DES MOINES, Iowa—The contrast was unmistakable: Most people in the crowd at the venerable Brown & Black Forum on minority issues here were African American, Latino, or Asian American. But all of the Democratic candidates onstage, apart from Andrew Yang, were white.
“It is disappointing,” said Bridgette Andrews, an African American executive assistant from the nearby suburb of Johnston, as she walked into the event, which took place on a frigid afternoon earlier this week. “It would have been nice to have another candidate from a minority group up there. It does make you go hmm that they are not there.”
Many Democratic activists, especially but not exclusively those from minority communities, are perplexed and frustrated that the candidates of color who were considered most viable when the presidential contest began—Senators Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, former Cabinet Secretary Julían Castro—have been forced from the race before the first votes are cast. While Yang has built a spirited following, it remains limited. And all this when Democrats began the primary with the most diverse field they’ve ever had.
This jarring reality could prompt the most serious revolt in decades against the decisive role that Iowa and New Hampshire, two preponderantly white states, play in winnowing the field and shaping the race. Already Castro and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg—another 2020 contender, who is white—have argued that the lack of diversity should disqualify both states from their favored roles. At the forum itself, Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado argued that their status “probably should evolve.”