The 2020 Democratic primary—in which six women and 18 men are currently running—has already been buzzed about as the first election in which multiple mothers will seriously compete for the presidency, a pursuit traditionally undertaken only by fathers. On the debate stage Wednesday and Thursday, however, the Democratic primary field seemed like it was made up of something more like dads and female candidates.
Over two nights of debates, the first for the Democrats in the 2020 race, not one of the mothers running for president mentioned her children. But the dad card was played over and over again.
On Wednesday evening, when the first 10 of 20 Democratic candidates running met onstage in the first primary debate, three were women and seven were men; eight of the candidates have children. Five times, candidates mentioned their children or grandchildren. Every time, the mentioner was a man.
Beto O’Rourke and Julián Castro invoked their daughters: Castro when he spoke of keeping his own kids and all American kids safe from gun violence in their schools, O’Rourke when he vowed in closing arguments to make America a better place for the next generation, some of whom are today children around his daughter’s age. Bill de Blasio mentioned being a dad twice. First, he noted that “as a father” the family-separation policy at the border had been particularly troubling to him. Later he gestured at the fact that his son is black as a way of differentiating himself from the other candidates (“There’s something that sets me apart from all my colleagues running in this race, and that is, for the last 21 years, I have been raising a black son in America”). Jay Inslee, meanwhile, mentioned in his closing arguments that it was the thought of his three grandchildren inheriting an uninhabitable Earth that drove him to fight for better climate-change policy.