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The 6th 2020 Democratic Presidential Primary Debate: #DebateSoWhite

M.Scott Mahaskey/POLITICO

Michelle Bernard is a political analyst, lawyer, author and president and CEO of the Bernard Center for Women, Politics & Public Policy.

Remember #OscarsSoWhite? I’m now thinking, #DebateSoWhite!

The contrast in the demographic makeup of those who made it to Thursday night’s debate stage as opposed to those who stood there only a few short weeks ago was enough to give viewers a near fatal case of whiplash. And as Yang—the one person of color who did make it to the debate stage—suggested, one could not help but watch the debate and ask how he made it when Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Julián Casto were all unable to reach the promised land. The debate stage was not reflective of Barack Obama’s America, and the country is less fortunate because of it.

It was difficult to visualize any of the candidates who graced the stage doing battle with Donald Trump. There were simply too many arguments that seemed either trivial or coarse, especially in light of the fact that for only the third time in our nation’s history, a president of the United States was impeached, only 24 hours earlier.

Yes, the love affair between Biden and Sanders was endearing. Klobachar going on offense against Buttigieg was interesting. Steyer’s necktie appeared to shout, “Hey, don’t forget about me!” Warren was Warren. And Yang had the only satisfying answer about the lack of people of color on the debate stage.

But at the end of the night, Donald Trump seemed to have won Thursday night’s debate.

I’m guessing that, like me, many Americans missed the fire and the hope that candidates like Harris, Booker, Castro, and—dare I say—even Marianne Williamson brought to past debates. No, we don’t need to go back to a stage that includes every candidate running for the nomination, but the Democrats do need a debate stage with candidates that not only look like America, but also look like they can do battle with Donald Trump, or at least go down fighting to the end like Russell Crowe’s character did in the movie “Gladiator.”

The Democrats have to know that they must do better in 2020.

Originally published in Politico Magazine, December 20, 2019 02:10 AM EST.

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