The recent sparring in Democratic circles about switching the first presidential primary from New Hampshire to South Carolina raises the logical question. Why should it be limited to one state?
Democracy supposedly includes a reflection of the majority will as to what laws, statutes and policies will be advanced in the country. If that is the case, why should one state become the potential bellwether of national preference for candidates for higher office? If the nominee who eventually prevails will someday represent the whole country, why shouldn’t the first primary include a regional cross section of New Hampshire, South Carolina, Iowa, Oregon and New Mexico or some similar combination? Instead, candidates flock to one state as their potential launching pad and debates focus on the preference of that limited constituency. Whether it be too liberal, too conservative or have a limited minority population, the priorities of one state shouldn’t dominate the political stage and political contributions shouldn’t flood into that area as the kickoff for a national campaign.
Th “either or” mentality of conducting the initial primary in either New Hampshire to South Carolina misses the point. Whether it be for Republicans or Democrats, the voters of one state should not be given a proxy to be the soul of their party and dictate the candidates priorities for upcoming contests. Initial debates should focus on a combination of regional and national issues, and the political dialogue between candidates should reflect the needs and wishes of the voters in the country, not one state. If the successful candidate will eventually represent the entire country, why not hear his or her views about national versus one state’s priorities? Why isn’t it that way already? Politics.
If the winds of change of democracy are truly in the air, a multiple initial state primary might be a good idea to toss into the mix.
Steve Kramer is an attorney and former assistant attorney general in Massachusetts from 1980 to 1987.