Democrats voice frustrations at plight of black, Hispanic presidential candidates

Democrats are searching for answers as their largest and most diverse field of presidential contenders ever has been whittled down to a top tier of white candidates.

California Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisBiden campaign says no VP pick yet after bike trail quip Hillary Clinton roasts NYT's Maureen Dowd over column Biden edges closer to VP pick: Here's who's up and who's down MORE’s exit from the race on Tuesday underscored the degree to which candidates of color have struggled to gain traction in the Democratic primary.

At the moment, it appears that the party’s nominee is likely to be one of four white people — former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden says Trump executive order is 'a reckless war on Social Security' Trump got into testy exchange with top GOP donor Adelson: report Blumenthal calls for declassification of materials detailing Russian threat to US elections MORE, Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenBiden campaign says no VP pick yet after bike trail quip Biden edges closer to VP pick: Here's who's up and who's down Democratic convention lineup to include Ocasio-Cortez, Clinton, Warren: reports MORE (D-Mass.), Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Memo: Trump team pounces on Biden gaffes The Hill's Campaign Report: US officials say Russia, China are looking to sow discord in election Warren urges investment in child care workers amid pandemic MORE (I-Vt.), or South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegCNN's Ana Navarro to host Biden roundtable on making 'Trump a one-term president' Former Indiana Gov. Joe Kernan dies How Republicans can embrace environmentalism and win MORE.

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And with Harris gone, the remaining six candidates who have qualified for the December debate are all white. Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharSenate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Senate Democrats push to include free phone calls for incarcerated people in next relief package Lobbying world MORE (D-Minn.) and billionaire activist Tom SteyerTom SteyerSteyer endorses reparations bill, commits to working with Jackson Lee Progressive group launches M pro-Biden ad buy targeting young voters The Hill's Campaign Report: Jacksonville mandates face coverings as GOP convention approaches MORE are the other two candidates to have met the requirements.

It’s still possible that one or more candidates of color could qualify for the December debate. Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerSenate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Senate Democrats push to include free phone calls for incarcerated people in next relief package Ex-USAID employee apologizes, denies sending explosive tweets MORE (D-N.J.), tech entrepreneur Andrew YangAndrew YangProgressive candidate Bush talks about her upset primary win over Rep. Clay Is this the end of the 'college experience'? Biden campaign to take over 'Supernatural' star's Instagram for interview MORE and Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardFinancial firms facing serious hacking threat in COVID-19 era Gabbard drops defamation lawsuit against Clinton It's as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process MORE (D-Hawaii) have seven days to reach the polling thresholds set by the Democratic National Committee.

But for now, the finger pointing has begun.

Some are accusing the media of going easy on white candidates. There are also arguments that late-arriving billionaire candidates are drowning out other campaigns.

“It’s very troubling and I’m worried that Democrats might be setting themselves up for failure,” said Cornell William Brooks, a former NAACP president and current director at the William Monroe Trotter Collaborative for Social Justice at Harvard University.

“The demographic shift in this country, which is most pronounced in the Democratic Party, is toward a younger, more progressive and more diverse electorate. We could be looking at a debate stage that’s far different from that. When you have more billionaires than black people on stage, how are you supposed to sell that?”

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Democrats pride themselves on a racially diverse party, and the plight of candidates of color is raising new concerns about a primary calendar that gives significant weight to Iowa and New Hampshire.

About 90 percent of people in Iowa and New Hampshire are white. The third and fourth states to vote, Nevada and South Carolina, are far more racially diverse.

“It’s profoundly unfair and anachronistic,” Brooks said. “The national party has to create a calendar so we have a truly representative segment of the citizenry and electorate who will vote. That’s the only thing that will give us the best gauge of who is most electable.”

Not all Democrats share this view.

Former President Obama pulled off a surprise victory in the Iowa caucuses in 2008, which subsequently generated momentum for his campaign among black voters in South Carolina.

This time around, Biden appears to have a deep and lasting bond with black voters, who have boosted him to a double-digit lead in the polls of South Carolina.

Harris and Booker, some Democrats say, have been unable to generate as broad of a bond with black voters.

“African Americans are not monolithic and the assumption that we are is a mistake,” said Antjuan Seawright, a Democratic strategist in South Carolina. “The depth and width of Biden’s support among black voters has been underestimated, and that’s been proven out time and time again.”

Former San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro, a 2020 Democratic White House hopeful, blasted the media Tuesday, saying a pile-up of stories about Harris’s campaign imploding in the weeks leading up to her exit were unnecessary.

Castro and others are arguing that every national campaign is rife with drama, but that the stories of infighting were peculiar to Harris’s campaign.

“The way that the media treated Sen. Harris in this campaign has been something else,” Castro said. “In the last few days, to see articles out … that basically trashed her campaign and focused on one small part of it, and I think held her to a different standard, a double standard, has been grossly unfair and unfortunate.”

Democrats interviewed by The Hill agreed that candidates of color — and women in particular — face unique challenges and a steeper climb to perceived electability than white candidates or men.

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“It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy,” said one Democratic campaign staffer. “Poll well in a predominantly white state and then the media buzzes about you and then the donors give you money.”

But others said the media is mostly equal in its treatment of candidates, propping them up when they’re flying high and kicking them when they’re down.

And the complaints about the media, some Democrats say, ignores the glaring deficiencies in the Harris campaign, which ran out of money. Harris also struggled at times to define herself and her positions.

“We’re not at a point in this country where it’s easy to run as a woman or a candidate of color,” said one Democratic strategist. “But that said, Harris ran a shitty campaign.”

By far, the most venom is being reserved for Steyer and former New York City Mayor Michael BloombergMichael BloombergEverytown on the NRA lawsuit: 'Come November, we're going to make sure they're out of power, too' Hillicon Valley: Trump raises idea of delaying election, faces swift bipartisan pushback | Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google release earnings reports | Senators ask Justice Department to investigate TikTok, Zoom Meme group joins with Lincoln Project in new campaign against Trump MORE, the white billionaires who joined the race late and have combined to spend more than $100 million, dwarfing the rest of the field and bigfooting the candidates who are struggling most.

Emotions are still raw among Harris supporters, who lashed out at the billionaires and accused them of encroaching on turf that they should have conceded to the party’s diverse, next generation of leaders.

“We cannot allow billionaire candidates to strangle our democracy,” said Melissa Watson, a Harris supporter and the chairwoman of the Berkeley County Democratic Party in South Carolina. “We cannot allow candidates to come and drop $100 million of their money and erase the work that people have been doing on the ground for 10 months.

“That’s morally unacceptable.”