At last an answer to the question, “Why is Eric Swalwell running for president?” Answer: To grab “the mic” from a black and/or woman candidate so that he can graciously pass it back them as he deems necessary once he’s safely elected.

Why, electing this extremely white young fellow is as good as electing a nonwhite woman when you think about it.

In fairness, how else is a little-known white male Democrat running in 2019 supposed to reply when asked, “Why should another white guy be president?” Joe Biden could say that his decades of experience make him more fit to govern than any of his opponents. Bernie Sanders could claim that he’s a progressive visionary with whom the electorate has finally caught up. Swalwell’s just an ambitious young dudebro who decided to exploit the primaries to raise his public profile.

The Vice reporter should have asked him, “Why should another white guy run for senator or governor of California?” That would have made him sweat.

I’m trying to imagine President Swalwell holding a press conference after, say, the Ferguson riots and immediately calling up a minority aide to the podium to field questions because he’s not racially equipped to lead in a situation like that. Note too that he never actually answers the Vice reporter’s question. How could he, wonders Charles Cooke, given that both answers available to him are uncomfortable ones?

There are two plausible answers to these questions, neither of which is flattering. The first is that Swalwell does not actually believe a word of what he is saying, but really wants to be president and knows that he needs to say this sort of thing so that he does not disqualify himself from contention. The second is that Swalwell does believe what he is saying, but also believes himself to be so indispensable as a potential president that the best he can do without damaging the country is hand over some subordinate positions to those whom he believes have been overlooked. There is no third option.

There is a third option, that he doesn’t care about being president (right now) but hopes to have a Buttigieg-ian star turn that’ll make him a contender for statewide office back home, but he can’t say that. Doesn’t matter; he’s polling at zero percent. What I wonder is whether Biden and Sanders will be able to get away with the sort of replies I imagined above or if they’re destined to be devoured by perceptions of their own “limited” racial and gender experiences too. And if they are, devoured by whom, exactly? The progressive commentariat may hate him but Biden’s far, far ahead among black voters right now and seems destined to be viewed favorably by that group after eight years as Obama’s right-hand man no matter how many jabs about the 1994 crime bill are thrown at him. Cooke imagines Swalwell or one of the other white male candidates being murdered by identity-politics devotees if they gave this answer to the question of why we should have another white male president: “We are all individuals; none of us can help what color we are, or what other immutable characteristics we exhibit; I don’t want there to be any restrictions on who can run; but I believe myself to be the best candidate.” But I’m not sure he’s right. I think plenty of rank-and-file Democrats, including many black Democrats, would think that’s a fine answer, especially coming from a candidate as experienced as Biden.

Progressive activists would hate it, admittedly, but who cares what they think? Judging by Bernie’s polling, they’re about as marginal in their own party’s primary as dogmatic conservatives were to the GOP contest in 2016. And at the end of the day, Sanders’s answer to this question will necessarily be not much different from Biden’s, blunting the ability of Berniebros to hit Biden for his race and gender (and age). Why should Bernie be president instead of a much younger left-winger like Stacey Abrams or (in a few years) Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez? The “no white guys” rule is problematic for the far left, at least this year.

The irony of Swalwell choking on this question is that various Democrats, both famous and not, have suggested over the last few months that only a white male candidate may be capable of defeating Trump. The conventional wisdom from Trump’s 2016 victory, particularly his cracking of the blue wall in the midwest, is that working-class whites are increasingly willing to practice identity politics themselves in a country that’s growing more racially diverse. If so, whether because of racial identification or cultural assumptions that “authority” requires a white guy, Swalwell’s race and gender arguably make him more electable than women and minority candidates. He really would be murdered by the left if he used that as a justification for his campaign, of course, but perceptions that only a white man can beat Trump are probably contributing to Biden’s lead, even among black voters. For Swalwell, it’s probably enough to make apologetic noises for his demographic background and quietly hope that most Dem voters secretly agree that only a white dude can win.