Democrats welcome Michelle Obama to Time Warner Cable Arena
Democrats welcome Michelle Obama to Time Warner Cable Arena just after 10:35 PM on Tuesday, September 4th. (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

The Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty’s Rules and Bylaws Com­mit­tee (RBC) today vot­ed to advance a pro­posed pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nat­ing cal­en­dar for the 2024 cycle that final­ly puts an end to the long­time Iowa/New Hamp­shire duop­oly at the top of the sched­ule, set­ting an impor­tant prece­dent for the future of pres­i­den­tial pol­i­tics in Amer­i­ca. At Pres­i­dent Joe Biden’s urg­ing, South Car­oli­na (which res­cued his 2020 can­di­da­cy) has been cho­sen to hold the first offi­cial­ly sanc­tioned nom­i­nat­ing event in 2024, although Neva­da will effec­tive­ly also be first due to ear­ly voting.

The oth­er ear­ly states are New Hamp­shire (though the state’s arro­gant and enti­tled elect­ed offi­cials are wide­ly expect­ed to for­feit their still impres­sive ear­ly spot in the sched­ule by brazen­ly flout­ing the DNC’s rules), Geor­gia, and Michigan.

The plan embraced by the RBC con­tem­plates five ini­tial nom­i­nat­ing events on these dates in Feb­ru­ary of 2024, pri­or to Super Tuesday:

  • Feb­ru­ary 3rd – South Carolina
  • Feb­ru­ary 6th – Neva­da and New Hampshire
  • Feb­ru­ary 13th – Georgia
  • Feb­ru­ary 27th – Michigan

“To imple­ment this cal­en­dar, the RBC vot­ed to grant waivers to these five states to allow them to pro­ceed before the ‘win­dow’ peri­od of March 5 to June 12, 2024,” Demo­c­ra­t­ic rules afi­ciona­do Frank Leone explained on his Dem­Rulz site.

“The full DNC will vote on rat­i­fi­ca­tion of these waivers at its next meet­ing, Feb­ru­ary 2nd-4th, 2023 in Philadel­phia. To take advan­tage of the waivers, states must com­mit to take nec­es­sary actions, includ­ing changes in state law in some cas­es, by Jan­u­ary 5th, 2023. So the DNC can say it will grant waivers to rec­og­nize ear­ly pri­ma­ry dates, but state law pro­vides when the states can actu­al­ly hold the pri­maries. South Car­oli­na needs only a state­ment by the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty Chair, Neva­da law cur­rent­ly pro­vides for a Feb­ru­ary 6th pri­ma­ry, New Hamp­shire will have to change its date and allow ear­ly vot­ing, Geor­gia requires a state­ment by the Sec­re­tary of State, and Michi­gan must enact a new statute.”

“If states don’t take these actions, they will not be able to chose nation­al con­ven­tion del­e­gates dur­ing these dates and must pro­ceed dur­ing the reg­u­lar window.”

With the excep­tion of South Car­oli­na, each is a state that vot­ed for Biden in 2020. Neva­da, Geor­gia, and Michi­gan are swing states.

New Hamp­shire is a pur­plish blue state that reli­ably votes for Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nees, but some­times elects Repub­li­cans to state-lev­el positions.

Though New Hamp­shire does not war­rant or deserve inclu­sion at the top of the cal­en­dar, the RBC saw fit to offer it a cov­et­ed spot in the top five any­way — an offer New Hamp­shire Democ­rats are unlike­ly to have the good sense to accept.

But they should con­sid­er what hap­pened to Iowa. Iowa’s infa­mous 2020 cau­cus deba­cle and lack of a pres­i­den­tial pri­ma­ry result­ed in the Hawk­eye State being dropped entire­ly from the first seg­ment of the nom­i­nat­ing cal­en­dar.

That leaves the Iowa Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty in a strange position.

Iowa has adopt­ed a state law (which prob­a­bly is not con­sti­tu­tion­al) requir­ing its polit­i­cal par­ties to hold “first in the nation” nom­i­nat­ing events.

“Our state law requires us to hold a cau­cus before the last Tues­day in Feb­ru­ary, and before any oth­er con­test,” said Iowa Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty Chair Ross Wilburn. “When we sub­mit our del­e­gate selec­tion plan to the Rules and Bylaws Com­mit­tee ear­ly next year, we will adhere to the State of Iowa’s legal require­ments, and address com­pli­ance with DNC rules in sub­se­quent meet­ings and hearings.”

That’s a disin­gen­u­ous state­ment. Iowa Democ­rats are not going to be able to “address com­pli­ance” by flout­ing nation­al Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty rules. The State of Iowa’s “legal require­ments” like­ly vio­late the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty’s First Amend­ment right to freely assem­ble. The Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty should sue the State of Iowa to get the “require­ments” tossed out and lib­er­ate the Iowa Democ­rats from them.

Iowa is not a swing state any­more and there’s noth­ing for the nation­al Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty to put at risk by going to bat for Democ­rats’ First Amend­ment rights.

New Hamp­shire has a sil­ly state law of its own which requires its sec­re­tary of state to fix a date for a pres­i­den­tial pri­ma­ry that is before any oth­er state’s.

New Hamp­shire Demo­c­ra­t­ic elect­ed offi­cials have pub­lished laugh­ably hyper­bol­ic and tru­ly ridicu­lous state­ments attack­ing Pres­i­dent Biden and the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty for push­ing them from list­ed sec­ond in the cal­en­dar to… list­ed sec­ond in the cal­en­dar along with Neva­da. They haven’t actu­al­ly been “first in the coun­try” all these years (again, that’s been Iowa) but they sure do love that slo­gan and are vow­ing to be “first” again with state­ments like “New Hamp­shire will go first.”

What Iowa and New Hamp­shire offi­cials are loathe to admit is that the pow­er and influ­ence they have long enjoyed in the nom­i­nat­ing cal­en­dar is not theirs to sur­ren­der. It can be tak­en away. Either New Hamp­shire or Iowa could hold a super ear­ly pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nat­ing event next week if they want­ed to and that vote would not mat­ter. If the major par­ties do not rec­og­nize the events that New Hamp­shire and Iowa hold, and can­di­dates don’t cam­paign there, and mass media out­lets don’t send cor­re­spon­dents there, then they’re entire­ly meaningless.

For their part, how­ev­er, Repub­li­cans are going to let Iowa keep its top spot in the 2024 cal­en­dar. The Iowa Repub­li­can Par­ty Chair has pub­licly demand­ed that Iowa’s best known Demo­c­ra­t­ic lead­ers speak out force­ful­ly now in defense of the Iowa cau­cus tra­di­tion and bat­tle with the DNC’s RBC. How­ev­er, it’s too late for that. The ship has already sailed. The Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty is mov­ing on from cau­cus-only del­e­gate selec­tion plans because they are dis­crim­i­na­to­ry and inaccessible.

In hind­sight, it seems that Pres­i­dent Joe Biden’s 2020 loss­es in Iowa and New Hamp­shire as a can­di­date were lib­er­at­ing. Biden and his team obvi­ous­ly do not feel indebt­ed to either state’s Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty. That freed them to pro­pose a revamped nom­i­nat­ing cal­en­dar with the con­fi­dence that the pre­dictably def­er­en­tial DNC and its RBC would accede to their wish­es with lit­tle dissent.

For once, a Demo­c­ra­t­ic White House­’s polit­i­cal pow­er has led to seri­ous and long over­due nom­i­nat­ing sched­ul­ing reform at the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Committee.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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