Democratic Party officials want to reward South Carolina for being one of the reddest states in the union. They are elbowing aside other states to make South Carolina the first votes to be counted in the Democratic nominating process for president, shoving aside Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.
This would be like the Republican Party making liberal Massachusetts the first state to vote for a Republican nominee for president.
No Democrat holds statewide office in South Carolina. Both houses of the legislature are overwhelmingly Republican. The state’s two U.S, senators are Republican as are six of seven House members.
Of course, the state’s most prominent Democratic elected official is Rep. James Clyburn, the lone South Carolina congressman and the man whose endorsement was famously responsible for salvaging Joe Biden’s failing presidential campaign in 2020. Then, South Carolina was the fourth primary. Biden had lost Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada. The win in South Carolina brought Biden’s campaign back to life. He never looked back.
Political debts must be paid. But, honestly, couldn’t Biden have been content with making Jamie Harrison national Democratic Party chairman? He did this soon after Harrison lost his U.S. Senate race to that Trump boot-licker, the singularly awful South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham. That election wasn’t even close. Harrison managed to blow through a mind-boggling $130 million in the attempt and still lost the election by a staggering 10 percent.
Proponents point out that Black voters are the most loyal to the Democratic Party and Blacks make up 26.7 percent of South Carolina’s population. It has galled many, with good reason, that the two states that are among the whitest in the country, Iowa and New Hampshire, have for years been the first to cast ballots. The demographics of those two states are out of sync with the growing minority population in the country.
But by this measure, South Carolina, with far more minorities than all but three states and the District of Columbia, also does not reflect the rest of the nation.
So I have a different first state to nominate for the Democratic primary process. America, I give you the solidly blue state that I call home: Connecticut.
It’s true that I once joked that the state should have signs at the border which said, “You are entering Connecticut. Please wear pearls.” It was my working class swipe at the white-wine-and-brie set that dominates the wealthier areas bordering New York State. But those areas dramatically skew the income levels of the vast majority of the state’s population who, like me, live far from well-heeled Fairfield County.
Here’s a census chart comparing Connecticut with the country as a whole as well as Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.
In all but income, Connecticut reflects the demographics of America more than does South Carolina. The chart doesn’t measure this, but Connecticut reflects America even in its shortcomings – the stark and shameful contrast between wealth and poverty. Of all the struggling cities in America, three in Connecticut are among the poorest: Hartford, Bridgeport, and New Haven. It isn’t something to be proud of. But there are more layers of complexity in Connecticut than meets the eye.
In many ways the state is a mirror of the United States.
The U.S. population is 13.6 percent Black; Connecticut is 12.7 percent Black.
In the U.S., 89 percent of the population has a high school degree. In Connecticut, it’s 91 percent.
In the U.S. 11.6 percent of the population is in poverty. In Connecticut, it’s just over 10 percent.
People who speak a language other than English at home make up 21.7 percent of the U.S. population. In Connecticut, it’s 22.3 percent.
Best of all, Connecticut is compact and easy for campaigns to criss-cross. Although its population ranks in the middle of all the states at 3.6 million, it’s the third smallest state in the country in land area. I can drive across Connecticut from the border of Rhode Island to the border of New York in a little over two hours.
The state’s statewide offices are filled with Democrats; the legislature is majority blue and both U.S. senators and five House members are Democrats.
Here is my last argument: Our voter participation rates.
Connecticut is one of just a handful of luddite states where voting takes place on one day, and one day only, from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. the first Tuesday in November. There’s no early voting here. No Saturday or Sunday voting. (Honestly, it’s infuriating, and in the process of being changed. ) Despite that, the voter participation rates in Connecticut are high; in the 2020 presidential election, it was 79.7 percent and in the 2022 election just under 58 percent. In South Carolina, with TWO WEEKS to cast ballots. 72 percent voted in the presidential race in 2020 and about 51 percent voted in 2022.
And — have I mentioned this? Republicans, not Democrats, swept the offices in South Carolina.
I rest my case.
Maura Casey of Franklin is a former editorial writer for The Day, The Hartford Courant and The New York Times. She writes a column, Casey’s Catch, on substack.