DNC Shakes-up Presidential Primary Calendar to Favor “Voter Suppression” States
“In early 1975, Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter began campaigning in Iowa. He spent a great deal of time visiting with people in small towns and at local events. Although he came in second in the 1976 Iowa caucuses to ‘uncommitted,’ the media picked up on the fact that he did better than expected, and Carter used this momentum to eventually win the nomination. His playbook would be used and adapted by both parties in future campaigns.”
That’s how PBS Iowa begins its story about how Iowa helped to propel a little-known peanut farmer and former one term Democratic Governor of Georgia (Governors could only serve one term back then) to the White House. The Iowa Caucuses have been for more than two generations the first step on the long road to the White House. Since 1972, the winner of the Caucuses has gone on to win the Democratic Party nomination five out of ten times when it wasn’t an incumbent on the ballot. It has not been as reliable for Republicans where only two out of seven Caucus winners have won the nomination.
On Saturday, the Democratic National Committee voted to end Iowa’s place as the first election contest and replace it with a new primary schedule for 2024 and beyond, a schedule that will now put South Carolina first on February 3, followed by New Hampshire and Nevada on February 6, also ending New Hampshire’s 104 year long run as the “First in the Nation Primary”, then the contest moves to bigger battleground states with Georgia on February 13 and Michigan on February 27.
DNC Chair Jamie Harrison, who also happens to be from South Carolina, stated, “This calendar does what is long overdue. It expands the number of voices in the window and it elevates diverse communities that are at the core of the Democratic Party. It puts Black voters at the front of the process in South Carolina.”
Georgia’s Democratic Chair, Congresswoman Nikema Williams, echoed Harrison’s justification for the changes stating, “Y’all, for far too long, our party’s nominating calendar has not reflected this country looks like. After today, we can proudly say that elevated the voices that have been silenced for far too long.”
Harrison also added the new schedule will allow, “campaigns of all sizes to compete and build more momentum” before moving on to bigger, more expensive states like Georgia and Michigan.
But does it really?
While Iowa and New Hampshire have been criticized for decades now that the populations of those states are not representative of the diversity of the nation as a whole, they have remained the first two primary contests because they are easier to campaign in, especially if you are not personally wealthy or have a big campaign war chest starting out. Iowa and New Hampshire are about as retail politics as you can get. This sentiment was echoed by the Democratic Party Chair of New Hampshire, Ray Buckley, who reminded The Hill of that fact along with highlighting the state’s strong labor community.
Furthermore, how much does the Democratic primary electorate “look like America”? According to the U.S. Census Bureau, whites still comprise 59.3% of the U.S. population while African Americans are 13.6% of the population. Hispanics, who have been increasingly voting Republican, are 18.9%. However, except for Nevada, the DNC doesn’t seem to want to engage the Hispanic vote early on.
There is another issue that was pointed out in The Hill as the New Hampshire Secretary of State David Scanlan, a Republican, recently said, “A national political party can set whatever calendar it likes, but New Hampshire will follow its law.”
While having the Georgia primary the nation’s third contest might mean more attention from Presidential candidates, just like in New Hampshire, Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is just as unlikely to change the date of Georgia’s primary to appease the DNC. While the DNC may have changed its primary rules, the RNC has not and the RNC still has penalties for any state that moves its primary before March 1.
That would mean either Georgia would have to hold two statewide Presidential Preference Primaries on two different dates, an at an enormous cost burden to the taxpayers and county election offices, or risk Republicans losing half of their delegates to the Republican National Convention to comply with the new Democratic calendar.
As Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “This needs to be equitable so that no one loses a single delegate and needs to take place on the same day to save taxpayer funds.”
What is odder is the recent Democratic Party attention on the South. It was barely two years ago that President Biden was calling Georgia’s new election laws “Jim Crow 2.0” and claiming voter suppression. Within that time frame, we have gone from Democrats demanding the MLB All-Star Game be pulled from Atlanta to the Democrats moving up their primary and contemplating awarding their 2024 National Convention to Atlanta.
It seems incredible that the Democrats would pick the states they claim lead the nation in “voter suppression” as now the states to lead the nation in the selection of their Presidential nominee.
On Sunday, I took on Douglass Sloan, Strategic Political Analyst and Consultant at National Capitol Strategy Group, on Inside Story. Sloan referred to Iowa and New Hampshire as “lily white” states and echoed the official talking points that the DNC’s decision as one which would bring more “diversity” to the process. However, it’s difficult to understand how diversity is expanded by abandoning their blue collar and agricultural voter base for a voter base dominated by African American voters who, on average, vote overwhelmingly for Democratic candidates.
It would seem that the decision throws away the idea of retail politics in favor of the Big Money Democratic elites on the coasts whose early money will have a much greater say in who does well in these more expensive early contests.
While it was his win in Iowa in 2008 that propelled Illinois Senator Barack Obama into an early lead, it was South Carolina that saved Joe Biden’s failing campaign in 2020 after the former Veep failed in Iowa and New Hampshire, both of which went for the younger and more progressive Mayor of South Bend, Pete Buttigieg (though he tied Bernie Sanders in NH, each getting nine delegates). As I said on air, a Presidential candidate needs to be able to speak to all voters, not just groups that vote overwhelming for Democratic candidates already.
Of course, the Biden administration is denying that the move was to reward South Carolina and especially Biden backer South Carolina Congressman James Clyburn. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre stated in December as the the DNC Rules change was being considered, “It had nothing to do with the primary results. And I can definitively say that.”
Either way, it doesn’t seem the states that will be the more effected by the DNC’s decision are rushing to comply. Rather, the Democratic Party may end up only hurting itself as it turns off more voters in states it is already losing, and possibly keeping primaries going for the Convention to make the ultimate decision on who the nominee will be.
Such a scenario can only help the GOP.