We're now a mere 16 months away from the 2016 presidential election, and boy do voters have a lot of options. Not so much on the Democratic side, perhaps — you've only got Hillary Clinton, Martin O'Malley, Bernie Sanders and Lincoln Chafee — but the GOP side of things is a bit of a crowded melee. There are already 14 Republicans officially declared, with two more virtual locks in Scott Walker and John Kasich waiting in the wings. And, surprisingly enough, it all combines for one of the most diverse presidential fields in history, which is pretty damn cool.
Most of the diversity is pooled on the Republican side, by virtue of a thin, entirely white Democratic field, and that obviously matters as far as politics are concerned. Despite neurosurgeon and conservative darling Ben Carson being a black man, for example, his politics also run starkly opposite a huge majority of black Americans. In 2012, black voters broke for the Democratic ticket by a staggering 93 percent.
It's also important to note that a presidential field doesn't have to be all that diverse for it to stand out. Make no mistake, the overwhelming majority of 2016 candidates are still white men, by a tally of 12 to six. One of the 12 is Donald Trump, too, who's such a peerless avatar of a bombastic white businessman that you could maybe count him twice.
But there's something to be celebrated in this fact, nonetheless. At the current moment, the 2016 field (across both parties) boasts the following:
- Two white women (Clinton, Fiorina)
- Two Hispanic men (Cruz, Rubio)
- One African-American man (Carson)
- One Indian-American man (Jindal)
Setting aside color and gender, there are some other notable instances of ethnic diversity, as well. Bernie Sanders, for example, is the first Jewish politician to mount a run at the White House since Joe Lieberman did back in 2004, and those two couldn't be any less similar politically — Lieberman was one of the Senate's most conservative Democrats, while Sanders is a self-avowed socialist. Martin O'Malley for the Democrats has Irish ancestry, as well, while Chris Christie on the GOP side is both Irish and Italian — both ethnicities that were once badly discriminated against in American life.
Obviously, it'd be nice if politics provided us an array of candidates representative of how America looked — something like an even split of men and women, from a multitude of backgrounds. Hell, we haven't had a black woman run for president since former Illinois congresswoman Carol Moseley Braun did it back in 2004.
But there's no way to force this issue, exactly. It's a real shame, all told, because we've only managed to elect one non-white President in American history, and could end up back to the usual again after 2016. While there's nothing inherently wrong with a white male president, the dearth of other options (and what that suggests about our politics and society) gets pretty fatiguing.
So, hats off to this unusually diverse presidential field. It may not be everything a liberal voter might have wanted — can't very well vote for Ben Carson or Ted Cruz, can you? — but it's something to be celebrated all the same, regardless of politics.
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