DeMarco: Democrats and Independents: The Time to Stop Trump is Feb. 24

The Op-Ed Page

Photo by Gage Skidmore, via Wikipedia

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

Rarely does a state have an opportunity to make history the way we do on Feb. 24 in the Republican presidential primary election.

South Carolina may be Nikki Haley’s last chance to derail Donald Trump’s path to the nomination. It will be hard for Haley to justify remaining in the race until Super Tuesday without a strong showing here.

I won’t rehearse all the reasons Trump is bad for America, just two quick points. First, Republicans could get all they say they want – conservative policies, family values, and respect for the Constitution – from Mike Pence and several other prominent Republicans. Yet they are drawn to Trump’s scorched-earth approach, despite the Sisyphean rock of baggage he bears.

Second, Trump has proven he is dangerously unpredictable. Almost no one on Jan. 5, 2021 would have predicted what happened the next day: a sitting president encouraged his VP to overturn the will of the people, exhorted the gathered crowd to march on the Capitol, and then watched passively for three hours as they ransacked it. When he finally sent out a Twitter video asking the crowd to disperse, his message to the rioters included “We love you; you’re very special.”

S.C. Democrats and Independents propelled Biden to the nomination in 2020. Our task in 2024 will be less comfortable and potentially riskier. Like me, you may prefer Biden over Haley and have deep policy disagreements with her. But this election is less about the candidates than about America herself. Both Biden and Haley will try to leave America better than they found her. Trump has no such desire.

If you are like many in this state and nation, you have had Trump’s number since he first announced for president in 2015. You recognized what a small, soulless human being he was. You understood his drive to be revered and his dearth of compassion and loyalty. Over the past eight years, you have endured his fountain of lies, from the claim that Obama was not a citizen to his claim that he won in 2020. You’ve asked yourself again and again, is this is the best the Republicans can do?

This is your moment. The turnout in South Carolina’s Democratic primary on Feb. 3 was predictably low, since Biden had only token opposition. Only about 131,000 voters participated (about 4 percent of the state’s more than 3 million registered voters). In 2020, when the outcome was not a foregone conclusion, about 540,000 voters participated in the Democratic primary. That means more than 400,000 voters who turned out in 2020 stayed home this year.

So if you’re a Democrat or Independent who voted in 2020 but didn’t vote on Feb. 3, you can make history. If we leave the election to usual Republican primary voters, the latest polls predict Trump will win by 65 percent to 35 percent. If there is healthy turnout, say 700,000 votes, then the final tally will be roughly Trump 455,000, Haley 245,000, a difference of 210,000 votes.

The 400,000 of you who voted in the 2020 Democratic primary but not in the 2024 primary can swing this election. In addition, there are hundreds of thousands of others who didn’t vote in the 2020 primaries who could vote this time around. Everyone, yes everyone, except the 131,000 who voted on Feb. 3, is eligible to vote in the Republican primary (South Carolina has an open primary system, so you can vote in one primary or the other, but not both).

There are two ways to use this power. One is cynically, by trying to elect the weakest opponent for the other side so your candidate can beat them in the general. The better way is to help elect the strongest candidate for the other side, so that America will have the best choice possible. If Haley wins and then goes on to beat Biden in the general, I will disagree with some of her policies, but the country will be in sane, stable hands.

Imagine you have an infant child or grandchildren. How will you explain your vote for Trump to them in 15 years, when they are old enough to understand politics? I suspect many South Carolinians regret their vote for Strom Thurmond as candidate for the Dixiecrat Party in 1948 (more than 70% of SC voters chose him) or for George Wallace in 1968 (over 30% of SC voters). How an evangelical Christian will explain his or her vote for Trump in 15 years to intense questioning from a skeptical teenager, I have no idea (although I would pay to watch it).

I am hoping South Carolina plays the role Iowa did in January 2008 in its first-in-the-nation Democratic presidential caucus. In a state with challenging demographics, Barack Obama won and was propelled to a general election victory over John McCain. Whether or not you agree with Obama on policy, his respect for the office was clear. He adhered to essential presidential norms and left the fundamentals of American democracy as strong as he found them. Needless to say, if someone with McCain’s integrity was the Republican front-runner in 2024, this column would never have been written.

On Feb. 24, we can make a statement similar to the one our countrymen and -women in Iowa made 16 years ago. We can signal the beginning of the end of Donald Trump’s political career by voting for Nikki Haley.

A version of this column appeared in the Feb. 14 edition of the Post and Courier-Pee Dee.

48 thoughts on “DeMarco: Democrats and Independents: The Time to Stop Trump is Feb. 24

    1. Barry

      My wife says she’s voting for Haley. She wants a Democrat to win the Presidency, but I think she does admire Haley.

      She hates Trump just like me.

        1. Barry

          I do not. It doesn’t matter in South Carolina. Throwing a pebble into Lake Murray is more impactful. We are already down at the coast. left super early this morning.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            So why do you spend so much time TALKING about it? Which has ZERO impact on outcomes. Pebbles have more.

            As a citizen, you have a pebble. You have a duty to throw it…

  1. bud

    There are two ways to use this power. One is cynically, by trying to elect the weakest opponent for the other side so your candidate can beat them in the general. The better way is to help elect the strongest candidate for the other side, so that America will have the best choice possible. If Haley wins and then goes on to beat Biden in the general, I will disagree with some of her policies, but the country will be in sane, stable hands.

    Brad gives this lecture quite often. But it’s misplaced. Elections in 2024 are about political parties, not individual candidates. Sure Trump is really awful and sure Nikki comes across as relatively normal by comparison. But if she’s going to run as a Republican she really isn’t fit to serve in the office. The GOP is just so awful I can’t risk being an enabler. I’m going to skip primary season this year because there really isn’t a rational option. Of course Trump will likely to win by 20+%. Not sure Nikki can spin even a 10 point loss as a win.

  2. Brad Warthen Post author

    I don’t have much to say about this — which is one reason why I didn’t immediately add a comment when I posted it (another being that I just have not had time at all for blogging lately). I’m not in this game. Y’all know what I did, and I was glad to do it.

    But I will venture a reaction to the lede:
    Rarely does a state have an opportunity to make history the way we do on Feb. 24 in the Republican presidential primary election.
    Doing something good with opportunities is something that the folks who vote in GOP primaries are not big on.

    Sometimes, that’s a good thing. For a couple of decades, voters in that presidential preference contest passed up opportunities to change the world, choosing the safe, establishment option over and over. I’m talking about from 1988 (my first election back in my home state) through 2008. Bush Bush, Dole, Bush, Bush, McCain.

    Then in 2012, they went off the rails to change things, but in a bad way: They elevated Newt Gingrich. Fortunately, that didn’t fly, and the nominee was the normal, real Republican Mitt Romney.

    In 2016, they went off a cliff. And they can’t wait to do it again.

    If you want to see primary voters in SC seize the opportunity to do something good, you need to look at the Democratic primary in 2020, when SC voters grabbed the rest of the nation’s Democrats by the lapels and told them what’s what, putting Joe Biden in the White House…

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      That was really a remarkable moment, the thing in 2020. National Democrats were ranting and babbling and running in a dozen directions, seemingly determined to blow THEIR chance and re-elect Trump.

      Then the sensible Democrats of South Carolina gave them a resounding SLAP, and suddenly the party was all, “Thanks. I needed that…”

      1. Doug Ross

        You over emphasize Biden’s win in 2020. Who was he running against that has a chance in SC? Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren? An old white socialist and an old white woman from Massachusetts? Sheesh.. clyburn delivered the black vote to his old buddy and that’s that. Would he have beaten Obama? Hillary? He was the old safe choice that the DNC got behind. He beat Trump simply because independents were tired of Trump. And he’ll lost to Trump because independents don’t believe he is capable of leading the country another 4 years and he’s done nothing to prove otherwise in the past six months.

  3. Doug Ross

    538 average of five polls shows Haley losing 63-33… So maybe my guess of 20 points was wrong. But maybe all those brave Democrats will rush out to save the Republican party in SC to cut it to 20. Haley wiped out Sheheen in 2014 by 15 points and now she can’t get to 35 in polling?

    When she loses, the money will dry up and she’s done. Off to a career of boards and consulting.. unless she decides to take on Lindsey.. that would be interesting.

    1. Barry

      I don’t know if she will drop out or not. But I know Haley knows the poll numbers better than any of us.

      I think there likely is people telling her to stay in as long as possible for 2 reasons

      1) Trump is an old man. Anything could happen to him health wise or accident wise that could immediately change the race- even months from now. If she’s still hanging around with delegates, she’ll be likely the one picked- or have as good a chance as anyone else.

      2) Something crazy happens in one of these legal cases.

      1. Doug Ross

        After being embarrassed in her home state, the money to continue will dry up… Remember when Elizabeth Warren finished a distant 3rd in Massachusetts in 2020? She got only 20%, finishing behind Biden and Sanders. She was done at that point (thank God – as she was one of the most annoying, wealth hating candidates who has an endless supply of braindead ideas about how to tax rich people). Nevermind being a liar who used a phony Indian background to get a job.

        The only reason Haley stays on is to increase her visibility across the country for 2028. 2028 is going to be a doozy of an election unless Biden and Trump drop out.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          “After being embarrassed in her home state, the money to continue will dry up…”

          No, I don’t think so. And note I’m responding AFTER the primary. I’m seeing a lot of justifications out there, from various points on the political spectrum, for her to stay in. In that environment, I don’t think the Koch money will dry up right away…

  4. Barry

    I’ve lost so many friends to political differences since 2016, it’s hard to count them up. I really don’t try though.

    My wife reminded me today it’s been 5 years since I talked to one of my closest friends (maybe we were really never friends though, sometimes it’s hard to know what someone else thinks about you) -a guy and his wife my wife and I use to vacation with each summer. We never really even talked politics. Never had even one cross word. But our lives are so different now. We wouldn’t be able to relate to each other. The problems I face are so different than the ones he faces.

    Sometimes you grow apart. Sometimes you realize other people can’t relate to the problems you have and it’s better to part ways. A true friend is supposed to be there for you, but if they can’t relate to your problems, it’s not really their fault.

    Nikki will get beaten badly. I’ve seen some of the worst things imaginable written about her from “Good Christian folk” on Facebook and social media over the last few weeks. In every case, the people writing it were Trump supporters. It’s as if these people really do believe Trump is Jesus Christ returned and he’s can’t make a mistake. It’s such an odd thing to see people you know make these outlandish claims against Haley that aren’t remotely true. They are just outright lies.

    I am no Haley fan. I wouldn’t vote for her. I wouldn’t vote at all. But I’m not going to make up lies about her on social media and say things that are obviously not remotely true, while defending anyone- especially someone like Donald Trump.

    if these folks have the “holy spirit” in them and guiding them as they claim, I sure don’t want it in me or guiding me.

    We’ve truly lost our way. It’s getting any worse.

    I read a story today where a 15 year old non-binary student in Oklahoma was beaten and knocked down in a bathroom at school by 3 girls, she hit her head. A staff member broke up the attack. The school never even contacted police.

    The young student died the next day. Not surprisingly, Oklahoma’s republican politicians and school officials haven’t said a word about the student’s death, not even condolences. The Sec of Education in Oklahoma has said some truly horrific things about trans and non-binary students. He clearly wants them all to kill themselves or to die horrible deaths.

    They don’t give a damn that the student died.

    That’s where we are now. The hate is overwhelming. It’s incredibly depressing. I really don’t have any hope this will change.

    Sometimes things just aren’t worth it anymore.

    1. Doug Ross

      Barry.. perhaps you should watch this interview at the hospital on police bodycam of the student in Oklahoma the day before their death before just spouting the media narrative you’ve been fed. A good rule of thumb is to wait 48-72 hours before accepting the media version of a story unless you want to be Jussie Smolletted.
      Police released bodycam footage of the Oklahoma teen’s de*th.

      A few things to note:

      1. Her mom refers to her with a different name and she/her pronouns. Either Nex wasn’t nonbinary or the school was hiding that information from her parents.

      2. Nex and her mom do not appear alarmed, distressed, or panicked. They seem calm, relaxed, and cheerful.

      3. Nex doesn’t appear to have any noticeable bruises. The media claimed her head was smashed and dragged across the floor. Nex herself described the incident as just “scraps and bruises” in her texts. Yet she says here that they beat the sh*t out her and possibly that she blacked out. Which was it?

      4. Media claims she was beat up for 2 minutes. In reality it lasted a few seconds.

      5. It appears all the girls went into the bathroom together intentionally. Nex came prepared to start a fight by filling up her bottle to throw water at them. Nex was the first one to assault the girls.

      6. It’s obvious the school dropped the ball on this by not notifying the police and the officer explains that they should have. The school needs to be held accountable.

      7. Officer Thompson is a great officer. He is calm, collected, knowledgeable on the law, caring, well-spoken, and empathetic. He deserves to be commended.

  5. Doug Ross

    I wonder how many voters know Joe Biden had two brain aneurysms 30 years ago? Would it not be prudent for a doctor knowing Joe’s medical history to administer a cognitive test at age 80 considering there is a correlation between brain aneurysm and dementia?

    If Joe was your parent, would you expect a doctor to do that?

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      “Doctor, would you administer a cognitive test to the president? Please? Because Doug really wants you to. He keeps saying it over and over…”

      1. Doug Ross

        Doctor, would you please not test the cognitive abilities of an 80+ year old man who has had aneurysms in the past and had shown obvious signs of decline in the past three years? Brad is afraid the results would cause him to lose the election. He isn’t confident Joe could draw a clock and remember three words. I know you test all your other elderly patients with this simple exam but let’s just try to get to November and then we’ll deal with the dementia later.

          1. Doug Ross

            I’m not old enough to worry about it. And, anyway, I can complete the NY TImes crossword puzzle most days of the week in a very good time. 6 min average for Monday.. Sunday usually takes about 45. How about we give Joe the Monday puzzle and he could prove his competence in 10 minutes? Should be a piece of cake, right?

            And I have a job where I have to write software code and deliver presentations myself (not off a teleprompter).

            You know, if people started claiming I was losing it mentally, I wouldn’t just say “Watch me” and then proceed to mix up names, fall UP stairs, etc. I’d take any test they put in front of me. Joe knows he’s lost it.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              If you enjoy the crossword, you should start playing their other games — Wordle, Spelling Bee, Connections (a new one) and others. Wordle is fun, but Spelling Bee is the hardest.

              As long as we’re bragging, I’ve hit Genius level three times in the past week on Spelling Bee. The key — and I find this works with Wordle as well, is not to try to do it all at once. Step away, come back in an hour or two, and things will seem much more obvious.

              I spend too much time on those now, so I’ve sort of given up on the crossword. But I do go in and do a Monday or a Tuesday now and then, to keep my hand in. The ones on the other days are too much of a time demand — because I’m not going to give up doing those other games daily…

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                Oh, and I’ve mentioned this before, but while we’re on the subject…

                The cognitive test (which I think is required on Medicare patients) is pretty basic — remember three words for a few minutes, and draw a clock face showing a certain time.

                No great challenge, but I keep wondering — what test will replace the clock one when today’s young people are Medicare age (whatever age that is when the time comes)? Many of them have likely grown up in houses without analog clocks, and may never have worn an analog watch.

                Sure, smarter people — avid readers and such — will probably have a working knowledge of how to read a clock face. But it won’t be a basic, instinctive skill that they learned as preschoolers. So basically, it will measure a different kind of brain function. For me, it’s like knowing the difference between left and right. For them, it will be like having a basic knowledge of a second language that only extends to simple phrases.

                And LOTS of them will not have been exposed to traditional clocks and never read about them or had any way of absorbing the knowledge, even through osmosis. If you keep the current test, they would immediately show up as demented.

                So what could replace it?

  6. Barry

    In fairness, I am not sure many voters know Joe Biden was a Senator. The average person on the street gets the Senate mixed up with the House all the time. They probably know he’s been in government a long time, but that might be about it.

    Fewer still know his wife and child died in a bad car accident.

    I watched Comedy Central interview some folks at a Trump rally that thought Biden had been Vice President for all his time in Washington except for when Trump was in office. One person said he was a former Governor from New York. One referenced Obama as Biden’s Vice President. It’s hard to understand people that are that confused. But they vote.

    So I don’t think the fact he had medical issues of any kind in the past matters.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      That reminds me of a story I need to tell if I ever again find time to write posts…

      It was about the time I sent a reporter out to question people on the street to see if they knew who represented them in the Legislature.

      Not one knew…

      Which was not a disappointment to me. I was trying to prove a point. I didn’t realize he would be able to confirm it to this extent…

  7. Barry

    Tax evasion by millionaires and billionaires tops $150 billion a year, says IRS chief

    “When I look at what we call our tax gap, which is the amount of money owed versus what is paid for, millionaires and billionaires that either don’t file or [are] underreporting their income, that’s $150 billion of our tax gap,” Werfel said. “There is plenty of work to be done.”

    Werfel said that a lack of funding at the IRS for years starved the agency of staff, technology and resources needed to fund audits — especially of the most complicated and sophisticated returns, which require more resources. Audits of taxpayers making more than $1 million a year fell by more than 80% over the last decade, while the number of taxpayers with income of $1 million jumped 50%, according to IRS statistics.

    The IRS, with billions of dollars in new funding from Congress, has launched a sweeping crackdown on wealthy individuals, partnerships and large companies, Commissioner Danny Werfel told CNBC.

    “We have to make investments to make sure that whether you’re a complicated filer who can afford to hire an army of lawyers and accountants, or a more simple filer who has one income and takes the standard deduction, the IRS is equally able to determine what’s owed,” he said.

    1. Doug Ross

      They do it because the tax code is ridiculously complex and has so many loopholes. There is a zero percent chance that these “millionaires” are doing their own taxes.. they are being handled by CPAs and accounting firms. Do you think every millionaire is sitting there on April 15th coming up with a way to hide income?

      The solution isn’t more IRS agents. The solution is to abolish the income tax code completely and replace it with a flat tax and a national sales tax. And make EVERYONE pay income tax on every dollar. 40% of U.S. households paid ZERO income tax. That is insane. It’s not an income tax, it’s a wealth distribution tax.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          I mean seriously…

          Bud doesn’t like millionaires, and Doug doesn’t like taxes. We’ve got it.

          Although I’ll never really understand why y’all get worked up over such things…

          1. Doug Ross

            I think we should go back to the income tax as it was implemented in 1913: 1% on income above $3000 and 6% over 500,000. In today’s dollars that would be above 31,000 and 1.5 million.

            That should be plenty for the government to waste.

          2. bud

            Hmm. Not sure why my name was invoked. But I will quickly respond to this inaccurate, ad hominem comment. What I find highly problematic is not millionaires per-se but rather extreme income inequality that does not reflect the relative contributions people make to the nation’s welfare. Anyone who has followed Trump’s business activities knows fully well that his lavish lifestyle does not accurately reflect what he’s done for the advancement of our society. Conversely, a really dedicated teacher or nurse has contributed far more than their net worth would indicate.

      1. Barry

        Under our system, more IRS agents and more audits is a solution.

        There is no pathway to a national sales tax or flat tax. It’s not going to happen.

    2. Doug Ross

      A national sales tax would force those who avoid taxes by dealing only in cash transactions to pay taxes. They are just as guilty as those pesky millionaires.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        I’m not sure about that. If they’re dealing with people who actually ask for cash now, they’re dealing with people who won’t turn and pay the sales tax to the government. So you’ll have plenty of transactions in which payer and payee are tax-dodgers…

        1. Doug Ross

          They have to buy stuff, right? Can’t avoid a sales tax unless you never buy anything from an actual business. Everyone pays.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Yeah, the customers. But the vendor only adds the tax to the price if he is going to turn and pay it to the government.

            I’m talking about the vendors who don’t do that. I’m talking about people like the guy who offers to work on your house, but only if you pay him in cash, so he can avoid paying taxes.

            I have no particular beef with a sales tax, beyond the obvious — which is that if the entire tax burden of a state or nation is placed on that, then the poor pay a disproportionate amount of their income.

            Every tax method has its drawbacks. The way to counter that is to have a mix of tax approaches. Balances things out more…

        1. Doug Ross

          Like it does with the state sales tax?

          I’d love to see the black market that replaces WalMart, Amazon, Target, Home Depot, etc.

          I’ll take the bait.. explain how this black market would exist at a size large enough to avoid detection and offer all the goods and services currently taxed at the state and local level. Would you participate in it?

          Sometimes I just have to shake my head that there are people out there who think like this and manage to get through life. The lack of logic is astounding.

          Here’s what my tax plan would be: 10% tax on all income starting above 30K for an individual, 60k for a couple. No deductions, no dependents, no writeoffs, no loopholes. None. Index the min salary to inflation. For capital gains income, 10% for long term (more than a year), 20% for short term. No inheritance tax. The number of people who would have to file taxes would be reduced to a fraction of what we have now. Eliminate 95% of the IRS employees.

          National sales tax would be based on an estimated BALANCED BUDGET. No more spending deficit dollars to buy votes. Everyone pays as all good citizens should. If it is fine for a state sales tax, it’s fine for a national sales tax.

  8. bud

    Sometimes I just have to shake my head that there are people out there who think like this and manage to get through life. The lack of logic is astounding.

    So much for civility standards. I’ll say no more since arguing with a Trump University graduate is an exercise in futility.

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