The stranglehold that Iowa and New Hampshire have long maintained on the Democratic nominating process will slacken in 2008. Late to recognize the danger in allowing two of the whitest states in the nation to play kingmaker for a party that lives and dies by motivating an increasingly diverse constituency, the party has moved to add Nevada and South Carolina to the first contests on the primary calendar.
Unlike New Hampshire (95% white) and Iowa (93% white), minorities make up roughly 35% in both Nevada and South Carolina. South Carolina gives African Americans an important voice in the nominating process (constituting more than 30% of the statewide population, it’s likely black voters make up at least a plurality of Democratic primary voters), while Nevada gives a say not only Hispanics (20%) but also African Americans (7%) and even Asians (nearly 5%). And Las Vegas, of course, brings a big urban glare to the primary process, and incorporates the perspective of service union workers in spades.
This is a smart move, and one that’s long overdue. With any luck Democratic politicians can now safely stand up against the ethanol boondogle so popular in corn country, and maybe, just maybe, the party won’t find itself at the mercy of another Massachusetts liberal who surges to front-runner status on the strength of his proximity to and familiarity with voters in the granite state.