We Need an Early Urban Primary

I’ve argued that with so many rural states, we need an urban one–that would be D.C.:

If you’re a progressive, liberal, leftie, what have you, you probably favor pro-urban policies such as mass transit. You’ll note that most of the ‘little’ states are either a combination of urban, suburban, and rural, or mostly rural. In addition, states that are often that are often associated with ‘urbanity’ such as New York also have considerable rural/exurban areas. In other words, there are no states dominated by urban concerns.

If D.C. were granted statehood or meaningful Congressional representation, that would be a huge advantage for progressives et alia. There are so many senators who represent rural concerns, often to the exclusion of the few urban areas in their states (which tend to vote Democratic and thus are basically told to go fuck themselves). A couple of urban senators–who would care about things like mass transit, expensive housing and the like–could really help the left-leaning agenda.

So I fully endorse Kevin Collins’ proposal to move the D.C. primary ahead of Iowa and New Hampshire (boldface mine):

We know that farm subsidies are financial, environmental and public health disasters. You can draw a straight line from industrial farmers cashing in on crop insurance funds to America’s skyrocketing obesity rate and associated issues. In other words, farm subsidies are killing people in an indirect but very real way.

However, knowing all of this, we can’t get rid of them because you can’t be elected president without bear-hugging Iowan farmers and promising to keep their subsidies safe. Not only that, but you can’t even think about running for president if, as an elected representative, you cast any votes that could be construed as anti-farm…

It would force presidential candidates to engage with a litany of urban issues that barely break into our national politics.

For instance, the current heroin epidemic is a massive issue, yes. But there’s a reason why presidential candidates are spending so much time talking about it (and directing funds to fight it during election years) instead of, say, ending the drug war more generally: Heroin is a rural, white issue. The criminalization of marijuana and mandatory minimum sentencing laws are urban, black issues. If Washington, DC was moved ahead of New Hampshire, you would see a near-immediate and corresponding shift in drug policy rhetoric and proposals.

It’s not just drugs, though. Moving DC to the front of the primary calendar would force a discussion on all sorts of urban issues. To take another example, Hillary Clinton had to go out of her way to bring up the Flint water crisis during the last presidential debate. The Republican candidates have, by and large, avoided having to address the issue entirely. However, what happened in Flint wasn’t an isolated issue: A study from the Natural Resources Defense Council found that a significant number of other American cities — including Atlanta, San Francisco and Albuquerque — are all at risk for crises similar to that of Flint. As the scandal in Michigan unfolded, the New York Times (and others) asked how the issue would have been handled differently were the city’s residents mostly rich and mostly white. I would also ask how our political response would look if our presidential candidates were currently vying for votes in a city with similar municipal issues.

There are a number of other issues that would receive necessary attention were our candidates currently barnstorming in the parts of Washington that they would otherwise never go, from public transportation to antipoverty programs to housing to infrastructure (high speed rail, anyone?).

If nothing else, the Metro would suck a little less.

It would radically change our politics if candidates, Republicans and Democrats, had to go to Wards 7 and 8 to win votes. And if the ‘overly white’ states of New Hampshire and Iowa aren’t a problem, then the ‘overly black and Latino’ state of the District shouldn’t be either.

Make the first primary in the District of Columbia.

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