Photo of Deval Patrick

Statement by Deval Patrick on Lack of Diversity in Tonight's Democratic Debate

January 14, 2020

"Tonight, six candidates will take the debate stage, all remarkable public servants. Yet tonight America will not see herself in full.

"The racial and ethnic diversity of the Democratic field, and our willingness to speak directly to issues of racism, has made me proud to be a Democrat and an American. But the debates have stopped either showcasing the field or representing the Nation. Instead of helping Democrats to choose our most compelling nominee from a range of diverse talent, the debates have become an end in themselves, an episode of reality TV with candidates paying more attention to polling numbers and donations than issues and people.

"The candidates in the debate tonight, many of whom are friends, have each overcome struggles of their own. Each believes this is the most consequential election of a generation. And yet no one on that stage knows what it's like to fear for their safety when pulled over for a routine traffic stop. No one on that stage has ever been questioned about their citizenship or if they're a "real" American or been followed by store security when shopping. No one has ever asked themselves whether a rejection for a job or an apartment or a loan was because of their race — though millions of Americans still do. Racism is the most consequential unfinished business of America. An election without those issues addressed by all the candidates is not consequential enough.

"There was always going to be a winnowing down of the field. Sadly, three of the four candidates who have most recently left the race have been candidates of color. It concerns me that not being on the debate stage has contributed to that. Surely the leadership of the Democratic Party must now see that the criteria chosen have not served to demonstrate to Democratic voters or to the Nation the breadth and depth of diverse talent in the field, and must reconsider the criteria for participating in, as well as the format for, future debates.

"The remaining candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for president, and in particular, those who have the privilege of being on the debate stage tonight must keep the issues facing people of color in the forefront as we address the future of our country. Racism, environmental justice, economic opportunity, gun safety, health disparities, and mass incarceration cannot be issues reserved for politically comfortable places. We cannot win in November without voters of color, nor should we. More importantly, America cannot win without fully and fairly addressing the unfinished business of race."

Deval Patrick, Statement by Deval Patrick on Lack of Diversity in Tonight's Democratic Debate Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Simple Search of Our Archives