IF YOU DON’T like the fact that Donald Trump is the Republican presidential nominee, and if you were one of the 300,000 or so Republican voters who didn’t bother to get out of bed and go to the polls on Feb. 20, consider yourself blamed.
Mr. Trump won South Carolina’s presidential primary with just 240,882 votes. That was 8 percent of South Carolina’s registered voters. It was considerably less than a quarter of the people in our state who regularly vote Republican in November.
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South Carolina voters, of course, are not single-handedly responsible for Mr. Trump’s cruise to the nomination; voters in other states contributed before and after us. But South Carolina voters are entirely responsible for what happens in South Carolina. And we risk a similar sort of horror if we continue to boycott our state’s June primaries — as nearly half of our regular voters and two-thirds of our registered voters do.
I was talking recently with Republican Sen. Ray Cleary when he recalled a speech he gave to a largely Democratic group. The audience members were receptive to his message, which was a little frustrating because, as he told them, “I know you don’t vote for me.” Of course we do, they responded. “No you don’t,” he continued: “You vote in November. I get elected in June.”
Mr. Trump is so appalling that there is some outside chance that South Carolina will have an actual contest for president in November.
The same is not true for the overwhelming majority of state and local contests. Those races will be decided on June 14.
How the sensible center can save itself
That’s not simply because the state is so Republican that a Democrat doesn’t stand a chance, or the county is so Democratic that a Republican doesn’t stand a chance, or the district has been drawn so carefully to favor one party that the other doesn’t stand a chance. It’s because the only name on the November ballot will be of the candidate who wins the June primary.
Of course, it is true that in many cases the November results are determined even before the filing period opens, so even when there are two names on the November ballot, the real contest, the one that makes or breaks the candidates, is almost always in June.
If we want to be able to elect good people in November, we have to nominate good people in June.
I write this every election year, as primary day approaches. I’m writing it earlier this year because clearly this is an idea that makes a lot of people uncomfortable. You need to get comfortable with the idea, and the time to start is right now.
Compare your discomfort at the thought of voting in a primary to your discomfort at the thought of a Donald Trump presidency or even, if you normally vote Republican, a Hillary Clinton presidency.
Consider why in the world you would refuse to take your one opportunity to have some say in who will represent you in the Legislature, on your county council, who will be your sheriff or your solicitor or occupy one of those county offices that we shouldn’t be electing but that we have to elect anyway.
Unless you are so partisan that you can’t bring yourself to vote in a primary for the best or at least the least bad candidate in the other party, you should go where the elections are being decided. I always vote in the Republican primary when we have statewide contests, because those races are decided in the primary. This year I’m voting in the Democratic primary, because there are no statewide races and I live in Richland County, where all but one of the legislative and local contests are among Democrats. If I lived in Lexington County, I would vote in the Republican primary, for similar reasons.
Take the primaries back from partisans
The June primary voters will select the (Democratic) Richland County sheriff and the (Republican) solicitor from Lexington County; the winners of those primaries will be unchallenged on the November ballot.
The June primary voters will select two (Democratic) state senators from Richland County and one (Republican) from Lexington County.
The June primary voters will select five House members from Richland and Lexington counties. In three more races, it’s inconceivable, given how one-sided the districts are, that the primary winner won’t win in November.
The June primary voters will fill all five of the (Republican) Lexington County Council seats on the ballot this year.
The June primary voters will fill three of the six (Democratic) Richland County Council seats on the ballot this year; one seat is uncontested in both June and November, and given how the districts are drawn, it’s inconceivable that the June primary winners for the other two seats will not win in November.
In November, in all of Richland and Lexington counties, we will have those two not-really competitive County Council races, three House races and three Senate races — not all of which will be even remotely competitive — and token opposition for our congressional offices. And that’s it. Well, except for that presidential contest we’re all so looking forward to.
Ms. Scoppe writes editorials and columns for The State. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or (803) 771-8571 or follow her on Twitter @CindiScoppe.