Many Dems are running for exposure

Democratic nomination

Twenty-four people are running for the Democratic nomination for president of the United States. From where I sit, at least half of them are only running for exposure, for the vice presidential nod, for cabinet secretary, to push a platform, or to simply be seen. Their ambitions have made the process turgid and impractical, often amusing and only sometimes illuminating. 

The candidates do best when they have time to expound on their ideas, as they did at Rev. William Barber’s Poor People’s Congress on June 17, or at Rev. Jesse Jackson’s National Rainbow Coalition International Convention June 28-July 2. 

Some stopped by 

Barber’s meeting drew nine candidates, each who had the opportunity to give a four-minute speech and 26 minutes of questioning from Rev. Barber. The Rainbow PUSH gathering drew seven candidates who had about 15 minutes to address those assembled.

Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Bill Di Blasio and Pete Buttigieg had press conferences with Rev. Jackson. Kamala Harris and Corey Booker did not attend Rev. Jackson’s meeting, although Harris did get to Rev. Barber’s and pledged to support a debate dedicated to poverty issues. 

With a crowded field and calendar, it is clear that everybody can’t be everywhere, but I’d like the two African American senators to explain why they snubbed Rev. Jackson, a leader who provided the very foundation for them to run for office. 

Why run?

Memo to Andrew Yang, Marianne Williamson, Steve Bullock, Wayne Messam, and a few others. What are you running for, really? You’ve got ideas. Doesn’t everybody? But you have about as good a chance of being president as the proverbial snowball has a chance of surviving hell. You’ve raised a little money and you’ve got a skeleton staff. Why not sit home and write op-eds about your good ideas? Somebody will publish them. 

Memo to Eric Swalwell–age-baiting is neither thoughtful nor cute. It’s fine to tell former Vice President Biden to “pass the torch” once, but to say it more than once seems like badgering and makes you look like a junior high school heckler. 

Biden should have come back at you for hedging your bets. You told the San Francisco Chronicle that, while you are running for president, you haven’t closed the door on keeping your congressional seat. You have until December to decide, you say. Do us all a favor. Decide now! (Editor’s note: Eric Swalwell dropped out of the Democratic primary this week.) 

Losing isn’t winning 

Memo to Beto O’Rourke. Just like the South lost the Civil War, you lost the Senate race in 2018. Losing a statewide competition is hardly the foundation for a successful presidential run.

You were a nondescript congressman that sponsored little legislation, a Democratic sensation mainly because you came close to toppling the odious Senator Ted Cruz. But what do you stand for other than White male exuberance, jumping up on tables with the wild hand gestures? Run for Senate in Texas again. Maybe you’d win and really make a difference! 

Memo to Julian Castro. Don’t patronize your own community by speaking Spanish poorly. I think Latino people care more about your policy positions than your Spanish language ability. Good move in going after Beto O’Rourke in the debates on immigration issues. Wrong move in missing the Poor People’s Congress after confirming that you’d be there. 

Memo to Vice-President Biden. You’re better than your act, better than your debate performance, better than your wandering, long-winded speeches. 

Quit making mistakes 

I know you’ve been doing you for a long time, and the wordy gaffes seem to work for you. Actually, they don’t. There’s nothing wrong with saying you made a mistake, nothing wrong with apologizing to Anita Hill – which you haven’t done yet – nothing wrong with talking about busing unapologetically. If you don’t get your act together, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris are going to make mincemeat out of you. 

It’s only July, seven long months before the February 3, 2020, Iowa caucuses. That’s eight months before the delegate-rich Super Tuesday, March 3, 2020, when at least 15 states, including Texas and California, will hold primaries, and 1,321 Democratic delegates will be up for grabs. 

It’s the beginning of July. By month’s end, there will be yet another debate with 20 people on the stage in two clumps. We won’t learn much at these debates, because they are less debate than guided conversation with interruptions and outbursts. 

What we must know, even at this point in July, is that all 24 candidates aren’t running for president. At least half of them are simply running for exposure, and most of the nation is not paying attention. Can you name all 24 candidates without the use of Google? Probably not. I got to 21 before I had to check. 

Others on the list 

I left out Massachusetts Congressman Seth Moulton, former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel, and Montana Governor Steve Bullock. They’ve made quite an impression! 

Running for exposure is a costly venture – and a constitutionally guaranteed right. I’m not so sure it’s a good idea, at least where some of these candidates are concerned.

Julianne Malveaux is a Washington, D.C.-based economist and writer. Her latest book, “Are We Better Off? Race, Obama and Public Policy,” is available at




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