The ‘white guy’ question

This tweet about a white guy jumping into the race for president gives voice to an awkward question.

In a country whose government does not properly reflect the face of the nation, is it time for white people — particularly white men — to sit out the election of 2020?

The Boston Globe goes there today, dissecting the significance of the candidacies of white men in the race for the Democratic nomination and whether it sabotages a defining moment?

The current field of 15 Democrats is the most diverse in history, it notes — two African-Americans, five women, a Latino, an Asian-American, and a gay man.

But those white guys.

When Vanity Fair asked O’Rourke to defend his whiteness, calling it “perhaps his biggest vulnerability,” he acknowledged he’d have to hire well to make his administration representative of America.

“I totally understand people who will make a decision based on the fact that almost every single one of our presidents has been a white man, and they want something different for this country,” O’Rourke said. “And I think that’s a very legitimate basis upon which to make a decision. Especially in the fact that there are some really great candidates out there right now.”

Does it seem unfair — even sexist or racist — for someone to be grilled about their heritage as a basis of evaluating a candidacy?

“It doesn’t make it right, but it’s certainly true that women and people of color always get asked questions on their demographics,” said Kelly Dittmar, assistant professor of political science at Rutgers-Camden and a scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics. “It is so very ingrained in our conversations when we’re talking about otherwise marginalized groups getting into a white male space.”

“White men have never been asked: Why would you as a white man be elected?” said Dittmar. “Men have never had to make a case for why they deserve to be there.”

“To win this nomination you have to show how you can beat Trump and that could be any number of candidates,” former Democratic strategist Bob Schrum said. “But I am sure that Biden will be hit with the ‘white-male charge’ just like Beto was.”

Voters are far more accustomed to hearing women defend the ability of women to be president, and candidates of color defending whether America is ready for candidates of color, or candidates of a particular religion.

White candidates have never faced that.

They should get used to it now, the Globe says.

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