By Pittsburgh Current Staff
After Kamala Harris announced that she was dropping out of the 2020 Presidential Race, Dr. Melanye Price wrote in the New York Times: “In the end, however, she and other candidates were hamstrung by the same thing that has sheltered Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg — the structural discrimination that comes from how we define electability. The left’s hyper-focus on beating President Donald J. Trump in 2020 has also resulted in a re-narrowing of who is electable in ways that many assumed had forever changed after 2008.” She continued, “If flawed white male candidates are still ‘highly electable,’ then where is the space for flawed black, white, Latina, Asian or Native ones?”
This primary seems to have a lot of folks very worried. The main concern when it comes to candidates is, “who can beat Donald Trump?” This leads to larger questions around the tangential concept of electability.
There is still plenty of time for “us” to coalesce around a nominee that can take down Trump. But we need to let go of this whole “blue no matter who” bullshit until July 16, the day the Democratic Convention ends. Right now in the primary we need to fight for our values, and fight for the candidate we want. Then in the fall, during the general election — that is when we need to come to Jesus and acknowledge that in a two-party system (whether we like it or not), we only have two viable choices.
When we kicked off Democratic Primary season, we had the most diverse group of presidential candidates ever assembled. There were white people! There was an Asian person! There was a Samoan-American! There were Black people! There were women! There were Black women! There was even an open gay man! At least on a superficial level, the field actually seemed to resemble the Democratic electorate.
To be clear, representation of a person from a group doesn’t mean they’re the best person for that group. I discussed this in the last issue when I critiqued Pete Buttigieg. Kamala Harris also had a fair share of criticism from folks about her actions as California Attorney General that disproportionately impacted people of color.
A few days ago, a Black woman I follow tweeted: “I think white liberals must understand why ‘Vote Blue No Matter Who’ doesn’t cut it for black & brown voters. In a nutshell, we’re tired of making concessions to white supremacy to benefit mainly white voters. Racism on the left is no better than racism from the right wing.” This is the time for us to have brutal, honest discussions about those vying to be our candidate. We can’t be afraid to ask uncomfortable questions.
“Blue no matter who” infers that a Democrat is always better than a Republican, because they’re the Democrat. That inference is incorrect. One needs to look no further than Pittsburgh and SWPA in general to see that Democrats routinely vote against workers, the environment, and access to healthcare. This past season, when District Attorney Stephen Zappala, a 20-year incumbent with an atrocious record with numerous marginalized groups, was challenged by Independent candidate Lisa Middleman, “progressive” members of the Allegheny County Democratic Committee were threatened with expulsion if they didn’t publicly support the committee’s officially endorsed candidate. What good is being a Democrat if one doesn’t espouse the values that come with it?
All too often, when people bring up issues in the Democratic Party about diversity and inclusion, they are dismissed for being “divisive.” Rather than listen, learn, and try to understand why people of color have little trust in white candidates, the knee-jerk reaction is to go directly to “do you want 45 to win again? How will Black and Brown People benefit if there is a Nazi in the White House?” These are an example of some of the dismissive responses to those issues brought up in a local progressive action group.
“It could be worse” is not an inspiring message that will get folks to the polls (we learned that in 2016), and it does not do anything to move conversations towards a deeper understanding of our society and of what we would like it to be. It is also asking People of Color, particularly Black people, to suck it up and vote for the lesser of two evils, even if that means doing nothing more than maintaining the status quo.
When making decisions about representational government, we need to center the most marginalized people, because when they win, everyone wins. The most reliable voting block of the Democratic Party is Black women. Despite having a problematic relationship with the community, Hillary Clinton received 96% of Black women’s votes in 2016. Meanwhile, 53% of white women voted for Donald Trump. White people shouldn’t be the arbiters of what is best for everyone else. Lamenting the whiteness of the upcoming debate, Cory Booker said earlier this week, “This is not about one candidate…It is about the diverse coalition that is necessary to beat Donald Trump…It is a problem that we now have an overall campaign for the 2020 presidency that has more billionaires in it than black people.”
Julian Castro brought a unique voice to the last debate stage, but as of now, he hasn’t qualified for the December round. He lamented the sudden stark Whiteness of the candidates, too. “By not having anyone of color onstage, the party loses a lot,” he told reporters after a fundraiser in Los Angeles last week. “The party also loses partly the ability to inspire and excite constituencies that we need to win in November 2020 against Donald Trump.”
Trump is not the problem; he is a symptom of Capitalist Patriarchal White Supremacy. We aren’t going to beat him without engaging and listening to the folks who our own party has taken for granted for too long.