The Democratic Field Is Becoming Less Diverse, Who’s To Blame?

With Kamala Harris''s exit from the race, some are raising questions about why minority candidates have failed to break through in a party that has a very diverse base.

Yesterday’s decision by California Senator Kamala Harris to drop out of the race for President is prompting some Democrats to point out the fact that the number of minority candidates in the race is dwindling and that the race is currently dominated by four candidates, all of them white and three of them men:

First up, there’s New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, the only remaining African-American running for the nomination:

On All In With Chris Hayes Tuesday night, Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker responded to fellow candidate Kamala Harris dropping out of the race earlier in the day. 

Though Harris cited fundraising issues  as the reason for suspending her campaign, she was the only non-white candidate so far to meet the fundraising and polling qualifications set by the Democratic National Committee to participate in the upcoming debate. And Booker lamented the fact that she would no longer be taking part.

“I have to say that we started with one of the most diverse fields in our history. Giving people pride,” Booker said. “And it’s a damn shame now that the only African-American woman in this race, who has been speaking to issues that need to be brought up, is now no longer in it, and we’re spiraling towards a debate stage that potentially, we’re still trying to get in it, but could have six people with no diversity whatsoever.”

So far, the only candidates to qualify for the debate are Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar and Tom Steyer. So Booker also took this opportunity to publicly criticize the DNC for setting standards that could keep him and other candidates out of the debate.

“The way this is shaping up, especially with the rules of the DNC,” Booker said, “it is preferencing millionaires and billionaires and a lot of other things that don’t ever translate into viability in Iowa.”

Former San Antonio, Texas Mayor and Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro made similar comments:

Former housing secretary Julián Castro said Sen. Kamala Harris’s bid for president was hampered by the media treating candidates of color differently, speaking after Harris ended her presidential campaign on Tuesday.

“To me, they held her to a different standard, a double standard, to other campaigns. And I don’t know if it impacted her decision to withdraw from the race or not, but I’m sure it didn’t help,” Castro, the only Latino candidate running for president, told BuzzFeed News on Tuesday night.

“This was a narrative from very early on. … From the earliest critique that she has no black support, the [Congressional Black Caucus] is going other directions. It’s just holding people to different standards,” he said.
Castro specifically criticized recent reporting which revealed disarray and grievances within Harris’s campaign, citing several staffers’ own criticisms of how the campaign was being run, including with on-record comments from close supporters.
“I was disappointed by the treatment her campaign got especially during the last seven days, when you had the Washington Post, New York Times, and Politico writing very gossipy sounding big articles trashing the campaign,” Castro said.

Asked why he thought those stories were unfair, given that dozens of Harris staffers spoke out about the state of the campaign, he said,

“Sourcing in journalism, just because somebody is willing to talk doesn’t mean that reflects a reality or that necessarily gives it front page coverage in your publication,” he said. “Donald Trump was very willing to talk to journalists in 2015 and ’16 and because of that journalists gave him a lot of coverage. There has to be more responsibility in the profession than that.

Castro also addressed the alleged unfairness of the treatment of Harris in a video released by his campaign:

On some level, I suppose that Booker and Castro have a point. As it was, this race started out with a record number of candidates for either party, and yet only a handful of them — Harris, Booker, Castro, Yang, and Gabbard — represented minority groups, and only 6 of them — Harris, Gabbard, Warren, Klobuchar, Williamson, and Gillibrand — were women. In 2016 in a Republican field that was only slightly smaller than the Democratic field at the start of this race, there were only four candidates that represented minority groups, two Latino-American candidates (Cruz and Rubio) and one Indian-American candidate (Bobby Jindal), and one African-American (Ben Carson). In addition, there was just one woman, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina. While the lack of diversity among Republicans is hardly surprising, it was rather noticeable among Democrats, which is generally speaking a far more diverse party that depends on support from a coalition that includes minority groups and, of course, women.

What strikes me about the reaction of Senator Booker and Secretary Castro is the extent to which they appear to be saying that minority candidates, especially in the Democratic Party, are somehow entitled to support simply because they are members of a minority group. The fact that both Castro and Booker are near the bottom of the Democratic field with little prospect that they are going to gain the support necessary to rise any further in the field than they’ve already gotten.

One of the reasons that candidates such as Harris, Booker, and Castro have been unable to rise very far in the polls, of course, is the fact that these minority candidates have been unable to rise very far is, ironically, because they have failed to resonate among minority voters. This can best be seen in South Carolina, an early state where former Vice-President Biden continues to have a commanding lead, and one of the main reasons for that is the fact that he has a strong lead among the state’s African-American voters. In the most recent Quinnipiac poll of the Palmetto State, for example, Biden has the support of 44% of African-American voters. Bernie Sanders follows with 10%, followed by Senator Booker at 8% and Senator Harris at 6%. Similarly, a recent Fox News News poll of Nevada, the first primary state with a significant Latino population, Julian Castro garners just 1% of the vote while 65% of Latino voters support either Biden, Warren, or Sanders. This suggests that the race and ethnicity of the candidates matter far less to voters than it apparently does to the candidates themselves.

The other issue that Booker and Castro both raise is the idea that Harris was somehow treated unfairly, particularly to the extent that political reporters began reporting on the slow collapse of Harris’s campaign, reports I made note of myself here, here, here, and here.

These reports, though, were exactly the kind of coverage you’d expect to see from political reporters covering a candidate like Harris who, only five months ago, seemed to be on the rise to become a serious contender only to see her campaign collapse slowly but surely. Additionally, many of those reports came from inside the Harris campaign itself, which by the end was showing all the signs of a campaign nearing its end as various factions in the campaign started pointing fingers at each other. The idea that this coverage constituted “unfair” treatment or that it was based on Harris’s race or ethnicity, is utterly absurd and without evidence.

To be frank about it, the lack of support that Harris, Booker, and Castro have received from voters seems to me to be little more than whining on their part. They aren’t entitled to minority support just because they are minority candidates, and they aren’t entitled to kid-glove treatment by the media or their fellow candidates for that reason either. The Democratic Party has already shown that it is a far more diverse party than the GOP, which is why it isn’t surprising that the first African-American President was a Democrat. When Obama ran for the first time in 2008 he received historic levels of African-American and minority support simply because of what he represented. This time around, minority voters seem to be sending the message that their support isn’t based primarily on race or ethnicity, but on who can win in November. That strikes me as a healthy attitude.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, US Politics, , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook


  1. John Peabody says:

    I dunno, the field now includes two women (no women has been elected President), a Jewish person (none elected), a half-Jewish person (none elected), a gay person (none elected), and a Catholic person (one elected). That’s pretty diverse . . . just a different kind, I suppose.

  2. Gustopher says:

    @John Peabody: Don’t forget older than dirt!

    We could have the oldest President ever. That’s technically diversity. Or the first Millennial. No Gen X though.

  3. Teve says:

    Obama didn’t get a huge amount of support from black voters in 2008 until white voters started supporting him. Maybe they assume a significant amount of racism exists and choose strategically.

  4. Paul L. says:

    The Democratic Party is racist and sexist.


  5. mattbernius says:


    Obama didn’t get a huge amount of support from black voters in 2008 until white voters started supporting him. Maybe they assume a significant amount of racism exists and choose strategically.

    Right. I’ve seen a few people make this argument. A lot of that hinged on his victory in Iowa and Vermont. Which to some degree gets to the problem of letting two of the Whitest states in the US always go first.

    If we engage in a thought experiment where Nevada or one of the Carolina’s were to go first we might see a very different race.

    Beyond that, I tend to think Biden (and his connection to Obama) is a huge factor to overcome, even for candidates of color. If Joe wasn’t running, things would look different.

    Additionally, it’s fair to acknowledge that by most accounts, Harris and others have not run good national campaigns. There’s a real difference between running a single-state campaign and trying to go national.

  6. Teve says:

    @Paul L.: do you know that Mike Nifong is a registered Democrat?

  7. mattbernius says:

    @Paul L.:

    Hey, did you catch Barr’s latest comments on supporting the police above all else?


  8. Michael Reynolds says:

    Harris, Booker and Castro have flopped because they did not attract support from black or Latino voters. It’s not white people keeping Biden in the top spot.

    Black voters are not romantics or enthusiasts, they live in the real world. Black voters don’t seem to be nearly as into identity politics as a lot of white people on the far left. They have issues they want to see addressed and if the person they see as most likely to help them on their issues is white, they seem fine with that.

  9. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Less diverse than the party of old white men???
    I mean…I really like both Booker and Harris…but they aren’t getting it done.

  10. al Ameda says:

    @Paul L.:

    The Democratic Party is racist and sexist.

    (1) Let’s see: Klobuchar, Warren, Bloomberg, Booker, Buttigieg, Castro, and much more.
    Paul = WRONG
    (2) Let’s see: President in his own words and in his own released transcript admitted to seeking assistance from a foreign government in order to damage a political opponent and influence the 2020 election.
    Paul = CORRECT

  11. CSK says:

    @Paul L.: May I ask…what in hell are you talking about?

  12. Kari Q says:

    Kamala Harris has no one but herself to blame for her campaign stalling. She had her opportunity for a break out moment but didn’t seem to have anything to say when it happened.

    I’m not sure why Booker hasn’t attracted more support. Perhaps America isn’t ready for a vegan president?

  13. inhumans99 says:


    I now think Paul L is a bot and we are just going to get these nonsensical/out of the blue drive-by comments from Paul L, and folks like Andros.

    Now you may say, hey Andros makes an effort to reply to comments on this board, but does he really, how hard is it for a good computer programmer to make it easy for a bot to cut/paste data from a site like Breitbart, Tucker Carlson’s site, or John Solomon’s blog, and insert it into a comment on a site like this one to make it look like an actual person is posting a comment or replying to one?

    Matt B and others keep asking folks like Paul L and Andros to educate us on why they feel we are supposedly crapping on people with proper Mid-Western American values but all they ever seem to do is reply using other people’s words, we ask them to think for themselves but they just ignore us and keep on cutting/pasting from right wing sites, that smells like a bot to me.

    This is why I am going to stick to my guns and not reply to Paul L and Andros’s posts anymore because what is the point of replying to a post created by a bot.

  14. Paul L. says:

    I am shocked that a member of the Law Enforcement caste praises and supports the thin blue line of the Law Enforcement caste.
    Obama DOJ praises the true Heroes of the Attack on a Orlando Pulse Nightclub the Law Enforcement caste.

    Lee Bentley, the U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Florida,
    “The brave men and women of the Orlando Police Department, the Orange County Sheriff Office, the FBI and others should not be second guessed, they performed valiantly during those early hours, Lives were saved because of their heroic work.”

    FBI Director James Comey
    “I would like to say an word of thanks and express admiration for the work of local Law Enforcement in Orlando.
    They showed professionalism and extraordinary bravery that saved lives.
    We are very lucky that such good people choose lives of service in Law Enforcement.”


  15. Kathy says:


    [..]we ask them to think for themselves but they just ignore us and keep on cutting/pasting from right wing sites, [..]

    I celebrate their wisdom in not engaging in a battle of wits when they know they are unarmed.

  16. CSK says:

    @inhumans99: Yes; you’re right. I almost never engage with these…people. Or whatever they are.

  17. Teve says:

    @inhumans99: are there bots programmed to be obsessed with the Duke Lacrosse case?

  18. mattbernius says:


    Matt B and others keep asking folks like Paul L and Andros to educate us on why they feel we are supposedly crapping on people with proper Mid-Western American values but all they ever seem to do is reply using other people’s words, we ask them to think for themselves but they just ignore us and keep on cutting/pasting from right wing sites, that smells like a bot to me.

    Again, Paul L. D definitely isn’t a bot. And there are definitely differences in his opinions from Andros – in particular Paul is very “skeptical” of civil law enforcement overreach. That’s very different than Andros’s love the police Middle American values.

    Skeptical is putting it mildly. He brings it up at every juncture even when it doesn’t apply. He makes it seem like it’s something that is coming to his belief system. But…

    I just like tweaking Paul L. from time to time to remind him about how increasing police power is an explicit plank of Trump’s campaign and something he’s delivered on.

    It’s juvenile, but working in the criminal justice reform space it’s also slightly cathartic.

    Of course, we also learned that so long as Trump doesn’t touch gun rights, Paul is happy to passively support and occasionally defend Trump on his administration’s stance on policing (after all the real problem is with the attorney general’s and of course Trump has no control over their selection and marching orders).

    The most they have in common, between unwaivering support of Trump and general feelings of victimization is that they both try really hard to be smarter than the rest of us in comments. whether or not they succeed at it is a matter of interpretation.

  19. mattbernius says:

    @Paul L.:
    My dude, that you think those comments are similar to Barr’s stating that communities either respect the police or law enforcement leaves shows that you still need to brush up on your reading comprehension.

    But hey, you’ve long since demonstrated you high degree of hipocracy on this issue (or rather all you are is one big virtue signaler with little cottage to his convictions), so you do you my man!

    Oh, or wait, this is one of those “I write stupid things to show how smart I am… Right? Right?” You got me again Paul.


  20. EddieInCA says:

    I am a POC. That can mean Person of Color or it can mean Piece of Crap. Both work equally well. Speaking only for myself as a POC, I’m a pragmatist first and foremost. If I can lose a battle or six and still win the war, I’m going to do that. I spend way too much time in Red American for my own tastes, but, hey, that’s where the work is for me. Granted, the jobs are in pockets of blue surrounded by red. Austin, Atlanta, Vegas, New Orleans, etc, so you get the drift. As a pragmatic POC, I believe that Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttegeig, or Amy Klobachar cannot put together a nationwide coalition of voters that will reach 270. I could be wrong, but I don’t think so. I don’t think any of them can win Florida, Ohio, PA, or WI. Heck. They’d have a hard time holding MI or NV.

    So who is to blame for the whiteness of the remaining candidates? The electorate, of course. They’ve already “voting” with their dollars, time, energy, and passion. The electorate wants to beat Trump. Period. Full Stop. So come with a plan. Come with experience. Come with some fight. If you do, you’ll get supporters. If not, you won’t and you should drop out.

    I’m going to crawl over broken glass if I have to to vote for the Dem nominee, whoever it is. I want Trump gone. And I want the Senate, too. I’m greedy that way.

  21. andros says:

    This sort of thing comes very close to collective self-stimulation.

  22. An Interested Party says:

    This sort of thing comes very close to collective self-stimulation.

    Well, it’s not like you present any form of reasonable intellectual stimulation, so what are people supposed to do…

  23. Kylopod says:


    Right. I’ve seen a few people make this argument. A lot of that hinged on his victory in Iowa and Vermont. Which to some degree gets to the problem of letting two of the Whitest states in the US always go first.

    It was actually quite similar to the 1960 election when Kennedy won the West Virginia primary. That was before the modern nomination system existed, and only a handful of states held primaries. But the significance of that win was that it proved Protestants could vote for a Catholic.

    That just seems to be the way with candidates who are members of marginalized groups–they have to prove their viability with voters from the majority group. I don’t like the fact that the primaries begin with some of the whitest states, but there’s no question Obama used that situation to his advantage in 2008. No matter which states come early, it’s never about the delegates (which are far too few to have any real impact by that point), it’s always an exercise in working against particular expectations.

  24. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Teve: Why not Duke Lacrosse? GIGO works for old stale tired bs as well as for fresh. And the program doesn’t analyze the relevance of the data, it only uses it.

    Besides, it help the ecology to recycle–not wasting valuable current on creating new memes that have to be tested and such.

  25. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @andros: Indeed! That’s why we’re so concerned about you and your friends.

  26. Kit says:


    I now think Paul L is a bot

    Most certainly not. He has a rather large online footprint, and a few weeks back I decided to poke around. One stray clue led to another, and before long I had unraveled his entire identity. He’s most definitely real.

    Anonymity was one of the great promises of the early internet. Personally, I try to keep a low profile, just because. Were someone to ever “out” me, I’d like to think that I could stand behind every word I’ve ever posted. All too many people, sadly, cannot handle that amount of freedom without treating it as licence. How many of those who fancy themselves lovers of liberty and disciples of personal responsibility would blush were their family and colleagues to see what they write, not to mention how many would tremble were the police to be able to link them to their words?

    Some people’s lives really do depend on anonymity. Then again, so do the online lives of most trolls.

  27. mattbernius says:


    No matter which states come early, it’s never about the delegates (which are far too few to have any real impact by that point), it’s always an exercise in working against particular expectations.

    Agreed, but the present system is really biased towards putting a narrow (yet, important) demographic slice first. And that definitely changes the calculus for voters of all types.

  28. MarkedMan says:

    Doug, first, I agree with what you wrote in the original post. However, I take issue with the last part of the title, “Who’s To Blame?” I don’t think anyone is to blame. A large part of the commentariat here is comprised primarily of people who want big changes and fast movement. This is not a criticism, merely a statement of fact. But the vast majority of even the Democratic electorate have other, sometimes more pressing priorities. They want someone running the country who they feel will take good care of it, day by day, crisis by crisis and not mess it up. They need to feel a candidate has proven their competency. In addition, they want to be sure the candidate respects them. (Just out of curiosity, when you read that last line, how many readers immediately reacted with “But not everyone is worthy of respect!”? Just remember though, every human being wants to feel respected and every voter has exactly one vote, just as you do. As a candidate are you looking for a Trump, i.e. someone who will speak your mind for you, telling off the losers and the creeps just as they deserve? Or are you looking for a candidate who can take the country as it is, form a majority, win the primary, the general, and pass laws and enact policy that moves the needle for the things you care about?)

    People here just drip contempt for Joe Biden. He’s an old white male and therefore doesn’t deserve the time of day. How dare he be so uppity and privileged? Doesn’t he know his place? But others see a guy who has spent his life in public service, who knows the political leaders in every state down to the county level because he has dealt with them over and over, and not just when he needs a vote or a dollar. He has done the work. Many here view his friendships or working relationships with Republicans as a profound negative, but to many more the fact that he can work with people he doesn’t agree with is a plus.

    I have concerns about Joe’s endurance and whether or not he is losing his edge. I have concerns about his tendency to live his personal life in public. But if he can win the primary I’ll happily support him in the general.

    I am also very favorable towards Harris and said so a number of times in this comment section. But I always ended it by saying the first proof of anyone’s ability to be an effective President is to organize a staff, understand what it will take to move the ball forward for their particular candidacy and this particular moment in history, and get it done. Harris made some mistakes early on, and she didn’t recover from them well. Fundamentally I think she listened too closely to her supporters, i.e. those she had already won over, and not closely enough to those who didn’t know her or had concerns about her. I’ll give an example. When she challenged Joe Biden on busing and said “That little girl was me!” she won the moment and garnered a lot of sympathy and attention. But the next day, instead of saying something like, “I know it was tough for a lot of people to see it at the time, but in the end everyone needs to be included”, I think she would have consolidated that win. But instead she doubled down and continued to hammer Joe and, by proxy, every older white American that had doubts about busing when it was going on, driving them away from her. I don’t give a dang if she thought they were racist or ignorant or stupid, there was simply no upside in going after them. An effective politician, a winning politician, needs to understand that.

    In 2008 I felt this way about Hillary. I knew her, I knew she was very effective as my Senator, and had every intention of voting for her in the Primary. Nonetheless, I ended up pulling the lever for Obama. Why? Because he had shown that he did not surround himself with people who endlessly pumped him up and told him what he wanted to hear. He was not interested in simply making speeches that drove his current fans wild. He put together an organization that was laser focused on what they had to do state by state, community by community, interest group by interest group to win them over, or at least, not drive them to turn out in droves to vote against him.

  29. Kit says:


    People here just drip contempt for Joe Biden. He’s an old white male and therefore doesn’t deserve the time of day. How dare he be so uppity and privileged?

    I’m in broad agreement with what you wrote, even if I might quibble here and there, apart from the above. Is this really the way that Biden is generally seen here at OTB? I had the impression that he’s well liked but looking old and no one’s first choice. Sanders (not my first choice) would be the guy who generally gets dismissed out of hand, in my opinion.

  30. EddieInCA says:


    I think MarkedMan was/is correct. Many on this site truly despise the idea of Biden for various reasons.

    I get it, and don’t belabor the point nor hold it against people, because I despise Sanders for various reasons.

    But… despite my loathing of Sanders, I’d still vote for him if he’s the nominee.

  31. MarkedMan says:

    @Kit: I’ve definitely called people out here for saying that “Biden should just go away because we certainly don’t need another old white male”. It is possible that this is a small minority opinion and I’m attributing outsize importance to it.

  32. Kit says:

    @EddieInCA: @MarkedMan:
    If you are both saying it, then I guess I’ve just missed it. Biden certainly doesn’t evoke much passion in these parts, I’ll grant you that. I’ll also plead guilty to being one of those “who want big changes and fast movement” !

  33. Michael Reynolds says:

    Bernie wants revolution. That doesn’t happen in a single presidency, not in our system. It doesn’t even happen in two terms.

    It’s absurd to talk about this being a socialist country along the Swedish lines. That is never going to happen. Historically the number of large, diverse countries that have had success with genuine socialism is zero. Yes, a Swede will share revenue with a fellow Swede. But we are not a country of Swedes, we are a country that thinks any dollar that reaches a black man was wrung from the sweat of an honest white man.

    Not going to happen. Even as an aspiration it’s ridiculous. It is not in the American character. UBI is a possibility, but state ownership of major industries, wealth taxes etc? Nope.

  34. Gustopher says:

    @Kit: Other than his age, I really like Biden as a caretaker president. I don’t know that America wants a caretaker president, but I also don’t know that America wants a big change to the left. I want a big change to the left, but I’m not America.

    If Biden were to go for Mayor Pete’s throat, drink his blood, and be 10 years younger, I’d be a lot more comfortable with him.

    I don’t want our democracy hanging in the balance of the health of a very old man on the campaign trail. Not fond of RBG’s health being a factor for the direction of the Supreme Court for decades to come.

  35. Kit says:


    I really like Biden as a caretaker president

    I’m not crazy about that idea. The Republicans get one of the greatest presidents in the nation’s history (greater than Lincoln!), and we get a caretaker? Let’s aim higher. If Biden means to come out swinging, then I’ll certainly consider him, but he thinks he’s going to charm his way to détente with the Right, I feel that he’s living in the past. And I’d also question the future of the Democrats.

  36. MarkedMan says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    we are a country that thinks any dollar that reaches a black man was wrung from the sweat of an honest white man.

    If that was the only problem we could deal with it. But it’s longer term than that. I’m of Irish descent. When I was born John F Kennedy was about to squeak out a victory despite the fact that he was an Irish Catholic, a “race” of people everyone knew was lazy shiftless drunks who were stealing all the jobs from decent folk by working long hours for pennies. They brought crime and disease and refused to integrate into America, but stayed amongst their own kind while going out in public and making a spectacle of themselves.

    Fast forward 60 years and not only do the current Irish Americans have no recollection of that prejudice, they are probably more likely than average to project it into the next guys.

  37. Kylopod says:

    @MarkedMan: One historical fact that tends to be forgotten is that the first Republican since Reconstruction to make serious inroads in the South wasn’t Barry Goldwater, but Herbert Hoover. In 1928 he won 5 of the 11 former Confederate states and even came within a hair of winning Alabama, a state where Republicans at the time rarely broke 30% of the vote. This was almost entirely due to the fact that white supremacists in the South had a mass freakout over Al Smith’s Catholicism, and a lot of them voted Republican for the first time.