With this year’s midterm elections over, plans for the 2024 presidential election are now getting more focused attention, and the Democratic incumbent, Joe Biden, has proposed some big changes to the nominating process.
Among other things, the president has asked leaders of the Democratic National Committee to make South Carolina the first primary state in 2024, replacing Iowa and New Hampshire at the front of the electoral calendar, The Washington Post reported Thursday.
The reason? “Diversity.”
The Post cited as its source “Democrats briefed on the plans.”
On Thursday, Biden sent a letter to the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee spelling out the principles he said should guide the debate over changes in the Democrats’ nominating process to give diversity a better chance.
“Just like my Administration, the Democratic Party has worked hard to reflect the diversity of America – but our nominating process does not,” the letter said. “For fifty years, the first month of our presidential nominating process has been a treasured part of our democratic process, but it is time to update the process for the 21st century. I am committed to working with the DNC to get this done.”
“I want to be clear about the principles I believe we as a party should allow to guide our process,” Biden said.
First, the president said the DNC “must ensure that voters of color have a voice in choosing our nominee much earlier in the process and throughout the entire early window.”
Second, caucuses should no longer be part of the Democratic nomination process.
Third, he said, “early states must reflect the overall diversity of our party and our nation — economically, geographically, demographically.”
Fourth: “There should continue to be strong representation from urban, suburban, and rural America, and from each region of the country, and states that prioritize making voting easier in both primary and general elections should represent their regions.”
Fifth, and finally, Biden said the DNC’s nomination calendar should be reviewed every four years to ensure that all these standards are being met “to reflect the values and diversity of our party and our country.”
After receiving the president’s suggestions, the members of the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee members held a dinner on Thursday night and announced Biden’s ideas and the suggestion that the first primary states should be South Carolina, Nevada, New Hampshire, Georgia and Michigan, the Post reported.
The DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee was set to meet on Friday and Saturday to discuss these changes and the overall calendar. Whatever it decides will go to the whole DNC for approval in February, according to the Post.
Iowa has had its first-in-the-nation electoral status with its caucuses since 1972, and state officials were not happy to hear of Biden’s push to end the 50-year tradition, according to KCCI-TV in Des Moines.
Scott Brennan, the only Iowan on the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee, told the outlet the president’s letter came as a shock.
“A complete kick in the teeth,” Brennan said. “Very surprised. No courtesy of a call from the White House to frankly any member of the committee. The Washington Post had it before the committee did. So, you know, it says something to me about the process.”
New Hampshire Democrats were equally unhappy, with both of the state’s senators panning the president’s plan and pointing out that a 1975 state law requires the Granite State to have the first primary.
“I strongly oppose the president’s deeply misguided proposal, but make no mistake, New Hampshire’s law is clear, and our primary will continue to be First in the Nation,” Sen. Maggie Hassan said in a statement.
“We will always hold the First in the Nation Primary status, and this status is independent of the President’s proposal or any political organization,” she said.
— Josh Wingrove (@josh_wingrove) December 2, 2022
“It’s tremendously disappointing that the president failed to understand the unique role that New Hampshire plays in our candidate selection process as the first primary state,” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said in a statement, according to WMUR-TV in Manchester. “It’s a shame the White House’s short-sighted decision risks splintering attention from candidates, denying voters crucial opportunities to connect with candidates and hear their visions and policy priorities.
“As frustrating as this decision is, it holds no bearing over when we choose our primary date: New Hampshire’s State law stipulates that we will hold the ‘First-in-the-Nation’ primary. That status remains unchanged as we are bound by State statute.”
Democratic Rep. Debbie Dingell of Michigan said the president “understands that any road to the White House goes through the heartland,” The New York Times reported.
“People are going to put up a fight,” she said.
If Biden’s preferences are honored, South Carolina would have the first primary on Feb. 6, and the following states would have their primaries throughout the rest of February, with Michigan’s on Feb. 27.
The president’s statement on diversity indicates he believes the populations of Iowa and New Hampshire are too white to play such a large role in choosing the Democratic nominee.
In contrast, he won the South Carolina primary in 2020 with strong support from black voters.
That Super Tuesday victory, helped greatly by the endorsement of South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn, helped propel Biden to the Democratic nomination.
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