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The DNC has a main problem

As Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison, a 47-year-old who took office two years ago from statewide politics in South Carolina and whose profile has risen with that of his state, must try to play the role of mediator between angry state Democrats and a White House that expects the loyalty of the national organization. For now, Harrison is optimistic about it all. The situation in New Hampshire. Biden’s advanced age. The party’s declining share of many demographic groups, especially Latino voters and those without a college degree. A disastrous Senate map, where Democratic incumbents from Montana, Ohio and West Virginia could fall, as well as former Arizona Democratic senator Kyrsten Sinema, pushing Democrats into an indefinite minority.

In Harrison’s office at DNC ​​headquarters, which overlooks the Capitol dome, hangs a portrait of Biden with Jim Clyburn, the 82-year-old South Carolina congressman whose endorsement and defense of Biden in 2020 are credited with saving his candidacy. Above Harrison’s desk is displayed a vintage sign for Ron Brown, who in 1989 became the DNC’s first black president Brown and Clyburn are both heroes of Harrison, who was Clyburn’s intern and later his director of ground operations when the congressman served as a majority whip. A lucrative career in the private sector followed as a lobbyist with the Podesta Group. With Clyburn’s blessing, he became chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party. Harrison then waged a high-profile, hugely expensive, and ultimately unsuccessful campaign in 2020 for the Senate seat held by Lindsey Graham. Now the Clyburn protege runs a DNC that put his home state, where Harrison still lives with his family, literally first.

Harrison insisted that Clyburn never argued for South Carolina as the very first state – only for it to retain its status as the first of the Southern states. “I think for him, he always wanted South Carolina — and I felt the same way — we enjoyed it and were very proud to be the first in the South,” Harrison told me an after. -midday of June, seated under this portrait. “People thought early on, Oh, my God, Jaime is the president of the DNC, so he’s going to put his finger on the scales for South Carolina. And everyone will tell you, I was impartial there. – in. The only thing I wanted was for South Carolina stay, because I think it has earned its place as an early state. But South Carolina, of course, has moved on, and Harrison is now thrilled. “National Geographic said 90% of African Americans can trace one of their ancestors to South Carolina. In our primary, 50-60% of the people who vote in the Democratic primary will be black. Think how much c It’s powerful, that the descendants of these enslaved people will be the very first inhabitants of this land to determine the most powerful person on the face of this planet.

A few dissidents in the DNC, made up of New Hampshireites and some Iowans, progressives and unionists, see things differently: Biden is lifting a state that a Democratic presidential candidate hasn’t carried since 1976. Beyond Clyburn, he There are few Democrats of note in South Carolina, and the state has the lowest union membership percentage in America. Progressive candidates could, cycle after cycle, encounter a wall of opposition there.

The lingering dilemma, which no version of the primary calendar could solve, is how to account for the Democratic Party’s various long-term challenges. A South Carolina primary, the first in the nation, is giving moderate blacks, a core Democratic constituency, the kind of influence many think they deserve. White rural voters — those to be wooed in Iowa and New Hampshire — have not proven themselves to be true to the Democratic brand. But there are only so many Democrats can afford to lose in the general election. New Hampshire, which Biden has carried by less than 10 points in 2020, is not guaranteed to be forever blue.


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