Yes, the lack of candidate diversity is a societal problem


Graphic by Kisha Yan

Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, and Julian Castro are candidates of color who did not qualify for the December Democratic presidential debate.

Brennan Rose and Nicole Fang

In 2008, America elected its first black president. In 2018, America elected its first openly bisexual senator to Congress. But with the 2020 election in less than a year, the Democratic candidate pool is becoming uncharacteristically white. 

The current front-runners for the Democratic ticket—Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Pete Buttigieg—are all white. Despite our recent breakthrough in diversity, the front-runners are white. The last candidate of color, Andrew Yang, failed to qualify for the January debate. This problem stems from the people’s views of what a president can be and the Democratic National Convention’s (DNC) treatment of the candidates.

From Julián Castro to Kamala Harris, the Democratic field was initially filled with candidates of color. However, as the Democratic field thinned, it became whiter. Critics unfairly nit-picked at irrelevant qualities of these candidates of color.

As reported by a Washington Post poll, Biden currently leads in Black voter support with 48% of African-American voters supporting him. It’s quite an oxymoron for the largest minority group in the US to show so much support for a white candidate as opposed to black candidates. Cory Booker commented on this issue in the party: “I’m just gonna say it plain it is a problem that we now have an overall campaign for the 2020 presidency that has more billionaires in it than black people.” 

The American people need more diverse candidates that resonate with more people of different backgrounds instead of billionaires who can fund their entire campaign without private donations. If the US government truly is “Of the People, By the People, For the People,‘’ as Abraham Lincoln put it, then it should represent all the people who call the U.S. their home. 

More diversity not only sends a more accepting message to the American people as a whole, but it also leads to more opinions and a greater range of thoughts and viewpoints. Different people from different ethnic groups have differing stances on issues and different agendas in regards to what issues are most important to them. 

Education is much more important to Hispanic voters, as 83 percent believe it is a top priority in a Pew Research Poll from 2016. African American voters find racial equality and fixing discrimination as the most impactful issue, as 50 percent put it as their top priority for the 2020 candidates to solve as reprted by a BlackPAC poll. 

There’s no reason why we shouldn’t have an extremely diverse Democratic field with candidates of all races and ethnicities standing on the debate stage. From former governors to senators to even attorneys, everyone who was running for the Democratic nomination was more than qualified to have their shot at the presidency. 

Cory Booker and Kamala Harris both had experience in leadership positions in the Senate and have had largely successful careers in politics. Harris especially had a rise in popularity after the first Democratic debate due to her oratorical skills, reminiscient of President Obama’s passionate speeches. Yet, despite their experience and skills, they lagged behind, perhaps due to the lack of name recognition. But, fame is not equivalent to competence, as seen by Trump’s stardom and abysmal presidency. 

It’s a societal problem with the people’s views as well as an issue with the DNC as a whole. Some voters are somewhat naturally drawn to a white candidates because we’ve had 44 white presidents with only one who wasn’t. In a Selzer & CO poll regarding the Iowa Caucus, Sanders was leading with 20 percent followed by Warren with 17 percent, Buttigieg with 16 percent, and Biden with 15 percent. All white and yet, none of them are more suited for that coveted position than the minority candidates.

The DNC’s rules for the next debate state that a candidate has to have 224,000 unique donors as well as receive 5 percent or more in national polls or 7 percent or more in two single state polls. These are extremely tight and difficult thresholds to pass and combined with the US’s white history, only the white candidates can reach these qualifications. 

Although the people have to look at how they judge the candidates, the DNC is eliminating any possibility of the people at looking at all the choices and giving even the less established candidates an equal shot against the well-known ones. Andrew Yang’s chief campaign staffer Nick Ryan said, “We are not going to allow the DNC to dictate who they wish to see as the nominee and deny the will of the people.”

Not only does society as a whole need to change their views on who should be sitting in the Oval Office, the DNC needs to stop skewing the Democratic primary in favor of white candidates. Candidates of color have the same chance at beating Trump as white candidates. Until this is changed and the government is truly abiding by those words of the Gettysburg Address, the voters will be faced with the options of white or eggshell.

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