Presidential Candidates: “Diversity” vs. Diversity

Much has been made — and in the coming months, much, much more will be made — of the “diversity” of the field of Democratic candidates for president: Hillary Clinton, a woman; Barack Obama, a black (or whatever); and further down in the pack, Bill Richardson, a Hispanic (well, he’s as Hispanic — son of an American father and a Mexican mother, born in Pasadena and raised in Massachusetts — as Obama is black).

Indeed, often it appears that for these candidates the campaign is about the “diversity” they offer. Thus the headline of an article about Sen. (no, make that Mrs.) Clinton’s appearance in Columbia, S.C., yesterday before an audience make up largely of black women is “Clinton Emphasizes her Gender As Strategy.” And lest you think the headline misleading, listen:

“I believe this presidential election is about breaking barriers,” Clinton said. “This is the campaign and I am the candidate with the experience to break those barriers.”

There are no doubt some people, besides Mrs. Clinton, who believe “breaking barriers” is what this, or any, presidential election is or should be about.

Similarly, Barack Obama’s campaign so far, as Rick Lowry has written, is mainly about … Barack Obama.

Ultimately, Obama offers himself — his reasonable and optimistic tone and his biography — as the salve for American politics. A critic will see here a characteristic self-involvement. In “Dreams,” a college friend tells him, “You always think everything’s about you.” In “Audacity,” his wife similarly admonishes him, “You only think about yourself.” And now his presidential campaign is all about him.

The unusual thing about the biographical basis of Obama’s candidacy is how much of what makes it so compelling happened before about age 10 and was none of his doing. If his mother hadn’t married a Kenyan and then an Indonesian man, if his background weren’t so intriguing, he’d probably be just another ambitious senator.

The Democratic field is clearly more “diverse” than the Republican, but is it more diverse? To find out, let us do something I never do when discussing “diversity” — take the diversiphiles at their word when they insist that race, sex, ethnicity are only a few of many characteristics that should be “considered” in a “holistic” evaluation of the strength of individual candidates. (See here and here for recent debunks of that assertion.)

If we look beyond sex, race, and ethnicity — as the diversiphiles insist they always do — what do we see when we compare the top three candidates at the moment in each party (Clinton, Obama, Edwards vs. Giuliani, McCain, Romney), aside from the fact that the Democratic Hispanic is not there, at least not yet?

All three Democrats are lawyers whose only experience in the private sector (limited in the case of Clinton, non-existent in the case of Obama) is practicing law.

Among the Republicans, by contrast, two out of the three have extensive private sector experience: Romney, with graduate business and law degrees from Harvard, was CEO of Bain and Company and founded Bain Capital and headed the Utah Olympic Games; Giuliani, who after being mayor founded and ran the very successful Giuliani Partners.

Politically, Clinton, in addition to being First Lady (state and federal), is in her second term in the Senate; Obama is in his first; Edwards was a one-term Senator. By contrast, Romney has been a governor (successful, by some lights) of a state where most of the voters are in the other party; McCain has been an influential Senator and presidential candidate; and Giuliani has been an Associate Attorney General —

As Associate Attorney General, Giuliani supervised all of the US Attorney Offices’ Federal law enforcement agencies, the Department of Corrections, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the United States Marshals Service

— a U.S. Attorney prosecuting high-profile cases, and Mayor of New York.

In religious affiliation, all three Democrats are Protestants. Of the Republican trio, one is Protestant, one is Catholic, and one is Mormon. Obviously no one who touts Democratic “diversity” is thinking of religion.

In terms of military experience, Sen. McCain is a bona fide war hero. None of the Democrats has served in the military.

Unless and until someone wants to argue that experience in and with the military, in the private sector, and in politics beyond brief legislative careers is not relevant to the presidency, perhaps some of the “diversity” praise being bestowed on the Dems could be toned down a bit.

Say What? (1)

  1. Chauncey February 20, 2007 at 11:40 am | | Reply

    incidentally, george bush and dick cheney also had lots of private sector experience before they were elected. “private sector experience”: the newest metric for judging the competence of a candidate.

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