Given that diversity, it’s not surprising that the 2020 Democratic presidential primary field was the most diverse in American history. By mid-February, only three of the 11 major candidates who had jumped into the race were straight white men.
As the months passed, though, more and more white men jumped into the fray. At the peak over the summer, there were 15 straight white men in the Democratic race, just shy of two-thirds of the total. In recent weeks, several have been dropping back out.
What’s remarkable about this moment, as the New York Times reported Tuesday, is that the leading candidates are all white. There are three candidates who stand apart from the rest of the field: former vice president Joe Biden and Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). All are white; two are straight men. The fourth-place candidate at the moment is South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, also a white man.
Straight white men have gobbled up about half of the support in RealClearPolitics’ average of national primary polls since early July. White women (almost entirely Warren) have surged to grab another quarter. In total, white candidates eat up about 80 percent of the support in the Democratic field.
Of course, they are also a majority of the candidates. Straight white men receive less support as a percent of all support than they represent in the field, although that’s probably little consolation to those white men polling at or below 1 percent.
Part of this, as the Times notes, is probably related to perceptions of electability, a primary driver of support for much of the primary so far. Part, too, is a simple disconnect between the diversity of voters and their electoral preferences. FiveThirtyEight’s Perry Bacon Jr. outlined why Biden in particular is doing well with black voters at the moment — a significant factor in the apparent gap between the diversity of the field and the homogeneity of the polling leaders.
The 2016 Republican field had twice as many candidates who weren’t white men as the 2008 Democratic field. The latter gave the United States its first black president; the former gave the country a defiantly un-diverse president.
Diversity, if you will, is not destiny.