It’s been almost seven months since the first Democratic debate for the 2020 presidential election kicked off a political cycle that then-seemed fresh.
There were 25 candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for the presidency, and 20 of them were featured in a two-night debate event June 26-27 in Miami, Florida. The event, at the time, seemed historic. It was the largest, most progressive and most diverse field of candidates the country had ever seen.
There was Kamala Harris, only the second black woman to serve in the U.S. Senate. There was Andrew Yang, an Asian American entrepreneur. There was Cory Booker, an African American senator from New Jersey. There was Julian Castro, a Mexican American and the former housing secretary. There was Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who is openly gay.
The field was all-inclusive. Those were the days.
In the latest installment of the Democratic debates, which aired on CNN from Des Moines, Iowa, Jan. 16, there were just six candidates left who qualified to participate. There was still Buttigieg, who sits firmly in Iowa’s top-four candidates, according to the latest poll from The Des Moines Register. There was Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Bernie Sander, I-Va., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. And there was Tom Steyer, the former executive who’s bankrolling much of his own campaign.
There were more billionaires on the stage than there were black people, vying for the nomination of a party in which at least 39% of voters are racial minorities, according to the Pew Research Center, which is, of course, insane.
The issue, it seems, is two-fold. There has been an utter failure within the party to support minority candidates, both in the polls and in donations, according to USA Today. And the DNC’s own qualifications for the latest few rounds of debates have undercut the party’s own mission.
Under the “Where We Stand” section of the DNC’s website, the party claims one of its core values and guiding beliefs, among other things, is inclusion. “Democrats believe,” the statement reads, “... diversity is a strength.”
The strength wasn’t present in the 2016 election, which saw Hillary Clinton lose an election she spent years in the public eye preparing for. And the strength wasn’t on the debate stage in Miami and was only acutely so in December’s debate, too, with Yang, a millionaire, as the only qualifying racial minority, even after nine 2020 Democratic candidates signed a petition urging the DNC to lower qualifications, seven of whom had already qualified for December’s debate.
The DNC refused to lower the requirements, failing to provide a platform to some of the only racial minorities who still maintained a legitimate, if long, shot at winning the election.
According to the New York Times’ candidate tracker, there are still 12 individuals officially seeking the Democratic nomination for the presidency. Three of them — Yang, Tulsi Gabbard, a Samoan American and representative from Hawaii, and Patrick Deval, an African American and the former governor of Massachusetts — are racial minorities.
Harris, Castro and Booker, three of the candidates who embodied the Democrats’ diverse field, all failed to qualify for the Democratic National Convention’s December debates, all withdrew from the election before the January debate rolled around and all cited a lack of fundraising as a factor in their decision.
Booker, in particular, cited finances as the main reason for his campaign’s suspension coupled with his inability to reach a wider audience of potential supporters due to his disclusion from the December and January debates, the New York Times reported.
In his 11-month campaign, Booker raised $22.1 million, according to The Times, which was less than Sanders, Buttigieg and former Vice President Joe Biden — all white men — each raised in the fourth quarter of 2019 alone. Grassroots Democrats and the establishment’s continued infatuation with white candidates and refusal to support racial minorities within the party for the presidency is both hypocritical and opposing to what the party is trying to accomplish, a problem that didn’t go unaddressed in this week’s debate.
“We need a candidate who will excite all parts of the Democratic Party, bring everyone in,” Warren said on the Des Moines debate stage.
A 70-year-old, overly-ambitiously progressive white woman with a net worth of more than $10 million lecturing the nation on the need for inclusion, standing on a stage with five other white people. This is the state of the Democratic party, sounding and looking the same that it did in 2016.
The 2016 election taught the DNC a lesson, one the party failed to learn.