Tonight the Democrats are holding their sixth debate of the 2020 campaign in Los Angles. As of this writing with hours to go before the field is set seven candidates have qualified. They are: Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer, Elizabeth Warren and Andrew Yang. Of the six candidates I feel have at least an outside shot at the nomination only Corry Booker did not make the cut. Some are making a big deal out of the fact that the field lacks diversity. My reply is: Are you serious? Let’s explore.
This field is diverse, perhaps not perfectly diverse or diverse enough by your measure, but certainly diverse. Certainly it doesn’t contain every candidate I’d like to see and hear. I wish Cory were up there and I’d like to have Kamala Harris near or at the top of the polls let alone on the stage. The reality is that competing by the same set of rules they (in the case of Booker) didn’t and (in the case of Harris) chose not to make it to the stage.
Let’s see; you have a Catholic, a member of the LGBTQ community, two women, a Jew, a billionaire and an Asian-American. For a Baby Boomer that is more diverse than I ever thought I’d see even as a young adult. I remember fields comprised entirely of older WASP males. It is true that we don’t have an African-American in this debate; there was more than one in each of the first five rounds.
Some contend that the DNC rules handicap an African-American. Does that mean they are favorable to Catholics, Jews, women, homosexuals and Asian-Americans? The most legitimate criticism of the DNC rules I have heard was that they allowed too many people on the stage. Many people who will vote in the Democratic primary haven’t bothered to tune it yet specifically because the field has been too big. They were waiting for it to come down to a more workable number; say six or less.
Money is a factor but Mike Bloomberg’s absence is proof that the rules will not let money alone get you on the stage. (Admittedly Steyer’s money helped him get there. He chose to play the “money game” differently than Bloomberg did.)
As a former political operative I know the importance of African-American voter turnout to the Democratic Party. I can’t see the Democratic presidential nominee winning without a good African-American turnout in 2020 nor can I see the Democrats taking back the Senate in that scenario.
Regardless of the race of the candidates, it is the job of the Democratic Party to sell the electorate on their candidates being the better choice. By the way, don’t forget about the very real possibility that the ticket will have an African-American on it. Assuming Cory Booker is not the nominee (more about that below) he still would make a very good Veep pick as would Kamala Harris. Certainly one or both of them will be in the running for that spot.
Not being on the stage (although I don’t think this debate will have great viewership) will hurt Senator Booker. I still won’t count him out. He has one of the strongest ground operations in Iowa and that very much matters particularly in a caucus state. At this point it is difficult to see him winning Iowa but a strong third or fourth place finish could make him viable down the road.
With Donald Trump as the likely Republican nominee if the Democrats can’t sell their candidates and get out the vote they need to take a long, hard look in the mirror and imperfect diversity on the stage in their sixth debate won’t be the problem.
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