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Monday, 21 August 2006 06:24

Will New Hampshire "Pull a Lieberman" and Fight the Democratic Party's Decision to Make the Presidential Primaries More Fair?

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The Democratic Party showed once again why they are considered the "progressive" party by voting to bump Nevada and South Carolina up to the front of the primary season. Iowa and New Hampshire have long been the earliest deciders of presidential nominations, but the change would squeeze the Nevada just before New Hampshire and South Carolina shortly after.

Iowa and New Hampshire are certainly fine states, but it makes absolutely no sense for them to have a disproportionate voice in the election every single time. They have less than 4.5 million people combined, and out of all the states they are among the least representative of the nation's diversity, with both having a Caucasian population of well over 90%. Nevada and South Carolina are both around 66%, with solid numbers of Hispanics and African-Americans, respectively.

The new calendar wouldn't just be fairer for more members of the party, it could also produce a better nominee with a better chance of winning in November. With four very different states front-ended in the primary season, only a candidate with broad appeal could pick them all up. Most likely, the states will be split two or three ways, leading to what could actually be a longer primary campaign covering more states later on since multiple candidates could claim early success.

Of course, New Hampshire Democrats aren't pleased with the DNC's decision. A state law allows them to move their election ahead of anyone else's, and so far they seem determined to enforce it. But Nevada, like Iowa, has a caucus; New Hampshire would still be the first primary. They ought to take a hint from the Joe Lieberman mess and learn to accept their party's decisions (especially because New Hampshire wants the rest of the party to accept theirs for the nomination!). If every state was as determined to subvert the party and insisted on voting first, total chaos would ensue.

It might make the most sense to change the schedule around every election, with rotating states from each region getting first dibs. New Hampshirites should be glad that they are still the first primary and are being left ahead of 47 other states, many of whom have never gotten the chance to have any say at all in recent memory in the primaries.

The one group challenged the most by this problem is the candidates. They will be forced to launch larger national campaigns ever sooner than they already are. They will also get put in a pickle over what to do with New Hampshire if the state does move up its primary, as campaigning or not campaigning will alienate different people. But, with so much organization and planning for 2008 even months before the 2006 midterms, most serious presidential hopefuls should be able to manage just fine.

Since the Republican Party isn't planning on shifting their calendar, Democrats face a possible backlash from New Hampshire and its four electoral votes come November. But picking up either Nevada's five votes or South Carolinas eight would be a good trade. Democrats might even get some points nationally by publicly calling Republicans to follow suit and accusing them of repressing minority voters. After all, if both parties and all the candidates agreed to ignore New Hampshire should they move their primary up, the state would stay where it is and there wouldn't be a problem.

Ultimately, the DNC was right to bite the bullet and push to make things better. New Hampshire should graciously step down instead of trying to "pull a Lieberman" by going solo without the party's support. The updated calendar is just another step toward more equality in elections, much like the primaries themselves were. Tradition should not stand in the way of progress.