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8 Democratic Presidential Contenders To Speak At 'She The People' Forum


It is the name that's been floated and whispered about in progressive political circles for a longtime now - former Vice President Joe Biden for president.


Well, it appears Biden's campaign is about to become official. He is expected to declare his candidacy tomorrow. The field of Democratic presidential candidates is already crowded. Biden will be the 20th candidate to declare. It's a diverse field. And today, nearly half the candidates will be taking questions from women of color.

GREENE: Yeah. This will be at the first-ever presidential forum organized by the political group She the People. And Aimee Allison is that group's founder. She's on the line from Houston where the forum is taking place. Thanks for being here.

AIMEE ALLISON: My pleasure.

GREENE: So you've got eight of the candidates. I'll just list them so people know - Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Tulsi Gabbard, Beto O'Rourke and Julian Castro. What do you hope to accomplish here?

ALLISON: Well, this is the first time that women of color have been organized as a political force. But in truth, we're 1 of 5 primary voters - and in swing states, 1 of 4 voters. And women of color are the most progressive voters.

So our interest is in organizing, engaging the campaigns and really teasing out what are the issues of racial, social and economic justice that distinguish the candidates and giving an opportunity for them to really directly engage and make their case to the most critical Democratic Party voters.

GREENE: And do you expect to come out of this, like, endorsing someone or sort of talking about which candidates you think handled these questions better than others?

ALLISON: We expect to come out understanding, you know, where they stand and which candidate is going to be really attuned to standing with and for women of color in our communities.

I mean, look; the main thing that we want to do in this part of the process - we're 18 months out from the election - is for candidates to both understand there's no path to victory in the primaries and the White House without enthusiastic support of women of color. And we're encouraging them to directly engage in our communities now. In states like Texas, Georgia, Florida, those are states that Trump won. So those are the states that candidates need to build coalitions starting now, and women of color are the key to that. And so regardless of how the candidates, you know, they act, you know, and answer right now, there's an opportunity for them to start building that coalition and making their case.

GREENE: Aimee Allison, I want to ask you - our NPR politics team has been speaking with some Democratic female voters in recent days. They sound very energized by this diverse field. But some are expressing hesitation about how, quote, "electable" a minority candidate might be. How do you react to that?

ALLISON: Well, the She the People presidential forum turns the assumptions around electability on its head. Look; it was assumed, you know, who can take on a Donald Trump? Or who's able to win? And the truth is, our country is - particularly in swing states in the South and Southwest - majority or near majority people of color. And there is a already a coalition that could elect - as we know with President Obama - elect and re-elect a person of color. So I think, ultimately, women and people of color are - not only are not minorities but very electable. But it's requiring the candidate to build the coalition - an inclusive, multiracial coalition - to engage the voters in order to be successful.

And so women of color really are - since we are the core of the Democratic Party, we're insisting on being recognized as such. And for candidates to make their case, it really says, look; the electability is really determined by this group. And so the old terms about electability and assumptions need to change.

GREENE: We have a story on our website about the conversations that our colleagues have been having. There's a professor of philosophy at Cornell, Kate Manne, who said she's worried, though, that electability can be a way to rationalize biases. Is that true? I mean, are you OK if people think about things like race and gender as they think about electability?

ALLISON: Well, women of color, because we are the most likely group - we are the least elected and most likely to be challenged in a primary. We know when people look at us, hey, there are some assumptions based on race and gender. But I think this is an opportunity, now - this presidential contest - to show that there's a wider range of who is electable. And it really starts with acknowledging who the voters are.

GREENE: All right. And that is going to be a forum in Houston with eight of the Democratic presidential candidates. Aimee Allison is founder of the organization holding it, She the People.

Aimee, thanks for your time this morning.

ALLISON: Thanks so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.