Written by Ryan Nickerson, Managing Editor
When asked about how she would address voters who may be interested in voting for a woman president but may vote for a male candidate out of fear, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren rolled up her sleeves and said: “Here’s how I see it”.
Then an audience member shouted, “Tell us how you see it!” and the forum erupted in cheer and applause.
Senator Cory Booker announced he will have a woman running mate for his 2020 campaign, while Secretary Julian Castro talked about the importance of intersectionality. All of the candidates were asked: Why should a woman of color vote for you?
The She The People Presidential Forum, hosted by Texas Southern University, has solidified women of color’s long-standing importance in the 2020 Democratic presidential race, possibly being the determining factor of who will win the Democratic primary.
On April 24th, eight Democratic presidential candidates briefly spoke one at a time, in a question and answer format, to the She The People forum. The audience, primarily made up of women of color, looked for which candidate sincerely believes their vote matters.
“Our hope is to advance a national conversation to help voters distinguish which candidates stand with and stand for women of color in our communities,” said She The People founder Aimee Allison. “And let me tell you something: The candidate that does that best and most consistently will win the nomination and the White House in 2020.”
Women of color’s voice in Democratic elections is nothing new, being the party’s most consistent voters, especially in the south, where women of color hold candidates responsible for not overlooking them.
If they do, they pose losing a key voting block that could cost them the general election.
With the substantial number of women in the forum’s audience, the male candidates seemed almost uneasy trying to convince women to vote for them. Even Senator Bernie Sanders, who leads the polls for candidates who have announced their campaigns, seemingly jumped around the question about why women of color should vote for him.
“I think, what I would ask of people is to look. Look at my record and look at what I campaigned on,” said Sen. Sanders in response to why women of color should vote for him. He then went on to say people laughed at him for his ideas in 2016 but those ideas are now the main political topic points for Democratic candidates, sidestepping the point of the question.
When former Texas Representative Beto O’Rourke got asked the question, he awkwardly paused for a moment before answering, “It’s not something I’m owed, not something I expect. It’s something I fully hope to earn.”
Sen. Harris seemed most comfortable on stage, as her platform directly addressed women of color since she launched her campaign earlier this year. With her public record of appealing to black women, Harris took the opportunity to reinforce campaign promises that are popular within that community.
“There was no question the war on drugs was a failure,” Harris said. “And part of the problem was that what is essentially a public health issue has turned into a criminal justice issue. And then now, thankfully, some have evolved around the opioid issue, but look, where were they when we had what was called the crack epidemic?”
Harris also vowed to take “strong executive action” on gun control during her first 100 days of her presidency. If elected, Harris would sign an executive order mandating background checks for customers of any firearms dealer who sells more than five guns a year. The executive actions would also include more stringent regulation of gun manufacturers that could result in revoked licenses or prosecution, as well as an attempt to close the loophole that allows some domestic abusers to purchase guns if their victim is an unwedded partner.
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar also made her case to the forum, telling them that she “can’t pretend to be in your shoes. I’m in one of your shoes, as the first woman in many of the jobs that I’ve had. And I know what it’s like to be in the room when people aren’t taking you seriously,” she said. “What I can tell you is that my entire life I have fought for justice.”
When asked who stood out the most, three young women from the group Texas Rising, a grassroots organization of young, politically progressive activists, immediately said Elizabeth Warren.
Although she appeared last, Sen. Warren had the most charismatic answers with the most enthusiastic reception. She started off speaking about her plan to reduce maternal mortality rates but once she was asked the question about people voting for a man out of fear of a woman president, Sen. Warren won the room.
“We’ve got a roomful of people here who weren’t given anything. We have a roomful of people here who had to fight for what they believe in,” Sen. Warren said. “Are we going to show up for people that we didn’t actually believe in because we were too afraid to do anything else? That’s not who we are. That’s not how we’re going to do this.”