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Who should the democrats nominate?

(responding to Michael McDowell)

Last weekend, Michael McDowell argued that the democratic party must select a “manifestly mainstream” candidate to face Trump in 2020. I was horrified to see such a prominent commentator calling for people of colour to stand aside and keep quiet in the interest of the party. 

I (obviously!) disagree and wrote the below in response: 

Few would disagree that Trump needs to be comprehensively defeated in the 2020 presidential election, but I must challenge Michael McDowell’s analysis on how best to achieve that goal (Opinion, 21 July 2019). 

Racism is foundational to Trump’s political life. Earlier this month, he tweeted that four democratic congresswomen should ‘go back’ to the ‘corrupt’ countries he said they are from. The women in question are Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York, Ilhan Omar from Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley from Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib from Michigan. They are all women of colour. Three of them were born in the US and the fourth, Rep Omar, was born in Somalia and came to the US as a refugee when she was 10. 

Known collectively as ‘The Squad’, they have skilfully used the attention the President’s racism has generated to pivot the conversation back to policy. Though it wasn’t mentioned in the piece, there has been a huge backlash to this racism. Many readers will have seen video of Rep Omar returning to her district where crowds of cheering supporters were ready to support her.

The only thing McDowell says about these women is that they “cannot safely be seen as the face..of the Democratic party”. With a certainty I’ve only ever seen in a cis white man, he insists that Democrats “will lose the White House race if their candidate is a second Obama”. He’s decided this 16 months before the election, before a single vote has been cast. He thinks the democratic party must select a “manifestly mainstream” candidate who can appeal to “ordinary Joes and Josephines”. Reading between the lines, this means another cis white man. 

Women of colour have been the backbone of the Democratic party’s organising infrastructure for generations. Last November, a record number of them were elected to congress. Women of colour are among the party’s most loyal and ardent supporters. In 2016, 94% of black women and 68% of Latino women voted for Clinton. Contrast that with the 53% of white women voted for Trump. 

The Democratic party should nominate the candidate who offers voters a real alternative to the racist, misogynist buffoon currently occupying the White House. We shouldn’t assume that someone who doesn’t look like the last 45 American presidents (i.e. a cis, white and usually wealthy man) will fail. At this early stage, there is simply no way to know.

The idea that Democrats should sideline and silence women of colour when faced with a racist opponent is frankly unconscionable. We shouldn’t ask them to stay quiet and out of sight while their communities are targeted by a white supremacist president. Trump is cynically exploiting race to polarise America. What troubles me is how quick commentators are to row in behind him. 

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