CityWatch: SC Dems should overthrow DNC primary schedule

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So now it’s California Sen. Kamala Harris’ turn to shine in a Democratic presidential primary. Or New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker’s. Or former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick’s.  

After all, these proven African American political figures are bound to be strong in South Carolina, where more than 60 percent of Democratic primary voters are expected to be African American. 

While those first two contests, in very white Iowa and New Hampshire, had almost no African American input or influence, when the focus moves to South Carolina the African American candidates will break through. Right? 

Indeed, in addition to the African American candidates, other minority candidates will have the opportunity to break through as well. 

From an Hispanic American candidate like Congressman Julian Castro and on to Asian American businessman Andrew Yang, the Democratic field will be diverse and dynamic when South Carolina votes. 

Of course, none of that will actually happen, as the Democratic primary field in South Carolina is now composed of nearly all white people.

It seems those aforementioned minority candidates have withdrawn even before the primary campaign gets to the Palmetto state. How can that possibly be? And what should the national Democratic Party do about it?

The answer is simple, and the South Carolina Democratic Party should get off its collective backside and lead the way in overthrowing a system that gives ridiculous power and influence to those snow-bound, snow-white votes in the Midwest and New England.

And it gives those states that influence before African American and Hispanic American voters — the backbone of the Democratic Party — can be heard here in the Southeast and in major cities around the country that the Democrats count on.

While Congressman Jim Clyburn, state Sen. Dick Harpootlian and the (very) old-guard Dems of presidential elections past may find the 2020 S.C. primary field acceptable, the state party’s future faces (Rep. Todd Rutherford, Sen. Mia McCleod, Rep. Mandy Powers Norrell, former Rep. Bakari Sellers and others) should be raising holy hell about a system that allows overwhelmingly white electorates in Iowa and New Hampshire to winnow the field before minority voters can cast their ballots in racially diverse states.

The answer? The obvious one is a national primary, with everyone voting in the same time period (you know, like real elections). 

And heaven forbid, no more caucuses. While they used to be considered quaint and fun, now they’re just disasters waiting to happen due to the complexity, confusion and potential corruption of multiple rounds of voting, state party organizations that are in over their heads etc.  

Moreover, I think caucuses are fundamentally un American, as they force participants to give up the secret ballot. 

That is the cornerstone of American democracy, and I can’t imagine why any state political party would think it’s a good idea to do away with the basic American right to cast your vote privately, with no one watching you or judging your choice. And that is especially true in today’s ultra-divisive political environment. 

But those four “early voting” states (the aforementioned Iowa and New Hampshire, along with Nevada and, of course, South Carolina) love the absurdly disproportionate amount of attention they receive from both the candidates and the national media relative to the delegates they provide, and don’t want to give it up.

But if the Democrats are going to be serious about both fairness and winning (Republicans, too, when they next have a primary in 2024), it’s time to give it up.

Of course, state pols and party leaders will fight that tooth and nail, as they like to be on national TV, be seen as powerbrokers, get sucked up to by big name candidates, etc.  

If they and their parochial interests can’t be overcome, another alternative would be to hold those first four states’ primary elections on the same day, rather than individually a week or so apart as is done now.  

That would at least put minority voters in the mix in the initial voting results, rather than going three rounds deep before African Americans and Hispanic Americans get to weigh in.

How the Dems got to this point and this mess this year is a study not just in politics, but in physics. That is to say, a party at rest tends to stay at rest.

Of course, the other side of that physics equation could apply as well. That is, a party in motion tends to stay in motion. 

Which path will they choose? 

Fisher is president of Fisher Communications, a Columbia advertising and public relations firm. He is active in local issues involving the arts, conservation, business and politics. Let us know what you think: Email

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