We currently have a white, male president. Out of the 45 presidents this nation has seen, only one of them was a slight variant of that. We elected a half-black man in 2008, and then as soon as his two terms in office were complete, we reverted back to what we’d always known.
Now, another presidential election is upon us, and with Election Day 2020 fast (and yet, not quite fast enough) approaching, every Democratic – and even Republican – presidential hopeful has come out of the woodwork to tease or announce their candidacy.
Assuming the incumbent president will win the Republican nomination, the Democratic nomination is being hotly and shamelessly coveted. It seems every time you turn on the news, another candidate has launched their campaign. Sometimes it’s hard to keep track of who’s officially in the race and who isn’t yet. For instance, as much as he’s being talked about and as much as he’s talking, Joe Biden has still not announced his candidacy.
Depends on who you ask, but popular opinion and polling seems to generally lead towards the Three Bs – Bernie, Biden, and Beto.
Again, Biden isn’t officially in the race, but his following doesn’t seem to mind that. When Senator Bernie Sanders announced, his campaign pulled in a whopping $5.9 million dollars in the first 24 hours. That was impressive.
But then, in an unexpected occurrence (at least for me), Beto O’Rourke topped Bernie, raising $6.1 million in his first day.
Biden’s all but announced at this point, so we’ll see where he lands on the scale. For comparison, though, Senator Kamala Harris, thought by some to be a favorite in the race, only raised $1.5 million in her first day.
Other favorites include Senators Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren, and then there’s Tulsi Gabbard, Amy Klobuchar, Kirsten Gillibrand, Julian Castro, Pete Buttigieg, and more!
Of all the names I’ve just listed, there’s a lot of representation. Lots of women in the running, for starters. Racially, we’ve got Asian, black, Hispanic, and not Native American representation (sorry, Liz). We’ve got a Hindu, a Jew, a homosexual who also happens to be only 37-years old, and a vegan. They all come with their own unique government and business backgrounds, and they all seem decently not terrible.
But let’s go back to those Three Bs again – all three are white males.
Here’s how I feel about this. Representation in government is essential. The way our country’s looking, it’s not even a nice-to-have anymore. There’s too much diversity amongst the citizens of the United States for us to be governed by a body that doesn’t represent us, doesn’t get us, and doesn’t look out for our interests.
That said, we’ve put in the work and diversified the hell out of Congress over the last few election cycles, and I presume we’ll continue to elect leaders who look, speak, and think more like us.
But for the presidency…that’s just one seat. Personally, I don’t care what color, religion, sexual orientation, or zodiac sign you are. If you’re the best person for the job, I’ll take you.
If the best person for the job happens to be another white dude, so be it. I’d rather that than a subpar candidate who won based on his or her diversity. I mean, of all the candidates I mentioned earlier, Tulsi Gabbard is probably my least favorite, even though she’s the one who looks the most like me.
That’s not to say that a white man can’t possibly sympathize and empathize with various groups of people. He should. If he can’t, then he’s not the right candidate.
Now, I’ll be the first to tell you that white males have it the easiest in this country, whether they know it and admit to it or not. I’m also the last one to cry over a white man who feels overlooked or discriminated against for once, as if it’s not something that the rest of us deal with literally all the time. That said, a lot (but certainly not all) of them do at the very minimum make an effort to understand and acknowledge their privilege. Honestly, I don’t fault them for what they aren’t aware of. People can only control so much of the reality that’s presented to them. We’re all susceptible to this to a certain extent in different aspects of our existence.
It comes down to open-mindedness, compassion, and understanding that the world does not function through the lens with which we happen to see it.
So yes, Kamala Harris would make a great candidate on the grounds that she’s an Indian/Jamaican female. That’s pretty diverse…but can she win the election? I wouldn’t count on it.
When Hillary Clinton ran for the presidency in 2016, her campaign slogan was terrible. It was “I’m With Her.”
Be less identity politic-y, Hillary.
She flagrantly was attempting to capitalize on the fact that she was a female, making the assumption that the American people wanted so badly have a woman president that we’d take her simply because she was a “her.” Actually, it seemed what the people wanted was another white man – either Bernie or Trump – because depending on whichever side of the aisle you fell on, you likely thought one of those two guys was the stronger candidate.
Hillary was problematic for several reasons, the least of which involved her being a female. It was almost as if her gender didn’t actually matter as much as she or her team and party seemed to think it would…
Let’s go back even further to 2008. The United States had elected the first black president, #44. There was finally some color in the notoriously White House.
And we hailed it as a great triumph – and it was. It said a lot about how far our nation had come, especially considering our long and tired history involving our treatment of various minority groups. After all, the Jim Crow era wasn’t that long ago.
Don’t you forget it.
In 2008, I was about 20 years old. By then, I was already paying attention to politics, but maybe not as much as I do now. I didn’t know much about Barack Obama before he announced his candidacy (neither did most of the country), and when he won the nomination, I braced myself for racially-motivated attacks against him.
To my great surprise and relief, they never really came. People were afraid to touch it. They focused on him as a candidate and they focused on his policies.
Of course, throughout his candidacy and subsequent presidency, they attacked his character, called him elitist for ordering Dijon mustard with his burger, and reality television star, Donald Trump, implied that he wasn’t really eligible to be the president because one of his parents was African and he probably was, too…oh wait, that last one might have been racially-motivated. Scratch that.
Overall, though, it seemed like many Americans, including the news media, were able to look past the color of his skin – not dismissing or discounting it, which is a very different thing for all you “I don’t see color” people, but understanding that the color of his skin wasn’t the defining characteristic of whether or not he’d be able to govern effectively.
So, why was it a big deal to have a black president in the first place? Because of representation. The idea was that light would be shed on communities of people who had all along been overlooked, without anyone to fight in their corner on the national level. Keep in mind, Congress was a lot less diverse then than it is now. That said, while a black man might have a different perspective on life than a white man (or an Asian man, or a female, etc. etc…) he still needs to uphold a level of compassion and empathy to those groups he does not personally identify with. The president is the president of all Americans, not just the ones who look or sound like them, and not just the ones who voted for them.
As it were, many members of the black community felt neglected by Obama. They expected him to do more for their community – whatever that actually means – than he apparently did. It’s a double-edged sword.
But therein lies the kicker.
This world is about balance. We’re always struggling to find it, whether we know it or not. I’ve used this example before, of the pendulum. Some people say Trump is an example of the pendulum swinging hard and fast to the right, so in response, we need a hard swing in the opposite direction, read: Bernie. Others are more inclined to find a balanced middle, somewhere along the lines of a Beto or Biden, for example, forgoing the left swing and opting instead to skip ahead to somewhere closer to where we’re theoretically heading, anyway.
Here’s the thing, though. With so many candidates presenting themselves, they’re opening themselves up to criticism. Naturally, the weeding-out process has begun. We have to narrow the playing field down to a few strong contenders so we can eventually get a clearer picture of who the Democratic nominee will be.
Let’s keep in mind what the goal is, by the way – to beat the incumbent president in the next election. So, that means the Democrats need to choose a candidate who not only represents the party’s ideals and the direction the party’s heading in, but also someone who can beat Donald Trump.
In this weeding-out process, there are a few things that keep coming up. At this point, they seem to be doing more harm than good, serving to divide a party that already has issues in that realm. Still, criticisms should be heard.
But really, I don’t care that Elizabeth Warren was less-than honest about her status as a Native American when our current president lies about practically everything, including his own IQ, personal net worth, educational background – oh my god, everything and anything for no reason at all. Warren knows her stuff, and whether or not you agree with her politics, she knows this government inside and out and can speak to it.
I don’t care that Beto doesn’t have an impressive track record when our current president was a reality television star and a failed and/or corrupt (depending on if your glass is half-full or half-empty) real estate mogul who had never once before held a public office or worked in government at any level. Apparently, the American people don’t care about that, and an argument can be made that working in Congress is very different from serving in the executive branch.
I don’t care that several of these candidates don’t have fully fleshed-out policy plans yet when our current president still doesn’t, not to mention the fact that he ran on empty and nonsensical promises, offering solutions that he could not realistically or feasibly deliver. Case in point – when asked for clarification on how he’d, say, get Mexico to pay for the wall, he’d just repeat, “They’ll pay.” Besides, some of these candidates announced their campaigns as recently as a few days ago – give them a sec.
Personally, it’s no secret that I love Beto, but as I’ve been saying – let’s see what he and all of the other candidates have to say between now and the nomination. No one’s a shoe-in, and I’d be happy to throw my support behind a few of these candidates.
Let’s just try to focus on things that actually matter until then.