Outside the Granville M. Sawyer Auditorium on the campus of Texas Southern University in Houston about 1,000 or so mostly young women of color waited in line under drizzly skies to get into the She the People Presidential Forum. Inside, Sen. Cory Booker and many of his rivals for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination (including Beto, Bernie, Kamala, Warren, and others with not enough recognition to go by single names) waited to answer questions from She the People co-founder Aimee Allison, Joy-Ann Reid of MSNBC, and selected — one would presume pre-screened — audience members.
“…I’m tempted to say: OK, ladies, let’s get in formation,” said Reid as she was introduced, quoting Houston’s most famous daughter.
With (MS)NBC as a major co-sponsor of a Democratic presidential forum, one could assume a progressive focus to the subject matter and answers. As one of the few events with more than a couple of candidates in the same building, it promised a lot. But it delivered less than that, unfortunately. From Booker to Warren, the answers were as predictable as the questions, and the appreciative audience’s yelping, whooping and applauding every buzzword and policy promise made this feel more like a pep rally than a forum. (Booker was in full stump-speech mode. I’ve almost memorized his by now. I’m not as well-versed in the other stump speeches, but I heard a lot of familiar lines.)
Many of the young women we spoke to said they didn’t really have their minds made up on which candidate to support. Who could blame them? With what will be 20 candidates essentially saying the same thing — I know that’s an oversimplification, campaign teams — it’s hard to separate the candidates based on much, other than personality. And it’s also way early in the process. Today, the candidates played to the crowd and generated much more applause than analysis.
In that respect, it’s hard to say whether the She the People event did what it was supposed to do: according to a spokesperson, ask the candidates “what are you really gonna do to center our communities in meaningful and powerful ways beyond the rhetoric that we always hear from Donald Trump?” I’m not sure what that even means, but I’m sure if someone had said it during the forum it would have drawn tremendous applause. — David Cruz