Thursday evening’s Democrat debate in Los Angeles features seven presidential hopefuls, all of whom, with the exception of Andrew Yang (D), are white. The dwindling racial representation within the field of candidates hailing from a party that prides itself on diversity is the least of the problem, though, as many of the candidates have a controversial history with respect to race.
Democrats overwhelmingly decried the state of the Democrat field after Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), who qualified for Thursday’s debate, dropped out of the race. Julián Castro (D) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), both of whom did not qualify for the debate, also decried the whitening field.
“What we’re staring at is a DNC debate stage with no people of color on it,” Castro said after Harris dropped out. “That does not reflect the diversity of our party or our country. We need to do better than that”:
“What we’re staring at is a DNC debate stage with no people of color on it. That does not reflect the diversity of our party or our country. We need to do better than that.” pic.twitter.com/W73Nw3WI14
— Sawyer Hackett (@SawyerHackett) December 3, 2019
“And it’s a damn shame now that the only African American woman in this race, who has been speaking to issues that need to be brought up, is now no longer in it,” Booker told MSNBC at the time.
“And we’re spiraling towards a debate stage that potentially … could have six people with no diversity whatsoever,” he added.
Not only are the bulk of candidates on Thursday’s debate stage, minus Yang, white — many of them have racial controversies looming over their heads.
Former Vice President Joe Biden (D), for example, has come under fire for paying homage to segregationist senators on the campaign trail.
As Breitbart News detailed:
Former Vice President Joe Biden once again paid homage to the late-Sen. Fritz Hollings, a reformed segregationist, on Monday at a fundraiser in South Carolina.
“Folks, I’m going to be brief because you’re standing and because old Fritz will come down from heaven and yank my neck back,” Biden told donors, according to The Post and Courier. “By the way, I owe South Carolina more than you can imagine.”
In June the former vice president cited the late-Sens. James Eastland (D-MS) and Herman Talmdage (D-GA) at a fundraiser in New York City while touting his ability to form consensus in Congress.
“I was in a caucus with James O. Eastland,” Biden said at the time, with a mock Southern drawl. “He never called me boy, he always called me son.”
“Well guess what?” he continued. “At least there was some civility. We got things done. We didn’t agree on much of anything. We got things done. We got it finished. But today you look at the other side and you’re the enemy. Not the opposition, the enemy. We don’t talk to each other anymore.”
Biden also came under fire for stating that “poor kids are just as bright and just as talented as white kids.” His campaign later claimed he “misspoke.”
“Donald Trump is desperate to change the subject from his atrocious record of using racism to divide this country,” Biden’s deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield said.
Vice President Joe Biden misspoke and immediately corrected himself during a refrain he often uses to make the point that all children deserve a fair shot, and children born into lower-income circumstances are just as smart as those born to wealthy parents.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has also found herself neck-deep in controversy after DNA results confirmed that she was not, in fact, Native American, despite years of claiming Native American heritage.
While Warren has admitted that she “shouldn’t” have claimed Native American heritage, she said she learned of her fake heritage from her family and has frequently referred to a Boston Globe investigation that determined she did not gain “any benefit” from her false claims.
Harvard Law School News Director Mike Chmura, however, bragged about Warren’s status as the “first woman of color” tenured at the school.
Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D), who has failed to garner support among black voters, proclaimed during the November debate that his existence as a gay “stranger in my own country” connected him to black voters.
As mayor of a city that is racially diverse and largely low-income for eight years, I have lived and breathed the successes and struggles of the community, where far too many people live with the consequences of a racial inequity that has built up over centuries, but then compounded by policies and decisions from within living memory.
I care about this because my faith teaches me that salvation has to do with how I make myself useful to those who have been excluded, marginalized, and cast aside and oppressed in society. I care about this because while I do not have the experience of ever having been discriminated against because of the color of my skin, I do have the experience of sometimes feeling like a stranger in my own country. Turning on the news and seeing my own rights come up for debate and seeing my rights expanded by a coalition of people like me and people not at all like me, working side by side, shoulder to shoulder, making it possible for me to be standing here wearing this wedding ring in a way that couldn’t have happened two elections ago, lets me know just how deep my obligation is to help those whose rights are on the line, every day, even if they are nothing like me in their experience.
While Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has not struggled as overtly as his counterparts, notable black leaders, including Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors, signed a letter condemning “‘hateful, violent, and racist threats’ from people who identify as Sanders supporters” following the Working Families Party’s endorsement of Warren over Sanders.
The letter claimed that Sanders supporters called black leaders “Uncle Tom,” “Slave,” and “Cunt.”
“This campaign condemns racist bullying and harassment of any kind, in any space,” Sanders responded on Twitter. “We are building a multiracial movement for justice — that’s how we win the White House”:
This campaign condemns racist bullying and harassment of any kind, in any space. We are building a multiracial movement for justice — that’s how we win the White House.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) September 19, 2019
National co-chair for the Sanders campaign, Nina Turner, responded:
Anyone directing racist, sexist &otherwise personally derogatory tweets/messages towards @MauriceWFP or anyone on his team @WorkingFamilies is a coward and is not in alignment w/ @BernieSanders or our collective mission.
— Nina Turner (@ninaturner) September 19, 2019
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) has not been immune to criticism either. She came under fire over her past failure to prosecute cases involving deadly police encounters with black men during her time as an attorney. From 1999 to 2007, “Klobuchar declined to bring charges in more than two dozen cases in which people were killed in encounters with police,” the Washington Post reported:
Christopher Burns, a 44-year-old black man, was unarmed and at home in Minneapolis with his fiancee and three young children when the police arrived in response to a domestic violence call. The officers put him in a chokehold, and he died on the scene, according to the medical examiner.
The 2002 incident marked the third killing of a black person by the city’s police department that year, prompting local activists to stage rallies and demand that the two officers involved in Burns’s death face charges.
The focus of the community’s anger was Amy Klobuchar, the up-and-coming attorney of Hennepin County, who had declined to prosecute police accused of using excessive force against black suspects.
“WE MUST NOT LET THEM GET AWAY WITH THIS!” one activist group wrote in a newsletter. “Many people are watching to see if she will really fight for justice in this case.”Klobuchar, then 42, declined to bring charges against the officers, and a grand jury she convened did not indict them.
The Post has attempted to spin the overwhelming white field on display, claiming that “voters of color will still be represented” because “the six white and one Asian American candidates on the debate stage Thursday night represent what Democrats, including Democrats of color, want.”