Some thoughts on New Hampshire and the Democrats as the January 23 primary approaches
The stalemate between the national party and New Hampshire Democrats continues, but the primary won't be the conclusion
A brief history on how the DNC and New Hampshire Democrats got to this point
On December 1, 2022, President Joe Biden sent a letter to the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee (DNCRBC) publicly weighing in on the primary calendar rules the panel had considered through countless meetings held across 2021-22. Biden’s input was the last piece to the (rules) puzzle, and the president expressed thoughts in that letter that were very much in line with where that process had taken the committee in the time since the 2020 election. Biden was supportive of a more inclusive and diverse lead-off to the nomination process, but perhaps more provocatively, he charted a more ambitious end goal: a proposal to rejigger the early window of the Democratic primary calendar by bringing in new states (Georgia and Michigan), shuffling others (Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina) and shunting Iowa completely out of the mix.
That letter, and the subsequent vote by the DNCRBC to accept its recommended rules changes last December, raised questions about the wisdom and implementation of the moves and set off an all-too-typical backlash from the perceived “losers” in the collective action problem that is the 2024 calendar (but also ultimately, the overall nomination process).
Quickly, the conventional wisdom centered on the president “rewarding” South Carolina Democrats with the first spot on the calendar because the first-in-the-South primary had “rescued” his 2020 campaign. Of course, the reality of the selection was and is a little more involved than that. Others also were quick to question how feasible it would be to actually move states like Georgia, Michigan and New Hampshire around in or into the early window. Ultimately it did, in fact, prove unworkable to shift Georgia into a pre-window position and elusive — at least to this point in the cycle — to nudge New Hampshire behind another primary, counter to state law.
But even with the New Hampshire primary being slotted into a January 23 position on the calendar following Secretary of State David Scanlan’s decision, things are still basically in the same place they have been in since last December. And that is to say that everything has progressed along an entirely expected trajectory.
It has been a stalemate in suspended animation awaiting its final act.
After all, it was clear last December that the full DNC would formally adopt the calendar rules prescribed by the president and the DNCRBC. It did. It was clear in December 2022 that New Hampshire decision makers would resist the calendar changes. All of the decision makers in the state government and state parties in the Granite state have followed that path to a T in both word and deed.1
Scanlan’s calendar decision did not change any of that. It merely confirmed what most expected a year ago. No, not the exact date, per se, but that the New Hampshire primary would be the first primary on the calendar. It will be on the Republican side and what it will be — what the ultimate process will be — on the Democratic side is more complicated. It is complicated by the next steps in the sequence:
With date in hand from the secretary, New Hampshire Democrats could finally add it to their delegate selection plan (DSP). They did, submitting a revised plan to the DNCRBC in the days after November 15.
Already in noncompliance, the specificity of that revised DSP — with noncompliant January 23 date — drew the discussion at the national party level into penalties as expected in early December. Before that meeting there was some uncertainty about those potential penalties (at least theoretically). The DNC, under Rule 21.C.1, provides for a 50 percent penalty to be assessed to any state party that violates the timing rules set forth in Rule 12. But the DNCRBC has the discretion to go beyond that as described in Rule 21.C.5. And at least some signals pointed toward the panel doing just that: stripping New Hampshire of all of its delegates. Those were not a new signals. It has been reiterated differently and more recently, but they were not new.
However, at the meeting on December 1 in Washington, the members of the DNCRBC did not really even consider the elevated penalties regime. Instead, the discussions centered more on whether the automatic 50 percent penalty was already actually in place and if the New Hampshire Democratic Party could still act to bring their delegate selection plan into compliance and claw back any of the penalized delegates.
There were no definitive answers at the time other than for DNC staff and the Rules and Bylaws co-chairs to continue working with the New Hampshire Democratic Party to find a solution to the impasse.
But that is obviously not the end of it.
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