After his increasingly decisive victories in the first three primaries and caucuses—in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada—Bernie Sanders came into South Carolina having to contend with a rival once presumed to be the front-runner: Joe Biden. At dusk in Charleston on a mild Tuesday evening, before the Democratic debate at the Gaillard auditorium, horse-drawn carriages took tourists through the historic district (“100% Donkey Free,” one ad said), and, among the palmetto-tree-lined city squares, Baptist churches, and farm-to-table restaurants, a historic marquee on King Street read “TOM STEYER FOR PRESIDENT.” (Steyer is startlingly viable in South Carolina, too.) Debate-watching parties were being held here and there—I had dinner at a pub that featured a ragtag group of Elizabeth Warren and Sanders enthusiasts—but the TVs in most of the restaurants and bars I walked by were showing a basketball game. After the debate’s chaos and a pugilistic show of strength from Biden, a festive mood prevailed on the streets, among dressed-up luminaries and debate-watchers. “Hope you had a good night!” a waving Terry McAuliffe, the former governor of Virginia, called out. Before going to my hotel, I walked a couple of blocks to the Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church, beautifully serene against the night sky. In front of it, a monument was engraved with nine doves, representing the nine victims of the shooting there, in 2015. The next morning, Representative Jim Clyburn gave a moving endorsement for Biden. “I know Joe. We know Joe,” he said. “But, most importantly, Joe knows us.”
Meanwhile, the candidates continued their frenzy of campaigning. At the North Charleston convention center, a crowd of eleven hundred people showed up for a Bernie Sanders rally. A disconcerting array of motorcycle cops ran around in the parking lot, executing a training exercise. Inside, the crowd was diverse but predominantly white; polling and conventional wisdom indicated that older African-American voters would go for Biden, and many of the black attendees in the crowd were fairly young. Looking around, I saw people of Asian, South Asian, and Middle Eastern descent; headscarves, berets, blue and pink hair; Birkenstocks, Doc Martens, people in T-shirts with the Black Flag logo modified to say “Bernie Sanders,” and a guy in a hat that said “PEACEFUL.” At one point, a fashionable woman in striped pants scooted by me on a Jazzy.
Jacob McLeroy, a retired mechanical engineer with a gentle demeanor, lives an hour outside of Charleston. He wore a “Bernie” hat and told me that he hadn’t supported Sanders in 2016 but supported him now. “He is standing up against everything that has been wrong with this country for such a long time,” he said. “I mean, this doesn’t start with Donald Trump. It started decades ago. He’s really the first politician that’s been able to really boldly stand up, not mince words about it.” About what? “The movement of wealth to a very small number of people and families, corporate control of the government through political donations and hacks.” Health care, of course. “I’m disabled, and I have Medicare,” he said. “For me, it’s worked out great.” But he has relatives in Georgia who have struggled to afford coverage with Obamacare, and one even changed jobs because of it.
Tyler Brown, a twenty-one-year-old from Charleston, would be voting in a Presidential election for the first time. “Bernie is my candidate,” he said. “I wasn’t really too hip on politics, but I have a friend who works on the campaign for Bernie, and he gave me some really good insight—what Bernie’s for, what Bernie’s against—and I align with that. I didn’t go to college because I couldn’t afford it. But if he’s going to give us free or reduced college, that would be awesome.” He laughed. What would he study? “Political science is cool,” he said, as is journalism. Onstage, speakers led cheers for veterans, solidarity, eliminating student debt, and creating unions; near me, a toddler with a cochlear implant snuggled up to his mom. Kyle Bibby, a veteran and an organizer from the group Common Defense, said, “Veterans like us, we’re regular working-class people, just like most of you here today.” He cited “the audacity of ‘us’ ”: “We need a candidate with the audacity to slap the table and say, ‘I don’t care what you call radical, I don’t care what you call far-left—we need a solution to the problems that we have right now.” He slapped the lectern and the crowd went wild.
Sanders, in a sport coat but no necktie, gave the lectern some engagement, too. As he spoke, people tucked their “Bernie” signs under their arms to applaud. “America cannot continue having a President who is a racist! A sexist! A homophobe! A xenophobe!” he yelled. The crowd roared for each truism. “And those are his good qualities!” Unlike Michael Bloomberg, whose “jokes” can feel as to him as the memes employed by his Fyre Festival-connected , or Amy Klobuchar, whose jokes are real but a bit proudly deliberate, Sanders is who he is, jokewise and otherwise. On one side of me, a young woman with a “Dreamer” tattoo took a video of him as he spoke, and on my other side a regal-looking older woman with a beret, pearl earrings, good posture, and a tweed jacket listened to him, just as rapt. Sanders roared through his stump speech, riling up the crowd. (“I like unions!”; “If you buy a cah for a few hundred bucks, and it breaks down, you are not shocked, right?”) Presenting a soaring vision of a Sanders-led health-care future, he reached a crescendo. “Dental care!” he yelled, bringing the house down. “Hearing aids! Eyeglasses!” When he talked about women having the right to control their own bodies, a tiny white-haired woman in the front of the crowd nodded and clapped vigorously.
2020欧洲杯体育投注网Sanders closed on a rousing challenge to get involved. “The only way change takes place is when millions of people stand up and fight for justice!” he yelled. In South Carolina, he said, they’d need an extra push, and the people sounded ready to do it. Afterward, a woman named Terry, who’d retired from the school system in a nearby suburb, told me that even in her “more upper-middle-class” town people were having a hard time making ends meet: teachers working more than one job, people living paycheck to paycheck, a neighbor struggling with homelessness. “I remember the Great Society,” she said, looking wistful.
I drove to Sanders’s next rally, in Myrtle Beach, two hours away, speeding by groves of trees, signs for Boats N Hoagies, the Gullah Museum, the Rice Museum, a great many subdivisions with the word “plantation” in them, and little churches. In Myrtle Beach, this merged into a coastal vacationers’ vibe: Captain Crab, golf, Dixie Liquor (“KOSHER WINE2020欧洲杯体育投注网”), cheapo helicopter rides, a trampoline park. The Myrtle Beach Convention Center had an aquatic-scene mural on an outer wall, and, in the parking lot, Mercedeses and wide-bodied pickups commingled with hippie vans. Inside, a merch vender wore his biggest seller: a T-shirt picturing Sanders as Baby Yoda. Onstage, Sanders, who had somehow got there much faster than I had, was singing the praises of unions; a little kid on his dad’s shoulders pumped his fists along with the rest of the crowd. The audience looked bigger, again diverse but mostly white—long white beards, another beret or two, kids with pink and blue hair. Sanders delivered the same speech, but, in the climate-change part, citing cities that might be underwater by the end of the century, he included Myrtle Beach. He also celebrated his shrinking margin behind Biden in South Carolina. “We ain’t thirty points behind today!” he yelled, to mass jubilation.