Give D.C. a First Say

By Rob Richie and Ryan Griffin
Published June 25th 2006 in Washington Post
Next month, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) will meet to weigh a major decision on the schedule of presidential primaries for the 2008 race for the White House. Already, nine states and the District have gone before the DNC to make their case for joining Iowa and New Hampshire as the first jurisdictions to hold primaries and caucuses. The committee’s final decision will say a lot about the Democrats’ view of urban America.  

In recent years, state after state has moved its nomination day earlier.  That’s hardly surprising: A state’s spot in the election cycle can make the  difference between relevance and rubber-stamping a predetermined nominee.
The floodgates open after New Hampshire, with each new early primary  weakening the influence of other states. But until the major parties find a better nominating process, it is crucial that the states chosen to join
Iowa and New Hampshire represent the diversity within the Democratic Party and the nation.
The District has a strong case for the early slot. First, the lack of congressional representation for the District is a stain on American democracy. Rather than just talk the talk about voting rights, Democrats
could make D.C. voters central players in nominating their presidential candidate.
Second, at least as much as Iowa and New Hampshire, the District creates real opportunities for grass-roots campaigning. Candidates would have to earn votes by attending neighborhood meetings and addressing the interests of an array of the District’s civic and political leaders.
Third, the District is the DNC’s only opportunity to give urban America a direct say in its nomination process. Largely white and rural Iowa and New Hampshire are poor reflections of the racial and economic diversity of the nation, and no state comes close to the District in providing real balance
to their rural nature.
Looking to 2012, the DNC should work with its Republican counterpart to build an inclusive nomination process that gives all interests within their parties a voice. For 2008, however, the DNC should choose an early contest in the District to ensure that its nominees are responsive to two of the party’s most loyal constituencies.