I could be talking about the New England Patriots or the Trump administration or even the Phoebe Robinson Podcast but no, when I’m talking about soooo many white guys, I mean the recent crop of Democrats running for the 2020 nomination.
We started with a black man, three white women, Asians and a Latino man all throwing their hats into the ring. Since then it’s been 11 straight white guys, capping off with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio getting into the race this week. This mayonnaise tsunami of white men is running up against a styrofoam Hoover Dam as even white people are wondering why so many mediocre white guys are running for president.
Apparently, De Blasio was that tipping point of whiteness, even for white Democrats, moving this campaign from pumpkin spice latte and Lululemon to full-blown Taylor Swift gentrification with a dash-of-Crocs levels of whiteness. However, the problem really isn’t white guys running for president; it’s the reason they’re running and that is the most dangerous sign of all for the Democrats.
I’m going to put this out there so there’s no confusion. I think it’s good for a democracy to have as many people running for president as possible. Choice is good (and apparently now illegal in Alabama, Georgia and Missouri, but I digress). The fact that we now have more 2020 Democratic candidates than members of the Wu-Tang Clan and BTS with a special appearance by DeBarge isn’t inherently bad.
Moreover, I have no problem with white guys running for president. I’m not surprised that in two months the Democratic field has morphed from the Black Eyed Peas to One Direction. For 98 percent of American history and most of my life, it’s only been white guys running for president, so I’ve become pretty lactose tolerant at the voting booth. Also, I have on many occasions said that the Democrats will probably nominate a white guy and sometimes I’ve even suggested they should pick a white guy. The problem is that most of these white guys are running with the same flawed unspoken message: That because they are white men, they can win over white voters, Trump voters, Midwestern states, Republicans and somehow bring this country back together, which is, at best, stupid, and, at worst, so distressingly naïve that none of them should be allowed to run a PTA meeting let alone the United States of America.
Obviously, not all white men are created equal. Joe Biden is the former vice president, he’s very popular and probably would’ve run in 2016 if it weren’t for the death of his son, so it made sense for him to get into the race. To hear Bernie Sanders tell it, he was a few stolen debate questions, a few thousand Trump voters and a couple of stump speeches away from being the nominee in 2016, so of course he threw his hat in. Gov. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) is a single-issue candidate (climate change) and there’s always a few of them. Even John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) is a popular governor from a purple to blue trending state that legalized marijuana, a perfectly reasonable launching pad. But Beto O’Rourke, whose claim to fame is losing to Ted Cruz? Or Tim Ryan, who passed on a chance to run for governor of Ohio and failed to take down Nancy Pelosi for Democratic House leader twice, but now suddenly thinks he can win the presidency? Mayor Pete, who is popular but can’t even win statewide in Indiana? The list grew longer and longer every week, with Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), Seth Moulton ( D-Mass.), Michael Bennett (D-Colo.), Gov. Steve Bullock (D-Mont.) and now Bill de Blasio?
They’re convinced that because they are white men, they can somehow convert MAGA voters, sometimes for the most ridiculous of reasons.
Swalwell says his working-class roots, being born in Iowa and having a wife from Indiana makes him competitive in the Midwest. Tim Ryan says growing up in Youngstown, Ohio, gives him insight into how “working-class people” think. Buttigieg, Bullock and Bernie have all sung the same tune. But let’s be honest: What they’re really saying is: Lots of Americans think we went too far with a black president then a woman running for president. As a white guy, I’ll be able to bring things back to normal.
Nobody has embraced this message more than Joe Biden, who has gone beyond claiming he can be the MAGA whisperer in the election to believing his white maleness will somehow win over Republicans in Washington, D.C., too. He claimed this week that once Trump is gone, Republicans will have an “epiphany” and get back to work. He’s Tyrion thinking that shared whiteness will get Cersei to ring that bell and surrender instead of put up a fight. Not today. Not in 2020, either.
Mind you, in 2012, Biden and Obama believed that the Republican’s “fever would break” and they’d get back to work after Obama was re-elected. Seven years, one government shutdown, several fiscal cliffs and a stolen Supreme Court seat later, you’d think he would know better. It makes you wonder if for eight years Biden was watching Obama while thinking to himself, I coulda beat Obama, I could be totally NAILING this job, despite the fact that in a 40-year political career the only time Biden’s made it past Iowa was on a coast-to-coast flight.
As a public service, I’m going to give the current crop of white guy candidates and any who deign to follow after them, some much needed advice. Barack Obama won Iowa, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio, so you don’t have to be a white guy to win those states, just a good candidate with a message. Further, Obama, the black guy, actually won a higher percentage of the white vote in 2008 and 2012 (43 percent and 39 percent) than Hillary Clinton did in 2016 (37 percent) , and Hillary still won the popular vote by 3 million. Putting a white man at the top of the ticket won’t magically lure conservative white voters back to the Democrats. You can sell Afghan pita bread as “flatbread wraps” and the MAGA crowed will fall for it, but you can’t slap a white man on the Democratic Party and convince them it isn’t still the party of queers, Black Lives Matter and Dreamers.
As for Republicans in Congress, they decided during the Clinton years that no Democratic president was legitimate, even a white one from Arkansas. Consequently any norms, rules and traditions among the three branches could be thrown out the window. If Joe Biden thinks that Mitch McConnell will ever let him or any other Democrat put another justice on the Supreme Court while Republicans control the Senate, he must be smoking something even Hickenlooper can’t vouch for.
So, good luck Bill de Blasio and any other white men out there who quietly think their complexion makes them the right selection for this election. One of you will eventually be the Democratic nominee, but the rest won’t be considered losers or failures. They’ll go back to their states or consulting firms or spend the year on news programs pontificating on strategies despite having nothing to show for their campaign efforts.
In others words, they’ll be ALL WHITE. Which is what got them into the race to begin with.