System Failure: What the 2020 Primary Elections reveal about our democracy

The Reflective Democracy Campaign today released an analysis of the 2020 US primary elections by race and gender — a detailed look at who ran for office and who won, by race, gender, and incumbency status. The report, titled System Failure: What the 2020 Primary Elections reveal about our democracy, explores the causes of white male minority rule in US politics. At just 30 percent of the population, white men hold 62 percent of all elected offices — but not because voters want it that way.

This first-of-its kind analysis reveals that primary voters elect women and people of color at the same rates as white men. Like the Campaign’s previous findings debunking the myth of white male “electability” in general elections, this report finds that women and people of color are as electable as white men in primary elections.

The report identifies two factors in primary elections that uphold a stagnant, demographically unbalanced status quo:

  • The Incumbency Advantage. Incumbent officeholders are nearly unbeatable.
  • The Partisan Demographic Divide While Democratic candidates look increasingly like today’s America, Republican candidates do not.

The full report including data visualization graphics and charts can be found at


The Reflective Democracy Campaign investigates and disrupts the demographics of power in the United States. It’s groundbreaking data and analysis expose the stark race and gender imbalances between our elected officials and our country’s population, and we fund catalytic organizing that builds community-based power to shift the political status quo. Founded by the Women Donors Network in 2014, the Reflective Democracy Campaign was formed to pursue a democracy where all of us are reflected in the halls of power. For more information on the Reflective Democracy Campaign, visit: and follow @WhoLeadsUs

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