The Democratic Candidates, Ranked by Cookoutworthiness

Illustration for article titled The Democratic Candidates, Ranked by Cookoutworthiness
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White people are going to vote for Donald Trump.

That statement is a fact.

According to the Roper Center, the Republican presidential nominee has won the white vote in every election in the last four decades. Even the white progressives who are currently bristling at the inhumanity of Trump cannot deny this statistical truth.

Data: Roper Center, How Groups Voted
Data: Roper Center, How Groups Voted
Graphic: Michael Harriot (The Root/G-O)

To be fair, the “not-all-white-voters” contingent is partially correct. No serious political pundit would dare categorize all white ballot-casters with the same broad brush. Older white voters are more likely to vote for the GOP, according to Pew Research. Highly educated white voters are more likely to support Democratic candidates while white voters who haven’t graduated from college heavily favor Republicans. But the same people who bristle at being lumped in with their similarly-hued brethren are comfortable with regurgitating the data on the mythical black vote.

There is no “black vote.”

Just as it is impossible to broadly characterize white voters, basing a candidate’s appeal to black voters is a lazy, problematic exercise in futility. While most news outlets dedicated a few cursory minutes of their daily political coverage to discussing black voters, there are obvious problems with this. The notion of a monolithic “black vote” is as absurdly without nuance as the previous idea of a monolithic “white vote.”

Statistically, every non-white ethnic and racial demographic in America favors the Democratic Party, not just black voters. Like the “white vote,” black voters shouldn’t be lumped into one homogenous category. The concerns of socially conservative, rural black voters are totally different from progressive city-dwellers. Black people in Harlem have different motivations and issues than African Americans in South Carolina and Mississippi. (For instance, despite conventional wisdom, black southern voter registration and turnout are higher than in any other region in the country, often outpacing the white vote in some states, according to the U.S. Census data.)

Therefore, to properly evaluate a candidate’s appeal to black voters, we decided to create an algorithm that encompasses the concerns of different groups of black voters. We named this metric “cookoutworthiness” and rated each candidate in four different categories, on a scale from 1-10:

  • Grandmama’nemism: While this is a subjective category, it is the most important. How charismatic and affable is the candidate? Will your grandmama ‘nem like them or will they say: “Something ain’t right about that young man?”
  • Street Cred: What is the candidate’s overall racial reputation? Are they known to be problematic or have problematic backgrounds?
  • Heard-aboutness: Pure name recognition. Do they even know this person?
  • Policy: While it may seem counterintuitive, this is the least important of all categories. Most of the Democratic candidates broadly agree on the issues but it counts for something because someone at the cookout is going to ask about their Medicaid or their student loan.

While this algorithm may seem frivolous and superficial, it is no different than when white people select a candidate based on who they’d like to have a beer with.

Basically, cookouts are bars for black people.

9. Tulsi Gabbard

Grandmama’nemism: 2
Street Cred: 4
Heard-aboutness: 2
Policy: 2

If Tulsi Gabbard showed up at a cookout, she would inspire more side-eye than just about anyone. She’s strange in ways that you just can’t put a finger on. First of all, she’s gonna show up wearing all-white like she’s going to a baptism; an AKA probate show or a formal usher board meeting.


As someone of Asian, Polynesian, and Caucasian descent, being “off-white” (which is an actual racial demographic at cookouts) would help her street credibility. Black people aren’t quite familiar with her name but something about her seems kinda off. Of course, no one would say that to her face, because Tulsi Gabbard seems like the kind of person who knows how to carry a razor blade under her tongue. No one knows anything about her policy or her past, which means only one thing can be possible.

Tulsi Gabbard is the feds.

Cookoutworthiness: 10

8. Amy Klobuchar

Grandmama’nemism: 4
Street Cred: 4
Heard-aboutness: 4
Policy: 4

Amy Klobuchar is just a white woman running for president.

She doesn’t have any signature policy plans, reputation or name recognition. Her sole claim to fame is that she’s won every race that she’s entered. Klobuchar used to be a “tough on crime” prosecutor who sent a lot of black people to prison; excused police brutality, and may have even wrongfully convicted an innocent black man. But if you explain those details to someone at a cookout, you know what they’d say?


“You already told me she was a prosecutor.”

Klobuchar doesn’t even need an invitation to the cookout. She’s so plain that if she showed up wearing mom jeans holding a casserole dish, everyone would assume that she was a cousin’s co-worker and invite her in.


Cookoutworthiness: 16

7. Tom Steyer

Grandmama’nemism: 5
Street Cred: 3
Heard-aboutness: 6
Policy: 3

You would think that cookout-goers would be impressed with Tom Steyer’s wealth but that’s not true. Black people assume all old white men are rich, and Tom Steyer is no different. Plus, he would show up wearing a button-up flannel with the sleeves rolled up, which means he can’t be that rich. He doesn’t even wear a Gucci belt.


Before beginning his presidential bid, Steyer ran a boatload of anti-Trump commercials during Rachel Maddow, Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy. Older black folks might not know if he wants them to buy Guaranteed Acceptance Life Insurance or sue for mesothelioma, but they recognize his face.

Sadly, Steyer says his number one issue is climate change, so you know he’s gonna say something about the charcoal ruining the ozone layer, causing him to be kicked out of the cookout.


Cookoutworthiness: 17

6. Pete Buttigieg

Grandmama’nemism: 4
Street Cred: 3
Heard-aboutness: 5
Policy: 7

Pete Buttigieg is perfectly fine. You know he’d show up to a cookout in boat shoes, a pair of perfectly ironed khakis and a polo. He’d laugh in all of the appropriate places and tell your Aunt Linda that he has never tasted a more delectable potato salad in his life. He would even play a few games of Uno, although he’d lose because he went online and studied the official rules in advance.


Buttigieg says and does all the right things, and his Douglass Plan could actually help black America. While most people, even his detractors, would say Buttigieg is not a Trump-level racist, his personality is a little contrived and comes off as slightly inauthentic, as if he is working from a “don’t be racist” spreadsheet. He’s like those Japanese robots or Madame Tussaud statues—almost human.

Buttigieg plays by the rules, which is sometimes a disadvantage. Buttigieg can’t understand why Joe Biden doesn’t suffer the same consequences when Joe commits a gaffe. It’s because Joe Biden has been to a cookout. He knows that he can put a draw four over another draw four, even though it’s not in the rulebook.


Plus, everyone knows your Aunt Linda’s potato salad is trash. The only reason people let it slide is because Aunt Bertha couldn’t make it this year because of her gout.

Cookoutworthiness: 19

5. Michael Bloomberg

Grandmama’nemism: 2
Street Cred: 4
Heard-aboutness: 8
Policy: 7

Every black person in America has a relative who lives in New York City so, as king of NY, Michael Bloomberg has name recognition. But everyone also knows about his stop-and-frisk, so Bloomberg’s street cred is shot as soon as he shows up.


But, unlike Tom Steyer, Michael Bloomberg is rich-rich and he is known for making it rain. Bloomberg would show up at the cookout with unbelievably expensive shit like crab legs and name-brand sodas in the bottle! Bloomberg is strong on policy because his entire platform is to buy the presidential election.

While that may seem shady, many black people assume all politicians are unscrupulous. Bernie Sanders might be able to renege on his promise to forgive student loans, but Bloomberg can’t ask for refunds on his low-key election bribes.


Plus, when the cookout predictably runs out of ice or aluminum foil (all cookouts run out of ice) Bloomberg will just peel off a $100 bill and won’t even ask for his change.

We consider it reparations.

Cookoutworthiness: 21

4. Bernie Sanders

Grandmama’nemism: 6
Street Cred: 6
Heard-aboutness: 8
Policy: 7

Bernie Sanders has a strong, diverse base. He has made some problematic statements on race in the past and is sometimes reluctant to address white supremacy. But truthfully, most white people have said some stupid shit about race in the past, and if most white people consistently confronted racism, white supremacy wouldn’t be a campaign issue.


However, Sanders’ likability sometimes suffers because his rabid base of followers are more annoying than he is. He’s like the person who shows up to the cookout with a bunch of bad-ass kids or, in this case, a bunch of annoying bro-trolls. Thankfully, Bernie’s base isn’t entirely made up of bearded dickwads who insist that anyone who doesn’t believe in their candidate must be a corporate lackey. Some of them are quite affable. But, as cookouts go, it is hard to separate the man from his followers.

Plus, Sanders’ brand of Caucasian socialism often portrays his leftist policies as the cure for white supremacy. He and his acolytes argue that the rising tide of progressivism will lift all boats, conveniently forgetting the holes that white supremacy drilled in some people’s.


But he yells a lot, so he’ll fit right in at a cookout.

Cookoutworthiness: 27

3. Joe Biden

Grandmama’nemism: 8
Street Cred: 6
Heard-aboutness: 9
Policy: 5

Why do so many black voters support Joe Biden? Well, I have a theory.

I believe the “racial anxiety” that led to the election of Donald Trump was because most white people have never had to work for a black boss or a black superior, which inspired the “white backlash” that begat the Orange Menace.


Conversely, of all the candidates, Joe Biden is the only candidate who has worked for a black man. In fact, Joe Biden spent eight years of his life surrounded by black people (Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Eric Holder, Susan Rice, Jeh Johnson, etc.) who he knew were smarter and more excellent than he was.

Black people saw this.

It’s difficult to imagine how much that fact weighs in black folk’s political calculations, but Joe knows it. That’s why Joe Biden arrives at the cookout with a signed invitation from Obama.


And it’s not that Biden is so charismatic and affable (He can be problematic as fuck); it’s that everyone knows what they’re getting with him. He’s been around a long time and he knows how to fit right in with your uncle on the grill who’s half-drunk, cussing everyone out. He’s like a reliable but mediocre spades partner—even when he does something stupid, you’re not surprised.

Basically, black people don’t think Biden is a great player, or even has the best hand.


But we know if we choose him, we won’t get set.

Cookoutworthiness: 28

2. Elizabeth Warren

Grandmama’nemism: 8
Street Cred: 8
Heard-aboutness: 7
Policy: 9

Elizabeth Warren is a cool-ass white lady.

In many ways, her policies are similar to Bernie Sanders’. But, aside from the fact that she is a policy wonk who can explain her progressive platform in a way that dismantles conservative arguments, she has a way of combining emotion with intellect that disarms people and makes them say:

“You know what? That’s a great idea.”

Why is this important to black people?

Because when Bernie explains the exact same ideas, many black people’s first thought is: “It sounds good but you know those white folks ain’t gonna let you do that!”


Plus, her kindergarten teacher-like enthusiasm negates her whiteness. You know Elizabeth Warren will be at the cookout with no shoes, playing with the kids, asking you to teach her that “wonderful Wobble dance.”

But black people sometimes wonder if Elizabeth is too naive. When someone announces that we need more ice, Warren might hand your cousin Hothands her car keys and never see her Subaru again.


That’s also why we think she might lose to Trump.

Trump is cousin Hothands.

Cookoutworthiness: 32

1. Andrew Yang

Grandmama’nemism: 9
Street Cred: ∞
Heard-aboutness: 5
Policy: 9

Although Andrew Yang doesn’t have a shot at winning the election, he scores the highest on the cookout scale for a number of reasons:

  1. He’s not white: That means a lot.
  2. He wants to give away money: Yang’s platform is practical and nuanced but the only thing most people know about him is his Universal Basic Income proposal.
  3. He’s smart AF: No one at the cookout knows that Yang earned three degrees from two Ivy League schools. The perception of Yang’s intelligence also has nothing to do with him being Asian. He just seems smart in the same way that Elizabeth Warren seems like she has candy in her purse and Pete Buttigieg seems like he carries an Excel spreadsheet in his shirt pocket with a list of comma-separated black phrases.
  4. He can move and clap on beat:

This is not a condemnation of stereotypical Caucasian rhythm. A lot of candidates will pander at a black church. However, aside from showing that, if Yang doesn’t win the nomination, he can at least get elected as a praise and worship leader, this clip also shows that Andrew Yang did something that no candidate was willing to do:

He went to choir practice.

Cookoutworthiness: Infinite

World-renowned wypipologist. Getter and doer of "it." Never reneged, never will. Last real negus alive.


9. Tulsi should have been ranked above Amy just on her name alone. “Tulsi” sounds like she named after a grandma with Oklahoma connections. Plus that grey streak in her hair gives her style points over Amy K’s Midwestern Bob cut.

8. Somebody from Mississippi, pronounce Klobuchar. Good Luck, Amy.

7. I could only guess what happened, years ago, Ol’ Tom woulda been a ship’s captain. Can’t Truss It, Tom. Sorry.

6. Pete’s a narc. That’s all I got to say about that.

5. Well lookie here, it’s Stop and Frisk Mike. You only getting in because you brought them expensive ass hot links we told you to bring, chump.

4. Bernie, I want you to be at the cookout the same way you marched with MLK, way off in the back and to the side where it takes a magifying glass to see that you were actually there...and take your racist ass fanbase with you.

3. Hey Joe, Anita Hill is here. Joe? Joe? Where you going, Joe?

2. Hey Elizabeth, John Redcorn is here! Nah, I’m just playing with you! My granddad swore his grandmother was a Black Creek Indian, turns out she was blacker than below deck on a cargo ship during the Middle Passages and the 1972 Harlem Globetrotters, combined. I get it, for some reason people want to have that connection with the Natives, just as long as they don’t wind up on The Trail Of Tears or at Wounded Knee, right?

1. Black folks are always suckers for a carpetbagger who is offering money or who can hang in there with the church choir.