In November 2014, when I visited South Carolina for the second time, I understood even more intensely why so many love the state. It’s not just the graceful antebellum homes of Charleston, but the sheer natural beauty you find on Hilton Head’s Sea Pines Forest Preserve, where I took this photo.
All of that, though, fills me with even more dismay about what’s going on in the state this week. As I write this, Donald Trump is still enjoying a sizable lead in the Republican primary this Saturday. The success of this profane, secular, Vietnam-avoiding New Yorker, in an area that famously values manners and the military, is nothing short of astonishing.
The Republican establishment and the media have commented often on the potential long-term damage that the Trump candidacy may inflict on the party. Less noted and more saddening, I think, is the baleful impact that Trumpeters may have on the Palmetto State.
Consider, for instance, these statistics from the firm Public Policy Polling on the beliefs of Trump supporters:
*70% think the Confederate flag should still be flying over the State Capital;
*38% of Trump voters say they wish the South had won the Civil War vs. 24% who are glad the North won and 38% who aren't sure;
* 80% of Trump voters in South Carolina support his proposed ban on Muslims entering the United States;
* 31% of his supporters would also ban homosexuals from entering the United States;
* 32% of Trump voters in the state still like the policy of Japanese internment during World War II, just slightly below the 33% who oppose it and 35% who have no opinion one way or another.
If Trump wins a resounding victory in South Carolina, he may build up unstoppable momentum toward the GOP nomination for President. His shock troops, as reflected in the above statistics, seem hell-bent on making the state a byword for bigotry and retrograde racism. I’m not sure that that is a reputation I’d want for a state that loves tourists like myself.
We visitors have to decide if South Carolina’s natural beauty is sufficient compensation for its attitudinal ugliness. Don’t count on it.