News & Politics

Democrats Fretting About All-White Debate Stage

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif. speaks Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019, during a Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by ABC at Texas Southern University in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

After Kamala Harris dropped out of the presidential race last week, Democrats experienced a genuine existential crisis.

How can the “party of diversity and tolerance” claim to be either when the stage at the debate on December 19 in Los Angeles will be whiter than a white Christmas?


When Democrats won a Senate seat in Alabama two years ago, their chairman declared that “black women are the backbone of the Democratic party, and we can’t take that for granted”. #ThankBlackWomen began trending andthe “backbone” metaphor has been an applause line ever since.

Yet when Democratic candidates for president debate in Los Angeles later this month, there will be no black women on stage following the sudden exit of Senator Kamala Harris of California. Unless something changes quickly, there will be no candidates of colour at all.

It’s galling for people that are on the stage to not acknowledge and speak to black women’s issues,” said Aimee Allison, the founder and president of She the People, a network dedicated to elevating the political power of women of colour.

Quick! Someone find a negro to run for president. Now!

When you live by “diversity,” you die by diversity.

Donald Trump’s Republican party has leaned into white identity politics. Democrats elected the most diverse candidates yet in the 2018 midterms, including the first two Muslim women in Congress. Their presidential primary also broke new ground: last June it featured six women, six people of colour and an openly gay man.

But the debate qualifying rules set by Tom Perez, the Democratic National Committee chairman who two years ago coined the “backbone” claim, are said by critics to have disadvantaged candidates of colour by putting too much emphasis on access to financial support. So far only white aspirants have met the polling and donor thresholds to participate in the 19 December debate.

I think there should be 40 candidates on stage at that debate — 13 percent black, 17 percent Hispanic, 3 percent Muslim, 51 percent women, and 65 percent white. If a couple of them are certified morons, all the better. Stupid people should be represented too.

There. Fixed it.

“So we need a standard bearer for the Democratic party who speaks the language of solidarity, who’s able to organise a multiracial coalition, and when you have an all white stage you’re missing lived experience, expertise and policy that helps to both inspire and speak to the very people we need to turn out to win in 2020. It’s a terrifying prospect.”

I have no doubt that many people of color “live experiences” that are different than those of whites. Men “live experiences” that are different than women. Women “live experiences” that are different depending on their socio-economic standing. Marmosets “live experiences” different than zebras.

What’s the point? When the end-all and be-all of one’s worldview is “diversity,” excellence and achievement — regardless of race, sex, sexual orientation, or religion — takes a back seat to being stylish.

That’s what’s being debated: style, not substance. The view that because I’m not black or brown, I’ve never “experienced” life as a person of color is true, but meaningless. There are many people of color who didn’t grow up in a loving, two-parent family with a father and mother who loved books and education, saw to it their 10 children had enough to eat, and received strong support for whatever they wanted to make out of their lives.

It’s automatically assumed I am “represented” in … wherever — the courts, the Congress, my Moose Lodge. Who else in this country represents my “lived experiences”?

Diversity is the handmaiden of incompetence and stupidity. Demanding representation and position because of the color of your skin or because your loins are cleft, not cloven, is unfair and wrong.

/end rant.