d rather be both. I mean, it’s not fun being right but failing. And what on Earth is good about being effective at doing the wrong thing?

            But if you look at me and my track record, if absolutely forced to choose, I suppose I tend toward putting my effort into being right — to do all I can to make sure I’m choosing the right answer, and then just try as hard as I can to be effective as well…

  1. bud

    Brad of course is full of bologna. Here’s a poll out of Texas that shows Bernie even with Trump while Biden loses by 3. Talk is cheap. No evidence to support Brad’s contention.

    FEB 21-26, 2020
    Univision/University of Houston/Latino Decisions
    1,004 RV
    Sanders 45%
    Trump 45%

    Biden 43%
    Trump 46%
    Trump +3

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Bud, bud, bud — it’s impossible for there to be “evidence” proving someone can’t win, or can win. All you can do is look at the situation and apply everything you’ve learned in your life, and make an educated guess.

          Anyway, I didn’t say he can’t win. I sketched out a scenario in which he wins. Of course, it’s a bad scenario, just bad in a different way from another four years of Trump.

          By the way, there’s a third possibility , which I’m going to sketch out in a separate comment, below…

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I like my bologna fried — with black-eyed peas and rice.

      I haven’t had that in decades. And at this point, I think I’d have trouble convincing my wife we should have that for dinner one night.

      Also, it’s not paleo, and I’m trying to do paleo.

      The bologna itself is almost paleo, although it’s too processed to really be OK. But the rice and peas are completely against the rules…

  2. Larry Slaughter

    I’ll probably vote in an hour or less and I’m still undecided. Yes, we will influence the nation by what we do today. But let me look at it from the bottom up. Poor showings will, and should, damage the viability of the candidacy of:


    Klobuchar is my favorite candidate, but I don’t see any reasonable way that SC will boost her candidacy. Or how my vote would help that.

    No matter what SC does today, these candidates will move on to votes in states more qualified to choose the Democratic candidate than SC:

    I wouldn’t vote for either.


    So, I’ll vote for one the the Bs.

    1. Mark Stewart

      Agree with your analysis but don’t think Warren and Sanders are the same. At least as to character and purpose.

  3. Barry

    Biden will likely win today. I’m leaning Sanders right now To join one of my children. But I haven’t driven to the polling place yet.

    1. Larry Slaughter

      Interesting. One of my sons total lack of enthusiasm and interest for Biden had weighed heavily on my decision making.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          I’m hoping for low turnout at mine. My precinct is so Republican that high turnout would be evidence of Operation Chaos in action.

          I haven’t written about that profoundly evil plot here because it makes me too angry, and I’ve been trying to avoid writing negative stuff this week, sticking to positive stuff about Joe.

          And it would be impossible to influence those people anyway. They’re too far gone — deplorable squared.

          As hard as it is for me to imagine voting for Donald Trump, it’s a least twice as hard imagining people who would deliberately try to create a situation in which the country has NO decent choice whatsoever.

          You have to really hate America to do something like that. Or, you know, have a serious cognitive problem…

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      Barry and Larry: You’re grownups. Do the grownup thing, and make up your mind based on your life experience and understanding. However you vote, use your own best judgment as to what’s best for the country.

      Love your kids and God bless them, but go your own way.

      I’ve got kids who like Bernie, too. They have to make their own decisions. And we have to make ours…

  4. Judy Cooper

    I’m keeping my fingers crossed you all vote and vote for the right person. It may be the most important vote of your life. That sounds like I’m being dramatic but so much depends on this election! The sun is shining and it’s a beautiful day here. Hope it is there.

  5. bud

    Just got through voting for Mayor Pete Boot Edge Edge! Went to his rally last night as undecided. When asked what his pet peeve is he said it was people who (mis)use religion to justify immoral choices. Right on Pete!

    I really like the new voting machines that create a paper trail. This was a long time coming.

    One final note. I find it a bit ironic that pacifist bud voted for the war veteran while war monger Brad will vote for the draft dodger. Only in America.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Good for you, Bud! I’m very happy that you didn’t vote for Bernie or Steyer, the spoiler.

      And I like Pete, too. He seems to be a good guy.

      He’s my third choice in this field. Right behind Amy Klobuchar. Of course, Amy and he are DISTANT second and third — really, emergency backups if all else fails — but I like them.

      In fact, I’d put Pete ahead of Amy if he had about 20 more years of relevant experiences under his belt…

  6. Brad Warthen Post author

    Oh, by the way, we have more than two likely courses forward. I was just sticking to courses likely to arise directly out of what happens today.

    The two options I offered were 1) Joe Biden rescuing his party, and more importantly the country, by winning big today, then doing well on Super Tuesday, and winning the nomination, and 2) Bernie Sanders capturing the party and going on to lose ignominiously or win an empty victory due to some national disaster.

    But there’s a third course. It would take some time to develop after today. We’d initially have confusion, but Mike Bloomberg could eventually emerge to play the Biden role as the moderate champion.

    That would not please me much, and I think he has enough negatives with the base — especially the Bernie end of the spectrum — that his chances against Trump would be poor.

    But that could happen, and if it did, I’d vote for him…

  7. Bob Amundson

    Wife and I both voted for one of the “Bees” but different “Bees.” Number 111 in the Rosewood area of Columbia.

    1. Mark Stewart

      71 in my precinct at 3:30. Not sure if that’s a good sign (heavily Republican) or not (heavily Republican again) …

  8. Bill

    As requested,I did a write-in vote for,Pyotr Pavlensky.
    Brad’s self-righteous Biden BS had the opposite effect on me…

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Well, I don’t know why you say “hater,” but that’s a great choice of a music video!

          I was just listening to that song in my truck today, a version from his Live 1966 album, which I have on CD. I like this version better…

        1. Bob Amundson

          Heck no; she’d be quite upset with me for sharing her voting choice publicly. Much like she was angry with me when you, and THE STATE, published a Letter to the Editor I wrote in June 2009. In May I ran into Governor Mark Sanford at the Great Clips on Rosewood Drive, and him being there reminded me of the $400 haircuts presidential candidate John Edwards had during his 2008 campaign. So I when I spoke to the Governor, I told him I may not agree with all of his policies, but at least he wasn’t like John Edwards. When the “Appalachian Trail” story broke, I thought it was ironic that he was more like John Edwards (both cheating on their wives) than I initially thought, so I shared the story to our friends and your staff. Wife Joan was working at the Budget and Control Board at the time, and she thought, as did some of her co-workers, that since our last name is so unusual, the letter would be noticed and there would be retaliation. There wasn’t, but my girl was not happy that you, or your staff, published my story, which is still on of my favorites.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Shoulder the blame for that one yourself! I was not your partner in crime.

            I was laid off three months before that letter. (Yes, it was that long ago.)

            I “covered” Sanford’s Argentina confessional press conference for the New York Post. I put “covered” in quotes because all I did was show up for the event; someone in the Post newsroom wrote the story from watching it on TV. I was basically there to give them an excuse to use the Columbia dateline.

            Yet I had the lede story byline in the Post. Which was faintly embarrassing, especially under that Post-style headline, “LUST E-MAILS OF BUENOS AIRHEAD.”

            Friends in New York reached out to “congratulate” me. Not my proudest moment…

            1. Bob Amundson

              Dang, that is hard to believe it’s been so long. I’m sure you were involved in the decision to publish an op-ed I wrote about the City of Columbia Restructuring Government Commission, of which I was a member (appointed by Mayor Coble). I had such high hopes for the City back then; now I realize how getting anything positive done in Columbia (including the final report, which I co-authored with Bill Boyd) is VERY difficult.

  9. Scout

    I voted for Biden, #88 at about 10:00 am at my very red precinct. I was undecided up until just about the last minute. I like Amy and Pete too, and I don’t completely hate Warren, but I think she is too polarizing. But honestly I would have been OK with any of them except Sanders. But I really do think Biden can pull the most people from the most different groups together. That’s why I picked him.

    So if the turnout is up a bit even in very red precincts, could it not be that some of those republicans are disgruntled with Trump but OK with Biden. (rather than being disrupters). I can hope.

    We went to breakfast right afterward and I played a game trying to guess if the people I saw wearing a sticker were either democrats, disgruntled republicans, or disrupters. There weren’t very many with stickers though.


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