A handful of Republican apparatchiks from the Upstate had a great idea this week about South Carolina’s Feb. 29 Democratic presidential primary.
No, not urging Trump supporters to sabotage the primary by voting for the candidate they consider the most beatable; even the party has distanced itself from that idea, which is a despicable attempt by people with no integrity to sucker other people into relinquishing their own integrity.
The Republican plan to meddle in the Democratic race, emerging just weeks before the "First in the South" primary, has two goals: Boost the candidate who Republicans believe presents the weakest threat to President Donald Trump and pressure Democrats to support closing the primaries in the future.
The great idea was that, since the state Republican Party canceled its own primary, Trump supporters should vote in the Democratic primary.
They absolutely should. Every one of them.
Along with all those Republicans who wish we had a different Republican president.
And all those people who vote Republican in November but never vote in any primary.
And all those people who vote Democratic in November but never vote in any primary.
Every one of you ought to join me as I participate in my first-ever Democratic presidential primary on Feb. 29.
But not to vote for the Democrat we think President Trump will have the easiest time defeating. Regardless of how we feel about the president, we should vote for the Democrat we’d be most comfortable — or least uncomfortable — having as president. (Or, if you’re sure you want to replace Mr. Trump, the one you think is most likely to defeat him.)
I’m not appealing to your decency — although the only way we can walk out of the voting booth as decent human beings is to show a little integrity while we’re in it.
I’m appealing to your self-interest.
If you vote for the Democrat you find most appalling, that person might very well end up in the Oval Office — and you’ll be partially responsible.
That’s why it’s not only dishonest but foot-shooting stupid to vote for the worst candidate. Ever.
So if not sabotage, why vote in the Democratic primary at all if you’re not a Democrat?
A national election-reform group released results of a new poll this month that showed Joe Biden leading the S.C. presidential primary.
For the same reason you ought to vote in a presidential primary, and a state primary, every chance you get: That’s the only chance South Carolinians get to help decide who’s elected president, and it’s often our only chance to have a say in state and local races.
Yes, we have the general election, but let’s think that through: South Carolina is so Republican that the Republican is always going to win the presidential race. (If I’m wrong, if a Democrat wins South Carolina in November, we still won’t make a difference because Mr. Trump will have lost every state in the nation.) And making it a close race makes no difference, because even a candidate who wins by a single vote still gets all of our Electoral College votes.)
We’ll talk more about why it’s important to vote in state and local primaries as we get closer to June 9, but for now, suffice it to say that nearly all of our county, legislative and statewide races are decided in either the Republican or Democratic primary.
And when people who don’t consider themselves partisans stay home on primary day, those primaries are usually won by the most extreme candidates. As we saw in 2016, when the overwhelming majority of people who regularly vote Republican in November sat out the presidential primary. If they had showed up, we’d almost certainly have a different Republican president today.
Which brings us back to the Upstate disrupters and their sleazy little plan to sabotage the Democratic primary. They say giving Mr. Trump an easier general election is just gravy: Their primary goal is to enlist Democratic support for their plan to require South Carolinians to register by party and allow only registered partisans to vote in the primaries.
Contrary to the impression you've gotten if your life revolves around social media and cable "news," the world did not come to an end because the results from the Iowa Democratic caucuses were delayed several hours.
Even though those primaries are our only opportunity to have a say in most elections.
And are run by the state.
And paid for by the state.
And operate under rules written into state law.
They want to steal our primaries because they say our open primaries invite … wait for it … sabotage. Some of them might actually believe that, because we tend to project our own worst impulses onto everyone else.
In fact, though, we’ve had open primaries in South Carolina for decades, with no such shenanigans. I’m sure some particularly despicable partisans do attempt to sabotage the other party, but it’s never enough to change the outcome. Because most people are honest, and they consider their vote sacred.
The real concern of the Upstate saboteurs is that when independents participate in primaries, mainstream Republicans win the nomination. Which they consider an abomination.
Upstate Republicans want to play a dirty trick on South Carolina Democrats during their presidential primary. And that's a bad idea.
If you’re not an extremist, consider it your civic duty to vote in primaries. That’s the only way the sensible center will ever take back our government.
It’s especially important this month. If the saboteurs cause enough disruption to get South Carolina’s primaries closed, everybody who isn’t a blood-oath partisan might as well just tear up our voting cards, because our votes won’t matter any longer.