With honky tonk tunes fading into the hot South Carolina afternoon, upwards of 2,000 Democrats, supporters, and curiosity seekers listened as four candidates for president stood behind a lacquered up giant tree stump and made their case for winning the Democratic presidential nomination.
It was the 143rd Galivants Ferry Stump, and the first-ever presidential edition, an event rich in tradition that attracted Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, South Bend, IN Mayor Pete Buttigieg and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Fanning themselves with candidate signs or waving such signs as "Ditch Mitch" and "Dump Trump," Stump attendees, some sporting shirts with similar messages, cheered as one politician after another blasted Trump, Sen. Lindsey Graham, Rep. Tom Rice and any other Republican who happened to be mentioned.
In fact, one guy, wearing a Republicans for Pete T-shirt, reveled in the media attention as he explained why he, as a young man, supports the 37-year old Buttigieg. "It's about the future," I heard him tell one TV reporter.
First up was the senator from Minnesota, Klobuchar. "We have a president who leads this country like it's a game show," she declared. She called for action on climate change, stronger background checks on purchasers of firearms and a public option added to the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
She decried the “dark money” that influences elections, voter oppression, and said Trump “has allowed a foreign country to make mincemeat of our country.” Klobuchar said she was determined to help “send Mitch McConnell packing,” and that she wants to be president for “all the country,” not just “half the country.”
Next came Buttigieg. “I believe our country is running out of time,” he said. “The American people are divided , discouraged and doubtful at the very moment that we need to be rising to meet some of the toughest challenges we’ve ever known and every day we’ve got a president tweeting out a new outrage to distract us from the fact that he’s not capable of doing the job.”
Buttigieg warned that “within a decade, we are going to reach the point of no return on our climate, and yet the president thinks he can change the weather by taking out a Sharpie and rewriting the maps.”
He pointed out that there have been people in his life who have been saved by the Affordable Care Act, and those who have been killed by the opioid crisis. And, he added, “My marriage exists by the grace of a single vote on the Supreme Court.”
"In a few short months, you have a chance to change all that. You have a chance to be part of the American majority who comes together." South Carolina's primary, Saturday, February 29, is one of the earliest in the nation.
He was followed by Biden, who after a standing ovation, focused heavily on racism. "In clear language and in code, this president has fanned the flames of white supremacy in this nation, and our children are listening," he said.
“With all the progress we’ve made, we have to acknowledge that there can be no realization of the American dream without grappling, continuing to grapple with, the original sin of slavery brought to these shores over 400 years ago,” Biden declared.
Decrying the long history of white supremacy, Biden said, “Lynch mobs, arsonists, bomb makers, lone gunman – we all realize that violence…violence does not live in the past. If you give it oxygen, it comes back.”
The result, he said, are the terrorists attacks, such as at Mother Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston on June 27, 2015, when Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old white supremacist murdered nine African Americans during a prayer service.
Noting that the El Paso, TX Walmart shooter who killed 22 people and injured 24 others had said he wanted to stop the Mexican invasion of Texas, Biden declared; “You know, a president’s words matter. They matter. They can move markets. They can send our brave men and women to war. They can bring peace. They can appeal to the better ends of our nature. But they can also unleash the deepest, darkest forces in this nation.”
de Blasio, the day's final speaker, said many people have come to the conclusion that "the federal government is by and for the wealthy." That, he declared, cannot continue. "There is plenty ion money in this country," said De Blasio, "It's just in the wrong hands."
He asked the audience how many had to stop everything to be there for a loved one, no matter how tough. Hands throughout the audience were raised. What about experiencing a time when there wasn’t enough money to pay all the bills? Once again, scores of hands were raised. He asked people who feel things are more stressful than they used to be to raise their hands. Many did. What about worry about jobs availability, now and the future? More hands went up.
De Blasio cautioned that automation is "coming at us hard and fast," and that tens of millions of jobs will be lost in the next two decades. "We've got to make sure we're ready, and the federal government is not doing anything," he said.
Afterall, said De Blasio, “Machines don’t talk back. It’s about corporate profits, not people.”
Those issues, he said, would be among his priorities should he win the presidency.
As mayor of New York City, De Blasio must cope with the issues and concerns of one of the largest urban centers in the world, a city filled with honking horns, rumbling subways and stressed out people racing to get ahead.
Gallivants Ferry, where he spoke with Klobuchar, Buttigieg and Biden, must have been quite a contrast for the mayor. That community, on the banks of the Pee Dee River, boasts only one light – a blinker. It's not even a real red light. And the Stump, itself, took place on the parking lot of a large convenience store, although the gas pumps were shut down to avoid confusion.
And parking was in a pecan grove.