By Yvonne Sam
On December 19, the day after US President, Donald J. Trump, was impeached by the House for abuse of power, the Democratic presidential candidates held their final debate of the year at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.
On the stage were Senators: Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar; along with Mayor, Pete Buttigieg; former Vice President, Joe Biden; billionaire, Tom Steyer; and entrepreneur, Andrew Yang, the only non-White contender.
Visibly absent from the lineup was Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, who, regrettably, is completely out of the race, although former President, Barack Obama, recently said that women were better leaders.
The seven candidates had met the polling and fundraising minimums to qualify for the December 19 debate.
Fewer than five percent of Americans donate to political campaigns. What is needed to donate to political campaigns is disposable income. Americans of color lack the disposable income to donate to campaigns.
Additionally, both Blacks and Latinos have something more powerful than words working against them. They have numbers. The average net worth of a Black household is only 10 percent that of a white household; for Latinos, it’s 12 percent. If you are a Black woman, data shows that you are 320 percent more likely to die from complications in childbirth. Sadly, these are the numbers that define race in America.
Of serious concern is the fact that the Democratic Party has always relied on Blacks, Hispanic and Asian voters, but what message is being sent to voters of color, when the entire field remains overwhelmingly white?
Thus far, virtually all of the candidates of color have been eradicated by the rules, restrictions and the norms governing the presidential process, except for Yang. The time has certainly come to activate the pause button, and open a conversation about money in politics, and racially polarized voting patterns in America.
There has been a Black President, but never a woman as president. Blacks deserve to have a process that produces a person of color on the ticket. It is extremely clear that White, privileged candidates, possessing tremendous amounts of personal wealth, enjoy an unnatural advantage in this process.
According to Democratic strategist, Jess Morales Rocketto, “The dominance of White candidates in the race confirms something we should have already known: the political system was not set up to include candidates of color.”
Impeachment aside, Blacks, especially, need to ensure that as the slate becomes whiter, that the conversation about race and racism is still ongoing, and really pushing the candidates to vocalize their position on issues that matter to Blacks.
After all, if the Democrats want an energized turnout and voter participation among African Americans and Latinos, then they must keep to the fore the issues that matter to those communities, and not allow them to be wiped out from the debate. At the end of the day, Blacks need to make, absolutely sure, that the debate is not “whitewashed”.
New Jersey Senator, Cory Booker, is finding ways to connect with the electorate and get his message out there. However, as we are in the beginning of a new decade, pondering seriously about what it would take to build a true multiracial democracy in America, one has to be deeply concerned about the fact that the presidential stage, as broad as it was from the outset, is now whiter and more male.
Even including the four states that vote in February — Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina — as well as in Washington, New York and Los Angeles, the host city for the debate.
On the issue of racial injustice there have been some voiced concerns, regarding the order of the primary states and the caucuses, and whether there should be a change. Presidential hopeful, Julian Castro, has stated, that there should be a change, as the present set-up neither reflects the diversity of the Democratic Party, nor that of the country.
If Black women are truly valued, and are repeatedly being told that they are the key to the party’s success in states like Louisiana and Alabama, and that they are going to be crucial in 2020, then why does the most important nominating process in the entire party, the presidential nominating process begin in two states that hardly contain any Black people?
Things kick off in Iowa and New Hampshire — two of the whitest states in America — and then move to South Carolina, which has a significant population of people of color, and then Texas and California, both vote on Super Tuesday on March 3.
Simply translated, or speaking politically correctly, it means that the candidates spend much of their time catering to those two first states — two of the whitest states being the first two primaries and caucuses. This does not, in many ways, help people of color.
There is a huge impact on how they cater to the first states, and in the way they talk about the issues, such as race, immigration and criminal justice reform. And probably, they are not going to talk too much about immigration or other issues that people of color care about.
Yvonne Sam, a retired Head Nurse and Secondary School Teacher, is Vice-president of the Guyana Cultural Association of Montreal. A regular columnist for over two decades with the Montreal Community Contact, her insightful and incursive articles on topics ranging from politics, human rights and immigration, to education and parenting have also appeared in the Huffington Post, Montreal Gazette, XPressbogg and Guyanese OnLine. She is also the recipient of the Governor General of Canada Caring Canadian Citizen Award.