On Saturday, February 29, voters across the state of South Carolina went to the polls to cast their ballots in the primary election, marking the “first in the South” contest in the Democratic Party’s nomination process. Although the Democratic Party establishment propelled Joe Biden to first place in the state, the Bernie Sanders campaign generated major support, especially among youth.
Members of the Party for Socialism and Liberation in Columbia, S.C. had conversations with many Sanders supporters at his rally a day before the election and found enthusiastic support for socialism from a diverse group of South Carolina residents. A volunteer event staffer left their post to speak with us, stating that they were “excited to see a socialist party” in South Carolina and wanted to get involved.
When asked about the mass movement generated by Sanders’ campaign, Maddox McKibben-Greene, a senior journalism and global studies major at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, stated that it is a movement that is drawing support from “people who have not had politics work for them, ever. Especially not in this country where a few people own a majority of the wealth.”
On Sander’s insurgent campaign against the Democratic and Republican ruling-class establishment and his call for a political revolution, McKibben-Greene commented, “we’re actually way overdue for a political overturning and a political revolution in my opinion. Revolution is about trying to help people who are the most vulnerable in our society – people who need healthcare and homes, people who need a government that works for them.”
When asked about the massive level of inequality and the growing class divide that the movement is drawing attention to, she replied that “I don’t think that there should be people hoarding unimaginable amounts of wealth – more than you could spend in fifty lifetimes.” McKibben-Greene believes that more youth are growing up with a “concrete understanding of injustice and a stronger call to fight it. I think young people are just more revolution-minded. We want things to change and we want them to change now.”
When asked about the so-called “moderate” or “centrist” candidates, she had this to say — “Steyer poured millions into South Carolina, then he dropped out. Pete Buttigieg dropped out. It shows that money can’t buy real grass-roots support.”
Many people are also concerned about the assaults on immigrants that have taken place under the Trump administration and want to fight back. This is the case for sophomore social work major Carolina Escobedo-Ramirez, who said that “restoring DACA and including a path to citizenship with comprehensive immigration reform” is a pressing and important issue. To do this, she believes that the movement must wage a “political revolution, which means taking back government and policy to benefit the people versus having greedy corporations and millionaires and billionaires making all the decisions.”
For sophomore chemistry major and campus political activist Jake Sawyer, an important issue is the “building of working class power and unions.” He also said that he supports a “de-commodification of necessities like housing and healthcare,” something that the Sanders movement is speaking to more than any other campaign. “Since we can provide those things we should… we first have to start meeting people’s basic needs.” This, he believes, will allow working class people to have more “time and energy to get into the political process.” When workers have their basic needs met, they can focus on organizing and mobilizing against the capitalist class that oppresses them.
Members of the Party for Socialism and Liberation in Columbia have seen the groundswell of enthusiastic support for fundamental change in the economic and political system of this country. Even in a state with a reputation for being conservative, the youth are leading the way in organizing themselves and getting involved in a movement that, through experience, is providing a new generation with a profound sense of class consciousness.