When the sixth debate for the Democratic nomination for president begins tonight at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, the tv lights won’t be the only things that are brightly white. For the first time in 2020, the stage won’t feature a black or Hispanic candidate.
Only seven candidates met the strict criteria for tonight’s debate: former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), California billionaire Tom Steyer, and Silicon Valley entrepreneur Andrew Yang.
Sen Kamala Harris (D-CA) dropped out of the race, while Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, and Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick all failed to reach the DNC’s 4% polling and 200,000 donor thresholds.
This makes tonight’s debate the least diverse of the current campaign. That realization is causing dismay to many Democrats, who cheered what initially looked to be a historically diverse field.
Earlier this month, Booker cracked on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program, “If the debate stage stays what it is right now, it will have more billionaires than black people.”
The last two Republican presidential slates were considerably more diverse for considerably longer into the process.
In 2012, African American pizza magnate Herman Cain appeared in the first 11 debates. In 2016, African American surgeon Ben Carson appeared on stage for the first 10 of 12 debates. Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla), both Latinos, participated in all 12 debates.
In his “Morning Joe” appearance, Booker took issue with DNC rules that seemed to be bleaching the stage: “I believe these artificial hurdles for this debate stage right now are having the unintended consequences of having minority voices, which are essential … to moving our party to the right policy and the right positions are being excluded. And that’s problematic for a party that will rely on black and Latino, black and brown, I should say, Asian Americans and others, turning out at record numbers.”
It’s ironic that the first debate to feature no black or Hispanic candidate is taking place in California, which Joel Pollak described as “the most diverse state in the US.”
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