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Race and gender aren’t a 2020 story — they’re the story

“This reality must also be reflected in our nation’s newsrooms, where two-thirds of political journalists are still white men and women are too often still covered as a special interest group.”

For many of my peers in political journalism, the historic election of Barack Obama as America’s first black president was the biggest and most momentous election we had ever covered. But the 2020 contest may prove to be the most consequential election of our time. Like 2008, next year’s presidential campaign will center largely around issues of race. Race and gender are the story that will drive the narrative from now until November.

The upcoming presidential contest follows a decade shaped by protest and progress. National reckonings around sexual violence and systemic inequality have unleashed political activism that has taken several forms, from activism to bids for elected office.

Women and people of color found their voice, making headlines and making change across our society, from the Women’s March to Black Lives Matter — and perhaps nowhere more prominently or impactfully than in our politics. All have set the stage for a 2020 election in a deeply divided America, with some of the clearest fault lines lying at the intersection of sex and racial identity.

This reality must also be reflected in our nation’s newsrooms, where two-thirds of political journalists are still white men and women are too often still covered as a special interest group. In 2020, when this country will mark the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, it’s worth reimagining the role of women in our democracy and how we as journalists are reporting on how their priorities are translating into political action.

Nearly half a century after Shirley Chisholm became the first woman to run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, the start of the 2020 primary cycle saw six women competing to be our country’s next president. Today, women represent more than half of the American electorate, and black women are finally widely acknowledged as the backbone of the Democratic Party. A record number of women, including women of color, help make up what is the most diverse Congress in history.

In 2020, there are no “women’s issues” — there are only issues, from the economy to education to healthcare to the environment, that should be framed through the lens of women voters. They make up more than half of the American electorate and will choose the nation’s next president.

For many voters of color, racism is on the ballot in 2020, and issues of race — from reparations to voter suppression to questions of electability — have already made their way onto the campaign trail and the debate stage, forcing candidates regardless of color to make their case for how they will represent an increasingly diverse electorate. Framing those voters not just in terms of their racial identity — but as rural, educated, working-class, economically anxious, or concerned about the future of the Supreme Court — brings them into the mainstream of our electorate. Changing the narrative also requires a recognition that identity politics includes white voters and a critical examination of how their race plays into their choices at the ballot.

To cover 2020 is to define who and where we are as a country. Like our elections, election coverage is about choices — of who gets seen and heard in our democracy. Let this be the year that we as political journalists choose differently.

Errin Haines is the Associated Press’ national writer on race and ethnicity.

For many of my peers in political journalism, the historic election of Barack Obama as America’s first black president was the biggest and most momentous election we had ever covered. But the 2020 contest may prove to be the most consequential election of our time. Like 2008, next year’s presidential campaign will center largely around issues of race. Race and gender are the story that will drive the narrative from now until November.

The upcoming presidential contest follows a decade shaped by protest and progress. National reckonings around sexual violence and systemic inequality have unleashed political activism that has taken several forms, from activism to bids for elected office.

Women and people of color found their voice, making headlines and making change across our society, from the Women’s March to Black Lives Matter — and perhaps nowhere more prominently or impactfully than in our politics. All have set the stage for a 2020 election in a deeply divided America, with some of the clearest fault lines lying at the intersection of sex and racial identity.

This reality must also be reflected in our nation’s newsrooms, where two-thirds of political journalists are still white men and women are too often still covered as a special interest group. In 2020, when this country will mark the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, it’s worth reimagining the role of women in our democracy and how we as journalists are reporting on how their priorities are translating into political action.

Nearly half a century after Shirley Chisholm became the first woman to run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, the start of the 2020 primary cycle saw six women competing to be our country’s next president. Today, women represent more than half of the American electorate, and black women are finally widely acknowledged as the backbone of the Democratic Party. A record number of women, including women of color, help make up what is the most diverse Congress in history.

In 2020, there are no “women’s issues” — there are only issues, from the economy to education to healthcare to the environment, that should be framed through the lens of women voters. They make up more than half of the American electorate and will choose the nation’s next president.

For many voters of color, racism is on the ballot in 2020, and issues of race — from reparations to voter suppression to questions of electability — have already made their way onto the campaign trail and the debate stage, forcing candidates regardless of color to make their case for how they will represent an increasingly diverse electorate. Framing those voters not just in terms of their racial identity — but as rural, educated, working-class, economically anxious, or concerned about the future of the Supreme Court — brings them into the mainstream of our electorate. Changing the narrative also requires a recognition that identity politics includes white voters and a critical examination of how their race plays into their choices at the ballot.

To cover 2020 is to define who and where we are as a country. Like our elections, election coverage is about choices — of who gets seen and heard in our democracy. Let this be the year that we as political journalists choose differently.

Errin Haines is the Associated Press’ national writer on race and ethnicity.

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