For years, folks with common sense have questioned the long-established tradition of both political parties kicking off their presidential nominating process with the Iowa Caucuses. It should be obvious why: with Iowa first, candidates know that how they perform there could give them either a leg up in future polls or fundraising, or spell a long slog ahead, so they frontload the state with as many people and dollars as possible to the detriment of campaigning elsewhere.
This, of course, is problematic because while Iowa is a state in America, it is not America in any sense beyond being a symbolic relic of white Midwesterners being the country’s standard-bearers. The entire state has just under 3.2 million people, 84.1 percent of whom are non-Hispanic whites. It’s what the United States might look like if European colonizers had arrived, but not the waves of black forced laborers and brown indentured servants and immigrants from around the world had never subsequently shown up. Iowa going first is a terrible barometer for how the rest of the country, which is 13 percent Black, nearly 20 percent Hispanic and 6.1 percent of Asian descent, might decide to vote.
So it’s good that the guy who most proved that to be true, President Joe Biden, wants Democrats to replace Iowa with South Carolina as the first 2024 primary state. The cynical will view his admonition as just a reward for political allies like Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) who helped resuscitate Biden’s 2020 campaign, which was somewhere between fresh meat in the morgue and an extra in The Walking Dead by the time the primaries pulled into South Carolina.
And that might be true, but what’s also true is that the story of how voters, in particular Black voters, in South Carolina saved Biden’s campaign was a harbinger of the Democratic party’s successes from then until now, and it points out the flaw in letting a place as milquetoast as Iowa hold onto the irrational influence it has on our national politics. Biden—the eventual 46th President—got just 15.8 percent of the vote in the 2020 Iowa Caucuses, behind such exciting candidates as Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. If had quit then, before voters in states with more than a few specks of Blackness had a say, one of those candidates may well have gone on to face Donald Trump in the general election.
But Biden hung on until South Carolina, where he smashed the field with 48.6 percent of the vote. The rest became history. And while you could argue that other candidates had measurable, if not strong, Black support and that Biden hasn’t delivered on all his campaign promises to Black voters, it also can’t be denied that his agenda continues to resonate with Black, Hispanic and women voters.