Debate 6

In just a few minutes from this post going live, the sixth Democratic Presidential debates will begin on PBS and CNN. I’ll try to be live-tweeting and let you know if anyone is emailing during the debates.

There has been a lot of talk about diversity on the debate stage and how the stage no longer looks like America the way the first debate did, so I figured I’d do some diversity breakdowns for us all.

Tonight’s debate has just 7 candidates, the fewest of any of the debate stages. While logically it makes sense that a 7-candidate stage is less-diverse than a 20-candidate stage, there has been a lot of outcry about the lack of diversity. Let’s take a look at how the diversity changed from debate to debate.

For most of these categories, I went with “Standard most of our presidents have been” vs “Not that standard”

I was going to do white/black colors, but they didn’t show up so nicely.

We have a long way to go before the debate stage ever resembles anything like America, but it definitely has been improving each election. However, racial diversity is at its lowest in this most recent debate.

Ironically, racial diversity was at its second lowest in the huge 20-person debates, which the critics of tonight’s debate keep holding up as examples of great diverse stages. The 12-person 4th debate was the most racially diverse stage we had.

Diversity Ranking:

  • 1: Debate 4
  • 2: Debates 3 and 5
  • 4: Debates 1 and 2
  • 6: Debate 6
I apologize for stereotypical colors, but it gets the point across the easiest.

Gender-wise, we’re actually about as diverse now as we were on the massive stage. Again, the first debates were not the most gender-diverse. That honor went to the 10-person fifth debate.

Diversity Ranking

  • 1: Debate 5
  • 2: Debate 4
  • 3: Debate 6
  • 4: Debates 1, 2, and 3
Red = Santa, Blue = Hanukkah?

Religious diversity is a bit iffy because Michael Bennet, in the first two debates, identified as both Christian and Jewish, with Jewish being more of an ethnicity than a religion for him. Though Tom Steyer also has Jewish family ties, I did not count him as Jewish because he presents himself as strongly Christian–just yesterday I got an email about the Jerusalem cross he draws on his hand every day to remind himself of his faith and to tell the truth. It is also true that some of the Christian-presenting candidates may not be as religious as they seem: I myself would call myself Christian even though I’m not a practicing Christian these days (sorry Mom). That’s why the first two debates have greater than 100% diversity.

Again, tonight’s debate is not the least-diverse with religion, though it’s not looking too good with religious diversity either. November’s 10-person debate had the most religious diversity to-date.

Diversity Ranking:

  • 1: Debate 5
  • 2: Debate 4
  • 3: Debate 6
  • 4: Debates 1, 2, and 3
One is the number of not-straight candidates.

The debate has actually been growing more diverse with sexual orientation as the stages narrow, though that is because there is only one candidate who isn’t straight in the entire race. If Pete Buttigieg didn’t qualify for a debate, do you think there would be the same outcry of a lack of diversity?

Somehow, I don’t think so.

Diversity Ranking:

  • 1: Debate 6
  • 2: Debates 3 and 5
  • 4: Debate 4
  • 5: Debates 1 and 2
Most net worths were taken from Forbes.com

This is perhaps the only category where the party would agree that more diversity isn’t exactly a good thing.

To obtain net worths of candidates, I checked the Forbes.com rankings. A few candidates did not show up there: Eric Swalwell and John Hickenlooper. If a candidate had a net worth of $1 million or more, they were classified as a millionaire. Under a million is a thousandaire, while $1 billion or more was a billionaire.

It would have been nice if there were more thousandaires qualifying for the debate stage, but many of the candidates are older and had plenty of time during booming economies to build up some value. However, this does go to show how very few candidates can be competitive without having a lot of money to their names already.

Diversity Ranking

  • 1: Debate 4
  • 2: Debate 3
  • 3: Debates 1 and 2
  • 5: Debate 5
  • 6: Debate 6
Surprisingly, this one is not something you can tell with a look.

Believe it or not, tonight’s debate is actually the most diverse when it comes to amount of candidates who have a direct parent who immigrated to the U.S. Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders, and Andrew Yang all have at least one immigrant parent. Once again, the first debate stage really wasn’t all that diverse.

Diversity Ranking

  • 1: Debate 6
  • 2: Debates 3 and 5
  • 4: Debate 4
  • 5: Debates 1 and 2
Another tricky one to count.

I used the four regions from worldatlas.com to decide which region of the country candidates counted from. Marianne Williamson was tricky, as she tries to parlay her life in Michigan and California into connections, but she currently resides in Texas, so I counted her as a Southerner. Alaska and Hawaii counted as Western according to the site I used. Ohio counted as Midwest.

With those distinctions made, it’s clear that the first debate stage actually was the most regionally diverse. With Julian Castro no longer qualifying, the South has completely fallen out of representation. As more and more Northeasterners (the “coastal elite”) jump into the race, the stage is growing less diverse by the month.

Diversity Ranking

  • 1: Debate 4
  • 2: Debates 1 and 2
  • 4: Debate 3
  • 5: Debate 5
  • 6: Debate 6
Ages in parentheses

The ages in parentheses are CURRENT ages of the candidates. I put 33 as the youngest because if you turn 35 the day before inauguration day in 2021, the youngest you can be to run for President, you would be 33 right now.

Debate 4 was probably the most generationally diverse stage as well, with an equal number of Millenials and Silent Generations, and an equal number from both Gen X and the Baby Boomer generations. As the race progresses, the stage has shifted older and older, with the fourth debate being the only one that was younger than the previous debate.

Diversity Ranking

  • 1: Debate 4
  • 2: Debate 5
  • 3: Debate 1
  • 4: Debate 6
  • 5: Debate 3
  • 6: Debate 2

Looking at the stage this way, it becomes clear that the peak diversity was not, as cut candidates would have you believe, with the first debate, but actually was with the fourth, where more candidates who were straight, Christian, white, or men were cut from the debate than any other type of candidate.

Adding up the score each debate got, and we find that the debates were diverse in the following order (with low numbers being good.)

Total Diversity Ranking

  • 16: Debate 4
  • 20: Debate 5
  • 25: Debate 3
  • 30: Debates 1 and 6
  • 33: Debate 2

Fourth in the diversity ranking chart isn’t very good. I’m not going to pretend that it is. But it isn’t the worst.

And unfortunately, as the field shrinks, as fields do in races like this one, diversity is going to be one of the casualties. After all, we’re going to end up with only one person. There are only so many boxes one person can check.

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