In the wake of Sen. Kamala Harris’ decision to suspend her bid for the presidency, it appears the narrative of her campaign turmoil had become such she could no longer compete without the funds to control her story. The narrative had slipped precipitously since her hugely successful rollout when she stood before 20,000 people and announced her candidacy.
Harris didn’t have just a great rollout day, but a great rollout week. She made her announcement to viewers of ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and made clear the link to civil rights history was no coincidence. The following Wednesday, after finishing an interview on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show,” the host offered, “I think there’s a good chance that you are going to win the nomination.””
From that opening act to the moment Harris confronted Joe Biden during the second debate on some of his past cooperation with segregationists, Harris’ star seemed to be on the rise.
But that impression was short-lived. I had a sense of foreboding when “progressive” friends of mine (white males) on Facebook complained about Harris “being mean and disrespectful” to Joe Biden. By the weekend that had become a national narrative.
“From the moment I first heard the Harris attack against Biden over busing, I felt a strong sense of outrage about an unfair attack by one Democratic candidate against another Democratic candidate that inherently divides many white and minority voters,” said one pundit on The Hill web site.
Through the summer Harris weathered attacks from all sides:
- From the Left came the “Kamala is a Cop” assertion that her career in law enforcement disqualified her, though no one has leveled a similar charge at former prosecutor Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
- The Russians had Harris in their sights and set Tulsi Gabbard, their favored Democratic presidential candidate, against Harris at the debate in late July. Gabbard attacked Harris by first accusing her of calling Biden a racist, then by criticizing her record as the former attorney general for the state of California. Gabbard accused Harris of bias against people of color.
- Then from the Right came the sexist attack on her dating life, accusing Harris of sleeping her way to the top.
For some she was too black because “electability” motivates a palpable fear among Democrats — fear that not enough white folks will vote for a person of color in the wake of President Barack Obama.
And then there was the small but vocal group of simpletons for whom her parentage, Jamaican father and Indian mother, made her “not black enough.”
Harris’ campaign lost traction and seemed to lose direction as doubts began to surface amidst reports of internal strife and funding woes. She fell out of double digits in the polls, though the campaign chugged along, at least until the New York Times dropped a devastating “hit piece” on Harris’ campaign coming apart at the seams.
The Times article featured a stinging resignation letter from a Harris staffer who had since signed on with billionaire Michael Bloomberg, who launched his own presidential campaign with a $39 million ad buy.
Earlier in the cycle billionaire Tom Steyer, (who probably figured he’d spent enough money having no effect whatsoever on the impeachment of Donald Trump) decided he’d jump into the fray. Steyer turned his money ($47 million plus as of September) toward buying enough individual donors to qualify for the debate stage.
It was about then that the Harris campaign had to face a stark reality: They didn’t have the resources to sustain, much less compete money-wise.
Even so, the Harris campaign was no dime-store operation, regardless postmortem punditry. It was big and heavily invested and organized in Iowa and South Carolina, and we’re left to wonder what might have happened if she had made it to a vote.
Kamala Harris remains a force to be reckoned within the Democratic Party because, like it or not, she looks like the party’s base. Although she won’t be president in 2020, look to hear from her again before the election.