Democrats need to show they're up for a fight -- without falling apart
Now that Cory Booker has dropped out of the Democratic presidential race, it must come as a relief to some of his critics that white people still have an opportunity to be president.
I'm referring, with my sarcastic tongue firmly in cheek, to the critics who thought the New Jersey senator was being a bit too candid when he complained a few days before Christmas about dwindling racial diversity on the Democratic debate stage.
"I'm a little angry," he said on MSNBC. "I have to say that we started with one of the most diverse fields in our history, giving people pride, 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."
He was referring to Sen. Kamala Harris of California, who had just dropped out on Dec. 3. Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro dropped out Jan. 2. When Booker failed to qualify for the December debate, businessman Andrew Yang echoed Booker, perhaps a bit more tactfully: "It's both an honor and disappointment to be the lone candidate of color on this stage tonight."
Booker dropped out Monday, and Yang, polling at about 3%, fell short of the mark to qualify for Tuesday's debate stage.
How ironic that, during a week in which the hashtag #OscarsTooWhite has been trending, the party most concerned with racial and gender diversity has sparked hashtags like #DemSoWhite. Sarcasm always trends.
But, when you think about it, racial and gender diversity in a party's outreach makes sense, even if it usually is couched euphemistically with such phrases as Bill Clinton's "looks like America." Democrats learned that the hard way when Hillary Clinton's black voter turnout in 2016 dropped to what it usually had been before President Barack Obama's two elections, in which black turnout broke previous records.
But as Booker's candidacy shows, merely being a young and promising Rhodes scholar with appealing ideas is not enough, regardless of one's gender or color. Obama's victories might look easy in hindsight, but he, too, had to strike the delicate balance between the expectations of various groups as he pitched his own agenda of "hope" and "change."
That's why Booker's withdrawal leaves a lot of people, whether they supported or opposed him, scratching their heads, wondering why he flamed out so quickly, before he ever really launched.
Several reasons easily come to mind: