By New Hampshire setting its primary date for January in an effort to remain the “first-in-the-nation” election in the presidential nomination process, the small New England state has effectively snubbed Democrats’ plan for South Carolina to have that distinction.
The move not only rebuffs efforts by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to racially diversify the order in which the nation’s electorate participates in the presidential primaries but also the Black voters who were being prioritized by the rescheduling. Beyond that, it’s an insult to a state whose primary winners have eventually won every nomination for the past three decades except for once, Democratic strategist Antjuan Seawright told NewsOne.
Democrats in February – Black History Month – officially approved a revised primary schedule that would allow South Carolina to hold the first election, scheduled for Feb. 3. But New Hampshire’s state law mandates it hold the nation’s first primary and at the time Republican Gov. Chris Sununu vowed to ignore the DNC’s will and keep its original date of Jan. 24.
“We did not take the first-in-the-nation status from anyone, and we will vigorously defend it,” New Hampshire Secretary of State David Scanlan said Wednesday while announcing it wouldn’t change its primary schedule.
It’s unclear whether the schedule will be changed. The Federal Elections Commission posted a schedule online of all the presidential primary election dates, with New Hampshire’s date notably listed as “pending.” The date for the Democratic primary in South Carolina is listed as Feb. 3. The Republican South Carolina primary is set for Feb. 24.
New Hampshire refusing to budge from its privileged primary perch is a personal affront to Black voters in South Carolina, Seawright said.
“The other states have had their time but the tectonic plates have shifted and rightly so, we as a party in this case are shifting too,” Seawright, a South Carooina-based political strategist and founder and CEO of Blueprint Strategy LLC, told NewsOne in an email.
Notably, New Hampshire is a state in which nearly 93% of its residents are white.
Seawright explained that placing South Carolina first would give Black voters – who were credited for securing Biden’s victory over Donald Trump in 2020 – a larger role in helping to dictate who the ultimate presidential nominee is.
“This schedule allows for our super power in the Democratic Party, Black voters, to have an early say on the direction of the process,” Seawright said. “Sixty percent of the people who will cast their votes in the Democratic Primary in South Carolina will be African American.”
Seawright also noted that the “political terrain after South Carolina will be guided by how well” candidates fare in the Palmetto State.
“Since 1992, no candidate has won the Democratic nomination for president without winning a majority of the Black vote,” Seawright added. “And since 1992, the winner of the South Carolina Democratic primary has gone on to win the nomination — with one exception. In 2004, “native son” John Edwards’ personal connections to the state drove him to victory here. He ended up with the vice presidential nomination.”
Seawright also made a point to address the historical elephant in the room.
“And roughly 40% of enslaved Africans brought into this country during the transatlantic slave trade passed through Charleston Harbor,” Seawright said of the South Carolina city. “And with [Democrats’] primary schedule, the same bloodline and lineage of those who once picked cotton will have the first say at picking a nominee for president.”
Beyond slavery, there are also other damning aspects of state history to reckon with when it comes to the South Carolina primary, including the slow progress made for its Black voters, who have had to overcome decades of inequities and voter suppression tactics just to gain access to the primary ballot.
Considering those facts, Seawright said it was offensive for New Hampshire to not reschedule its primary.
“For anyone to buck the process and vote of DNC members is not only disrespectful but it’s a slap in the face to black voters,” Seawright said. “Diversity is our strength, this calendar allows for diversity at all levels to be displayed.”
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