We’ve been covering some of the early 2020 polling here recently and the same group of names keeps coming up for the Democratic nomination. At the top, we find Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders in almost every survey. More recently, Beto O’Rourke has climbed into the mix (somehow). In this Age of Diversity and Year of the Woman, doesn’t something seem to be missing? That’s what Kirsten Gillibrand suggested when she sat down for an interview with Van Jones on Friday night. Does it bother her that the frontrunners are, not to put too fine of a point on it, a bunch of white guys? (The Hill)
“In a party as diverse as ours, does it worry you to see the top three being white guys?” Jones asked Gillibrand, herself a potential presidential candidate, in front of the live audience.
“Yes,” Gillibrand responded.
“I aspire for our country to recognize the beauty of our diversity at some point in the future and I hope someday we have a woman president,” she continued, when asked to elaborate.
“I love the fact that Barack Obama was our president for eight years, I hope more people of color not only aspire [but] win the presidency, because that’s what makes America so extraordinary, that we are all of that, we are everything, and I think a more inclusive America is a stronger America.”
To be fair, this wasn’t a case of Gillibrand rushing the barricades to decry white males as potential nominees. Van Jones brought it up and opened the door (because that’s just how Van Jones rolls) but nobody forced Gillibrand to take the bait. We can set aside the fact that it would be awfully convenient for Gillibrand if the base decided to take a pass on everyone with a Y chromosome. Even if it might possibly benefit her directly, there’s still a major flaw in this line of thinking.
Here’s the problem with playing the identity politics card. There’s almost always somebody out there with a better hand. Sure, Gillibrand can try to make the case that the country (and specifically the Democratic Party) is ready to “move beyond old white men” and she’s a woman. What’s not to like? Yeah… but she’s a white woman. By that logic, doesn’t Kamala Harris have the higher Trump card (If you’ll pardon the pun), being a woman of color? But even then, both Gillibrand and Harris are in their fifties. That’s not really all that “old” in terms of presidential politics, but it’s not exactly young either. Shouldn’t both of them step aside and just let Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have the nomination as a Young Non-White Female? (Don’t laugh. There are already people talking about changing the Constitution so she can run.)
Then again, we’re still limiting the field to Christians (and possibly Jews) so perhaps they should all get out of the way and nominate Ilhan Omar. Yeah, she’s a bit long in the tooth at 36 years of age, but she makes up for that by being Muslim. And you don’t need a constitutional amendment to nominate her.
How far must such hypothetical scenarios be stretched before Gillibrand and her Democratic allies pause and realize that identity politics isn’t getting them anywhere? While I’m not generally prone to offering free advice to the Democrats, I’d like to suggest a better answer when this question comes up. Give this a try:
Our country has made great strides in overcoming a legacy of racism, sexism, and intolerance, though more work remains to be done. We’ve proven that we are able to look past these classifications that divide us and nominate the most qualified person with the greatest chance of victory. If that happens to be a man, a woman, a person of any color, race or religion, we should all be ready to serve if called upon.
Wouldn’t that be the easiest and most obvious answer in the world if you’re thinking of running for the Democratic nomination? Of course, now I assume somebody will come back and tell me that last paragraph somehow constitutes hate speech. Welcome to the 2020 follies.