Race Has Long History in SC Politics

South Carolina politics has been entangled with race

October 1, 2008, 12:05 PM

— -- Race always has had a place in South Carolina's politics. It was the first state to secede from the Union, and 140 years later effectively killed John McCain's 2000 presidential bid after rumors about him fathering a black child surfaced.

(This time around, the McCain camp made sure to dispel such rumors months ago by distributing handouts explaining how the McCains adopted their daughter, Bridget, from Bangladesh.)

South Carolina is a place where large numbers of African slaves met their new world and where the black population at times outnumbered the white population — though never in government, higher education or prosperity.

"This is where the race dialogue in America begins," said Kevin Alexander Gray, writer for The Progressive and lifelong South Carolina resident. "I always say that race in South Carolina is probably more honest than other places, that Confederate flag is probably the symbol of I think an honesty and a truth in labeling as it relates to race."

So maybe it was unsurprising that when Barack Obama overwhelmingly beat Hillary Clinton and clocked the Palmetto State during the primary season , race would be an issue.

Some argue that Bill Clinton lost huge support among black Americans when he compared the Illinois senator's win to Jesse Jackson's failed presidential candidacy.

An in an election that will gave the nation its first African-American to lead a party's presidential ticket, there are indications that race will play more of a role in who voters select -- perhaps more than anyone would like to admit.

Already some residents say the African-American community has become more active, thanks to Obama.

"I think we will see more participation by African-Americans because Obama has been able to bring about the idea that there is hope," said South Carolina resident and Democrat Lucille Whipper.

But by some estimates, Obama would need a six-point lead in the polls just to overcome perceived racial bias against him. Combine that with the fact that South Carolina hasn't even voted for a Democrat in a presidential election since Jimmy Carter's successful 1976 campaign, and it poses an even bigger obstacle for Obama if he hopes to woo this Republican stronghold state.