Transcripts of Selected Remarks
December 10, 2005 Meeting of the DNC Commission on Presidential Nomination Timing and Scheduling

Congressman David Price (D-NC), Co-Chair
There are a couple of balances that we're trying to strike in this report.  First of all there's a balance in terms of the content of the rules.  And this has really defined the mission of this Commission from the very beginning.  I think every discussion we've had, every meeting we've had, one way or another has come down to this.  We're trying on the one hand to honor the tradition in these early states of grassroots politics, protect grassroots politics in Iowa and New Hampshire, and we're attempting to broaden and diversify participation in early contests.

We've heard from people who are strong defenders of Iowa and New Hampshire and their role.  We've heard from people who are strong proponents of change, of having a more diverse set of early contests spread through this period.  We have struck a balance, attempting to do justice to both things, which I think most of us feel strongly.  That is the tradition of grassroots politics that has been so skillfully nurtured in these two states, but also the need to broaden participation and have a more diverse set of early contests that our candidates are ultimately exposed to.

Balance number two is between the desire for radical, far-reaching change and the desire for minimal change.  And it's no secret that that has been also a tension on this Commission.  There's a range of views -- some people wanting to change the system in major ways.  Sometimes we talk about the law of unintended consequences, and sometimes major changes do pose those challenges, but still we've had a lot of people really wanting to shake the system up.  We've had others saying that the system really was working pretty well and that we didn't need to have that much change.  We again tried to strike a balance.

This is an incremental proposal.  We aren't, we hope and believe, throwing out any babies with bath water here.  We're proposing an incremental solution that is neither radical nor trivial.  It is serious change, it is a serious modification in the way our party does business, but at the same time it is a modest step which we believe is workable.

It's been already commented that we are not dotting every "i" and crossing every "t" on this Commission, nor should we.  We're leaving a good deal to the Rules and Bylaws Committee because we think as states come forward, as people think about this, as the date approaches, there will be some situations that we cannot possibly anticipate here.  And so we're leaving the question of how many additional early states, exactly how many, which states those will be, and what dates their contests will go on, we're not trying to determine that here.  We're trying to leave flexibility.  So we've tried to stress that balance as well.

And finally let me just stress to you the interrelation of the three elements of the report.  We are trying to have a more diverse set of early contests that will expose the candidates to a broad range of the electorate.  We're not looking to replicate some kind of frontloading problem in the pre-window period.  We're looking in fact to have a few diverse contests.  Secondly, though, we are addressing frontloading, and that will be our next topic of discussion here.  The frontloading, that is the bunching of contests within the regular season.  There are all sorts of reasons we need to encourage a better spread, a better pacing of these contests.  And then thirdly we understand that as much as we would like to move the whole season later in 2008, that is not feasible.  But we're determined to work with the Republicans to move the whole season later in 2012 and beyond.  So there is an interrelation, and interdependence, between these three major recommendations in the report.

Several Commission members including Maria Echaveste, Sen. Carl Levin, former DNC Chair Don Fowler and Donna Brazile spoke eloquently in favor of a February 5 start to the nominating process with no exceptions.  Opponents of this more radical course of action argued that the Commission had "not had a thorough and full discussion of this option."  Echaveste's proposal was defeated.

Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI)
All states want an opportunity to participate.  We shouldn't have a rule that some states are more equal than others.  That's the status quo.  New Hampshire and Iowa are not only more equal than others--many, many, many times over they're more equal than others.  Candidates pay dozens, sometimes hundreds of visits to Iowa and New Hampshire.  Rarely a week goes by that another candidate for 2008 or a potential candidate takes the pledge that they'll back New Hampshire's first in the nation primary status or Iowa's.  Here's the most recent one.  Gov. Warner, not even a candidate yet, takes the pledge.

Folks, we've got to change that status quo.  The proposal does it in a way which is just barely a crack in that wall that Iowa and New Hampshire have surrounded themselves by.  And I know this is only for 2008, and the co-chairs have made that clear -- this is not, what's being recommended here, beyond 2008.  We can change it for 2012.  But if we're going to truly have a significant change where the value of retail politics, which is real; it's not just retail, it is a real value.  It is --  Make an opportunity for other states, more than just one between -- and that's the likelihood, even though it says one or two, the likelihood is it'll be one other caucus state.   That does not make a significant enough change to satisfy what was really the driving force behind our coming together, which was to significantly change, not just modestly change, but significantly change the status quo.

We all ought to live under the same rule folks.  Our party is a party that lives by the rules, believes that everyone ought to live by the same rule.  And the same rule is everybody lives within that window, and we enforce the rule.  Now the Republicans may be doing that this time around, they say they are.  We'll believe it when we see it.  But this party's an egalitarian party.  We don't believe any state has a right to a dominant role in the nominating process philosophically.  We all believe in retail politics.  But we've got to share that opportunity.  We all want to see candidates.  Two states see candidates fifty and a hundred times.  Take a look at these quotes.  Last election:

"I'm going to live in Iowa and New Hampshire for the next two years."  That's one of our top candidates.

Another one.  "My wife and family and I have taken an apartment in Manchester, New Hampshire."

Another one.  "I will pledge to the death to protect the New Hampshire primary, so help me God."

That's a reality we've got to change.  The proposal before us is a very, very modest change.  But folks we can do better than that.  We can do better than that and the better way to do this is to take Maria's suggestion and to enforce it.  Let's all live under the same rule; let's live by the same rule -- an egalitarian rule.

Donna Brazile
...the principle of fairness.  I believe, as many of you know me, that Iowa and New Hampshire have played a very important role in helping to determine our nominee.  As somone who has campaigned in those states, I've live in those states too Mr. Levin.  It was a horrible experience with 6 degrees below zero, but I adopted to it.  But let me just say this.  I think that we are in a new era.  This is not the party of the 20th century that had to struggle as many of us know with the issue of fairness and inclusion.  We start off our report on page 15 with a summary of what took place in 1964 when Fannie Lou Hamer forced open our doors to have a seat at the table.  And I think in her spirit, and the spirit of so many others, it's time that we open this process to other states to participate in selecting our nominee.

So while I came early on to the process thinking that we could have Iowa and New Hampshire-plus, that's like stirring in gumbo with new ingredients, I now believe that the best course of action is the one that Maria and Don and others are proposing, that is to start the process on February 5th.  Now, I've never been afraid of taking a strong position and I know as a member of the Rules and Bylaws Committee we're going to have some long days and quite a few arguments and exercise over this process.

The second thing: 37 million Americans live under the poverty line in this country.  We've been their voice and we've been their champions.  But often in the presidential season we forget them; we leave them behind.  And there's no one speaking to them.  It's time where we have a process that we can speak to them and hear from them and allow them to be part of this process.  And I believe the only way to allow those 37 million Americans to be party of this process is to open it up and make sure their voice is at the table...