News / USA

Tradition Meets Modern-Day Politics in South Carolina

South Carolina is steeped in traditions that have an impact on present day politics.

In Columbia, South Carolina, stately homes from the 1800s show people's love for preservation and the church steeples stretch toward the sky show the focus on religion.

These sights are as southern as the pitcher of sweetened iced tea and and plates of fried chicken found at The Palmetto Pig barbecue joint. 

Juan Torres, who works in the hospitality, hotel and tourism, industry, says people are drawn to South Carolina because of its sense of tradition. 

"We tend to not want to change," Torres explained. "We like to be old fashioned.  We like things as they are, and I think that's part of, not just myself, but what a lot of people look for. They want it to be straightforward and they want it to be consistent."

He might as well be speaking about what South Carolinians are known to prefer in politics: tradition.

Republican candidates are campaigning heavily in the state. South Carolina has a history of voting Republican, and Republican voters tend to have religious and conservative viewpoints.

“I am a conservative person in every way in my life.  I conservatively had only six children, and they are all Republicans also. So it's kind of in the blood," noted Susanne Hirsch, who attended a Republican rally in Aiken to hear her preferred candidate for president, Newt Gingrich.  

The winner of the state's Republican primary has always gone on to be the party's nominee.  

The past is ever present in South Carolina. A Confederate flag still flies in front of the State House in the capital.  The first shots of the American Civil War rang out in South Carolina in 1861.

"Certainly politics is very important in South Carolina history.  I mean, we're on the sesquicentennial [150th anniversary] of the American Civil War,"explained Fielding Freed, who works to preserve southern history. "And we were the first state to secede.  So states' rights continue to be very important to South Carolina and their political leaders."

Fielding is waiting to be wowed by a candidate.

"I kind of got turned off by the debates.  [There was] a lot of acrimony, a lot of negative conversation and a lot of just sheer boring repetition," he said.

There is a tension between two issues most important to Freed.  

"Of course, the national debt.  But as somebody who was laid off for a year - I was one of five people laid off from a company - I know the hardship that causes, the anxiety," he said.  "I was very thankful that there was a safety net there [unemployment benefits].  It was the first time since I was 16 years old that I didn't work for a year."

Republicans favor less government spending, but that also means reducing social services such as unemployment benefits and grocery subsidies.  

In South Carolina, about one in 10 people are unemployed.  It's a hard fact in this state, which has its own way of incorporating its sense of the past into the present day.  A look at a historic home museum gift shop, where a children's book of civil war uniforms shares a shelf with paper dolls of the first black U.S. president reiterates that fact. 

The past mingling with the present...in the state that could determine the future Republican nominee.

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