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Current nominating process too insular for diverse Democratic party

With Kamala Harris dropping out, a strong possibility that there will be no viable candidates of color at the next debate or upcoming caucuses

  • Created: December 04, 2019

“This is a striking development 12 years after Barack Obama became the first person of color to capture the White House,” says Northwestern University political scientist Alvin Tillery regarding the underperformance of candidates of color and the possibility that there will be no viable candidates of color at the next debate or upcoming caucuses. Tillery and Northwestern political scientist Jaime Dominguez are available for comment on the implications of Sen. Kamala Harris dropping out of the presidential race.

Tillery is an associate professor of political science and director of the Center for the Study of Diversity and Democracy at Northwestern. His research and teaching interests are in the fields of American politics and political theory. His research in American politics focuses on American political development, racial and ethnic politics and media and politics. He can be reached at

Quote from Professor Tillery
“Senator Kamala Harris’s decision to suspend her campaign for the White House means that the only top-tier candidate of color has now exited the race in the Democratic Party’s nominating rounds. The relatively low poll numbers of Secretary Julian Castro, Senator Cory Booker and Mr. Andrew Yang raises the very real possibility that there will be no viable candidates of color at the next debate or competing in Iowa, New Hampshire or the remainder of the 2020 nominating contests. 

“There is no doubt that underperformance of candidates of color is indicative of three things. First, as Secretary Castro has pointed to in his critiques of the nominating process, Iowa and New Hampshire are too white and insular for a party as diverse as the Democratic Party to begin their nominating process. Second, these results continue to show the power of money in presidential politics. The fact that men like Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, both of whom have almost no support among voters of color, are still in the race points to how much staying power money gives you in these early contests. 

“Finally, the underperformance of candidates of color in these early stages is predicated on the fact that voters of color have preferred Vice President Joe Biden in these early months of the contest. I think that this shows how concerned these voters are that running a person of color against President Trump might play into his hands by fueling the racial backlash that seems to drive a lot of his voters.”

Jaime Dominguez is an assistant professor of instruction in the department of political science in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern. His teaching and research focus on race and ethnicity, immigration, urban politics, Latino politics and Chicago politics. He can be reached at

Quote from Professor Dominguez
“The pressures to financially sustain her fledging campaign finally did her in, and the inability to move up in the polls only exacerbated this situation. She just did not have the resources to create a robust campaign on the ground. However, dropping out at this time might give her the opportunity to regroup and restructure her national political image around the upcoming impeachment hearings. This would help her image of being a fighter for justice. Plus, she no longer runs the risk of performing poorly in her home state of California, which could have created huge political consequences for her political future.”