And then there were six. Six white males, that is. With Herman Cain out of the race and Michele Bachmann officially standing aside—she announced she would do so at a press conference Wednesday morning after her last-place finish among the major contenders in Iowa—the GOP field is now noticeably lacking any diversity. All of the candidates are men. All of the hopefuls are white. And four of the six are over the age of 60.
Bachmann’s caucus results are not particularly unsurprising, even given her historic Ames straw poll win. For all the talk of Mama Grizzlies and “the year of the conservative women,” Iowa Republicans—even Iowa Republican women—did not appear ready to elect a woman. Though her conservative chops were just as real, it was Rick Santorum who walked away with the evangelical vote. Despite some remarkable debate performances, Bachmann was tagged in a Des Moines register poll as the least knowledgeable in the field, especially after a series of gaffes.
Who knows how much gender played a role in Bachmann’s single-digit showing. Yes, there were the questions posed to her about whether or not, as she’d said the Bible tells women to do, she would be submissive to her husband. And certainly, her ability to spend—one post-Iowa report says Bachmann spent just $4 per vote in Iowa, by far the lowest—could have been affected by donors’ willingness to give to her.
But I’m not sure that is the most important question in a world that has elected a black man as president and rallied behind a female Republican woman to be this country’s second in command. What is important to ask is what affect the lack of the voice of a female or minority candidate will have on the tenor and substance of the GOP race. Even if Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann weren’t candidates known for pushing issues particularly important to either group, I tend to believe that diversity of leadership is always a good thing when it comes to meaningful debate. The Republican field will now be a pretty homogeneous group. That is, of course, until the nominee’s running mate is named.
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