On Friday the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee formally adopted a new primary calendar for the 2024 Presidential race. The big highlights are replacing Iowa as first in the nation, instead having the South Carolina Primary go first, followed by New Hampshire and Nevada, then Georgia and Michigan. Already there are problems, including Iowa and New Hampshire saying they won’t go along, and Georgia officials saying their primary won’t move. The order will be finalized next year.
The rationalization behind the President and the DNC’s decision is actually pretty strong and realistic. No group has been more loyal to Democratic candidates than Black voters over the last 40 years. Since South Carolina began moving up the calendar, it has been growing in importance, catapulting Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Joe Biden toward the nomination, and three of them towards the White House. Joe Biden said having more diverse voices pick the nominee is the principle he values. That is a very good principle to have.
I have two main problems with the new primary calendar. The first is that making changes presumes there is something broken that needs to be fixed. There isn’t. Democratic nominees have been extremely competitive in recent years, which every nominee since 1996 getting at least 48% of the popular vote. Since 1992, Democrats have won five of eight Presidential elections, and won the popular vote 7 of 8 times. None of the nominees were crackpots that took embarrassing positions either. Democrats nominated fairly solid candidates under the existing calendar.
My second problem is that there is a perceived second problem being answered with the new calendar, that the current calendar doesn’t give voice to non-white voters. It’s true that Iowa and New Hampshire are super white. It’s also true that going first and second hasn’t increased their influence. South Carolina is the undisputed kingmaker in Democratic politics. Voting fourth has allowed them to effectively end many candidates’ pathways who could not connect to the large Black voting population there. Since 1992, every Democratic nominee for President except for John Kerry, who lost to North Carolina’s Senator, won the South Carolina primary. Most of them won decisively and walked out with significant delegate leads. In Nevada, Hillary won in 2016 to get back on her feet after New Hampshire, and in 2020 Joe Biden’s 2nd place in Nevada saved his campaign. The more diverse states are already the decision makers in the Democratic Party. There’s no disputing that.
Sure, one can argue the new calendar is a bow to “new realities,” and that’s true. Iowa doesn’t look like a swing state anymore. The party is simply more diverse. The new calendar accelerates the reality we live in. Again though, why? This current early state structure nominated Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Joe Biden. It elevated voices from people of color. Sure, the new calendar does that more. Are we fixing a problem by doing that though, or creating one. Leftist Bernieland voices will perceive this as an attempt to insure they can’t win, and while they should look inward and realize why that is, is that a conversation we need. The media will point out that Democrats want their nominee picked almost entirely with no input from the central and mountain time zones, or by coastal states, basically. Swing state New Hampshire and quasi-swing state Iowa will almost certainly rebel and lose a chunk of their delegates. And frankly, if Michigan and Georgia are in for being swing states, why aren’t Pennsylvania and Arizona? We’re opening a lot of cans of worms here, for marginal improvement in the process.
I love the principles being displayed by these moves. I can’t find the problems they’re trying to fix. I can clearly see the problems they will create.