On Tuesday, the six top candidates for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination with gather for a debate in Des Moines, Iowa.
Every single one is white.
On stage will be former Vice President Joe Biden of Delaware, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), California billionaire Tom Steyer and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the top contenders left in a field that began with 24 candidates.
Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez blamed Democratic voters for the lack of diversity in the upcoming debate.
“If you want to make sure that a candidate of color makes the debate stage, when a pollster calls you, make sure you make that preference felt,” Perez said on MSNBC. “Because that is how you move the polling needle and, again, the voters are the ones who are making these decisions.”
Entrepreneur Andrew Yang, the only candidate of color to make the Democratic debate in December, failed to make the cut for Tuesday’s debate, drawing ire from his campaign.
“If the DNC had only done their due diligence and commissioned polls in the early states, Andrew Yang would certainly be on the debate stage next week,” Yang campaign chief Nick Ryan said Saturday in a statement. “We are not going to allow the DNC to dictate who they wish to see as the nominee and deny the will of the people.”
“The DNC tried to run this same play in 2016 and they paid for it with a loss in the general,” Ryan said.
Some Democratic supporters find the development disheartening.
“Both the way the primary is set up and the way debates are done are a problem,” Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color of Change, a racial justice organization, told The Washington Post. “The system they have designed has suppressed the most loyal base of the Democratic Party.”
He said the rules are skewed. “Anyone with an understanding of civil rights law understands how the rules can be set up to benefit some communities. The Democratic Party should look at the impact of these rules and question the results.”
Aimee Allison, executive director of She the People, an organization that supports women of color in politics. She said this year’s conversation about “electability” is problematic.
“It’s a troubling indication of the built-in bias toward white men and white candidates over everyone else,” Allison told The Post. “There is a deep cultural belief that hasn’t been adequately challenged.”
“Why are we assuming that a Biden” — who tops polls of black voters — “is a stronger candidate?” Allison added. “What is magic now? He was beaten by a younger African American candidate” in 2008, when Biden garnered just one percent of the vote in the Iowa caucuses before dropping out.
But the DNC says the rules — candidates are required to receive donations from 225,000 unique donors and reach 7% support in two polls of early states — were set early enough for all candidates to comply.
“We’ve set forth a clear set of transparent, inclusive rules,” Perez said. “We set those rules out in advance. And it’s for the voters to decide.”