Re-ordering the Democratic Primaries

Why Biden Pushed for Re-ordering the Primaries

The official reason for re-ordering the Democratic primaries, to allow South Carolina to go first, is to increase the influence of Black voters in the selection of the presidential nominee. A second reason is clearly to strengthen President Biden’s position if there is a contest for the Democratic nominee for President.

Why Iowa Was Always a Bad Starting Point

I was never a fan of giving Iowa outsized power in the selection of presidential candidates. For decades it has forced otherwise sensible candidates, like Sen. Bill Bradley (a moderate Democrat from New Jersey), to reject reason and embrace subsidies for “gasohol.” Subsidies for gasohol are irrational and merely a subsidy for corn production.

The Upside of Iowa for the Country

That being said, there was some value to allowing the Iowa caucus vote to come first. Winning in Iowa requires meeting with small groups of voters. Candidates whose appeal is based on a manufactured media presence are at a disadvantage in Iowa, relative to those with real personal appeal.

The Dilemma of Iowa for the Democratic Party

The disadvantage of Iowa from the viewpoint of the Democratic Party is that the voters, even the Democratic voters, are overwhelmingly White. It may be true that this tilts the contest away from candidates whose primary appeal is to Black voters. Nevertheless, it may provide a kind of advantage to Black candidates. Barack Obama’s strong performance in Iowa provided evidence that he could garner significant support among White voters. It is not helpful to either Black voters or Democrats in general, if the primaries produce candidates who have limited appeal to White voters. Remember, the voting public in the general election remains predominantly White.

The Long-Term Consequences of Leading with South Carolina

Let’s consider a post-Biden election. In 2028, it is easy to imagine a primary battle between Pete Buttigieg and Kamala Harris. Buttigieg is not popular in the Black community, as evidenced by his poor performance in the 2020 South Carolina Presidential primary. It is hard to say exactly why this is the case. It may be because Buttigieg is openly gay and it may be because African-Americans disliked his response to policing issues when he was Mayor of South Bend, Indiana. Kamala Harris has stronger, but not unqualified, support from the Black community. If Harris wins the nomination, she would likely go down to defeat in the general election because she is deeply unpopular, a bad campaigner, and is tied, rightly or wrongly, to the chaos at the border. Buttigieg did well in Iowa because he is a good campaigner. He would do well in the general election because, in addition to being a good campaigner, he is a relative moderate and is not linked to the most unpopular aspects of the Biden administration. If South Carolina goes first, it improves the odds of Harris winning the nomination and, in my opinion, lowers the odds of the Democrats winning the Presidency.

A Better Choice for Both Parties

I think the most rational thing for the Democratic Party, and the Republican Party for that matter, is to lead off the primary season in a state where the party’s demographics (racial and political) mirror those of likely voters in the general election. As a first approximation, I would suggest considering the so-called “battle ground” or “purple” states including: New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin, Missouri, Colorado, Arizona, and Nevada. Ideally, the selection requires matching up the party’s political and racial demography in each state with that of general election voters. If anyone is aware of sources for this kind of data, please let us know.

Reaction to President Biden’s Anti-MAGA Speech.

The White House

First Where We Agree

In my opinion, there was a fair amount of truth in President Biden’s speech to the nation last night. I agree that the single greatest threat to American democracy, at the moment, comes from Donald Trump and his loyalists, what Biden calls the MAGA Republicans.

For that reason, the Centrist Independent Voter will be endorsing a number of Democrats who would be far too left or populist for our taste, in normal times. But as Biden says, “these are not normal times.” Generally speaking, we will be endorsing the opponent of any candidate who owes his place on the ballot to a Trump endorsement.

Where Biden Missed Opportunities

It takes no courage to call out extremism in your opponent’s political party. It takes courage to call out extremism in your own political party. Liz Cheney (R) and Adam Kinzinger (R) deserve praise for having done so in the Republican Party.

If Biden had called out the extremists within his own party, he would have earned our praise. There were many opportunities to do this.

Political Violence

Biden mentions that political violence is never justified. I could not agree more. But the only example he points to is January 6th. He could have mentioned the riots that accompanied many of the Black Lives Matter protests. He could have condemned the violence and vandalism that accompanied protests against the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank a few years earlier. But these were examples of the use of political violence by the left. I am glad that Biden condemned all political violence. However, to gain credibility with independents and mainstream Republicans, he should have admitted that we face the threat of political violence across the political spectrum.

Am I Expecting Too Much?

You might say that if Biden were to admit to faults on the left he would have hurt his party in the upcoming mid-term elections. Fair enough. But let’s not get sanctimonious and demand that mainstream Republicans openly condemn Donald Trump, in the middle of election season. I expect politicians to be self-serving. I am delighted when they are not. Biden’s speech, while correct on many counts, was self-serving.


Another missed opportunity for Biden to call out extremism in his own party was his silence on inflation. We mention elsewhere that, in the end, inflation is a monetary phenomenon. However, in the face of accommodating monetary policy, aggressive government spending (fiscal policy) will increase inflation. Biden claims the employment benefits of the Covid relief spending without admitting its role in sparking inflation.

This would have been an excellent opportunity to reject the Modern Monetary Theorists in the Democratic Party. This crowd, which includes many in the Progressive Caucus, believe in a cornucopia theory of economics in which there is no price to be paid for ever expanding government spending.

Biden’s silence on the issue was to be expected from a self-serving politician. A simple admission that there should be limits on government spending would have given him real credibility among independents.

Democratic Party Support for MAGA Republicans

Perhaps the biggest missed opportunity in Biden’s speech was his failure to condemn cynical attempts by his own party to promote the candidacy of MAGA Republicans in the primaries. The Democratic Party, and associated PACs, did so because they believe that MAGA candidates will be easier to defeat in the general election. How can Democrats think that independents will take the threat from the far right seriously when the Democratic Party works to support these far right candidates in the primaries? How can Biden give this speech, arguing that MAGA Republicans are a grave threat to the nation, while his own party funds efforts to get them elected? The only conclusion I can draw is that he and his party are just self-serving politicians.

Even a veiled condemnation of these efforts would have given him a real boost among independents.

Bottom Line

Yes, extremist Trump supporters, like those who participated in the January 6 attack on the Capitol, are a grave threat to the nation. We should all do what we can to make sure that they do not acquire political power. However, extremism has many faces. The President, and Democrats in general, would be more credible in calling out extremism if they were willing to admit it exists within their own ranks.