In one of the most transparently selfish causes a politician has taken up in some time, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), fresh off being told he failed to qualify for the next Democratic primary debate, is pushing the DNC to lower the threshold requirements until he can get back onto the stage.
Booker isn’t a genius, but he’s also not dumb enough to frame the argument in quite those terms, of course. Instead, he goes to that tried-and-true well of accusing the DNC of marginalizing people of color and inadvertently whitening the debate stage. And with this powerful “it’s racist!” argument in his back pocket, he’s attracted support from Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, and the rest of the 2020 field, none of whom have anything to lose by letting Cory “2% Support” Booker back on the debate stage.
“The escalating thresholds over the past few months have unnecessarily and artificially narrowed what started as the strongest and most diverse Democratic field in history before voters have had a chance to be heard,” the candidates said in a memo to the DNC. “As a result, candidates who have proven both their viability and their commitment to the Democratic Party are being prematurely cut out of the nominating contest before many voters have even tuned in — much less made their decision about whom to support.”
The current threshold for the December debate is: At least 200,000 unique donors and a showing of at least 4% support in four major qualifying polls. And while you can argue that this is a steep hill to climb, we’d respond by saying that any threshold that allows Andrew Yang and Tom Steyer on the stage is plenty loose. If you can’t hit that low bar, there’s probably not much market for your presidential aspirations.
But then, how does such an argument compare to the “it’s racist!” scree?
“While we know this was an unintended consequence of the DNC’s actions, many of the candidates excluded due to these thresholds are the ones who have helped make this year’s primary field historically diverse,” the candidates. “Frankly, that unintended result does not live up to the values of our Democratic Party and it does not serve the best interest of Democratic voters, who deserve to hear from and be able to choose among the best our party has to offer.”
They did. They chose Biden, Sanders, and Warren. What more fairness could you want?
What Booker and the other candidates are arguing is that, if a perfectly fair system winds up excluding low-performing candidates of color, then the system isn’t fair. This is, frankly, a perfect argument to pose to the DNC and the Democratic Party, which essentially bases its entire political philosophy around the same theory.
Affirmative action for presidential candidates? For the Democratic Party, it’s an idea whose time has no doubt come.