Election 2020

Buttigieg’s plan for addressing racial equality draws mixed reactions

By Areeba Shah
Medill Reports

ORANGEBURG, S.C. — Before Antoine Brown performed at his first political event — a black art and culture celebration for the presidential campaign of Pete Buttigieg — he had only performed at local coffee shops and hookah lounges.

But now, he stood before a crowd of about 20 Buttigieg supporters at a black-owned business, surrounded by “African Americans for Pete” signs, after the group had just finished watching a video of the former South Bend mayor’s pitch to black voters, the Douglass Plan.

“We’re in a time right now that’s about making our dreams come true,” Brown said. “Y’all ready to get excited? So when I say I got dreams, I want y’all to say ‘Aye!’” The crowd joined in enthusiastically.

Antoine Brown laughs with the crowd right before his performance. (Areeba Shah/MEDILL)

The Douglass Plan, named for abolitionist former slave Frederick Douglass, is designed to “dismantle racist structures and systems” that have kept African Americans from succeeding in this country by investing in what the plan calls “black America.”

The question for the small gathering at Thee Matriarch Bed & Breakfast remained whether Buttigieg, a 38-year-old politician who has never won state or national office, can win the votes he needs in the black community to make him a viable candidate for the Democratic nomination.

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Climate change has hit Beaufort, South Carolina, but only some vote on the issue

By Anne Snabes and Maura Turcotte
Medill Reports

BEAUFORT, S.C. — The sea along South Carolina’s coast line is growing ravenous.

In this sleepy coastal town at the bottom of the state, Tropical Storm Irma sent waves over the sea wall into a downtown park in 2017. Downtown businesses flooded with waist-high water. Nearly a year after the storm, the federal government reported spending nearly $64 million on South Carolina’s recovery efforts.

The damage from climate change is very likely to grow, scientists predict. The impact threatens areas of the state’s Lowcountry barely skimming above sea level — including Beaufort, South Carolina’s second-oldest city, home to longtime residents and retirees from the North.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates that, if sea level rise is modest, the ocean will rise about 1.4 feet in an area south of Beaufort by the year 2100. In an extreme scenario, the ocean would rise by 10.5 feet, swamping much of eastern South Carolina.

South Carolina’s coast is struggling with the effects of climate change. (Maura Turcotte/MEDILL)

Residents recognize the rising sea and worsening storms. And yet there is no consensus among Beaufort residents — or in South Carolina more broadly — about whether action should be taken or even whether climate change should be a major issue in the Democratic primaries.

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Kids in Iowa get involved in the 2020 presidential campaigns

By Ellen O’Brien
Medill Reports

Kathleen McKean stood in the back corner of a Joe Biden campaign event, listening to the former vice president’s stump speech. At McKean’s feet, her two young children alternated between scribbling with crayons on “Go Joe!” coloring sheets and playing iPad games.

For McKean and her husband, Ryan, if both of them wanted to see a candidate on a Saturday morning, it meant bringing their two boys along.

“This is what it’s like to be a kid in Iowa,” McKean said. “Growing up in Iowa is the place to be for politics.”

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Pete Buttigieg’s attempt to win over South Carolina’s African American Voters may not be enough

By Shirin Ali
Medill Reports

Coming off a hot streak of wins in Iowa and New Hampshire, Pete Buttigieg’s campaign attempted to push its momentum to South Carolina earlier this month by hosting The Douglass Plan Culture, Arts & Hip Hop Celebration, a crossover event of arts and politics.

The event was structured to be an open forum for sharing black art and culture, while also advocating for Buttigieg’s Douglass Plan, which the candidate defined as a comprehensive investment in the empowerment of black America.

“I think we as Americans have done a very poor job telling the story of black people in the United States,” said Tiffany James, Pete for America’s black engagement director.

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No clear home for Yang Gang

Seb Peltekian
Medill Reports

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Venture capitalist Andrew Yang announced the end of his run for the Democratic presidential nomination after mustering minimal support in the first two contests of the year, Iowa and New Hampshire.

So where will his supporters, affectionately known as the Yang Gang, turn?

“My heart’s broken but I’m probably going to have to support Tulsi because she supports UBI also,” said Nate Gallian, 19, a student at the College of Charleston, referring to Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii). Universal basic income, or UBI, was Yang’s proposed “freedom dividend” — $1,000 a month to everybody in the country. Yang said that it would combat economic stagnation caused by automation.

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Medicare for All attracts support for Bernie Sanders

By Anne Snabes
Medill Reports

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Corina Pittman, a college student with severe allergies, once bought two EpiPens that were each $200. She called this price “crazy.”

She is passionate about Sen. Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare for All” proposal, which would end private health insurance and institute a single-payer health insurance system. That means the government would pay for everyone’s health care.

“I think it’s obviously ridiculous how much money we spend on health care,” said Pittman, who grew up in Pennsylvania and attends college in North Carolina. “My parents spend so much money on health care for our family.”
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Sanders rally in Charlotte draws a mix of committed, undecided supporters

Maura Turcotte
Medill Reports

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Sen. Bernie Sanders left his rally to a standing ovation. Macasha Campbell left undecided.

Campbell, 29, voted for the progressive candidate in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary and said she might vote for him again. Marijuana legalization, student loan forgiveness and health care expansion — some of Sanders’ key issues — are also some of her key issues in this year’s presidential election.

But, she added, she’s also interested in Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota moderate who scored a surprising third-place finish in New Hampshire, finishing behind Sanders and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

“There’s a lot of bills that she has championed and gotten through,” Campbell said at Sanders’ Feb. 14 event in Charlotte. “There’s something to be said about results, and she totally has gotten results.”

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Black voters in South Carolina could boost Tom Steyer’s rise

By Brandon Raphael Dupre
Medill Reports

Easter Benjamin stood on her front porch watching Tom Steyer canvassers in bright orange and blue campaign shirts spill out of a van. Their shirts flashed across the backdrop of muddied grass and drab woods in a mostly African American neighborhood outside the small city center.

Benjamin, an African American prison counselor in York County, has seen canvassers in her neighborhood before, although in different shirts. Biden canvassers? she recalls thinking. Maybe Bernie? But these days she is so inundated with TV and mail ads and people knocking on her door, the campaigns all blur together.

“There’s so many running that it makes it so hard for the peoples to narrow down who to vote for,” said Benjamin, slouching against her porch banister as if exhausted. “Too stressed with the debt of everyday life, people’ll say, ‘I’m just not gonna vote’ and that’s how they lose a lot of voters.”

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Elizabeth Warren, Bertha’s Kitchen and yams

By Seb Peltekian
Medill Reports

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. — We sat in Bertha’s Kitchen, a soul food restaurant. Our food — corn, rice, glazed yams, and, in Nirmal’s case, fried chicken — rested on trays in front of us.

Bertha’s Kitchen was honored with a James Beard Award in 2017. However, something told us that the reporters weren’t there to cover the menu options.

Looking up from our trays, we watched through the window as a van parked. The reporters descended upon the non-descript car, snapping photos and filming as if it was the most interesting van in the world.

A slender woman wearing a bright blue shirt and running shoes stepped out of the car and entered the restaurant.

The reporters huddled around her as she walked up to the counter and spoke with the employees. Some of them asked if they could take photos with her. She agreed.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren then greeted us.

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