Tuesday, March 9, 2021

The Nevada State Democratic Party Shake Up and 2024

The political landscape in Nevada shifted over the weekend. 

Judith Whitmer was elected state party chair of the Nevada Democratic Party which was quickly followed by a mass resignation of most of the state party apparatus. The particulars of the intra-party squabble are less important, however, than the impact the moves may have with respect to electoral politics in upcoming cycles. The elevation of a Bernie Sanders-aligned chair and subsequent loss of party infrastructure is only going to place more strain on the relationship between the state/state party and the Democratic National Committee. Sure, that will affect fundraising and get-out-the-vote efforts in the near term, but Nevada Democrats -- in the state legislature and in the now-departing state party -- have come out of the 2024 gates with a brazen yet flawed vehicle to challenge Iowa and New Hampshire for first-in-the-nation status on the presidential primary calendar moving forward. 

The developments of this past weekend in the Silver state will only serve to further hamper that effort. 

Last month, FHQ asked whether the stars would align for Nevada to take over the spot at the front of the queue on the 2024 presidential primary calendar. A state and its decision makers can be willing to do something -- in this case establish a presidential primary to replace a caucus and schedule the contest early on the calendar -- but are those actors actually able to pull that maneuver off? I cannot speak to the current willingness within what will be a new state party structure, but each move thus far in Nevada in 2021 has made it less likely that the state will be able to successfully move up the calendar and displace Iowa and New Hampshire. 

Take a look at Iowa for a moment. It is a BIG deal that there are dissenting voices in the Hawkeye state these days, dissenting voices suggesting it is time for Iowa (Democrats) to give up their coveted early calendar position and shift away from a caucus/convention system to select and allocate national convention delegates. Part of what has made Iowa successful in keeping its slot at the front is that everyone there -- within the two major state parties, across the two parties and among elected officials -- was on the same page: do whatever it takes to stay first. Again, that there is some break in this is BIG deal. That does not mean that Iowa will lose its position at the top, but it will not help. 

And that is an effort to preserve something that Iowa has held for nearly half a century. Already on the defensive after 2020, Iowans may have some difficulty in continuing to make that case.

Now, go back to Nevada. Democrats in the legislature (and formerly of the state party) are not trying to preserve something, but to gain something. A bill to set a January date for a newly established presidential primary may only agitate the DNC and will certainly give New Hampshire secretary of state Bill Gardner ample time to once again move ahead of any would-be interlopers on their first-in-the-nation status. Layer on top of that potential agitation a state party apparatus that does not as clearly see eye to eye with the national party and one has a recipe for disaster. Or if not disaster, then a (very) problematic path to first-in-the-nation status. 

Certainly, under these circumstances, the DNC would be inclined to continue pushing for a state government-run presidential primary rather than let a state party it is at odds with conduct caucuses early on the 2024 calendar. But even if that new party structure supports the presidential primary, it will not be in a good position to make the pitch that it should be first if is remains at loggerheads with the national party and backs an ineffective primary bill that really only stirs the pot. Other states will likely make these pitches too if the DNC entertains replacing Iowa and/or New Hampshire at the front of the line. And what once looked like a reasonable cross-section of the Democratic Party primary electorate in Nevada may look worse off -- like less of a safe bet -- for having provoked the national party. Other states may begin to look attractive as alternatives. 

And it could also be that the road of least resistance is just maintaining the status quo on the presidential primary calendar. Those first two states may not come off looking too good -- representative -- until one begins to consider what the alternatives are. 

...and more importantly what getting one of those alternatives there would entail. Talk of replacing Iowa and New Hampshire is easy. Replacing them is not. So far in 2021, Nevada has done itself no favors in its attempt to be that alternative.

No comments: