We were happy to see former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick enter the presidential race this week — if only to give Americans another strong Black leader to consider.
We were also pleased with the amount of national media attention his announcement got.
But we wonder if it will continue as his campaign continues.
Will he get as much attention as, say, a white mayor from a big town in Indiana?
Presidential contender Amy Klobuchar raised a related question last week on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
When asked if she thought Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana (population: approximately 102,000) and a fellow presidential contender, was qualified, Klobuchar said yes.
But she also noted that Buttigieg is relatively inexperienced. He has not won state races. He has not worked in the Capitol.
“Of the women on the stage, and I’m focusing here on my fellow women senators, Sen. Warren, Sen. Harris and myself … Do I think we would be standing on that stage if we had the experience he had? No, I don’t,” Klobuchar said. “Maybe we’re held to a different standard.”
While we recognize that Buttigieg is unique in that he’s one of the youngest presidential candidates in U.S. history and the first openly gay candidate, we share Klobuchar’s questions about his credentials and double standards.
There are more women in the field than ever before and — with the exception of Marianne Williamson, who has at least written 13 books — they are all significantly more qualified than Buttigieg. And some of them are unique in their own right.
Tulsi Gabbard is the first Samoan American and first practicing Hindu elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where she has represented Hawaii since 2012. As a major in the Hawaii Army National Guard, she is also the first female combat veteran to seek the presidency.
Kamala Harris is the only Black woman in the U.S. Senate and the only Black woman in the presidential race. She has represented California since 2017.
Amy Klobuchar is the first woman in Minnesota to be elected to the U.S. Senate, where she has served since 2006.
Elizabeth Warren, a former law professor, has represented Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate since 2013.
Only Warren consistently gets the kind of attention Buttigieg gets.
And there are weeks when Harris is mentioned as often in national media as Buttigieg — sometimes more.
There are also more Black and Hispanic candidates in the field than ever before and they, too, are as qualified as Buttigieg — or more so.
Cory Booker is the first African-American in New Jersey to be elected to the U.S. Senate, where he has served since 2013. Before that, he was the beloved mayor of Newark, New Jersey (population: approximately 285,000).
Julián Castro became the youngest member of President Barack Obama’s Cabinet when he was named secretary of housing and urban development in 2014. Before that, he was the mayor of San Antonio, Texas (population: approximately 1.5 million).
Wayne Messam was the first Black man to be elected mayor of Miramar, Florida (population: approximately 140,300) in 2015. Before that, he served on the Miramar City Commission for several years. He has the same number of years of experience leading a large town as Buttigieg does.
None of them gets the kind of attention Buttigieg gets.
Booker and Castro have publicly struggled to stay in the campaign. On Sept. 21, Booker said he would have to end his campaign if he didn’t raise $1.7 million by the end of that month. He succeeded and appeared in the October debate. A few weeks later, on Oct. 21, Castro announced that he needed to raise $800,000 by the end of that month to stay in the campaign. As of Friday, he hadn’t met the Democratic National Committee’s requirements to appear in the next debate.
And Messam has never appeared on the debate stage.
In a Democratic field with more women and people of color than ever before, many of whom are also unique, why is Buttigieg getting so much attention? And the money and celebrity endorsements that go with it?
We believe a big part of it comes down to the national media.
Members of the national media talk about the candidates who interest them the most or who they think are most likely to win, which brings more awareness to those candidates’ campaigns, which helps those candidates raise more money, which gives members of the national media more reason to talk about them.
And members of the national media are mostly non-Hispanic white men.
Approximately 77% of all reporters, editors and photographers are non-Hispanic whites, according to a 2018 report from the Pew Research Center. And approximately 61% of all reporters, editors and photographers are men.
These demographics make newsrooms less diverse than the entire American workforce, which is 65% non-Hispanic white and 53% male.
A significant portion of the newsroom employees at The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal are graduates of America’s elite universities, according to a 2018 study published in the Journal of Expertise. Approximately 44% of the Times’ newsroom employees and 50% of the Journal’s newsroom employees graduated from Ivy League schools. The study did not look at the newsrooms of The Washington Post or The Associated Press.
The demographics of these large newsrooms matter because many newspapers across the country rely on them to provide coverage of these national campaigns.
And who are these predominantly non-Hispanic, white male reporters going to be most interested in?
Another white man.
Would the national media give the same attention to a Black man with the same political experience in a town a little bigger than South Bend (a town most people only knew because of the local university’s football team)? We’ve already seen the answer to that with Messam.
Would the national media give the same attention to a white, Black or Samoan American woman who had never won a state race? We don’t know because there are none in the field. But we do know that it’s not giving the same attention to some white, Black and Samoan American women who already serve in Congress.
Will the national media give the same attention to a Black former governor? Only time will tell.