clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

2020 Democratic hopefuls are under pressure to build diverse teams

Progressives are starting to ask for campaign staffs that reflect the candidates’ — and America’s — racial and gender diversity.

Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) were two of the primary sponsors of the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act of 2018.
Democrats have the potential to make 2020 the most diverse class of presidential candidates yet.
Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images

The class of early contenders for the 2020 Democratic nomination stands to be the most diverse candidate pool in US history, but that record alone might not be enough for progressives: Some reportedly hope to see campaign staffs that reflect America’s racial and gender diversity too.

The New York Times’s Lisa Lerer and Alexander Burns have a rundown of the top Democratic senators who are getting ready to wade into the 2020 waters. Among them are California Sen. Kamala Harris, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who have all begun the process of assembling their teams for a potential presidential run.

They won’t be the only candidates to possibly enter the crowded field, but this small group makes up one of the most inclusive groups to ever vie for the presidential nomination for any party. Three are women; two are people of color; all but one are under the age of 55.

Their diversity is a reflection of a record-shattering midterm election season, where women and candidates of diverse backgrounds won major victories and helped Democrats reclaim the House. But whether or not these potential candidates are shaping their staff to reflect their own diversity is another thing.

As Lerer and Burns report, some women Democratic strategists who had “hoped the diversity of the 2020 field would prompt more hiring of female and minority staffers for senior roles” are concerned by the number of men being considered for campaign manager posts:

“You have to have a diverse leadership team, and that, more than anything, is something that these campaigns have to be paying attention to,” said Anne Caprara, a Democratic operative who is now working as chief of staff to the incoming governor of Illinois, J.B. Pritzker, after running his campaign. “When it comes to women and women of color, so many of them are going to want to see that the candidate is not just hiring women but really paying attention to them when they’re giving advice.”

According to the Times, Gillibrand, Warren, and Harris are all expected to tap men to run their campaigns. The top contenders are all close or long-time aides to the female senators. Booker is still on the hunt for a campaign manager, and so far the shortlist has included mostly men.

2018 has barely come to a close and already potential candidates are jockeying for recognition as top-tiered contenders in what will inevitably be a crowded field of Democrats wanting to take down President Donald Trump. And while no candidate has formally entered the race — it may be weeks before any formally announce exploratory committees — it’s clear they’re already feeling the pressure to come out as more diverse and inclusive than ever before.

An alternative to the typical crowded field of old, white men

For all the progressive excitement around minority and women candidates, in the (way too) early days of the 2020 season, white men still maintain a sizable advantage where it counts: with voters in early-primary states and deep-pocketed donors.

Then-Rep. Beto O’Rourke sparked a remarkable amount of energy within the Democratic base in his unsuccessful efforts to take Ted Cruz’s Texas Senate seat — energy that’s continued to fuel speculation he might mount a presidential bid in 2020.

The first 2020 polls of the season have some familiar faces out in front as early favorites. Former Vice President Joe Biden leads the pack with 32 percent support of Iowa Democrats; Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders came in with 19 percent. That same Iowa poll ranked both Harris and Warren in the single digits.

As Vox’s Rachel Withers pointed out, it’s not surprising that in Iowa, old, established politicians like Biden and Sanders are early top contenders. Voters in the state — the first in the nation to actually say who they want to be president — said they wanted a candidate with experience and electability. But that experience means there’s extra emphasis on the old part of that description: Biden is 76 years-old and while Sanders is 77. If either runs and is elected in 2020, they’d be serving the majority of their presidency as an octogenarian.

The GOP has earned a reputation as the party of old white men, with their opponents saying they’ve done little over the past two years to keep the bigotry of their party leader in check. Now the bar is being raised for candidates to put their money where their mouth is on calls for more inclusion.

Sign up for the newsletter Today, Explained

Understand the world with a daily explainer plus the most compelling stories of the day.