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July 12, 2020

Trump lags Biden on people of color in top campaign ranks

Top Story

July 12, 2020

WASHINGTON: Joe Biden stood in a Pennsylvania metal works shop, just miles from his boyhood home, and pledged to define his presidency by a sweeping economic agenda beyond anything Americans have seen since the Great Depression and the industrial mobilization for World War II.

The prospective Democratic presidential nominee promised the effort would not just answer a pandemic-induced recession, but address centuries of racism and systemic inequalities with “a new American economy” that “finally and fully (lives) up to the words and the values enshrined in the founding documents of this nation — that we’re all created equal.” It was a striking call coming from Biden, a 77-year-old establishment figure known more as a back-slapping deal-maker than visionary reformer. But it made plain his intention to test the reach of liberal populism as he tries to create a coalition that can defeat President Donald Trump in November.

Trump and his Republican allies argue that Biden’s positioning, especially his ongoing work with progressives, proves he’s captive to a “radical” left wing. Conversely, activists who backed Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren in the Democratic primary were encouraged, yet cautious, about Biden’s ability to follow through while conceding that his plans on issues including climate action and criminal justice still fall short of their ideals.

Meanwhile, amid a summer of racial unrest and calls for more diversity in leadership, President Donald Trump lags Democratic rival Joe Biden in the percentage of people of color on their campaign staffs, according to data the campaigns provided, foreign media reported.

Twenty-five percent of the Republican president’s senior staff are nonwhite, compared to 36% of Biden’s senior staff. Biden’s overall campaign team is 35% nonwhite; Trump’s campaign did not provide a comparable number.

And neither campaign provided racial breakdowns for their nonwhite staff, nor the total number of staffers who are on their payrolls, including senior staff

Advocates for minority groups say staff diversity is necessary to ensure political candidates hear a full range of voices and viewpoints to help them understand the concerns of various communities and interest groups — especially at a time when racial injustice is front and center in the national conversation. And while Biden has an edge on Trump, there is plenty more to be done in presidential campaigns overall.

Jennifer Lawless, commonwealth professor of politics at the University of Virginia, said “there are still a lot of milestones that haven’t been hit” by political campaigns, such as a Black man or woman directing — and winning — a presidential campaign. And she said having diverse staff at lower levels in campaigns can help increase the pool of future managers, finance chairs and others.

“It’s all part of the pipeline,” Lawless said.

Trump’s campaign makeup got a double-take in June when Vice President Mike Pence tweeted — and later deleted — a photo from his visit to campaign headquarters. The photo at first drew attention for the lack of social distancing and use of face masks among the staff. But it also was notable for the sea of mostly white faces.

Eric Rodriguez, senior vice president of policy and advocacy at UnidosUS, said the Biden team had more Latinos in senior positions than Trump.

“You need people from those communities to be able to make those connections,” said Rodriguez, whose organization used to be called the National Council of La Raza.

The rival campaigns fared better — and are about even —- on employing women, with females filling more than half of all jobs overall, and more than half of all senior positions.