The Diversity Question Came Up at the Very White Democratic Debate

Posted: Dec 20, 2019 7:45 AM
The Diversity Question Came Up at the Very White Democratic Debate

Source: AP Photo/Chris Carlson

Thursday night's PBS NewsHour/Politico Democratic debate, the last one of the year, was a pretty homogenous affair. With several of the minority candidates now out of the running, the field is looking very...white. In fact, business entrepreneur Andrew Yang was only non-white candidate on the stage last night.

So, when PBS correspondent Amna Nawaz, acting as a moderator, addressed the lack of diversity, she directed the question to him. 

"The entire field remains overwhelmingly white," Nawaz noted. "What message do you think this sends to voters of color?"

"It's both an honor and a disappointment to be the lone candidate of color on the stage tonight," Yang shared. "I miss Kamala, I miss Cory."

But, he predicted Sen. Booker "would be back."

Yang shared that while he had many racial epithets hurled at him as a kid, it is the black and Latino communities that are hardest hit, judging by some numbers. The average net worth of a black household is only 10 percent of a white household, he explained. It's 12 percent for Latino households. That could explain the disparity onstage. 

Fewer than 5 percent of Americans donate to political campaigns, Yang added. Because you need "disposable income" to do that. This gave him the opportunity to mention his Freedom Dividend, a "universal basic income" that gives $1,000 a month to all Americans. He "guarantees" that if his plan were in effect, he "would not be the only candidate of color" on that stage.

Nawaz asked the same question of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who managed to somehow divert the question to climate change. 

"I want to get back to climate change if I could because I do believe this is the existential issue," Sanders insisted.

"Senator with all due respect this question is about race," Nawaz interjected. "Can you answer the question as it was asked?"

Raising his voice, he said, "People of color are going to be the people suffering most if we don't deal with climate change!"

Oh. Ohhh we get it.

But it was a trend. In an earlier question about the USMCA, which had just passed the House, Sanders explained that while the trade deal includes "modest improvements," it doesn't mention anything about climate change, so he won't be voting for it.

Getting back on topic, no, it's not a great look for the Democratic field. Especially when, as noted by Nawaz, the party relies on support from African-American, Latino and Asian voters.