What New Hampshire's Primary Means for the Fate of Our Elections
As spring approaches, the presidential election cycle is in full swing, with democratic candidates campaigning fiercely to secure the party’s nomination. From talks of caucuses and primaries, it’s easy for the average American to get lost in the whirlwind of overly-complicated political jargon that’s thrown around by media outlets. Yet, at a time where the political climate has become increasingly divisive, it is important that Americans are aware of how their country’s political processes work so that they are ready to cast an informed vote this November.
To grasp how the presidential election works, we need to first understand the process by which
a candidate is chosen to represent his or her party. This is the function of primaries. A primary is a
preliminary election where voters of each party nominate candidates for office. Primaries play a
huge role in helping unite a party behind one candidate. However, in recent years the primary process
has come under fire with critics taking aim at the primary’s oversized influence in picking presidential candidates. One state in particular, New Hampshire, has been under scrutiny for its seemingly disproportionate influence on America’s presidential elections. To understand this criticism, we need to
delve into New Hampshire’s history as the first primary state and the role that it plays in the fate of our nation’s elections.
New Hampshire’s status as the first primary state dates back to 1948 when Richard F. Upton, speaker of the state’s House of Representatives, passed a law allowing citizens to vote directly for presidential candidates. This new law immediately received national attention, as New Hampshire was the first state to implement such a policy. In the state’s 1952 primary, Republican candidate Dwight D. Eisenhower won in an overwhelming victory. Eisenhower later went on to win the national election in a landslide victory, setting a precedent of the importance of New Hampshire’s primary.
Fast forward to today and the importance of New Hampshire’s primary is clear to see. Since 1976, the state’s primary predicted five of the ten eventual Democratic presidential nominees. Yet as of late, more people have grown critical of New Hampshire’s role in America’s elections. For one, New Hampshire’s population is over 93% white. In addition, the black and hispanic communities in the state only account for 4% and 2% of the population, respectively.
The racial makeup of New Hampshire is a far cry from the demographic reality of the United States. As of 2019, white people make up 60.4% of our country’s population. The hispanic and black demographic followed behind, with 18.3% and 13.4%, respectively. Given this data, can we really say that New Hampshire is reflective of our nation’s demographics?
No, we cannot.
The reality is that New Hampshire bears little resemblance to our increasingly diverse country. Given the influence the state’s primary has on the national election, it might be time to reevaluate New Hampshire’s role in our changing country.
Of course, this is not an attack on the good people of New Hampshire. Some may argue that New Hampshire is a great state to hold the country’s first primary. After all, it is one of the most educated states in America, with 36% of adults holding a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to the national average of 31%. In addition, the state has a relatively small number of voters, making it easy for grass-roots campaigns to gain traction and momentum. Combined with the state’s small, inexpensive media market, New Hampshire provides a healthy environment for candidates to connect personally with voters.
With that being said, New Hampshire’s lack of diversity is startling and shouldn’t be glossed over. As our country becomes increasingly more diverse, it is hard to picture a future where New Hampshire resembles the United States’ demographics. As we find ourselves in the midst of a new decade, we must embrace the unique opportunities and challenges that come with living in a diverse nation. The face of America is changing — and we must change with it.