Bless his heart, U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC6) has the unfortunate affliction of speech. In a recent article in The State newspaper, the 73 year old, seven-term congressman claims there are “barriers” in South Carolina that prevent black candidates from winning statewide office;
One of them, he said, is the state law that requires a candidate to win 50 percent plus one of the votes cast in a primary election. Often, that requirement forces black candidates into runoff elections that are harder to win, he said.
“That 50-percent-plus-one rule was put in in order to negate or minimize opportunity for African-Americans to win the primary,” he said. “It’s a very slick way to dilute the impact of the black vote.”
Clyburn said he wants S.C. law changed so a candidate only needs to get 40 percent of the vote when there are three or more candidates in a primary to win the nomination.
I would like an elaboration on Rep. Clyburn’s claim that “That 50-percent-plus-one rule was put in in order to negate or minimize opportunity for African-Americans to win the primary.” Since it applies to every candidate, the contention seems to be another Democrat yelling “RACIST!” for his own benefit.
The whine is particularly ironic coming from Jim Clyburn whose district was specifically gerrymandered – just prior to his first congressional election – for the purpose of creating a majority black electorate.
Contrary to the Clyburn claim is the campaign of Tim Scott in 2010. Scott ran for the Republican nomination for the First Congressional seat against eight other candidates, including two from iconic South Carolina families; Thurmond and Campbell. In the primary, Scott, an African-American, picked up 31% of the votes to force a runoff against Paul Thurmond, son of Strom, who had tallied 16%. In that runoff, Scott, now a United States Senator, whomped Thurmond 68% to 32%.
Had there, indeed, been a conspiracy to withhold public office from African-Americans, this would have been it. All those white voters could have come together to vote for the white guy and “negate or minimize opportunity for African-Americans to win the primary.” But it didn’t happen. It didn’t happen because the voters, REPUBLICAN voters, chose the man over the name, the character over the color. Character over color is, apparently, a notion unfamiliar to Democrats.
Clyburn is not an altruistic champion of African-American rights. What he wants to preserve is an incumbent advantage, not a racial one.
The reason for the 50% rule is to ensure the winning candidate is the choice of the majority of voters, not 4 out of 10.