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.