The Republican Party of Iowa announced on Saturday that they had landed on January 15, 2024 for its first-in-the-nation presidential caucus. That happens to be Martin Luther King Jr. Day: the sole federal holiday honoring the legacy of a Black individual.
After a chaotic caucus in 2020, in which technology glitches led to delays in reported results, the Democratic National Committee voted in 2023 to drop Iowa from its decades-long position at the top of the party’s presidential nominating contest. It wasn’t just the tech issues that caused the DNC to rethink Iowa’s position on the nominating calendar: Iowa is a predominantly white state that is not necessarily as representative of the diversity of the Democratic party—or of America—as other states that have vyed to vote early, such as South Carolina, Georgia, and Nevada.
“We are overdue in changing this primary calendar to ensure it reflects the range of ideas, thoughts and hopes of Americans throughout this country,” said Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) of the calendar shakeup at the time.
Diversity considerations, however, were not necessarily top of mind when Iowa Republicans selected to force people to vote on the holiday honoring Martin Luther King.
“As Republicans,” state GOP chair Jeff Kaufmann told reporters, “we see this as honoring the legacy of Martin Luther King.” He clarified that the committee had not considered the possibility of the caucus falling on MLK day before reaching their decision, according to the Associated Press.
With the start of nominating events now officially just a little more than six months away, available Iowa polls have consistently shown Trump with sometimes overwhelming leads over his 2024 challengers in the state.
It’s unclear what the GOP’s date will mean for Iowa Democrats: the calendar approved by the Democratic National Committee and endorsed by President Joe Biden calls for South Carolina to host its primary on February 3 as the party’s first nominating contest. Iowa Democrats had reportedly been considering conducting a mail-only primary on the same day Republicans, but not immediately release the results, as part of an attempt to preserve a place at the head of the line without technically defying the DNC.
After the Republicans’ announcement Rita Hart, Iowa’s Democratic Party chair, pledged to move “forward with the most inclusive caucus process in Iowa’s history,” but offered few details. “We’re committed to doing what’s good for Democrats, what’s good for Iowa, and what’s good for democracy,” she said.