President Joe Biden
President Joe Biden speaks on the phone while visiting a phone bank at International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 103, Friday, Dec. 2, 2022, in Boston. Image Credit: AP

Washington: Democrats voted on Friday to shake up their presidential primaries calendar in 2024 to give greater sway to African Americans in choosing the party’s White House candidate.

The surprise move came one day after President Joe Biden, who has said he plans another White House run in 2024, suggested changes to the Democratic Party’s presidential nominating calendar.

The eyes of the world have traditionally been focused every four years on rural, overwhelmingly white Iowa and tiny New Hampshire as the kickoff states for the monthslong process of selecting presidential candidates.

Biden, in a letter on Thursday to the Democratic National Committee’s rules and bylaws committee, proposed that the first Democratic primary of 2024 be held in South Carolina, which has a large Black population.

The committee, in a voice vote, approved the move on Friday with only the members from Iowa and New Hampshire opposing the change. The new calendar will be put to a vote of the full DNC in February 2023.

Biden’s victory in the Democratic presidential primary in South Carolina in 2020 helped revive his flagging candidacy and propelled the former vice president to the nomination and eventually the White House.

In his letter, Biden said, “You cannot be the Democratic nominee and win a general election unless you have overwhelming support from voters of colour - and that includes Black, Brown and Asian American & Pacific Islander voters.

“For decades, Black voters in particular have been the backbone of the Democratic Party but have been pushed to the back of the early primary process,” he said.

“It is time to stop taking these voters for granted, and time to give them a louder and earlier vote in the process.”

The new primary calendar calls for the first contest to be held in South Carolina on February 3, followed by Nevada and New Hampshire on February 6, Georgia on February 13 and Michigan on February 27.

Chilly reception

Biden’s proposed changes received a chilly reception from Democratic leadership in Iowa and New Hampshire.

“Small rural states like Iowa must have a voice in our presidential nominating process,” Iowa Democratic Party chair Ross Wilburn said.

“Democrats cannot forget about entire groups of voters in the heart of the Midwest without doing significant damage to the party for a generation.”

In New Hampshire, Democratic Party chair Ray Buckley insisted the northeastern state “will be holding our primary first.”

“We have survived past attempts over the decades and we will survive this,” Buckley said.

“Our first-in-the-nation primary has been an integral part of our state’s history for over 100 years, and is enshrined in state law.”

A revamped primary calendar could help Biden if he indeed decides to run again in 2024 and is challenged for the Democratic nomination.

Giving greater early primary influence to African American voters could also provide a potential boost to Vice President Kamala Harris, who is Black, if Biden steps aside and she runs for the White House.

The Republican Party still plans to hold its first 2024 nominating contest in Iowa.