So Bernie Sanders is running for president again, seeking the Democratic nomination in South Carolina.

Just don't count on all Democrats giving him a warm and fuzzy welcome.

The fact that Sanders, an independent democratic socialist senator from Vermont, isn't a full-blown member of the Democratic Party is irksome to some, especially those trying to make South Carolina competitive in a red state.

When talk first surfaced of Sanders' second run becoming a reality, the Rev. Joe Darby of the Charleston NAACP and the influential Morris Brown AME Church tweeted: "Sorry — i plan to vote for a Democrat."

Darby told Palmetto Politics that Sanders is using the party "as a means of convenience." 

Charleston County Democratic Party Chairman Brady Quirk-Garvan chimed in when Sanders appeared in North Charleston last month. He pointed out that Sanders didn't ask the local Democrats to promote an event that drew hundreds.

"I'm no expert in Democratic primaries, but this doesn't seem like a helpful re-boot," Quirk-Garvan said. 

Moments after Sanders made his announcement official Tuesday, state Sen. Marlon Kimpson, D-Charleston — who plans to hold several town halls with the 2020 Democratic candidates — spoke up, too, saying Sanders' credibility is at stake.

"We are a big tent party, but it’s my view at some point Bernie Sanders will have to commit to being a Democrat in order to be taken seriously by many this time around," he told his followers. "We have a great field and of declared Democrats and more on the way." 

Kimpson said he didn't plan to "freeze out" Sanders from his town halls this season (Sanders took part in 2016, too) but said he expects Sanders to be confronted with some hard questions over why he isn't more committed to the party.

Sanders, 77, knows his critics are out there. He defends his arms-length attitude by saying he aligns with the Democratic caucus and that huge sectors of the country are dissatisfied with both of the major parties, so why not reach out to independents and the disaffected, too?

That includes South Carolina, with its open primary system where anyone can take part.

Sanders does have a lot in his favor in the Palmetto State, where the latest polls put him into the top tier. In 2016, he got more young people, black voters and liberals — who hadn't had a hero since Ohio congressman Dennis Kucinich — to organize here.

Most of his 2016 South Carolina rallies dwarfed the turnout numbers of those held by Hillary Clinton.

Given his track record, he'll have staying power this time around, as well, with a spot on every debate stage practically assured, along with the overwhelming likelihood there will be enough money to stay in the race till the end.

Sign up for updates!

Get the latest political news from The Post and Courier in your inbox.


Even as Sanders is the most experienced Democrat in the 2020 presidential herd, however, his previous South Carolina showing wasn't stellar. Clinton won by a 73 percent to 26 percent margin in 2016 out of some 370,000 votes cast, taking every county.

Sanders also left the state early, essentially giving up on competing here mid-week before the vote, departing to campaign in the Midwest instead.

While he returned to the state briefly that Friday, he was absent for the balloting Saturday.

This year, some of those who supported him in the past aren't automatically with him now.

State Rep. Justin Bamberg, who famously switched his endorsement from Clinton to Sanders in 2016, said he has not committed to Sanders again and is still monitoring the field. "What is Joe Biden going to do?" he said.

He also downplayed the idea of anyone questioning Sanders' credentials, given that many of the current crop of Democrats are embracing reforms he champions, such as Medicare for all. 

With Sanders' entry, there are 10 confirmed candidates running for the Democratic nomination. Not all will make it to the First-in-the-South S.C. primary one year from now.

Expect Sanders to be there as a democratic socialist, no matter what the party pols say. 

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 843-937-5551. Follow him on Twitter at @skropf47.

Political Editor

Schuyler Kropf is The Post and Courier political editor. He has covered every major political race in South Carolina dating to 1988, including for U.S. Senate, governorship, the Statehouse and Republican and Democratic presidential primaries.

We're improving out commenting experience.

We’ve temporarily removed comments from articles while we work on a new and better commenting experience. In the meantime, subscribers are encouraged to join the conversation at our Post and Courier Subscribers group on Facebook.