President Joe Biden’s greatest impact on American politics may not take the form of any legislation, or even the confirmation of a federal judge.
When Biden ultimately decides to call it quits, his push for Democrats to reorder their presidential primary voting schedule and put South Carolina first could affect candidates’ perceived viability in the eyes of voters — and Democratic Party elites.
Biden last week asked Democratic National Committee leaders to reorder the primaries, bumping Iowa and its unique caucus system out of the lead spot. Biden’s preferred order places South Carolina first, followed by Nevada and New Hampshire, and then Georgia and Michigan.
In 2020, Iowa went first on Feb. 3, followed by New Hampshire on Feb. 11, Nevada on Feb. 22, and South Carolina on Feb. 29.
By calling for a relatively diverse state to take the lead instead of Iowa, Biden is naturally giving nonwhite voters more say in the electoral process by allowing them to demonstrate — early on — who’s capable of winning over demographics that form a large part of the Democratic base.
That explains why South Carolina’s Democratic Party chair was so happy about the plan.
“It appears Joe Biden is not just trying to transform America, but he’s attempting to transform the way we elect presidents, and his impact is going to be felt for generations to come,” chair Trav Robertson told NBC News.
Prominent Democrats have criticized the lack of diversity in Iowa for years and warned that, combined with the state’s unique caucus system, it made Iowa a poor litmus test for a candidate’s viability in a national election.
Some might say Biden, who failed to win the Iowa caucuses in 2020 but was propelled to the nomination after winning South Carolina’s primary, is betting on himself a bit with his scheduling proposal. After all, many expect him to announce a re-election bid in the coming year. Front-loading the schedule with more diverse states than usual — and specifically, more Black voters, who’ve been key to Biden’s success — undoubtedly benefits the president.
But it’s also a boon for the Democratic Party. The plan not only places a greater emphasis on Southern voters at a time when the South is seeing a population boom; it also allows nonwhite voters to be seen as more than just the backbone of the Democratic Party.
A change to the primary schedule would let these voters wield more power in determining the face of the party as well.