Kamala Harris dropping her campaign for presidency caused the once diversified pool of candidates to be back to that typical of American politics: white and predominantly male.
The race for president started with record-breaking diversity with black, Asian and Hispanic candidates and six female candidates — more than ever before in a presidential election — and the first openly-gay candidate.
Many of these candidates are dropping out of the race, leaving the white male stereotype to once again oversaturate American politics.
Candidates who have qualified for the sixth Democratic debate now include Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Amy Klobucher and Tom Steyer. The Democratic candidates are all white and two-thirds male, while the Republican candidates are all white men.
Harris did qualify to speak at the debate, which requires 200,000 donors and either 6% in two early-state polls or 4% in four national or early-state polls, but she dropped out because of lack of financial support.
While candidates like Biden, Styer and Sanders are evaluated for their policies, Harris was caught up by being examined for her blackness and for being a woman and was even portrayed by Maya Rudolph on Saturday Night Live as the “fun aunt” of America who does not care about the polling numbers and just wants a viral moment.
Diversity is necessary in politics. The United States is a representative democracy, but having white male politicians is not at all representative of the diversity of the United States, with a candidate pool that is 72.2% white and 22.2% female. The United States is 60.4% white and 50.8% female, according to the United States Census Bureau.
While diversity is necessary, the media focuses on the othering aspects of candidates, making them stand out for their diversity instead of their qualifications.
Harris being black or Buttigieg being gay may mean that they would have more knowledge and empathy for communities that have been historically oppressed in the United States, but the candidate’s policies should be what is driving citizens to support them, not their race, gender or sexuality.
Klobucher said during the Democratic debate on Nov. 20 that she did not believe that Warren, Harris and herself would have made it onto the debate stage if they had as few qualifications as Buttigieg, who has not held public office higher than mayor.
Women having to work harder in politics to get to the same places as men was frequently brought up in the 2016 election when many Americans questioned how Donald Trump, a businessman and television personality with no experience in political office, ran against Hillary Clinton who held office as a U.S. Senator and Secretary of State.
The candidates don’t all look like the Founding Fathers, which is a positive step forward for representation in politics, but if candidates are evaluated by the color of their skin rather than their character, policies and qualifications, we are taking a step backward.