Democrats voted on Friday to move South Carolina ahead of Iowa as the first presidential nominating state starting in 2024. This is a big change that President Joe Biden pushed for to better reflect the party’s very diverse voters.
The rules-making arm of the Democratic National Committee decided to remove Iowa from the position it had held for 50 years after technical problems caused chaos and messed up the results of the state’s 2020 caucus. Some of the party’s top leaders have been pushing for a long time for the president to be chosen in states with fewer white people. This is because Black voters are the Democrats’ most loyal group of voters.
At the committee meeting in Washington, D.C., people got so worked up about diversity that DNC chair Jaime Harrison had to wipe away tears when committee member Donna Brazile said that Democrats had spent years not fighting for Black voters: “Do you know what it is like to live on a dirt road? Do you know how hard it is to try to find clean running water?”
“Do you know what it’s like to wait for a storm to pass and hope that your roof is still standing?” Brazile asked. “This is all about that.” The committee agreed to move South Carolina‘s primary to February 3 and let Nevada and New Hampshire vote three days later. The next week, Georgia would go, and two weeks after that, Michigan would go.
The change is a big change from the way things are done now. Since 1972, Iowa has held the first-in-the-nation caucuses, and since 1920, New Hampshire has held the first-in-the-nation primary. Since the 2008 presidential election, when Democrats last changed their primary schedule a lot, Nevada and South Carolina are next.
The full DNC will have to vote on the changes, which is likely to happen early next year. However, the full DNC will almost certainly follow the lead of the rule-making committee.
If Biden runs for a second term in 2024, the new schedule may not make much of a difference, but it could change the way the Democratic presidential cycles work after that. The president has been saying for months that he wants to run again. Even though no final decision has been made, White House staffers have already started talking about staffing for his likely reelection campaign. The DNC also wants to look at the primary schedule again before 2028, so there could be more changes before then.
In a letter to the party’s rules committee members on Thursday, Biden said that the party should get rid of all “restrictive” caucuses because the rules for attending in person can sometimes keep voters from the working class and other groups. He also told party leaders in private that he’d like South Carolina to go first so that voters of color aren’t left out of the process of picking the Democratic presidential nominee.
Four of the five states that are about to start the Democratic primary are presidential battlegrounds. This means that the eventual Democratic winner would be able to lay the groundwork in places that will be important in the general election. This is especially true for Michigan and Georgia, which both voted for Trump in 2016 but will vote for Biden in 2020. South Carolina is the only state that hasn’t gone Democratic in a presidential election since 1976.
The first five states to vote would be able to do so before Super Tuesday when most of the other states hold their primaries. This gives the early states a lot of power, since candidates for the White House who are struggling to raise money or get political support often drop out before going to most of the rest of the country.
Scott Brennan, a member of the rules committee from Iowa, said that “small, rural states” like his “must have a voice” in the process of choosing the next president. Brennan said, “Democrats can’t ignore whole groups of voters in the heart of the Midwest without doing a lot of damage to the party among younger people.”
The Republican National Committee has already decided to keep Iowa’s caucus as the first contest in its presidential primary in 2024. This will make sure that Trump and other GOP candidates for the White House will continue to campaign there often. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, South Carolina’s only Democrat in Congress and one of Biden’s biggest supporters in the House, said Thursday that the president called him to tell him about his push to move his state up. Clyburn said, “I didn’t ask to be first.” “He wanted to go first.”
Clyburn’s support for Biden in 2020 gave the candidate a boost just before the South Carolina primary, which he won by a large margin. That made it easier for Biden to get over early losses in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada and win the White House in the end. Clyburn said, “He knows what South Carolina did for him, and he’s shown that over and over again by treating South Carolina with respect.”
Still, the vote by the rules committee has been met with strong opposition, and some states have said they will not follow the new rules at all. Even though the panel approved language saying that if states try to break the new rules, they could lose all of their delegates to the party’s national convention.
Iowa and New Hampshire have said that state laws require them to go before others, and they plan to follow those laws instead of DNC rules. Only two committee members from Iowa and New Hampshire didn’t agree with the plan that was passed on Friday. Everyone else did. Nevada at first didn’t want to share second place with New Hampshire, which is 2,500 miles away and has a large Hispanic population. Artie Blanco from Nevada was against the change, and her voice cracked as she spoke against it.
Blanco said, “If we want to build a strong relationship with Latinos, Nevada must go on a date by itself and not have to share that date with another state.” Blanco said that she would support the new calendar after more talk about it. She said that her state going on the same day as another was “not ideal,” but “we accept what the president wants.”
Harrison said that the new list of five states with early voting will have to show that they are working on moving their primaries to those dates by the beginning of next year or they risk losing their spots. Some state legislatures decide when the primaries will be. In other states, the secretaries of the state or the heads of the state parties are in charge of doing this.
After the vote, the chair of the DNC got emotional when he talked about how South Carolina was the site of the first attack of the Civil War and would now be the first state in his party’s primary. “This proposal reflects the best of our party as a whole, and it will continue to make our party and our country stronger,” Harrison said.
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