The problem with Iowa and New Hampshire, as David Leonhardt laid out in detail in The Times, is that they are horribly unrepresentative of a party that is now, according to the 2017 Pew Typology Survey, 54 percent white, 19 percent each African-American and Latino, and 9 percent other. Iowa is 85 percent white non-Hispanic, and New Hampshire is 90 percent.
So what the Democratic National Committee needs to do is choose two other, more representative states. I would suggest Florida and Michigan. Florida is more diverse than the country as whole. The United States is 60 percent white non-Hispanic, 13 percent African-American, and 18 percent Latino; Florida is 54, 17 and 26. Michigan is somewhat less diverse than the country, at 75, 14 and 5, but at least the black population is representative, and there are other strong arguments for making an important Rust Belt state an early test.
These states are diverse in other important ways. They have major cities, smaller cities, suburbs, university towns and farms. They have economic diversity. And of course both are swing states with lots of electoral votes (29 and 16, respectively). They matter in a way Iowa and New Hampshire (six and four) do not.
I say Florida and Michigan, but take your pick. The point is, the Democrats should pick two large and diverse states — or it could be four states that are rotated, to add to the geographic diversity — and tell them to move their primary dates (and yes, primaries would be far, far preferable to caucuses) forward.
And then, let Iowa and New Hampshire do what they want, but just ignore them. The committee has some leverage here. It schedules debates. It should schedule them in Florida cities like Orlando, Tampa and Gainesville, and Michigan cities like Detroit, Lansing and Ann Arbor. Never in Ames or Manchester.
That’s a carrot. Now, here’s a stick. Impose a debate qualification that any candidate who seeks a ballot position in either state or spends more than three days campaigning there will be barred from the debate stage. Problem solved.
Yes, it’s hardball. But at this point, hardball is what’s needed. There is no rational argument against it. Well, maybe there’s one. Some will raise the possibility that treating the two states like this will ensure that the next Democrat running for president will lose the states and their electoral votes.
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