lways before, when California was short-changed in the presidential primary election season, there was no one to blame but anonymous committees in both the Democratic and Republican parties.
No more. The 2024 California Primary is currently scheduled for March 5 — most likely long after most of the important decisions have been made in smaller states. If this comes off as now planned, it will be yet another in a long series of letting the tail wag the dog, and there will be one man to blame: President Biden.
There was little doubt Biden’s choice of South Carolina to replace New Hampshire and Iowa as the earliest presidential preference voters was payback.
Anyone who remembers the 2020 primary season will recall the Democratic race began as a mish-mosh with no particular favorite, except that Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders kept winning pluralities in early states, though never by definitive margins.
Then came South Carolina, which voted, on Feb. 29, with a preponderance of African-Americans on the Democratic side. After the dean of that state’s congressional delegation, the Black Democrat James Clyburn, strongly endorsed Biden, he won the state by a huge margin and other candidates such as Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttegieg quickly endorsed him. Essentially, that ended the primary season. By that time, then-California Sen. Kamala Harris had long since dropped out.
Biden, who says he intends to run for reelection, next year, would love to see an even quicker ending to meaningful primaries in his party, next year.
That, of course, would leave California essentially no voice in choosing the Democratic nominee, and maybe also the Republican. That’s not fair to California voters.
This state consistently provides Democratic presidential candidates with their national popular vote margin. It also provides two Democratic senators, without whom Democrats would be a Senate minority.
This year there are 40 Democratic House members from California compared with just 12 Republicans. That was a net gain of one seat for the GOP, but without Californians, Democrats would be a hopeless minority in Congress, rather than almost even as they are, today.
So California makes a more meaningful contribution to the Democrats than any other state, including 54 Electoral College votes, without which Republicans would have won every election since 1996.
But Biden, who owes his November 2020 victory and his current job to California voters, gave complete preference to tiny South Carolina and its nine electoral votes.
That’s just wrong.
Democrats have long excused their disregard for California by claiming the state’s campaign costs are too steep for many early candidates. Yes, it costs more to campaign in California than Iowa, New Hampshire or South Carolina.
But you also can win far more national convention delegates here. With a big win here, California could let a candidate virtually clinch the nomination every time.
Why shouldn’t the largest state have the biggest voice in picking nominees? It does the most to elect them later on.
Biden completely ignored this in his December letter to the Democrats’ Rules and Bylaws committee, which then decided to let South Carolina vote first.
“We must ensure that voters of color have a voice in choosing our nominee ...” Biden said. “For decades, Black voters have been the backbone of the party, but have been pushed to the back of the early primary process.” So let South Carolina go first, he said.
But an early California vote would involve more Black voters than South Carolina and exponentially more Latinos. So why push this state to the back, as both parties regularly do?
Added Biden, “There should…be strong representation from urban, suburban and rural America and every region of the country.” He used that reasoning to push South Carolina, but leave California out, even though it is as large as other entire regions.
This makes no sense, and California legislators should not accept it passively. There is no solid reason for them to stick with the current March 5 date putting California at the back of the bus.
The bottom line: California has long deserved a much larger voice in presidential selection, but likely once again will not get it.
Email Thomas Elias at email@example.com