Written by Grant Shenkman
The upcoming 2019 democratic primary boasts an array of candidates more diverse than ever. With a record number of women, underrepresented ethnicities, and religious variety, it seems as if the overwhelming precedent of white, Christian men running the country may change. But as the start date inches closer, polls and public sentiment make it clearer that the primary winner will most likely be Joe Biden. Yet again, the presidential race will be the stereotype.
If Joe Biden wins the election, it won’t be because of his policies, personality or experience. Rather, it will be the fact that he has run his entire campaign around his capability to beat Trump. Democrats value electability: when asked about their preferences for nominees, 58% of Democrats prioritized the candidates electibilty over policies. With an abysmal 5% approval rating among Democrats, Democrats are desperate to get Trump out of office.
However, what makes Biden more electable than other candidates? Research into this matter found that two-thirds of democratic voters define electability around personal qualities and who they think other democrats will support. These reasons only scratch the surface. Another reason is one that I don’t think a lot of voters are willing to admit: the majority of Americans are not ready to vote for a minority candidate.
This past midterm election, voters helped to set the record of 127 women holding seats in congress. Although gender equality is at an all-time high, misogyny still runs rampant in the US. Many people, although often unspoken, believe that women are unqualified to be president. A 2018 survey by Pew found that 11% of men and 5% of women still believe that women are not tough enough for politics. While these figures may seem low, they signify that there are still biases in society making it difficult for women to serve as politicians. Take a look at the 2016 election when voters chose Trump over Clinton in controversial fashion. One of Trump’s sexists comments encapsulates this voter attitude; speaking on Hilary Clinton at a campaign rally, he said, “When she walked in front of me, believe me, I wasn’t impressed.”
Trump’s July rally in North Carolina also highlights the racist sentiments of many people in America. When Trump called for four minority congresswomen to be sent back to their countries of origin, the crowd began chanting, “Send her Back!” in response. Trump’s fixation on race issues has publicized and spread “white anxiety” across the US. As equality and diversity increases in America, some white people have developed a fear that whites are losing status, and that a minority president will bring anti-white sentiment along with them. The New York Times reports that a majority of Republicans believe that a minority president will undermine American customs and values.
Despite many voters aligning with other democratic candidate’s policies, fear that a minority candidate would lose against Trump scares voters into playing it safe. The belief that Joe Biden seems the most electable pushes them away from their true preferences. When Americans say they like Joe Biden because of his electability, what they’re really revealing is a deeper truth: that most Americans are scared of change. A non-white, non-male president goes against the foundations of racism and sexism that are instilled in this country.