Iowa debate: Lack of diversity or candidates of color? (Jan. 22)

by J. Pharoah Doss, For New Pittsburgh Courier

The Democratic Party began their presidential primary season with more than two dozen serious candidates seeking the nomination. The 2020 field was promoted as the largest and most diverse group of candidates in American history. There were four White women, three Blacks, a Latino, an Asian, a Samoan-American, and an openly gay man. During these early stages being anything other than a straight White male diversified the field.

But in fairness to the concept of diversity, if you looked beyond color, gender, and sexual orientation you’d also discover diversity amongst the straight White males. These candidates were diverse in age, ethnicity, faith, educational attainment, career achievement, socio-economic status, military experience, political offices held, and policy proposals. But those categories don’t contribute to the Democratic Party’s superficial notion of diversity.

Now, the Democrats had more candidates than a national television audience could handle. Since the DNC didn’t want their televised presidential debates to resemble the overcrowded Republican presidential primary of 2016, the DNC made their candidates meet poll and donor thresholds in order to qualify for the debates, but the threshold increased with each debate round making it harder to earn a spot on the debate stage.

All candidates were aware of the debate rules before round one and no candidate questioned the fairness of the “weed out” process. (Mind you, these rules were to qualify for a television debate, not qualifying didn’t cancel a presidential campaign.) As the threshold increased after each debate the non-qualifying candidates started to end their bids for the presidency. A lot of the straight White males were the first to drop out; eventually the candidates of color didn’t qualify either, and the last debate in Iowa featured the six qualifying candidates who all happened to be White.

Suddenly there was controversy. The debate had no diversity, meaning candidates of color. Once again, the White candidates were diverse in age, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, faith, and political experience, but that type of diversity still didn’t count. The candidates of color stated the debate stage needed to be a reflection of the diversity of America, and the lack of diversity proved the DNC’s rules were structured against minorities. Tom Perez, the DNC chairman, dismissed the claims of racism, and stated the DNC set forth a clear set of transparent and inclusive rules, the rules were set out in advance, the voters were responsible for who appeared on stage, and the lack of diversity was the voters fault not the rules.

Now, during the actual Iowa debate, Pete Buttigieg, who previously diversified the field as a gay man but was now a problematic White male, was confronted by a moderator concerning his lack of Black support. The moderator said, “Mayor Buttigieg, you say you’ve had trouble earning the support of Black voters because you’re unknown. But you’ve been campaigning for a year now and polling shows you with next to no Black support, support that you’ll need in order to beat Donald Trump. Is it possible that Black voters have gotten to know you and have simply decided to choose another candidate?” (Notice the moderator only asked Buttigieg about Black support because it’s needed to defeat Trump.)

After the candidates of color complained about the lack of diversity and the DNC’s rules, they should have been confronted in the same manner as Buttigieg: You’ve been campaigning for a year now and polls show you have little support. Is it possible the voters got to know you and chose other candidates?

Candidates of color don’t have a monopoly on diversity, and these candidates lacked support because Democratic primary voters have prioritized electability over superficial reflections of America.

(J. Pharoah Doss is a contributor to the New Pittsburgh Courier.)


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